|I wish I had your combo of power and cuteness!
— Waddle Dee in Kirby Battle Royale
Despite Kirby's very simple-looking outward appearance, he possesses a surprisingly complex set of characteristics, particularly when concerning the details of his anatomy, and even more minor points of contention such as his gender, personality, and origin have had many details and ambiguities highlighted by staff at HAL Laboratory. The following page goes over Kirby's characteristics; for a more general view of Kirby overall, see the Kirby page.
Kirby is among the smaller and simpler Nintendo characters, as a pink ball standing only 8 inches (20 cm) tall with stubby arms and feet. Kirby's mouth is very important as well — it looks small, but it can open wide to inhale many objects. Kirby's cheeks feature slight pink blushes, and his eyes are long dark ovals featuring white glare and blue irises. Sometimes, often when surprised, Kirby's eyes change dramatically to be white circles with small black pupils. In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby's eyes have iridescent reflections and change color from blue to teal or even green depending on which angle they are viewed from (as demonstrated in this image).
Kirby's red feet are often mistaken for shoes, but design documents from around the time of Kirby's Adventure, and later statements by Masahiro Sakurai, confirm that they are his actual feet. Shinya Kumazaki, meanwhile, replied to a question about Kirby's feet by saying that "the mysterious composition of Kirby's body is top secret". While still evidently squishy, they are his primary utensils for fighting when using martial-arts-based abilities.
Kirby is generally pink with red feet, but the exact shades vary — his feet are sometimes only a shade darker of pink than his body. Some early games also depict Kirby as changing color when copying an ability, such as Kirby's Adventure and Kirby Super Star. Certain abilities in older games even have their own unique colors associated with them, such as red for Fire, blue for Ice, green for Plasma (or Spark as shown in one of his older artworks) and yellow for Beam (or Needle in Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land), though this has largely been abandoned. The only legacy of this concept is Hypernova, which causes his skin to become a swirling rainbow. While color variants of Kirby continue to appear, they tend to represent other members of his species rather than himself.
|Some of the more popular hypotheses suggest that Kirby is made of marshmallow or pillows, but until Kirby agrees to provide a tissue sample, we'll never know for certain.
— Nintendo of America's Kirby 64 website
Kirby's enigmatic anatomy is difficult to understand beyond his surface. The particulars of his inner workings are unclear and often contradictory between appearances, and this fact is often played up in official marketing, such as this trailer for Kirby and the Forgotten Land. Shinya Kumazaki has stated that Kirby's insides are a mystery, but that he is "filled with dreams."
Kirby appears to require regular nourishment, and typically finds it in the form of various food items scattered across the land. When not in a hurry, Kirby will eat in a normal manner, but can inhale the food as well. In some games, such as Kirby: Squeak Squad, Kirby can store things he's swallowed and use them at a later time. This, along with certain episodes of Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, seems to indicate that Kirby's stomach leads to another dimension. Other sources within the series, such as Kirby: Triple Deluxe, portray Kirby's stomach as a black hole, especially when the Hypernova ability is used.
Kirby does not appear to have a skeleton (see image to the right) or teeth (outside of some manga series, and certain sprites in 2D games), an appearance supported by statements from Sakurai following the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee. He does, however, have a tongue, as evidenced by more recent games when he inhales. Kirby is also described to have lungs which he uses to inhale, as explained in the instruction manual for Kirby: Squeak Squad. Kirby does not appear to have a nose, but earlier games and media suggested he had nostrils (even if they were too small to be seen), given his distended Sleep bubble, his sneezing within the Castle Lololo cutscene in Kirby's Dream Land (Bubbly Clouds in the Spring Breeze remake), and his ability to "sniff" in the Kirby: Right Back at Ya! episode Shell-Shocked.
Kirby's arms, while normally short and stubby, are capable of stretching whenever he needs to grab or punch something. They can also slide around all over his form, whether across his sides or even his face. The designers do have restrictions on how far Kirby's limbs can move; generally, they do not move any further than a human would. Although Kirby does not have fingers, he is perfectly capable of holding onto things he's grabbed. This is sometimes depicted in artwork as Kirby wrapping his hand around the object in question (such as in this artwork), though in 3D renders, it is usually seen as the object merely sticking to the end of Kirby's hand (such as in this artwork).
