Chibi-Maru model ships

Thanks to Tango, a very regular contributor to The Miniatures Page, I recently became aware of the existence of an unusual range of model warships manufactured by Fujimi. They are called Chibi-Maru, which means ‘small round’, and the name is usually associated with a cartoon character from ‘Hello Kitty’ who is a small puppy with an exaggeratedly large head.

The Chibi-Maru model warships are similarly exaggerated, having short, rotund hulls with short barrels on the main and secondary armament but relatively realistically-sized superstructures. They can be constructed as full-hull or waterline models, and are about 10cm in length … ideal for use with Hexon II blue hexes!

Although they are not going to be to many people’s taste (and certainly not to those who like their models to be 100% accurate), they appeal to me, and I can see them being used to represent heavy naval units that are providing offshore support in a wargame … somewhat akin to my own attempts at such models.

The main thing that is stopping me from buying any is their price in the UK … which is between £15.00 to £35.00 each, including postage and packing from Japan. Still there is nothing to stop me from copying the idea and making my own Chibi-Maru-style of ships.


24 Comments on “Chibi-Maru model ships”

  1. Don M says:

    Cartoonish but, I kind of like them…..)

  2. I do rather like the look and the concept (but NOT the price) although I might be happier with a slightly lower silhouette.

    The Maru is interesting. For years I thought it meant “ship” or (merchant vessel) because when I was at sea on the West Coast the coast guard traffic channel was always crackling with the This or That (not to say Kobyasha) Maru reporting its position and was told these were all Japanese merchant vessels. The local equivalent would call in as “the tanker X” or the ” the freighter Y” so I drew an obvious but wrong conclusion.

  3. Don M,

    They do have something about them … but I cannot quite explain what it is.

    All the best,


  4. Ross Mac,

    The price is very off-putting, otherwise I might well have bought some of them.

    You are right, 'Maru' is used to by the Japanese to mean ship when added to a merchant ship's name. From what I can gather there are several reasons why, one being that the first Japanese ships were quite rotund, and had 'Maru' added to their name as a result … and after that it became a tradition.

    All the best,


    PS. According to Wikipedia:
    * Maru (まる), means circle (◯; Unicode: U+25EF)
    * Maru (まる), means “correct”; the opposite of batsu
    * Maru (まる), means zero (0)
    * Maru (丸), is a synonym for kuruwa, a type of Japanese castle wall
    Several theories purport to explain why Japanes ships have 'Maru' added to their name:
    * The most common is that ships were thought of as floating castles, and the word referred to the defensive 'circles' or 'maru' that protected the castle.
    * The suffix -maru is often applied to words representing something beloved, and sailors applied this suffix to their ships.
    * The term 'maru' is used in divination and represents perfection or completeness, or the ship as 'a small world of its own.'
    * The myth of Hakudo Maru, a celestial being that came to earth and taught humans how to build ships. It is said that the name 'maru' is attached to a ship to secure celestial protection for itself as it travels.
    * Its use was intended as a good hope naming convention that would allow a ship to leave port, travel the world, and return safely to home port: hence the complete circle or 'round trip' arriving back at its origin unhurt.

  5. Bob
    Those are truly goofy little ships. At a better price I would grab them.
    Cheers, PD

  6. Peter Douglas,

    The concept is similar to the egg plane models of aircraft that are also made in Japan. I only wish that the Chibi-Maru models were cheaper.

    All the best,


  7. Mr. Pavone says:

    The 'je ne sais quoi' appeal of the chibi and SD (super deformend) style comes from its childlike and non-threatening appearance. Everything from monsters to robo-mecha to battleships looks just so cute! when rendered in toddler-esque proportions.

  8. Mr Pavone,

    That would certainly explain the visual appeal of these models.

    All the best,


  9. Cuteness or kantai is a big part of how the Japanese have reimagined their military as an attempt to avoid militarism.
    I did a blog post on it recently:

    As far as cute reimaginings of WW2 Japanese ships go, do a google search for Combined Fleet Girls Collection – it will leave you shaking your head (and don't worry, it's not indecent – just strange to see WW2 IJN ships reimagined as cute schoolgirls.

  10. Michael Peterson,

    I must have missed the blog entry that you wrote … but now that I have read it, I have a better understanding of the Japanese use of kantai.

    I did look up the Combined Fleet Girls Collection … and found it more than a little odd. As you comment, not indecent but definitely strange.

    All the best,


  11. Some strange things are to be found on the Internet… I like this model/toy aircraft carrier – it would be just the caper for my Army Men project. My balsa navies are built on the same 'cartoon' principle, the battleships being just 6cm long.

  12. Archduke Piccolo,

    As long as one has a bit of imagination – and are not hung up on having 100% perfect accuracy – these are ideal models for wargamers.

    I remember seeing examples of your ship models on your blog, and they were similar in concept to these Chibi-Maru models.

    All the best,


  13. Conrad Kinch says:

    I don't quite see the attraction myself, but there's a undeniable ability to fit something big in a small space.

    Which could very useful for MOBAT.

  14. Conrad Kinch,

    As I wrote in my blog entry, these models won't appeal to everyone … but as I have been producing 'cartoon'-style model ships for quite some time, I know that they can be quite effective on the tabletop. They can give the impression of being something big without taking up a lot of space.

    Since I saw these models I have been thinking about how I could use them in naval wargames … and as a result I have a few vague ideas swanning about in my head at present. That said, my current priority is to finish my modular fortress … and then to use it in a wargame!

    All the best,


  15. johntheone says:

    Seen some of these on Amazon going for around £10.00

  16. Johntheone,

    I have seen them on sale there as well … but they are being sold from Japan, and the cost of postage plus import duty effectively doubles the price. That said, I am sorely tempted to buy some, just to find out what they are like.

    All the best,


  17. Francis Lee says:

    Those are incredibly cool, I would own them !

  18. Francis Lee,

    I agree with your sentiments … and if I could buy some for the price they are in Japan, I would buy the whole collection!

    All the best,


  19. Very nice find, Bob ! I quite like those. Reminds me of the Advance Wars video games. Too bad there seems to be no corresponding US ships.

  20. Corporal_Trim,

    The absence of any 'opposition' is a problem, but one can but hope that this situation will change at some point in the future.

    All the best,


  21. Looked into this series a little further. Apparently new releases upcoming in 2016 (more carriers) but not holding my breath for the US Navy. Given the similar prices and “not to scale” disclaimers, a destroyer probably isn't much shorter than a battleship.

    They've even got photo-etch sets and wooden deck parts. They look plentiful and painless to order from Japan on US eBay, the prices not outrageous. I'm going to order a kit to satisfy my curiosity.

  22. Corporal_Trim,

    I think that like a lot of model kits that were sold when I was a child, these models are sized to fit a box and are by no means anything like in scale with one another.

    I would be interested to see what you think of the kit you buy. Looking at the cost of shipping the kits to the UK, the cost of postage, packing, and import duty would be more than double the original price of the kit.

    All the best,


  23. Hi Bob,

    I hear you on the shipping costs, looks like 4-7 pounds on UK eBay. The converted prices on US eBay are equivalent. But overall, when you look at what a 1/700 plastic ship model goes for these days, the Chibi Marus aren't a bad deal.

    I'll be glad to post a review on the blog.


  24. Corporal_Trim (Steve),

    It's not just the high cost of postage and packing that is putting me off. I got clobbered with import duty a few years ago when I bought some stuff by post from Japan, and that increased the cost considerably. It was not helped by the fact that Royal Mail charged me £20.00 for collecting the duty on behalf of the government.

    I look forward to seeing how you ge on with one of these models.

    All the best,


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