"In Europe, swordsmiths were constantly, incrementally experimenting with design, coming up with longer, shorter, more curved, less curved, different construction methods and so forth, but no, no, in Japan they came up with perfection and then stuck with it. But was it perfection? "
Yoh from Shaman King is a good example of this trope. Even if he is using the sword of his 600 year old spirit, Amidamaru, it's still him using it. It tends to grow in size when he uses his Over Soul's second version. He's also usually the winner. Unless he doesn't wanna be. Such a lazy boy. This Over Soul also tends to be able to change its shape with... Yoh's mind... right. Matamune is a Badass cat. He's the first katana that Yoh uses as a guardian spirit. Good pussy cat. Kill the Oni.
Assassin from Fate/stay night uses a katana (nodachi, really). The long range of his weapon, excellent skills, and a nigh-undodgeable ultimate technique make him a very difficult recurring opponent to the Western swordswoman protagonist, Saber. This technique isn't even really a special, unique skill like the other Servants have — He's just that good.
The difference in the swords is actually commented upon by Assassin. Saber uses a heavy western sword useful for chopping, blocking and endurance fighting. Assassin's nodachi is a good sword, but it's a lot lighter and more suited for quick kills because it's not strong enough to block. When he stops parrying and actually blocks an attack to get into a better position, his sword gets bent slightly and he ends up losing the fight because it creates a gap in his ultimate technique. The weapons screen also notes that his sword isn't useful for actual battle, but since he's such a badass he can do it anyway.note Swords bending during the fight was a very common thing. Historical records are chock full of mentions of mutually agreed timeouts during the battle to right up the bent and replace the broken swords and other weapons, regardless of location: these happened in Japan, in Europe, in Middle East, even in China and India.
Sort of present in One Piece. Many of the series' prominent swordsmen (Zoro, Tashigi, and Ryuuma) wield katana or similar swords. However, Mihawk, known as the greatest swordsman, uses what seems to be an enormous Messer or Dāo.
Aya, the primary protagonist, uses a katana as his weapon of choice even against enemies wielding guns, and pulls off a couple of Diagonal Cuts throughout the original series. On the other hand, the trope is also subverted several times throughout the series:
In the Radio DramaEndless Rain, several characters discuss the idea that Katanas Are Just Better, with one of them remarking that the katana is just a weapon like any other and, all things being equal, he'd just as soon have a gun. In another scene, Aya, wielding a katana, is defeated effortlessly by another character who wields only a paper fan.
And in the manga sequel Weiss Side B, Aya is provided with his pick from another character's collection of katanas before going into battle, and takes all of them, correctly expecting all of them to break before the fight is over. One of them is broken by Chloe's rose.
Turning it up a few notches, Kyoshiro Tohdoh, CG's Manly Japanese Guy has a Chainsaw Katana with rockets on it. To make it hit harder, of course. And change directions, letting him hit you, even if you dodge. And a rocket powered spike thing on the bottom of the handle, just in case you can dodge that, too.
But among all these super-advanced mecha with their fancy fancy swords, Li Xingke carries around a traditional sword. You know, just in case anyone needs humiliating.
Hatsu from Tower of God dual-wields Katana, though it is not a simple as you think. One is a Flying Weapon, the other shoots Sword Beams. So these Katana actually are better. To contrast that, Hong Chunhwa's Narumada is a european longsword that also can fire Sword Beams. Both Narumada and The Sword That Flies Lower Than Any are known as ignition weapons.
Cowboy Bebop's Vicious, in a world where most characters are gunmen or martial artists, uses a katana as his weapon of choice. And he is damn good with it, good enough to match his rival, The Gunslinger Spike Spiegel, in no fewer than two one-on-one duels. It helps that he was probably hopped up on RedEye.
As is Ginji Matsuzaki from Black Lagoon, an underboss of the Washimine Group who takes a shirasaya katana to a mess of gunslinging yakuza goons and performs feats like slicing bullets in half and slicing one cocky yakuza's gun (and his hands!) to pieces. He's even Badass enough to take on Revy herself on equal footing in a one-on-one battle to the death, even though he ultimately throws the fight and loses.
Lowe Gear in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Astray prefers the Humongous Mecha-sized katana Gerbera Straight to the Beam Swords his mecha comes with. Partially justified in that Beam Swords are rather power-intensive and the mobile suits of the Cosmic Era typically use finite batteries rather than nuclear reactors as in past series (not that this helps Lowe, as his fighting style tends to drain Red Frame's battery very fast).
Played very straight in Astray R, where the Gerbera Straight is portrayed as being much, much better than the Western-style swords used by the GINN and CGUE mobile suits. Moreover, in what may be the ultimate example of this trope, Old Master Un No uses his normal, human-scale katana to do a Clean Cut on a mobile suit's beam rifle, twice.
Subverted in Gundam 00: Graham Aker's Humongous Mecha uses a solid katana when he tries to finish off the 00 Raiser with an overhead swing, but Setsuna just grabs the blade with the 00's hands and shatters the sword by bending it backwards.
'∀ Gundam'', features eventual villain Gym Ghingham who carries a katana and insists he is a samurai.
Justified in Lupin III; Goemon's katana is made from a specialized metal hard enough to cleave steel. In the manga, it's meteoric iron; in the anime, it's an unearthly metal or alloy. Early stories for Goemon actually have him searching out a sword durable enough for his Implausible Fencing Powers. Subverted in that there are rare objects and materials in the franchise that are not affected by the sword or actually break it.
Goemon: Once again, I have cut a worthless object...
Used interestingly in Busou Renkin. The Sword Samurai X Busou Renkin is noted to be abnormally fast and accurate, but is otherwise played as the equal counterpart to the main character's European-super-lancey-thing Busou Renkin, itself excelling in overpowering the opposition. It doesn't necessarily help matters that the character holding the sword had previously been training in kendo, and a bokken is very different in weight to a katana. It's also totally useless against European Victor's axe-type Busou Renkin, Fatal Attraction.
Creed from Black Cat used to wield a katana he called "Kotetsu." Later, although still in the form of a katana, it becomes a blade formed from Creed's Chi. Still, his Kotetsu gets broken by a gunshot.
The majority of zanpakutō in Bleach take the form of a katana in their default form (although there are obviously several exceptions, such as Ichigo's BFS), but they usually change into something else in their released state (Ikkaku's sword becomes a three-sectioned spear and Iba's becomes a falchion).
As a matter of fact, Ichigo's BFS at present is an "always in its released state" version. When he originally gained Shinigami powers, his sword took the form of a really huge katana.
Subverted in the fight between Shunsui and Coyote Starrk. Although Starrk begins combat with a katana, he abandons it after releasing his powers in favor of a pair of cero guns. Shunsui's attempts to take the offensive against him afterward are thwarted by his inability to get inside the range of Starrk's guns with his sword attacks. Shunsui doesn't succeed in landing a blow against Starrk until the latter's distracted by his fight with two other captain-level opponents.
Arrancar seal their powers, in a manner that makes them more humanoid, generally. Their power is sealed within a katana, but not always. For examples the three strongest Espada's sealed Zanpakuto take the form of an odd-looking hollow sword, a huge axe, and another arrancar.
