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Old 2012-09-30, 21:33   Link #1
ArchmageXin
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Anime obession with swords

Now, I am not complaining about anime being unrealistic, boring, or whatever. What I am curious is why does every anime sword has to be the ultimate end all of heroic types.

Not even counting truly sword crazed animes like Kenshin, or one of those mangas where protagonists charge machine guns/laser cannons/sniper on the roof with a sword, it seem anime heroes must use a sword.

What is wrong with other weapons? Spears? Bows (Even Archer for Fate/Night need to fight with a sword 80% of the time.), axes (seem to be completely reserved for villains).

Is there any anime where the hero use a different weapon? (No, 10 ton hammer from enraged girlfriends don't count)

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Old 2012-09-30, 21:54   Link #2
Akuma Kinomoto
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I think this might be better suited for the Suggestions board since you so ask for anime where the main character's weapon isn't a sword. Anyway at the top of my head:

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (some of them use sword-like weapons though)
Gunslinger Girl (obvious enough)
Tiger and Bunny (my poor recollection tells me some of them might have used an edged weapon but no sword)
s-CRY-ed (Ryuhou uses something like a spear later on)
TTGL (haven't seen but the main weapon here is a drill)

Also because everything is cooler with swords.
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Old 2012-09-30, 21:56   Link #3
Tempester
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This is nearly as much as an issue with young adult fiction in general as it is with anime.

Now, humongous mecha certainly are an overrepresented trope in anime and Japanese pop culture, but there's already a thread for that.
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Old 2012-09-30, 22:16   Link #4
SeijiSensei
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Well, first, I would think it has to do with anime being Japanese and the romance of the samurai period. Swords played a central role in Japanese culture and politics for centuries, so I don't find it surprising that they play a major role in anime. One example comes from the Apothecary stories in Bakeneko and Mononoke. The medicine seller carries an enchanted sword that he uses to slay demons. I never understood why other characters were so surprised to see him with this sword until I learned that merchants were forbidden to carry swords in the Edo period.

In Seirei no Moribito, the main character wields a spear.

Now if you are asking about shows set in modern times, I see a lot of guns, too. The one swordsman in Black Lagoon is a bodyguard from a yakuza gang, and he adheres to traditional cultural norms. Just about everyone else uses a gun. The girls in Madoka Magica use a wide variety of weapons including guns, bombs, and bows. No swords that I can think of in Monster or Baccano! either. Guns, daggers, and fists seem the dominant weapons in those shows.

Oh, and my favorite weapon among recent shows is TakaMina's electrified hair ribbon (around 3:45 in the clip below) in AKB0048.

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Old 2012-09-30, 22:33   Link #5
Ichihara Asako
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Originally Posted by SeijiSensei View Post
In Seirei no Moribito, the main character wields a spear.
Not only does she use a spear, she uses it -properly-. I was amazed by it, and it ended up being one of my few 10/10 series, not only due to the spear use (it is a great all-round series) but it definitely had a large influence, realistic (well, for anime) weapon usage is very rare. It was also animated incredibly well.

Anyway, swords are common, because they're swords. Many cultural reasons behind it, but fundamentally it's the Samurai legacy, and the fact guns are very uncommon in Japan (being illegal to the average person). Swords are more readily available.
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Old 2012-09-30, 22:44   Link #6
Marcus H.
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Japan just like them katanas. See this clip from The Sacred Blacksmith, for example.



A katana cuts through a Western sword like a knife through butter.
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Old 2012-09-30, 22:51   Link #7
Cosmic Eagle
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Yet Western style blades seem more common among god-tier characters :P


Actually I see more guns than swords these days...
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Old 2012-09-30, 23:16   Link #8
NinjaRealist
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The answer to your question TS, quite simply, is the Edo Period.

If you read Japanese war fiction from before the Edo Period, such as the famous Heike Monogatari, a lot of the combat is depicted with Samurai utilizing the true primary weapons of their class, the bow and the spear (and to a lesser extent the dagger). The truth is that for most of Japanese history, the sword was thought of mostly as a sidearm, because, although useful, it was (and is) far less deadly than a spear or a bow. If you want me to get into the specifics of why this is true, but I think it should be obvious why a spear will beat a sword 90% of the time, especially in mounted warfare.