Kirby's skin is highly flexible and completely hairless. Kirby's younger design in Kid Kirby features a large protrusion on his forehead with a similar aesthetic function to wavy hair, but as the game was canceled, it cannot be considered canon. The texture of Kirby's skin was once described as "squishy" or "soft", and more recent sources, particularly the developer issues for Kirby Star Allies and Kirby and the Forgotten Land in Nintendo Dream, suggest that Kirby has a more "rubbery" texture to him, although when Kirby was first given HD textures in Kirby Star Allies, there were debates on whether or not to give him fur. Kirby's body can expand to great sizes to accommodate the objects that he inhales, as seen with the "Full Belly" Kirby in Kirby's Blowout Blast and Mouthful Mode in Kirby and the Forgotten Land (though it's implied the latter is a side-effect of entering the portal to the new world). As seen in several games, Kirby is also able to sweat, typically when surprised or low on health.
Shinya Kumazaki has said that Kirby's movements are based on that of a human, specifically a young child, addressing the discrepancies with his movement by explaining that certain parts of his anatomy (such as thighs, legs, and ankles) are invisible but nonetheless accounted for. Concept artwork from Kirby Super Star also shows that a muscular adult human was used as a model for Kirby's movements.
Kirby has a malleable and flexible form which is useful in a number of situations. On his own, Kirby is usually rather weak. However, his ability to mimic his foes' characteristics, known as Copy Abilities, provides him plenty of strength. Utilizing these abilities, Kirby becomes highly versatile, capable of solving any puzzle with ease. When Kirby gains an ability, he famously also obtains a special hat or another sort of costume to signify its presence, though this distinction was not present in the series until Kirby Super Star introduced it. This usually removes his ability to inhale for the sake of gameplay mechanics.
What happens to items, living things, and other objects when they are swallowed is unclear. Should Kirby inhale an enemy and spit it back out, however, it usually transforms into a star that shatters on impact. Kirby appears to have control over whether or not something is transformed in this way, as he can inhale his friends and spit them back out without transforming them in Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and even enemies transformed into projectiles maintain their appearance in some games like Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Kirby and the Forgotten Land. In Super Smash Bros., inhaled and swallowed fighters do transform into stars when spat out, but then immediately revert to normal afterward.
Kirby has stellar vitality, often able to take many hits before being knocked out. In most games, Kirby is able to hover in the air indefinitely, which allows him to cross otherwise impassable barriers such as tall walls or bottomless pits with ease. In most circumstances, he is able to breathe underwater and in deep space; he can also withstand extremes in temperature with no lasting harm.
It depends on the portrayal whether Kirby can talk in full words, but he is always very vocal. Kirby's voice is high-pitched, with inflections similar to a toddler first learning how to speak. It should be noted that this is a more unique quality to Kirby himself, as Meta Knight, who is generally considered (but not confirmed) to be the same species, has a deep voice befitting a warrior of his stature. Kirby does not speak in full sentences in any of the main-series games and resorts to grunts, shouts, and monosyllables, adding to his infantile nature. Typically, the only intelligible word he says is his signature elongated "Hi!"
It is generally understood that Kirby can comprehend spoken language, and may be able to speak, but just like how Link and Mario are often portrayed, the player does not hear his side of any given conversation. In certain cases, such as instruction manuals and pause screen descriptions, Kirby is able to speak in rather eloquent language, at least while monologuing. Meanwhile, in Kirby Fighters 2, it is said that Kirby was unable to understand a letter sent to him, but it's unclear if it was because the letter in particular was hard to read, or if Kirby himself can't read at all. In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, Kirby is shown to be able to write, although his handwriting is said to be somewhat hard to understand.