Yajirobe, a rotund samurai, uses a katana. His one main moment of fame was using his sword in a surprise attack on Oozaru Vegeta, which revealed that Yajirobe's katana was the only thing that could penetrate Vegeta's armour and actually hurt him. In his first appearance, he effortlessly slices one of Piccolo Daimao's offspring to pieces. At the time the Daimao's offspring were feared and considered extremely powerful, capable of killing seasoned martial artists without breaking a sweat.
Janemba (one of the more monstrous nutcases from the many Dragon Ball Z films) uses some kind of sword against Super Saiyan 3 Goku — at that point one of the strongest non-fused character in the series — and severly injures him. The sword seems to be based on the Western variety.
In Saiyuki Gaiden, Tenpou Gensui is a soldier who fights with a katana, interesting because as a god and an agent of Heaven, he's not permitted to take a life (even the gunslingers in his group of soldiers only have stunguns), although when he throws all rules out the window, he's shown to be pretty damn good with it. Also interestingly, katanas are rare in the Saiyuki universe (other than the cannon fodder opponents at the end of Gaiden, Tenpou is the only character shown using one), possibly because it's set in China rather than Japan. His reincarnation, Cho Hakkai, uses no weapon and is, instead, a gifted martial artist and manipulator of chi.
Discussed early in Bakuman。, as Moritaka and Akito discuss what to have in their manga. Akito helpfully points out that many of the most successful manga that are currently running (some of which already cited here) use katana in them, be they the main focal point of the overall story (as is the case with Bleach) or not (as in One Piece).
Played straight and subverted in Chrome Shelled Regios. Almost every single character used a weapon other than a katana, and they aren't really being shown as inferior to those that do use katanas. However, the protagonist, Layfon Alseif, who has been using a standard sword the entirety of the series, gets his greatest Crowning Moment Of Awesome after fusing two different kinds of Infinity Plus One Swords together. Partially justified in that all of his training focused on katana-using, and it was just a personal vow of repentance that kept him from using it the whole time.
Samurai 7; samurai armed with katana are able to take on powered armor, cyborgs, and more. One enemy samurai turns to using a BFG; he is looked down upon for it, as are the former samurai cyborg bandits, who have given up their bodies and, according to Kambei, their honor as well. He insults them, doubting they were ever samurai.
In Soul Eater, Tsubaki has a katana as one of her several forms; Mifune had many katanas; Ragnarok has recently been shown in a katana form, a departure from his usual shape as a decidedly Western sword design. Becomes a subversion when you remember Excalibur surpasses all of them.
Played straight in the fifth Kara no Kyoukai movie. When Shiki gets her hands on a katana, she becomes exponentially more proficient and deadly.
In the Digimon Next manga, near the end, there is a battle between the gun-wielding RiseGreymon and the katana-wielding Zanbamon. RiseGreymon takes a few potshots at his enemy, only for him to deflect the shots and give us a quote that damn well embodies this trope:
Zanbamon: The gun is mightier than the sword, but the katana surpasses the gun.
In the manga Katana, though the protagonist is descended from a long line of Japanese swordsmiths, and can see the spirit of any sword, he doesn't want anything to do with them. Later it's played straight when he's introduced to a collector of Japanese swords, and the strongest sword spirit is a katana.
Saitō Hajime of Rurouni Kenshin preferred the katana above all other types of swords, even going so far as to seek out and receive permission to use one when all the other police officers authorized to carry swords used Western sabres. One major factor in this decision is that his Signature Move is intended to be used with a katana rather than a blade of a different design - the one time he tries to do it with a Sword Cane, the blade breaks.
This is Colin's weapon of choice in Highlander: The Search for Vengeance. It is actually one of the Big Bad's swords and Colin only keeps it around because all his over swords broke. So in this universe it seems that Katanas really are just better.
Sort of subverted in Gamaran: true, most of the greatest warriors in this setting (including the protagonist, his school and the main villains) are all katana-wielding swordsmen, but certain weapons (like polearms or chains) are shown to best swords. Plus, they tend to break against very powerful attacks, and generally speaking is not a matter of weapon, but rather technique: A good example is when Gama, using a katana and his strongest attack, is beaten silly by Iori who uses an empty scabbard and the very same technique against him.
Played with in one episode of Kaiketsu Zorro (Zorro's anime adaptation), where the conflict was around a race to get a katana imported from Japan before the villain, because otherwise the katana would have been able to cut Zorro and his sword if he was forced to block. The villain gets his hands on the katana and faces Zorro, who at one point is forced to block... At which point it's found out it's a wooden katana (the importer had not been able to bring out the real thing), that is cut upon hitting Zorro's sword.
In Genzo, the Warrior Monk Kyokai boasts about the quality of katanas, though he doesn't talk about their effectivness in battle, but rather to their value as masterworks and artistic objects. In the same story is also explained that, because of the costant wars, katana of low-quality were mass-produced, while the most precious ones are harder to find.
Micaiah's Seiran in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid. In contrast to the more hi-tech swords of the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, Seiran is just a normal physical katana. However, it makes up for it by proving to be an Absurdly Sharp Blade capable of slicing a falling bus into fours in an instant with minimal magic enhancement, a feat that the Cyborg swordswoman Deed had doubted was possible to do with an ordinary blade.
Lampooned in the non-collectible card game Let's Kill. One of the weapons available to the serial-killer players is a 'Cool Oriental Sword', whose flavor text cited all the work the smith put into forging it just so 'you can play this card and Whack (kill) a couple of other cards.'
In an early issue of his first ongoing run, Wolverine states that "in the hands of a master, there is no deadlier single-combat weapon in the world, in all history... than the Dai-Katana, the Japanese samurai sword." One of his villains, Silver Samurai, proves this a few pages later, deflecting bullets from a semi-automatic gun. This was probably more because of Silver Samurai's mutant power of channeling energy through melee weapons he wields than from the katana itself. Although that would help keep the bullets from shattering the katanas, but the fact that he can intercept the bullets at all is solidly this trope (or maybe a subtrope along the lines of "people who use katanas are just more skilled").
The Muramasa Blade is a katana occasionally used by Wolverine (and others in related stories), and is one of the few weapons that is stated to be capable of killing him on its own, without otherwise negating his healing abilities. This weapon was used to kill Sabretooth. Thus, while not necessarily stronger than adamantium (itself Unobtainium), it is still better. Of course, this being the Marvel Universe, there are many Western-style weapons that are superior to it, including Thor's Mjolnir, Namor's Trident, and of course Hulk's fist.
The DC heroine namedKatana wields a magical katana called "Soultaker". It cuts through just about anything. It completely resists melting. And yes, she can deflect bullets with it. But it also has a curse: Those killed by the sword may have their soul taken into the world within it, and can subsequently be summoned to do the wielder's bidding. And it makes an evil person who holds it even more malevolent.
Groo The Wanderer fights with two katanas, one in each hand. A "swords origin story" in the Epic run established that his skill in combat is due to them. The first time he uses them, he is stunned by how well they work.
Deadpool frequently uses and is often seen Dual Wielding katanas, and kills a ton of people with them. It's not clear whether this has anything to with the katanas, though.