In the Edo Period, two major changes in Japanese Society caused the focus to shift from the actual battlefield weapons (at this point pikes and muskets, just like in Europe at the time) to side-arms, like the Katana and the Wakizashi. The first obvious change was that, as Japanese Society became peaceful, pitched battles no longer occurred, and so the only combats people saw were street battles with sidearms. It's not practical to carry a six foot long spear in a public place, and even a full-size katana is impractical inside of a building.

Another important change, was that, with Hideyoshi's sword hunt, and the transformation of the Samurai class into an actual caste, sword became no longer just a sidearm but a status symbol representing an impermeable ruling caste within society. It was in this atmosphere that legends like Miyamoto Musashi and Itto Itosai became popularized and the sword became fixated upon as a symbol of power and death.

But make no mistake, the spear is the true ultimate melee weapon of Japanese history, and the bow, more than any melee weapon, is what traditionally defined the Samurai, and Japanese warriors in history. For example, it's a perhaps apocryphal legend that when the Mongols invaded Japan, they were stunned by the speed and accuracy of Japanese Archery.
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Old 2012-09-30, 23:56   Link #9
Coldlight
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Personally, I have no problems with swords, but that's just me. I love swords.

I'm guessing this came about partly due to Summer 2012 being a particularly sword-tastic season for anime. Anyway, if you're looking for an anime where the main characters also use other weapons like spears, bows and even guns, then I'd recommend:

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Granted, one of the main characters use swords, but the other four main characters don't. There's certainly a good degree of variety in that show for weapons.
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Old 2012-10-01, 01:02   Link #10
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Maybe I should make a thread titled "Animesuki obession with misspelling words in thread titles".
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Old 2012-10-01, 01:13   Link #11
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Why just "anime obsession"? Swords are common in almost every mediaeval fantasy story you can think of. Heck, even "modern" science fiction features swords. (Lightsabers, anyone?)

The appeal of swords cuts across all cultures and is by no means limited to Japan, though it's true that pop culture has made a fetish out of the highly romanticised katana. Psychoanalysts might liken swords to phallic symbols though, in that sense, they are not very different from guns.

So, you might as well ask why we have this obsession with swords in general. Well, firstly, there's the technical reason: the sword was unique among mediaeval weapons in that it was the one of the very few tools that were designed exclusively for war. Spears and bows were hunting tools adapted to warfare, as were the many varieties of polearms used in mediaeval battle. Building on this point, swords were prohibitively expensive compared to most other adapted weapons. At a time when good steel was rare, and when skilled weaponsmiths were even rarer, you can well imagine how valuable a weapon made of 1m of solid steel would have been. Automatically, it means that only the richer, more powerful warrior nobility had the means to own a sword. And that level of exclusivity adds greatly to the sword's mystique.

Secondly, we need to be more aware of how weapons were used in mediaeval warfare. Despite their allure, swords were generally not very useful in an actual battlefield. More often than not, swords were sidearms used as a last resort. In the case of a mounted knight, he pulled out a sword (he was actually more likely to use a mace; swords were of limited use against a fully armoured opponent) only after his initial charge with a lance. And, for the poor, bloody infantry, pikes and other polearms deployed in mass formation were what usually determined who lives or dies. Even the samurai of the Sengoku era were more likely to fight with spears (yari) than swords. It wasn't until well into the Tokugawa era of peace that the cult of the sword began to flourish.

Why is that the case? Ironically, it's because swords, for a variety of reasons, were usually associated with courtly duels between warrior nobles. Precisely because it was a prestigious weapon, it was more often used in one-on-one combat between "worthy" opponents than on the field of battle. This was true in Europe as it was in Japan. In Europe, for example, a variety of Italian and Spanish fencing "schools" popped up during the Renaissance, as dueling with rapiers became common. In Tokugawa Japan, fencing with katana became more an art form than actual combat.

In short, the sword has, over time, become a glorified weapon for elaborate (that is, beautiful) combat. All this, before you even consider all the religious symbolism that came to be attached to this one very special weapon (the Crusader sword, for example, represented a crucifix, thanks to the shape of its straight crossguard, perpendicular to the blade and hilt).