That said, unlike his anime counterpart, Kirby has occasionally been shown to speak full sentences, going as far back as the manual for Kirby's Dream Land, where he directly mentions he will restore the Sparkling Stars, and explains the game's controls to the reader. His first in-game dialogue was in Kirby's Dream Course, but only in its Japanese version. In more recent games, when he does speak, it is usually conveyed indirectly, such as through the narrator in Kirby's Epic Yarn, or Elfilin in Kirby and the Forgotten Land.
Kirby's childlike nature is reflected in his persona.
Kirby has been shown to be gluttonous, which makes his rivalry with King Dedede more understandable, but as long as he is well-fed, he is an altruistic hero who jumps at the chance to help those in need. Kirby is courageous, tackling problems head-on with an unbreakable determination. He is heroic to a fault, however, as certain villains will take advantage of this to get what they want. Unless called to adventure, Kirby spends most of his time sleeping and otherwise just relaxing in his homeland, Dream Land. Despite being the hero, Kirby can become extraordinarily stubborn and single-minded if he feels he's been wronged. This is evidenced in Kirby: Squeak Squad when, after having his cake stolen, he immediately assumes that King Dedede is responsible, and it is not until after fighting and beating him that Kirby realizes it wasn't Dedede after all. From there, Kirby chases after the real thieves, the Squeaks across several lands and worlds, fighting everything and everyone who gets in the way just to get his cake back.
Kirby's hobbies include fishing (which usually ends up with the hook in his mouth), sleeping (spending as much as half the day napping), eating, flying about the countryside on a Warp Star, and singing, which he admittedly does so poorly that it can hurt enemies, especially when using the Mike ability. Several official Japanese sources state that Kirby is tone deaf. In spite of this, he is a big fan of music, and can often be seen listening with a pair of headphones along with the player in the Jukebox.
When encountering new situations, Kirby shows himself to be a quick and astute learner. For example, upon copying a new ability, he instantly masters any skill the ability entails, whether that be martial arts or psychic powers. He also demonstrates this when piloting the Robobot Armor, adapting to its controls immediately after jumping into it for the first time.
One notable progression that can be observed through the Kirby series is that Kirby himself gradually becomes more and more expressive and vocal over time. 8-bit titles such as Kirby's Dream Land would rarely have Kirby change his facial expression at all, and he had very few vocalizations until Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Kirby Super Star Ultra would be the last game in the series to feature a mostly silent Kirby. This change can mainly be attributed to the gradual lifting of technical limitations on the games as the series progresses, along with gradual refinements to Kirby's design. Kirby has also gotten "cuter" as the series progresses, featuring larger eyes and shorter limbs; the Dream Button in Kirby Star Allies highlights this by allowing Kirby to switch between his current design and his original Kirby's Dream Land-era design.
Notably, one of Masahiro Sakurai's original goals with Kirby was his "commitment as a game character". To this end (particularly in the earlier games), when Kirby is being controlled by the player, he shows relatively little emotion, which is meant to allow the player to demonstrate their own feelings in the game through their own movements and actions as Kirby. His role as a silent protagonist also fits this characterization. Shinya Kumazaki has also expressed the idea that Kirby is a "neutral character" for the player to relate to, and that the current development team does not have him express extreme emotions such as anger or crying. However, it can be seen that Kirby has become a more expressive and lively character under Kumazaki's directorship, and he notes that it would not be impossible to consider a scenario where — for example — if the player is meant to feel the emotions of falling in love, Kirby's emotions would reflect that.
In Japanese, Kirby is written as a gender-neutral character. However, in most languages, he is almost always referred to with masculine terms and pronouns (with notable exceptions being certain official Play Nintendo videos that refer to Kirby with both masculine and neutral pronouns). This is likely because it is less difficult to use gender-neutral writing in Japanese, which is a pro-drop and genderless language, compared to other languages. For example, in the manual for Kirby's Dream Land, Kirby is referred to as a "spry little boy" in English, but a more general "young person" (若者, wakamono) in Japanese. However, there are times in Japanese text where he is referred to with kare (かれ), which is a masculine pronoun. Additionally, whenever Kirby speaks in full sentences in Japanese text, he tends to use a masculine manner of speech, such as the first person pronoun boku (ボク), which is usually used by young boys. This does not necessarily contradict him being a gender-neutral character.