In the movie-verse it most certainly is. To the point he has katanas surgically grafted to his arms, looking like Baraka more than anything.
Of couse he does use guns more.
In Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Deadpool can fight his equivalent, Dante. In other words Dante, a character made in Japan, will use his claymore against Deadpool, a character made in America, who use two katanas.
Green Arrow recently took up the katana under Judd Winick's authorship. By all accounts, he's fairly good with it, although this is more out of a tremendous amount of life-or-death training than the weapon itself. Many Green Arrow fans find the use of a katana instead a more theme-appropriate longsword somewhat pandering.
Toyota, the female ninja mercenary in Y: The Last Man, displays open pleasure whenever someone challenges her to a sword fight, as her previous (male) sparring partners were all killed in the gendercide. However she prudently vanishes when her sword is shot in half by one revolver-wielding opponent.
Zealot of the Wildstorm Universe uses a Kherubim warsword that can absorb large amounts of energy and is sharp enough to cut atoms (makes you wonder what it is made of, a super-sized neutron or something?) It is, incidentally, often drawn as a katana.
Knives Chau's father uses a katana in Scott Pilgrim, at one point even slicing clean through a street car!
In Lucifer, the god Kagutsuchi wields the "three-named sword," the slightest nick from which kills instantly.
Justified in the Taskmaster mini-series, where Taskmaster states that he began using a katana so he could duplicate the moves (his power) of Silver Samurai.
The appropriately named Captain Katana from Empowered had his arms and legs replaced with 'em. He also has a magical one stuck in his head.
Miho in Sin City often uses a katana in concert with a wakizashi.
Aoi Myoujin from the The Blue Stranger The Red Curtain uses a dragon scale katana that is sharp enough to cut through most common metals as well as lesser dragons. Despite this, he goes against this trope somewhat by using a modified CZ 75.
Kage: Jade eventually gets a shadow katana (a gift from the Queen).
Films — Animation
Averted in Princess Mononoke where the katana-armed samurai prove to be no match for Ashitaka, who wields a straight, single-edged Ainu sword as befits the last prince of a precursor culture.
Films — Live-Action
The Last Samurai is based on the Satsuma Rebellion against the Meiji regime in 19th century Japan, at a time when the rapid modernisation of the country had just begun. The "honorable" rebels are depicted as wearing anachronistic armor and using "honorable" weapons such as katanas. Their opposition fights in the "despicable" Western style, with rifles, field artillery, machine guns and "barbarian" uniforms. In the first battle, the rebels win a smash victory against the poorly-prepared loyalist army. One particular samurai cuts through an enemy's rifle to kill the man behind it. Subverted, however, by Algren, who seems to be defeated and is about to have his head cut off by a katana-wielding samurai, only to turn the tables with his cavalry saber and a spear-tipped banner pole. Averted in the final battle, where the traditionalists make a good showing of bravery, but succumb to the superior firepower of the loyalists. The historical rebels actually used a good deal of Western tactics and weaponry, but did die in an old-fashioned cavalry charge after their ammo ran out.
In Kill Bill, The Bride and several of her adversaries wield katanas crafted by Hattori Hanzo, the greatest swordsmith to ever live. The Bride's sword in particular is said to be his finest work. But the film also averts the katana's overpowering superiority: The Bride is helpless against the only two characters who have her at gunpoint, and she gets beaten up with a meteor hammer for a little while.
In Pulp Fiction, Butch Coolidge, Bruce Willis' character, chooses a katana over a variety of other weapons (including a small chainsaw) to rescue Marsellus Wallace, the guy that previously wanted him dead, from the hillbillies raping him. To be fair, it is kind of hard to sneak up on someone with a chainsaw... Plus the "weapons" he picked up before the chainsaw was a claw hammer and a wooden baseball bat, so really he picked the only item designed to actually kill people.
Subversion: In Dead Mans Shoes, wielding a katana doesn't do the Anti-Hero's prey much good at all. It pretty much highlights the way the villains do everything they think Bad Ass gangsters should, while their opponent is a no-nonsense Combat Pragmatist.
In The Matrix Reloaded, Morpheus wields a katana for an extended period of time and causes a car to flip over by slicing its tires as it passes. However, overall katana are not given a great deal more weight than other weapons. In the stairway fight, Neo actually spends the most time wielding a European longsword.
The Kevin Costner flick The Bodyguard uses this trope. Costner demonstrates the implausible sharpness of the katana by tossing a silk cloth into the air... which lands on the katana blade and is cut in half just from its own weight. This scene is probably taken from an apocryphal story celebrating the sharpness of Damascus steel.
The original Highlander finds an unlikely way to arm their eponymous highlander, MacLeod, with a katana, receiving it from his world-traveling master. The sword is actually a proto-katana, having been created about five hundred years before katanas as we knew them were even invented. Various spin-offs generally carry on the custom of giving their hero a katana. Funnily enough the sequel's villain is named General Katana, but does not wield a katana.
In the new Star Trek movie, there's a scene where Sulu fights Romulans with a folding sword that looks a lot like a katana, though it could also be a saber. He describes his combat training as "fencing".
Played straight and subverted in 300, where the Persian army's elite Immortals duel-wield katana-like swords for some reason, but they prove useless against the Spartans.
Averted in Akira Kurosawa's Ran during the castle siege/slaughter which is the movie centerpiece. Hidetora's sword breaks when repulsing an attacker, which, when he wants to Do The Honorable Thing and commit seppuku amidst the carnage, leaves him with no recourse. The experience (along with the first half of the movie) turns the powerful warlord helpless and leaves him crazy.
Subverted in Seven Samurai. All the samurai who die are picked off by muskets, as there is very little they can do about them. The peasants also have a large collection of katanas from samurai they have killed in their sleep. Kikuchiro anticipates that his swords will probably break during the battle, so he collects a supply up back-ups. Most of the sword-wielding bandits are killed by the peasants, who wield little more than sharpened bamboo spears.
In Ninja in the Dragon's Den, a Chinese sorcerer proves completely immune to a Chinese sabre, but a katana neatly slices his leg off. However, the katana only defeats the sorcerer because it's foreign, and therefore not affected by Chinese magic.
Played straight and slightly subverted in the film G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Snake Eyes uses his katana to chop Storm Shadow's hurled shuriken to pieces. Storm Shadow uses his dual katanas to block incoming automatic weapons fire from prison guards. Subverted when Storm Shadow breaks a katana that he allegedly used to assassinate the Hard Master by striking it against Snake Eye's own sword to prove that the broken sword was not his—"Arashikage steel would not break" — and that it was a copy Zartan used to frame him for the Hard Master's death.
The Western Red Sun is about a samurai (played by Toshiro Mifune) trying to retrieve a gold katana, meant as a gift to the US President from Japan, that was stolen by the leader of a band of train robbers. He teams up with an outlaw (played by Charles Bronson) to get it back.
In the epic swordfight in the James Bond film Die Another Day, at one point Gustav Graves gets hold of a katana and promptly chops James Bond's sabre in half with a single blow. Curiously, they both pass up katanas in favor of broadswords for the final duel.
DOA: Dead or Alive shows the katana's sharpness when it slices a kimono discarded by Kasumi just by it landing on the blade!
