Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age
A weapon or type of weapon, once common
, that is now only used by one or a few people. Qualification for such weapons is extensive, and often tied to other skills that "aren't magic
". They are often granted by a master or passed down through the generations
There are times when this is a Justified Trope
In cases of Magic Versus Science
it is likely used by a Magic Knight
, or, in the case of martial arts, a Kung-Fu Wizard
Usually used as a metaphor on how combat has become impersonal over the ages. Can be used as a concrete form of Good Is Old-Fashioned
or Good Old Ways
See also: Unusable Enemy Equipment
, Cool Sword
, Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age
, and Katanas Are Just Better
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Anime & Manga
- Cowboy Bebop has Vicious sporting a Katana in the future.
- Dragon Ball Goku's power pole.
- Inverted in The Five Star Stories. Personal combat has come back into fashion once more not because ideas of honor or elegant but because people realized what a waste it was to nuke things from orbit. The goal of most warfare in the series is to conquer territory while doing as little damage to said territory as possible (after all, who wants to rule over a radioactive crater?). The trope is also deconstructed here, as the dominance of showy, impractical weapons like Laser Blades and ridiculously elaborate, sword-fighting Humongous Mecha are seen as a sign that war has become some kind of sick game to the rulers of the galaxy.
- Belkan-style Devices in the second season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha are optimized for close combat in a variety of forms and they are used by knights. They have honor codes and fealty oaths and other stuff. Their weapons get more common in the third season, but the majority of mages still wield staff-type ranged weapons.
- The Caster Gun from Outlaw Star qualifies. It was formerly used by mages in many places across space. By the main story, It's not unique but very old, and very rare. It's just barely common enough for its ammunition to be available, albeit in extremely short supply, in various knick-nack shops and from merchants.
- Thoroughly deconstructed (as with anything else about classical heroes) in Fate/Zero. Mages have obsession with 'the elegance of the ancient age', and this is exactly why Kiritsugu uses guns against them to great effect. Screw duels of honor by spirits of champions, I have guns!
- The Green Lantern Rings. According to one version, they originally used rayguns.
- Dane Whitman - Marvel's Black Knight who was an ex-Avenger, ex-Defender, ex-Ultraforce, ex-Excalibur and current MI 13 member is a highly skilled scientist and engineer and has made high-tech weapons before. But because he's a descendant of a knight of the round table, he prefers using magical swords and armor as a link to his ancestry (not to mention his magical items are better than what he can manufacture with mundane tech).
- The Glaive of Krull, a returning bladed disc.
- In The Last Samurai, the samurai rebellion is caused because the Emperor wants to modernize and Westernize Japan. They fight the Imperial army with old-fashioned bows, spears and swords and do surprisingly well before getting cut down in a hail of machinegun fire. The real rebels upon which the film is based used equally modern weapons. They died in a last-ditch charge when their ammo ran out.
- The Operative in Serenity uses a Chinese-style sword as an apparent throwback to the warrior traditions of old. He lectures one man about how a dishonored Romans would fall on their sword... while forcing the man to do so.
- The film adaptation of Starship Troopers features a scene where the soldiers are learning how to use knives. One recruit questions the wisdom of stabbing weapons in a push-button war and it's explained to him; painfully.
- The novel touches on this as well, with the Mobile Infantry training in everything from unarmed combat to twentieth-century infantry arms. The training not only prepares them to use the powered armor, but also gives them skills to fall back on when the armor is impractical or not available for whatever reason.
- In addition, the training was also designed to help the troopers avoid a When All You Have Is a Hammer mindset, making sure they realize that using the maximum possible force is not always the best choice on how to deal with a situation.
- The martial arts training came in handy at the end of the book when the bugs launched an ambush in a tunnel; the power-armored soldiers tore through them with their bare hands.
- Star Wars: lightsabers, the weapon of a Jedi knight. Obi-wan Kenobi's description provides the Trope Namer. Essentially swords for a futuristic setting, they help paint the Jedi as a futuristic version of the Knight Errant or samurai. The weapons seem to have a number of clear advantages over blasters, being able to cut through anything and deflect blaster fire. Obi-Wan is the only person to call them "more civilized," however. In Revenge of The Sith, he's forced to use a blaster carbine and sniffs, "So uncivilized!"
- In the Expanded Universe, it's explained that the Jedi think of blasters as uncivilised because they allow one to kill from a distance. Due to the Force's deep connections to all life the Jedi believe that if you must end a life, you should be close enough to sense it end, hence the lightsabers. By making killing a very up close and personal thing, Jedi tradition discourages ending a life unless it is absolutely necessary and you understand the full implications of what you are doing.
- The ironic part being that many blasters have a stun setting, whereas the typical non-lethal use of a lightsaber involves permanently maiming the target.
- It's also made clear that to anyone who isn't a force user a lightsaber is a poor choice of weapon. Reflecting bolts requires more than just good reflexes; the Jedi starts moving before the shot is fired, guided by the Force. It is also terribly balanced, and almost impossible to tell where the blade is by feel. Any non-Jedi using a lightsaber will almost certainly lop off their own limbs. General Greivous is the only known exception, and his use is limited to what can be done with a normal sword.