The Japan-exclusive official artbook 20th Anniversary Kirby Pupupu Encyclopedia lists Kirby's gender as "unknown", as does a profile written by Masahiro Sakurai, which he reaffirmed in the Kirby 25th Anniversary Orchestra Concert according to unofficial accounts. Kirby's voice actress, Makiko Ohmoto, has also stated that Kirby's gender is unknown, and that she is instructed to voice him as a gender neutral character. Reflecting this, the games have seen Kirby wearing costumes with both masculine and feminine qualities (examples of former include the Sumo Topknot and the Pirate's Tricorn in Kirby Fighters 2, while examples of the latter include the Magical Girl Coiffure in Team Kirby Clash Deluxe and the Nurse Cap in Kirby Battle Royale), and commemorative artwork on the Kirby JP Twitter has shown Kirby taking on typical gender roles of both men and women, such as appearing as the Empress on Hinamatsuri and baking sweets with both female characters on Valentine's Day and male characters on White Day. In addition, Kirby is often featured in merchandise that may be considered more traditionally feminine, such as make-up lines, where more definitively male characters such as King Dedede and Meta Knight are never featured.
Japanese spin-off material does not always adhere to this. Some manga write Kirby as male outright; this may be due to his implied attraction to female characters, such as ChuChu and Ribbon, in the games. The novels by Mie Takase also write Kirby with masculine speech patterns, and he shows aversion to cross-dressing as a woman in Kirby and the Dangerous Gourmet Mansion?! — though he sees himself as "cute" while wearing make-up. Neither of these correlate to Japanese canon, however.
When a fan on the official Japanese Super Smash Bros. website expressed surprise upon learning that Samus from Metroid is a woman, Masahiro Sakurai responded by joking that Kirby may also be female.
- Main article: Kirby (species)
Kirby can be seen as the main representative of a species that is named after him. Unlike traditional species, however, it is unclear how Kirby's could be classified, as apart from its eponymous member and the various clones of him that have appeared throughout the series running, there are no confirmed cases of other entities which are the same species as Kirby, though many are suspected.
- "The 8-inch high Kirby hails from a distant, peaceful star." –Kirby's in-game description in Super Smash Bros.
- "Even though he's only about eight inches tall, Kirby is an extremely skilled technician." –Super Smash Bros. Melee trophy
- Dash! Jump! from Kirby: Canvas Curse is originally measured in centimeters. Kirby's score is measured by the distance from the wall to his center. When scoring 20 cm, Kirby's distance from the wall is exactly half of his size, indicating that a half of Kirby is 10 cm, so a full Kirby is 20 cm.
- "He may only be eight inches tall, but you should never underestimate this little pink hero." –Kirby Portal profile
- In Chop Champs, the Kirbys are roughly the size of the logs, which are 25 cm tall.
- The sketch of the "Farewell to Kirby" Celebration Picture has a note that says "20cmなので" ("Because (Kirby) is 20cm tall").
- Masahiro Sakurai explains in his Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games video about units of speed that the speeds in Kirby Air Ride are rather low because Kirby is the size of a 20cm cube.