In Predators, a yakuza scavenges a katana and faces a predator in a Duel to the Death, managing a Mutual Kill. The other humans had a harder time getting a kill with their automatic weapons.
Eric Lustbader's Nicholas Linnear novels (The Ninja, The Miko, and White Ninja) tend to use katanas. A lot. At one stage the protagonist cautions his Love Interest against touching the blade of a katana because if she did it would sever her finger. Lustbader goes on to suggest that a bigger katana is even better: Iss-hogai, Linnear's weapon, is a dai-katana, or literally "big katana".
Niko, the Badass Normal of Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros series, is proficient with a variety of edged weapons, but his favorite is the katana. Interestingly, his brother Cal fares as least as well or better when he just shoots monsters with a gun.
The hero of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Hunters Of The Red Moon is abducted by aliens and ends up being chosen for a Most Dangerous Game-type reality show. He is given the choice of a wide range of hand-held weapons from across the galaxy and is happy to spot a Japanese katana which he uses to be one of the rare survivors of the game.
In Summer Knight, the Winter Knight, Lloyd Slate, uses "a Japanese sword without enough class to be an actual katana."
One of the three Swords of the Cross, Fidelacchius, is a katana. In an aversion of the trope, it's not depicted as being in any way superior to the other two swords, a longsword and a cavalry saber, but it is worth a mention all the same given that Ghost Story eventually confirms that Fidelacchius is the Kusanagi - traditionally, the Kusanagi is a straight-bladed tsurugi, not a katana.
Surprisingly subverted in Snow Crash. Although the katana-wielding Hiro turns out to be an amazing swordsman even outside of the Metaverse, it's the Big Bad's glass daggers with their monomolecular edges that do all the improbable cutting. Hiro also makes a point to compensate for the fact that his sword won't slice clean through bone like in the movies.
As a fanboy of ancient cultures, Valerian Mengsk in the StarCraft Dark Templar Saga novels has quite a collection of ancient weapons. In itself, perhaps not so strange. But he's also a master swordsman who regularly practices with his trusty katana.
In The Thrawn Trilogy, part of the A fleet of two hundred dreadnoughts called the Dark Force was also called the Katana fleet after its flagship. However, the Katana Fleet was a dismal failure in the eyes of the Republic, having lost the entire thing.
The Jedi used katana before lightsabers were invented. They were even used sometimes afterwards, but to a much lesser extent than the Sith used their broadswords after they had lightsabers.
In David Weber's first Safehold book, Off Armageddon's Reef, Nimue Alban manufactures a katana and wakazashi for her "Merlin" persona specifically because there is no specific counterpart in Safehold society and her intent is to give Merlin as exotic an image as possible. The weapons do prove to be superior, but only because they're made from advanced alloys rather than ordinary steel.
Both played straight and subverted in The Golden Age series by John C. Wright, as a katana is used to finish off an enemy after he has been hit with hard radiation, nanotech poison and disruptive supergravity. On the other hand, said katana is only still a sword in the loosest sense, being stuffed so full of hyper-tech that it almost bursts at the seams. Poked fun at by the protagonist, who at one point internally ridicules the soldier for still "carrying a sharp bit of metal made for poking people."
In The Zombie Survival Guide, the author states that a katana works best when trying to behead a zombie. Where did he get this idea from? A "lost" scroll about a samurai who chopped the head off a zombie with one, though the weapon's aptitude for beheadings is well documented historically.
In the middle section of Princess of Wands the heroine uses a magically-imbued katana against the demon in the middle section of Princess of Wands. The sword is later seen (but not used) in the last part of the book.
In Rick Cook's Limbo System, Dr. Takiuji practices with one — and uses it to impressive effect later in the novel.
The Xena: Warrior Princess finale took place in Japan, and featured numerous references to the superiority of the Katana, even depicting Xena's sword being sliced in half by a katana. After her first experience with the katana (seen via flashback) warlord Xena says, "Oooh Gimme, Gimme!" She also uses a katana upon her second trip to Japan (the non-flashback material of the finale), to fight Yodoshi, the Lord of The Darkland.
The Highlander TV series carries on the film's tradition of arming its Scottish Highlander main character with a katana as his default weapon; justified as well by the sword' sentimental importance. Duncan was versed in a variety of weapons, however, and would occasionally wield other weapons—one episode had him refreshing his memory with a rapier and dagger when preparing to fight a duelist on equal terms—and sometimes switched back to his old Scottish claymore when things get very personal. In one notable episode, Duncan is able to quickly dispatch a foe after they swap weapons—while Duncan was proficient in his opponent's weapon, his enemy was totally unfamiliar with the katana.
Kamen Rider Ryuki's hero starts off with a katana in his blank form. Subverted when it easily snaps against the very first Monster of the Week, only to be replaced by a Chinese saber which easily minces the same monster while deflecting all its attacks.
It's worth noting that for a Japanese franchise, the only notable use of katana was in Kamen Rider Hibiki, culturally steeped to the point of being a Widget Rider series. And even then it was just a handful of times in the series (combined with Blazing Sword) and part of The Movie.
The CSI NY episode "Corporate Warriors" features a businessman beheaded by a katana-wielding rival from his firm. Also inserted are obligatory scenes of Mac Taylor looking sexy while testing a katana.
Deadliest Warrior averts this. The katana is not granted any more special powers than it demonstrates during testing, and many western swords are shown to be just as lethal. Testing suggested that the katana could slash straight through more than one unarmored body in a single swing, but could not slash through chainmail.
R. Lee Ermey on Lock and Load tested a katana against a traditional European longsword. He determined the katana was better at both slashing and penetrating armor, though through very dubious methods and not to a significant degree.
In The Outer Limits episode "Mindreacher", a woman is attacked by a monster in a dream. After she realizes she's in a dream, she wills a katana into her hand and kills the monster.
In the Doctor Who episode "The Girl Who Waited", Amy wields a katana and a staff against the Handbots after the Doctor abandoned her for 36 years.
Invoked in Criminal Minds episode "True Night," where a delusional man on a vendetta imagines himself in a Badass Longcoat and Dual Wielding katana, while in the real world he's wearing a hoodie and wiedling hardware store machetes.
In first and second editions, katanas were pretty much the ultimate one-handed weapon by a fair margin, and a solid contender as one of the best two-handed weapons.
Third edition toned katanas back, determining that a genuine katana was merely a masterwork bastard sword under another name. Presumably, a cheap knock-off would be only a regular bastard sword.
Fourth edition weapons are more formulaic and balanced in design. Using examples from the existing weapons table, a flavorful yet fair 4E katana shouldn't be hard to improvise... a bastard sword with a lower proficiency bonus and the high crit property, for example.
Pathfinder's katanas and wakizashi are essentially longswords and shortswords that can land critical hits more easily and have a property that makes it easier to execute helpless opponents. Wakizashi also have the minor but sometimes useful bonus of being able to do slashing and piercing damage (standard shortswords are assumed to be like the Roman gladius, meant only for stabbing). However, both are classified as "exotic" weapons when used one-handed, which requires special training, and are generally the same level of power as western exotic weapons.