- In The Hobbit, the trio of elven weapons found in a troll cave are these; Glamdring, Orcrist, and Sting. Elven, Elegant... and lethally sharp.
Live Action TV
- The world of Exalted is a Magitek Fantasy Kitchen Sink, with flamethrowers, beam cannons, and Wave Motion Guns all available in somewhere in the setting. However, even at the technological heights of the First Age, the traditional weapon of the titular Exalted is the daiklave, a BFS that is so massive that it needs to be enchanted just so the wielder can use it without difficulty.
- Aslan: they prefer to fight duels with claws. As humans have no claws, a human fighting Aslan fashion would wear an Ayloi, or artificial claw. Ayloi could count as this.
- Another example with Aslan is their taste for ornate decoration for weapons of all kinds including more modern ones.
- Imperial Marines in Traveller have a serious cutlass-fetish.
- Semi-averted because shooting guns inside a ship does bad things to delicate electronics, so melee is used in order to have a usable ship after boarding.
- More because cutlasses aren't really intended for war; they are intended for sport and for dueling. Swordplay is an activity that provides good exercise and is suited for the limited space of a starship.
- In Warhammer 40,000
- Eldar Phoenix Lords wear armor and wield weapons forged probably more than 20,000 years ago, all of which are at least as good as their modern counterparts.
- It should be noted that Eldar armour is psychically bonded to the wearer's spirit stone, and can presumably deform or expand (to an extent) to accommodate to new wearer.
- A lot of the Imperium works like this as well: Artificer Armor and Master Crafted Weapons tend to be centuries, if not millennia, old. The reason they're still in use isn't just because of sentimentality; it's because they still work better than a lot of newer things, and in fact repairs and modifications may make them worse. This also plays into the fact that, prior to the formation of the Imperium, humanity lost vast swathes of technological knowledge during the Age of Strife, afterwards leaving the newly-formed Imperium to scramble to secure whatever was left over. It's rather a Big Thing whenever a new Standard Template Construct is discovered.
- That, and the Imperium of Mankind (or at least, the Inquistion) frown rather heavily on innovation or invention - it's like 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' taken Up to Eleven. As a result, Imperial technology has spent about 10-15 thousand years stagnating while races less afraid of designing better wargear (like the Tau or the Tyranids) are slowly overtaking.
- Errant Story Features "Durus Flamma" weapons, that look a lot like lightsabers and are used by the elves exclusively for duels. And a dual bladed one, that is completely impractical, (even in-universe) but the one person who uses them anyway is just that Badass.
- Parodied in XKCD #297.
- Subverted, complete with a Star Wars reference, in this Sluggy Freelance strip.
Gwynn: Torg, are you stupid or something (...) running into a gunfight with a sword?
Torg: A sword is an elegant weapon. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. CHEEEARGE!
(Torg runs into battle. Cue hail of gunfire)
Torg (running away): Clumsy and random's got my name all over it!
- Double Subverted when the sword does prove decisive, in that battle and in others down the road. It saved the characters more than once, in situations where other weapons would obviously fail (soul trading demons in the spirit world for example).
- Schlock Mercenary's The Very Reverend Lieutenant Theo Fobius is an accomplished fencer since his seminary days. He even makes it work for him. (Well, sometimes.)
- Today, there are many groups worldwide committed to the reconstruction and safeguarding of old European weapon martial arts, particularly with the light, two-handed longsword. These martial arts prove to be highly efficient and holistic, often including unarmed combat and use of other weapons as part of the complete martial art.
- Swords, particularly some varieties thereof (the Rapier and the Jian, for instance) have often been the mark of noblemen, military officers and others in high social standing, presumably owing to the fact that they were expensive. Ironically, one of their functions was to hack at any Dirty Coward who tried to break formation and run away.
- During World War One, Europe was fairly surprised at the effectiveness of automatic weapons and artillery. Infantry and cavalry blocks very quickly gave way to trench warfare, tanks, and moving through cover.
- On the other hand, long abandoned weapons like the grenade and the mace made a comeback, as they were more practical than a long rifle with a bayonet when storming a trench. And while the mace was abandoned again when the submachinegun proved effective in 'cleaning' trenches and other environments where it would be useful, the grenade stayed. Subverted when shotguns, which are a centuries-old-idea, were used for this purpose; German command considered their use on humans a war crime.
- It takes years of training to become a good longbowman, but only a few weeks to learn to how use a gun effectively. Also, longbows could not pierce heavy armour. Therefore, as guns became more effective (and more able to pierce heavy armour) there were fewer and fewer reasons to use longbows in war. Nevertheless, the English held onto their traditional longbows and bills for nearly a century after the rest of Europe had switched to pike and shot. They were not necessarily wrong to do so. In 1513, the Scots (armed with pikes and muskets) invaded England and were utterly trounced at the battle of Flodden Field (at least partly due to the effectiveness of the longbow against lightly-armoured Scottish troops). The only reason longbows weren't replaced by crossbows, which had the same advantage as firearms in that they took far less time to learn to use, was that longbows could still be fired much faster than crossbows.