- Nintendo Japan (Nintendo Online Magazine - Kirby's profile - March 2000 issue covering Kirby 64: the Crystal Shards release)
- "高さ:20cmくらい 好きな物:トマト 苦手な物:毛虫 性別:不明 出身:不明 (Height: About 20 cm tall, Likes: Tomatoes, Dislikes: Caterpillars, Gender: Unknown, Birthplace: Unknown)" –20th Anniversary Kirby Pupupu Encyclopedia (Shogakukan), pg. 15
- Profile of Kirby and other characters compiled to answer questions from magazines, as shown on page 119 of the Pupupu Encyclopedia (translation)
- Sakurai answering fan questions following the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee, pages 34 (ちなみに、カービィの足はクツではありません。) and 49 (カービィに骨はありません。 いちおう歯もありませんよ。); translation via Reddit
- Interview with Shinya Kumazaki: The Truth About Kirby's Feet Is 'Top Secret,' Developer Says
- Kirby 64: Frequently Asked Questions
- ‘What happens if Kirby swallows a hot man?’ His directors give answers, Polygon
- "Kirby's lungs are so powerful that he can inhale large enemies and faraway items." –Kirby: Squeak Squad instruction manual (NA print, page 12)
- "I think Kirby itself is soft like a rubber ball, and that’s what we’re trying to keep in mind. As for the surface texture, there was a lot of discussion about whether or not he should had fur like fuzzy hairs (laughs)." --Shinya Kumazaki, in the May 2018 developer interview for Kirby Star Allies in Nintendo Dream Magazine, as translated by Gigi; translated article link
- "The new world’s blend of civilization and nature also got its initial start through gameplay. We reexamined “Kirby” and thought about what only Kirby could do as a rubbery ball, a mysterious creature that can be pulled and twisted with no problem. By combining Kirby’s special skill of “inhaling” and this idea of him being a “mysterious creature like a rubber ball”, the idea of “Mouthful Mode” was born." --Tatsuya Kamiyama, in the June 2022 developer interview for Kirby and the Forgotten Land in Nintendo Dream Magazine, as translated by Gigi; translated article link
- Concept art from Kirby Super Star
“ King Dedede and Meta Knight... Many times before have they stood in Kirby's path, even allying with one another on occasion.
Now, to finally defeat Kirby, the old rivals have become partners, taking on Kirby as a battle team! And so they sent Kirby a challenge.
They lay in wait on the Summit of a lofty tower reaching to the heavens, known as the Buddy Fighters Tower.
Kirby couldn't understand what the letter said.
— Narration, Kirby Fighters 2
“ This dutiful delivery Dee works for Waddle Dee-liveries in town. He gets helpful items to your doorstep with blinding speed! Kirby’s handwriting makes it hard to read the Present Codes sometimes, but this kind soul approves the orders anyway. ”
— Delivery Waddle Dee Figure description, Kirby and the Forgotten Land
- "歌は好きだが音痴 ("Likes singing, despite being tone deaf.)" –20th Anniversary Kirby Pupupu Encyclopedia (Shogakukan), pg. 15
- Nintendo JP page discussing Sakurai's vision of Kirby when compared to his anime equivalent
- "一人称ボクの女性もいるし、同性異性関係なくキスされたら誰でも照れるし、私の呼び名もまきちゃんか大本くんです。" ("There are women who use 'boku' to refer to themselves in the first person, and regardless of same- or opposite-sex, being kissed will evoke a bashful response from whomever. I'm often called Maki-chan or Ohmoto-kun as well.")" –Makiko Ohmoto (Twitter (translated from Japanese))
- "Meet Kirby: A Cute, Pink, and Brave Hero" and "Kirby Quiz for Kids!" both notably refer to Kirby with singular they.
- Kaialone on Tumblr
- Super Smash Bros. official website (translated from Japanese):
"…I wanted to ask a question about Kirby's profile. 'Name: Kirby. Gender: Unknown. Favorite phrase: Tomorrow's wind blows tomorrow. Things I want to do but can't: Push-ups, Cossack dancing, rock-paper-scissors.' Was this Mr. Sakurai's idea?"
Sakurai: "Oh, I came up with that profile in the past. I just had to do it…"
- Tweet explaining that Sakurai considers both Kirby and Meta Knight's gender "a mystery", another tweet claiming the same thing
- ""カービィの性別は不明です。" ("Kirby's gender is unknown.")" –Makiko Ohmoto (Twitter (translated from Japanese))
- A blog post with a summary of the June 16th 2017 Osaka concert
- Super Smash Bros. official website (translated from Japanese):
"…I was surprised to learn that Samus is a woman."
Sakurai: "Maybe Pikachu is also female? Maybe Kirby is also female? The truth is shrouded in darkness."