The fifth edition playtest has the simplest iteration of katanas yet. They're just longswords that classify as "finesse" weapons, allowing the user to apply either strength or dexterity bonuses to their attacks, instead of defaulting to strength. So the katana is more versatile than a longsword, but will only be better for a character with a higher Dexterity than Strength score.
d20 Modern has the katana as the best sword in the core rules, but it requires the Exotic Weapons Proficiency feat to use.
Very much used in the Old World of Darkness, where statistically the katana was undoubtedly the best weapon you could use. However, this changed over time. In the Revised (third) edition of the old WoD, all swords have the same stats. In the New World of Darkness, katana have the same stats as all other swords, but extremely expensive "genuine" katana are more durable.
Played straight to the point of parody in Dudes of Legend, which lets you give special abilities to katanas, like "Armor Ain't Got Shit Against This Blade".
In the Stick Guy Role-Playing Game, most equipment provides either a +1 or +2 bonus on a roll. Katanas always provide a +3, whether the situation makes the use of a katana logical or not.
Shadowrun 4th edition takes this trope in a weird direction, with the katana being better than the generic sword, as good as the mono-filament sword, but worse than the combat axe and claymore.
The Final Fantasy Role-Playing Game neatly averts this issue: katanas and single-handed swords match each other stat for stat, the only differences being price (katanas are more expensive, owning to their more complicated method of creation) and weapon abilities, and even then one doesn't top the other. Katanas are, however, necessary for the Samurai job to use its full abilities, though that is more a function of the Samurai job than of the katana itself. The strongest weapons in terms of pure statistical power are, fittingly enough, the weapons most likely to be swung with the most strength behind them: the greatswords and polearms (spears, lances, etc).
In GURPS 3rd Edition, a katana wielded two-handed did more damage and was better at defending than any comparable western blade. After many "Magical Sword of Ethnic Badassery" jokes, the katana was rendered slightly inferior to comparable western swords, since it does an equal amount of slashing damage and less stabbing damage.
Used and (partially) subverted in Legend of the Five Rings. In fact, the book lists half a dozen weapons as "the only truly honorable ones for Samurai". In due fairness, however, it then proceeds to list exceptions by clan, and the katana is not an all-purpose superweapon in this game (heavy weapons are more useful against opponents with carapace, bows can be devastating if used right, etc.). Nearly all of the powerful magical weapons in the setting are katanas, though.
The Riddle Of Steel, a highly intricate game with a largely accurate depiction of historical European martial arts, added Eastern swords and Kenjutsu to its repetoire in one of its supplemental books. Katanas are quite weak against plate armor and require some work to set up their best moves due to a poor reach, but their proficiency contains several excellent maneuvers with which to accomplish this and if you DO land its draw cut on an unarmored or poorly armored part of your opponent? He's probably a goner.
In Chaosium's Basic Role Playing system, a multi-genre game based on the rules used in Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest among others, the Katana does the same amount of damage as a bastard sword ... but it has a higher "base" value, meaning that people who train in the use of a Katana start out with a higher chance to hit — and it can be used one handed by weaker and less dextrous fighters, as well!
Anima Beyond Fantasy makes not just the katana, but all Japanese weapons superior to western counterparts. They all have a higher presence(coolness factor basically) than western weapons. Mechanically, however, it's not really any different from a longsword in combat and its higher presence score only means that it's very slightly more resistant to being — for example — magically transmuted into a rubber chicken. It's also slightly less durable physically.
Averted in the game Unknown Armies, which only stats melee weapons by asking three questions. Is it big? Is it sharp? Is it heavy? For every yes, the weapon does +3 damage. From a mechanical point of view, UA doesn't care if the weapon is a priceless, ancient Japanese sword, a modern combat-ready replica sword, or an axe for splitting logs bought at a hardware store.
Savage Worlds outright asks: "How do you want katanas to work? If you want realistic katanas, use longsword rules. If you want movie katanas, use katana rules. If you want anime katanas, use laser sword rules." Katanas can be better, or not, as the GM pleases.
Averted in Warhammer (Fantasy Battles, Historical Battles and Fantasy Roleplay) where katana is just another two-handed weapon, always striking last and gaining +2 Strength bonus.
In BattleTech, the Draconis Combine features battlemechs equipped with mech-sized katanas. However, melee for mechs are typically Awesome, but Impractical and the sword is no exception, dealing only a single point of damage more than the mech could have inflicted just by punching the target. The trope is completely avoided by the Katana Battlemech, which is just a variant of the Crockett with inferior armor and heatsinks, making it a worse mech. In the Battletech RPG, katanas are superior to generic swords as melee weapons, but they're identical to scimitars, so the difference is probably meant to just be in quality of manufacturing.
Zig-zagged in Mutant Chronicles. Mishiman katana are better than all other readily available swords. However, there are also Ace Custom claymores forged by the master-smiths of clan Gallagher, which are the finest blades in the Solar System. There are similar Ace Custom katanas as well, but they are significantly worse than Gallagher swords, and stated to be made using stolen and imperfectly understood Gallagher smithing techniques.
Invoked in BIONICLE. Lewa's swords are called "Air Katana", despite not reembling katana in the slightest.
Conkers Bad Fur Day: As demonstrated, Conker selects the katana from a wall of weapons to kill the alien at the end of the game. In actual gameplay, they are capable of one-hit kills as long as the user gets close enough and keeps the user from showing up on the enemy's radar.
The "ninja" characters all wield a vibrating "High Frequency blade" that looks like a katana. These high-tech blades can deflect bullets and slice through steel like butter. Since these ninjas are all cyborgs or wearing Powered Armor that grants them super strength and reflexes, and their swords are presumably made of Applied Phlebotinum, the trope is somewhat justified.
The ex-President of the United States wields, along with tentacles, a pair of Phlebotinum swords reminiscent of katana.
In Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, there's a sword called the Wo Dao that looks remarkably like a katana. Both Tellius games also have the Vague Katti. In Path of Radiance it essentially took the place of the Wo Dao. In Radiant Dawn it's the strongest sword in terms of raw power gives a lower stat bonus and lacks extra bonuses like Ragnell and Alondite's ranged attacks or Amiti's extra attacks.
The Wo Dao's been in a few other Fire Emblem games as well. Ironically its stats in Radiant Dawn are pretty much its worst showing. Usually it's slightly weaker or equal in Might to a Killing Edge, with slightly higher crit rate.
The series also goes back and forth with the Killing Edge, it is a katana in some games, but not in others. In addition, the Killer Lance in ''Fire Emblem Awakening is a Naginata.
Chrono Trigger: Crono, the main character, wields a katana as his weapon, and his ultimate weapon, the Rainbow Sword, is the most powerful PC weapon in the game. However, the random damage multipliers of Lucca's Wondershot can sometimes best it.) Note that Chrono lives in a European-esque ye olde medieval kingdom.