- The reason this had been played straight in Japan for for so long wasn't because Katanas Are Just Better, but because most noblemen and warriors were trained in melee weapons and archery. Nobunaga comes along with a unit of trained musketeers and the strategic skill to use them effectively and then suddenly he's unified Japan (mostly).
- The Satsuma Rebellion: A small group of more elite samurai faced down against the larger Imperial army using modern weapons of both Japanese and European origin, using European tactics. The more "elegant" and "civilized" samurai were eliminated to a man. The Boshin Wars, despite popular depiction, were not the same case. Both sides used modern weapons, infantry tactics and foreign aid.
- Blades have long been used and still have a place on modern battlefields, because firearms have limited ammunition and (mainly nowadays) because rifles may not be practically aimed and fired in close quarters. Over-reliance on the ability to simply shoot the enemy can lead to a soldier's death. A knife doesn't jam or run out of ammo. In extremely close combat, as can happen when clearing apartment complexes in Urban Warfare, an operative may score vastly more kills with their knife than they do with their bullets. For militia that are made of people who live in metropolitan areas, melee combat is a heavily emphasized skill.
- Famous saying by some 19th-century Russian general: "A bullet sometimes misses; a bayonet never does." A similar saying is from Generalissimus Alexander Suvorov, who lived in the late XVIII - early XIX century: "Bullet is foolish, bayonet is bold".
- There were a few decisive bayonet charges in the Iraq war when ammo ran low, the most famous being the Battle of Danny Boy. The chargers had body armor and the insurgents did not, thus, a rout.
- Bayonets, however, are NOT a major part of melee combat anymore. While they once were considered vital in warfare, as long ago as World War 1 it was recognized that bayonets are actually terrible weapons - guns are not very good spears, and there are far too many ways to get inside the weapon's reach. This is why combat knives grew in popularity - bayonets were unwieldy, but a knife is very handy for a wide variety of tasks AND can also be used to stab or cut people. Modern bayonets are more or less knives that can be (but which usually aren't) attached to rifles. The military has been de-emphasizing them in recent years due to their lack of real value - the primary purpose of bayonets nowadays is poking dead bodies and threatening prisoners, not actual combat, and the US military removed bayonet training from its basic training curriculum.
- The above entry may be somewhat countered by the fact that bayonet charges are insanely effective against people who cannot deal with crazed soldiers willing to get up close and personal in order to have the primal satisfaction of stabbing their victims to death in the most painful manner possible. The Battle of Danny Boy ended after British troops ran out of ammo and decided that bayonets were to be the killing blow to Iraqi insurgents. The insurgents, taught to believe that all westerners were cowards, fled when they realized that the British were obviously not running away but hellbent on getting revenge for casualties and a wrecked radio (and perhaps some spilled tea).
- Archery fell out of military use due to the long training time needed. However, hunters commonly abandon guns in favor of bows, for both sentimental and practical reasons (bows/arrows are quieter and lighter than guns and make cleaner kills). This is often an Enforced Trope. Gun season for deer is often only a week or two (with half that time dedicated to black powder arms), while bow season is open for the entire winter.
- Archery fell out of military use because bows' battlefield function (indirect fire) is accomplished better by cannon. What was supplanted by firearms was the crossbow. Archery was never mainstream in most of Europe. An exception is horse archers, which did see bows replaced by firearms on the steppes.
- Fighting Jack Churchill of the British Army, who not only carried a bow and arrows and sword with him into combat during World War II but killed Germans with them. You can't fit this trope any better than by telling a general, as Churchill did, "In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."
- Most fly-fishermen have a discreet snobbishness about their way of angling as compared to spin-rod and bait fishing. In particular, it is the fly rod itself—thinner, lighter and longer than its counterparts, giving it greater sensitivity to the angler's whims, with a reel whose basic design still looks very 19th-century—that symbolizes this.
- Compared to ubiquitous pump-action shotguns and military surplus semiautomatic rifles, the venerable break-action rifles, shotguns and combination guns with multiple caliber barrels are seen as old-fashioned, anachronisms. They are among the most expensive hunting guns in production and in many cases they are tailored to user's request, beautifully carved and engraved. With a wise choice of calibers the same combination gun may hunt from pheasant to Cape Buffalo.
- The Chinese government, harried by Pakistani terrorists, brought back the crossbow for their law enforcement, since the bolts can kill the terrorists with a reduced chance of detonating any explosives.
- Black powder weapons, especially in the United States, are still used for hunting. These weapons can be modern rifles made out of state-of-the-art materials or reproductions of famous muskets such as the Kentucky rifle. One reason for their use is that it is considered a more traditional way of hunting, another being that the low velocities of rifles and their long reload times make hunting with them a Self-Imposed Challenge.