Is it any wonder then that swords feature so heavily in fantasy stories?
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Old 2012-10-01, 01:21   Link #12
Sound of Azure
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"obession".
Was that intentional?
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Old 2012-10-01, 01:30   Link #13
Hemisphere
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I'm more curious as to how bows fell from grace, considering their sheer prominence in various mythologies.
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Old 2012-10-01, 02:43   Link #14
TinyRedLeaf
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I'm more curious as to how bows fell from grace, considering their sheer prominence in various mythologies.
It takes a lifetime to master the bow. In contrast, any footsoldier can very quickly learn how to use a crossbow — he needs only to aim and squeeze the trigger. Once firearms became reliable, bows were rendered even more obsolete. In other words, it was simply a lot cheaper and more efficient to build a corps of crossbowmen than an army of archers.

In any case, the bow never quite "fell from grace". Depending on the culture, you can find any number of heroic archers. The Britons have Robin Hood. The Austrians have William Tell (granted, he was a crossbowman, but you get what I mean). Chinese hero Huo Yi shot down multiple suns from the sky to save the world from drought. Meanwhile, in Japan, the bow continues to be associated with purification rituals, and Shinto priests symbolically pluck bowstrings to chase away evil spirits.

However, the bow was never considered as heroic as a sword, simply because many martial traditions, particularly those in Europe, considered it a "cowardly" weapon used by those who refused to fight face to face. The Huns and the Mongols would demonstrate how stupid that point of view was, but traditions, once established, are hard to kill.
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Old 2012-10-01, 02:53   Link #15
risingstar3110
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I thought not only anime but all sort of modern media, Western and Eastern, also prefer sword as righteous melee weapons?

The reason, to my understanding is the trait of historical sword users. Spear for example was associated with foot soldiers for its cheapness, and often require good cooperation of groups. The polearm or medieval horse-riding spears require a mount obviously. Axe/mace on another hand require brute forces, which does not fit main character traits. Similarly, dagger or bow often associated with sneaky attacks

On anime/manga, range weapon also was not often used, due to the difficulty to raise tension during a range skirmish. You have to be able to fit both fighters in the same panel to have that symbolic tension. I means even in Black Lagoon, Revy always in close-range (purposely) despite her Berette 92's effective range is up to 50m
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Old 2012-10-01, 04:25   Link #16
TinyRedLeaf
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On anime/manga, range weapon also was not often used, due to the difficulty to raise tension during a range skirmish. You have to be able to fit both fighters in the same panel to have that symbolic tension.
Difficult, but not impossible. And, no, you don't have to have both fighters in the same panel to generate tension, just a lot of great writing and superb storyboarding.

Spoiler for epic sniper showdown:
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Old 2012-10-01, 05:27   Link #17
Kimidori
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I thought in fiction everywhere, not limited to just japan, Heroes Prefer Swords?

Quote:
The sword is a sign of the mighty warriors and nobles. It's a central part of codes of honor like chivalry and bushido, symbolizing nobility, leadership, justice, and power. In a group of fighters, the one wielding the sword will be the leader, with his subordinates wielding wielding axes, spears, bows — all weapons more associated with the commoners.
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Old 2012-10-01, 21:11   Link #18
ArchmageXin
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Originally Posted by Marcus H. View Post
Japan just like them katanas. See this clip from The Sacred Blacksmith, for example.



A katana cuts through a Western sword like a knife through butter.
I have strong doubt over that one...Katana is sharp, but highly fragile. Given Japan had terrible metal ores throughout its years. Also, there is also matter of the armor, since most Japanese armor are bambo and Lamar against full western steel and chain mail.

As for the rest, I guess people are right that heroes do indeed prefer swords beyond anime

I guess I was just slightly prejudiced watching Kenshin or Till Death do us apart where the author desperately try to fit sword into a non-sword environment to prove it "works"
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Old 2012-10-01, 21:44   Link #19
bhl88
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Swords = honorable and requires skill, you need years to be a master. More exciting to see.
Guns = cowardly. Just face person and shoot, even a civilian can shoot one. Just shoot person.
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Old 2012-10-01, 21:50   Link #20
Ithekro
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Laser swords is when things got interesting.
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