The thief and standard knight classes are comparatively easy to acquire and have fairly mundane abilities: The knight breaks armor, and the thief steals things. Their Japanese equivalents, the ninja and samurai classes respectively, are both much harder to acquire and have mystical abilities: The samurai is capable of drawing upon his or her 'sword spirits' to unleash Ki Attacks, and the ninja can turn invisible as a counter technique.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 doesn't have Katanas as a stronger weapon type in general (although the Hyakushiki-masamune is tied with the Tournesol for the best Attack, not counting the Sequencer), but the skills learned from them, most notably Dual Wield, are much more powerful. And by extension, the katana-wielding Paravir is easily the most physically powerful close range class. Ninjas less so, but they have the best speed growths of any hume class (they are both Glass Cannon classes, though). Although the Samurai and Ninja are very powerful classes, that can overpower the rest when properly utilized, katanas and ninja swords are atrociously weak. The game's Infinity+1 Sword (the Javelin II) is a polearm, and Knight Swords and Fell Swords are stronger and more versatile than even the highest-level katana.
In the first game (in the original PSX version), the top of the heap was the Knight Sword. Either that, or a Monk using bare fists.
Balanced by Brave Fencer Musashi's title hero, who wield both a katana and a large, double-sided sword. Technically the double-sided sword was more powerful, to the point of being the only weapon that could damage certain bosses. The double-edged sword was also statistically superior. In fact, the only drawback of the huge weapon was that it was huge, and therefore took a lot longer to swing than the katana. Comparatively, the katana didn't do much damage, but could it could be swung three times in the time it took to swing the huge sword. Once the player learns combos that combine the power of both swords, mooks just don't match up.
In the Devil May Cry series, Dante, the main character, wields as his primary weapons a broadsword and twin pistols. He amasses numerous other weapons, both melee and firearms, in each game. His brother and Worthy Opponent, Vergil, uses a katana and has eschewed firearms as being beneath him. Although Vergil has definite Magnificent Bastard overtones, Dante is by far the more stylish of the pair. When Dante does get his hands on a katana, incidentally his brother's old "Yamato", he is less competent with it than with any of the other weapons, demonstrated as a tiny moveset.
Nero's Devil Trigger spirit uses a version of Vergil's with considerable reach and grants moves superior to those Nero can do without it.
Heck, Yamato itself is a plot device in the fourth game. It's just that awesome. Not to mention a whole lot of people are 'handed' the sword throughout the course of the series and get a taste of its awesomeness.
In Marvel VS Capcom 3 both Vergil and Dante are in the game. Vergil is a far more powerful character compared to Dante. His katana slashes does far more damage than Dante's guns, and it requires for more combos by Dante to dominate a character compared to Vergil who uses all kinds of Katana based special attacks. In the hands of a good player, Vergil can be just as powerful as Phoenix, especially using X Factor, hence most pro-gamers using Vergil as part of their main team when competing.
Zig-zagged throughout the Castlevania games. For example, in Curse of Darkness, the nodachi (A larger cousin of the katana) is both slightly more powerful and much faster than the comparable Western sword, the Zweihänder, while in Dawn of Sorrow, the katanas are actually among the weaker weapons, with what advantage they have being entirely in attack speed. They are actually overall slower than longswords even in Dawn due to the gaping lag time following each swing. Katanas only hit sooner because Soma uses them in a quickdraw style. You can cancel out of the lag with a backstep, though. This is also because the Katana is a weapon type. It is one of the weaker weapons of that type, but with souls, can be upgraded. Even at the highest stage, the katana-esque weapon is one of the less useful ones compared to the highest stages of say the great sword (Claimh Solais), normal sword (the intense multi-hit wind attacking Valmanway) or the spear (Gunger).
Romancing SaGa: There is only one technique exclusive to the Katana: Gust Blade. It involves dashing past the opponent while cutting them and then they fly up into the air. Its stronger versions are The Surge and Surging Headwind, the latter of which incorporates ice into the attack. Sadly, these eat up a lot of Battle Points (which are required to use techniques).
Tales of Phantasia is mostly based on Norse Mythology. So it's no surprise that the best weapons for the protagonist are based in Norse and Arthurian myth, with the katana trailing far behind. If you visit Japoni at the earliest opportunity, the Muramasa is the best slash weapon for a while. Just not forever.
Blazing Warriors (also known as Mystaria) on the Sega Saturn reversed the rule; the "Western" characters were good guys with better powers and weapons, and with the exception of a couple of ninja allies, the "Eastern" characters were evil and with lesser but still respectable powers.
Record of Lodoss War, an anime influenced almost entirely by Dungeons & Dragons and other Western role-playing tropes, featured no Eastern swords at all, but the Dreamcast game based on it includes a folded-steel "Oriental Sword", which has an absolutely absurd critical-hit rate and deals eight times normal damage on a critical strike (the average weapon's critical deals double damage or less). Needless to say, that makes it one of the game's best weapons, especially when you can customize a weapon to give it a 100% critical chance.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Chainsaw Good, because it can kill in one hit. But Katanas Are Just Better because Tommy can run with them and still kill in one hit. However, the chainsaw does much more damage to objects (like cars) than the katana.
There are two katanas in Drakengard, Nobuyoshi and Takamasa, and they both do good damage, have decent range, and have useful magic attacks, qualifying them as among the best weapons in the game. They are outclassed by certain otherswords though.
In Civilization III, the advantage of using a Japanese build is the ability to make Samurai troops, which are pictured as katana-wielding foot soldiers in kimonos. They have a higher attack stat than most other Medieval-era units, able to outmatch the Knight, Swordsman, and even the War Elephant in combat. The Samurai makes the Medieval era the best time to be a Japan player.
In Civilization IV, the samurai remains as a unique unit for the Japanese but it replaces macemen. It has the ability to deal damage before the enemy gets to attack, in a similar way to archers. This is arguably logical, though, since historically samurai were archers in the battlefield, the sword being a sidearm. The order of favored arms for a battlefield-era samurai would have gone from bow, then to spear/polearm, then to sword.
In Civilization V, the Samurai is still a japanese unique unit, replacing western longswordsman. Has more combat strength than its counterpart and generates more points for great generals, but its main advantage, Bushido, is shared by every other japanese unit (Bushido allows Japanese units to fight as though they were at full strength all the time).
In Dead Rising the player can find both Katanas and western-style swords and battle-axes. This is partially subverted because the character swings the western sword horizontally, wounding several zombies at once, while he swings the katana overhand and usually gets hit from the sides. Though the mini-chainsaw destroys both of them.
Daikatana. Not only a powerful melee weapon in its own right, but it has random powers of time-travel. The trope is hilariously (and frustratingly) inverted when grates that can be knocked open with a mere pistol cannot be opened with the most powerful sword in history.
A katana is more powerful than any other melee weapon of the same material. One-handed weapons anyway. The greatsword does more damage, has greater range, and can hit multiple enemies with one swing, but it moves much slower.
The sequel completely reversed this, making the Katana class the weakest melee weapons in the game (and the fastest). Although the katana among the legendary weapons does more damage than any other one-handed melee weapon.
Travis' best Energy Weapon is a beam katana, stronger than all others, never running out of energy with the right upgrade, and somehow curved despite being a beam of light emitted from a single point. It also has the ability to split into three blades to hit a wider arc during one of his Finishing Moves. All of Travis' weapons are called beam katanas, though admittedly the Mk. III is the only one that resembles the name. Also, the Mk. II is more powerful than the Mk. III. The game is close to the ultimate example of this trope given you play a loser who becomes an assassin simply because he won a beam katana. The game especially reinforces how great katanas are given the diversity and craziness of your opponents weapons.
Shinobu uses a classical katana in both games. She definitely plays the trope straight in the first where she is frequently considered one of the hardest fights if you don't know how to handle her. Of course, the game is pretty much satirising this trope, given that even Death Metal's giant straight razor thing is classified as a "katana".
In Rogue (at least some versions, such as iRogue for Palm), the katana is the most powerful stock weapon available and is essentially a necessity in the deeper dungeons. The easiest way to get one is with a "create object" scroll, as actual katanas on the dungeon floor are very rare.
Katanas appear in The Elder Scrolls series. Whether the trope is played straight or averted depends on the game:
Morrowind plays this trope straight, as the strongest sword one can find in the game is a Daedric Dai-katana. There is also a magical artifact called Goldbrand, which is a one-handed Katana.
Oblivion also plays this straight. Akaviri katanas are lighter and do more damage than regular steel swords, making them the best lower tier swords. It does get outclassed quickly. But Goldbrand makes another appearance as one of the strongest one-handed weapons.
Subverted in Skyrim. Katanas do make an appearance, but are not among the best swords in the game. The normal variant, Blades Sword, can be acquired early during the main quest. It’s a one handed sword about as strong as other mid-game weapons. There is also an artifact called Ebony Blade, which is a weak two-handed katana that must be upgraded by killing your own friends with it. But even after that, its stats are not that great.
Played straight with Dragonbane, an Akaviri katana which is the best weapon against dragons (+40 damage), with a power that scales depending on the level you find it at, reaching Daedric stats at high levels.
In Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, the katana, while faster, is not as good as the bush hook, a modified gardening tool used like a polearm. The PC's own claws are also superior if your Protean is high enough. However, the Special Katana owned by a certain sect of psychotic vampires has the rare ability to pierce the defensive ability of Vampires and other Supernatural Enemies, making it possibly the most effective weapon for almost everyone thanks to it's combination of range, speed, damage, and armor piercing properties.
In Mass Effect 3, Cerberus Phantoms and Kai Leng wield katanas, and Phantoms are incredibly agile and hard to hit while Kai Leng has the strongest shields in the game, making them both very formidable enemies.
In La-Mulana the Katana deals good damage, is about as fast as the whip, and has a very effective hit area. Unless you figure out how to completely power up the whip, you'll be using the katana as your main weapon (with some Axe thrown in for overhead enemies) once you get it..
In NetHack, while the Katana is certainly the strongest vanilla longsword, the Artifact katana Snickersnee is outclassed by more impressive traditional longswords like Fire and Ice Brand, as well as the special longsword Excalibur, as it only offers bonuses to hit and minor damage, as opposed to automatic improved searching and level drain resistance like Excalibur, or the double damage against non-resistant enemies like Fire and Ice Brand. However, the Samurai quest Artifact, the Tsurugi of Muramasa, is indeed a fearsome weapon that can bisect non-gigantic creatures, it's only drawback being that it is a two-handed weapon (specifically, a broadsword-type).
In Dungeon Crawl the Katana was a decent weapon, but not the best even in its class (double swords being a better 1-handed long blade, demon whips/scourges and demon tridents/trishulas best 1-handers, ...). However, due to this very trope katanas were removed as ordinary item, leaving just a mediocre fixed artefact.
In the original Gameboy SaGa games (Final Fantasy Legend) katanas (and knives) are Agility-based weapons and European swords are Strength-based. While the Agility-based weapons sort of win out because they increase Agility and thus your chances of hitting faster late-game opponents, the European sword Excalibur ("XCalibur") is the only weapon in the game that will never break. In the third game, which follows a more traditional inventory system, the Excalibur is simply the strongest "Mystic Weapon", with the katana Masamune in second place.
In Shadow the Hedgehog, you can find "samurai swords" in special weapon boxes. Although they are close-range melee weapons as compared to the guns, they are still extremely powerful and can destroy almost any robot or thing with one swing, as well as shoot out shockwaves.
In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the Empire of the Rising Sun's basic infantry normally uses laser rifles...but activating their secondary ability causes them to ignite laser katanas and charge the nearest enemy infantry for an instant kill. The Empire's Shogun Executioner has three lightning katanas that don't just slice through tanks (literally), but can create base-destroying earthquakes.
In the roguelike game Liberal Crime Squad, this trope is subverted by the identical damage and accuracy of the katana/wazikashi combo and European fantasy sword, both of which have lower damage values than the weakest firearm (a .22 revolver). It is saved from complete uselessness by the game treating all combat as point blank.
Played straight in Mega Man X 6 where Zero's Z-saber becomes shaped like a katana post-resurrection. Later inverted with the same character in Mega Man Zero: the katana shape remains the same until halfway through the series.
Sorta subverted in the MMO Ragnarok Online where the basic Katana has the lowest base attack and weapon level of it's weapon class(unless you use the card system to power it up a certain way then it becomes formable) however some other swords of Japanese origin are quite powerful weapons.
Jin Uzuki of Xenosaga II and III wields a katana forty-seven thousand years in the future, when everyone else is using massively tech-y weapons. And he's effective.
Citan Uzuki of Spiritual Predecessor Xenogears was capable of taking down mech-scale enemies with his katana. Then again, this was Citan. Jin can slice Mechs and aliens in half with one slash. And his own mech is equipped with a BFS version of a katana too. It's worth noting that despite being a swordmaster, Citan chooses to spend half the game fighting with his fists specifically because using his katana would be overkill. He only brings it out when things start to really get serious.
Dunban from Xenoblade uses these as his weapons of choice. He's also the first character to get a weapon that's capable of piercing the armor of Mechon without the aid of the Monado.
Yoshimitsu out of the Tekken games is for some reason allowed to bring a katana to a fistfight. Naturally, he's got a lot of manoeuvres that you can't block with your bare arms. Realistic in a way — a katana really would be better in most situations to a bare hand, that's why people like weapons.
Katana, wakizashi, and nodachi are secret weapons in Mount & Blade. Subverted because comparable buyable weapons are statistically better, and can even have positive modifiers, which the secret weapons can't have, due to being unbuyable. Due to being free, relatively easy to locate, and more powerful than most gear that can be found at low levels, they make fine Disc One Nukes, but fall well short of late-game gear.
Left 4 Dead 2 features melee weapons including the katana, which slices zombies up quite well. It might seem odd at first to find katanas all over the Deep South, but they're probably one of the most common swords around thanks to their popularity as bric-a-brac. On the other hand, the characters don't know what to make of all the cricket bats they find.
In the Fallout 3 add-on Mothership Zeta, you can find a katana that belongs to a samurai that was kidnapped by the aliens. You can be nice and give it back. Or you can keep it. It is easily in the top-tier of melee weapons in terms of damage, only falling behind for lack of perks boosting its power.
Fallout: New Vegas brings back the Katana in the "Gun Runner's Arsenal" DLC and it is still regarded as the king of one-handed melee weapons as it have a double critical rate, limb damage bonus, and has a special VATS attack that does 250% damage
Averted in City of Heroes: the katana is slightly faster to use, while the broadsword does slightly more damage. The two powersets are generally considered equally powerful.
Averted in Monster Hunter; the Tachi, the token Japanese sword, generally does less damage over time than an equivalent greatsword. However, it is a lot easier to learn when fighting solo. That, and its appearance ("just like a giant katana!"), make it the weapon of choice for newbies, who often end up causing trouble for their teammates due to the weapon's propensity for friendly fire.
In Baldur's Gate 2 katanas are one-handed and deal d10 damage, as much as a two-handed sword. The first game also has Celestial Fury, a +3 sword acquirable with minimal effort which stuns opponents, sometimes deals bonus damage, and can shoot lightning. Averted in the expansion where the best katana available is +4, as opposed to the other +5 single-handed swords, and has less impressive abilities.
It's a hard-to-find secret weapon, available at the very end of Action Doom 2: Urban Brawl. It's powerful enough to slice every Mookin half with one swing. There's also a bonus level where you have nothing but an infinitely durable katana and have to defend yourself against waves of enemies (and it's still Nintendo Hard).
Team Fortress 2 has a katana that can be used by the Soldier and Demoman. Killing an enemy with it heals you fully, but when you pull it out in combat, you can't switch weapons until you've killed an enemy with it, leaving you vulnerable to your enemies' guns. It can also kill other katana users in one hit. It is a bit of an aversion. Barring the one hit kill potential against other katana users (and being the only sword weapon the Demoman can use that still gets random crits) it does the same damage as most of the other melee weapons in the game, and the other Demoman swords also have the same extra melee range, plus other abilities that can be more useful for the "Demoknight" playstyle.
In the end, it's playstyle dependant. One has to keep in mind that by equipping the aforementioned katana as a Demoman armed with one of the shields and a pair of boots, you effectively get a weapon that has no drawbacks. It provides health on kill and benefits from random critical hits (which other swords trade for additional range). The only drawback is the lack of extra range. In this troper's experience, the katana is the weapon of choice for when you want to berserk; thanks to the random crits and health on kill, killing sprees become quite common!
In MapleStory, the Red Katana weapon is regarded as one of the fastest weapons in the game.
Teddy of MOTHER 1 is the only one able to equip the Katana, the game's most powerful weapon. The Japanese version of the game even goes to the lengths to call it "KATANA" in English, all-caps, in a sort of roundabout Gratuitous English.
Both Neverwinter Nights games have katanas, but they are just as powerful as other swords in their tier. However, possibly a nod to Baldur's Gate, a certain katana called Divine Fury does electrical damage. The names of the special katana also tend to be a bit cooler and more exotic than the other special weapons, i.e. "Divine Fury, Kaga-To, Naught Katana, Enchanted Papyrus Blade, Shishi-O, Master Li's Way, and of course, the Sword Saint Legacy.
Averted in Dark Souls. The Katana is a decent weapon, and its speed makes it a PvP favorite. But they have limited durability and break absurdly fast. It's possible, through spells and heavy shield, to break a foes Katana inside of a minute of combat.
Gemini Sunrise's weapon in Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is a katana. Sakura Shinguji herself also wields a katana.
In Neo Contra, Jaguar can use his katana, which can kill enemies and bosses in a few swings. He is an alien samurai, after all.
In 10,000,000, once fully upgraded your sword becomes a katana.
Your reward for finding letters of mutinying Japanese WWII soldiers in Far Cry 3 is a tanto blade that replaces your normal melee knife. Unsurprisingly, it is more than just a normal sword: It does double damage, meaning it's easier to chew through the later-game super mooks with.
In a very weird case of Anachronism Stew, Zhou Tai of Dynasty Warriors is often shown carrying what is a katana in all but name, in 2nd-century China. His weapon has, among other things, great speed, good reach, a wide area of effect, and respectable power, making him something of a Lightning Bruiser among the other characters in the game. This carries over to Warriors Orochi, where he manages to outdo the Japanese warriors who would be expected to use katana.
Some of the translations of the Ys games have a katana as a weapon. When it does, it's either the best or second best weapon that money can buy. Of course, there are also much better swords out there that money can't buy, which are generally needed in order to beat the final boss.
The Orc Blademasters in Warcraft III wields katana-like swords, though it is never referred to as such.
Every game in the Forbidden Siren features a katana as a weapon. In the first game, it's the Homurangi, the traditions-old blade in Jun's real family, obtained after killing a shibito-turned Jun during the final battle and used against Datatsushi. This is same for the game's remake/reimagining, Siren: Blood Curse. In the second game, the blades in the final boss fight are actually transformed versions of artefacts that are from the body of the deity that created Mother and Otoshigo.
Subverted in The Fall of the Samurai trailer. It shows all the work and training that goes into making and mastering a Katana. The charging line of Katana wielding Samurai then get mowed down by an American-made Gatling gun which is made in factories and takes a few days of training to use.
Even in the normal Shogun 2, the Katana samurai is only a Jackof All Traits. They have good attack, armor, and moral, but are outclassed in all of these regards by units wielding different weapons (such as the No-Daichi Samurai, the Naginata samurai, or the Naginata monk). Just about every unit has a Katana on their model, but many just have it there for a backup weapon, and sword does not make, say, a bow wielding Ashigaru any good in melee. You also the Portugese Tercos, who wield a European Sabre and aren't all that bad in melee for a matchlock unit.
In DOTA 2, Juggernaut uses a katana and is very effective with it, able to spin around, do crits, and even enter an invulnerable state. He is one of the best "carries" at getting kills in the early game. However, other sword using carries, such as Phantom Assassin and Chaos Knight, have much power power crit damage and can potentially hit much harder than Juggernaut with the same amount of late game farm. You also, have the Yasha, a katana one can build. It gives a good amount of agility, and a good boost to speed. However, it's only really a mid game item that builds into other items, most of which AREN'T katanas.
Tsukumogami zig-zags this a bit. The main character, Hanabusa, starts out wielding a Katana - but it's entirely worthless, since her enemies are all immaterial spirits and thus Immune To Swords. When you get the mystical Gokon Sword, which CAN defeat the evil spirits, it turns out to be a double-edged bronze-age sword. However, when you later on gain the ability to capture Tsukumogami for your own use, you'll find that the Katana-spirit is one of the most useful, if not THE most powerful offensive spirit around, due to the way its 'Yin' skill enables you to use its potent 'Yang' skill more frequently.
Dead Island has these as a rare weapon, with one being obtained for killing The Butcher of Banoi. High damage, fast strikes, long range, and effective at slicing apart anyone in the game, only offset by low durability and high repair and upgrade costs. In the hands of Xian it's a Game Breaker, with even more damage, high stamina, a One-Hit Kill skill and buffs including more experience for slicing off limbs.
Fossil Fighters has Mihu, a vivosaur based on a Japanese ceratopsian. It resembles a small Triceratops with katanas for horns. And it's considered part of a special "Japanese vivosaur" set that can use one of the most powerful (and expensive) team skills in the game.
In Phantasy Star Online 2, the katanas utilized by the Braver class are easily the most effective melee weapon in the game, possessing high mobility, quick and highly damaging attacks, the innate ability to block and counter attacks (Which needs to be unlocked via skill points for other weapons), and a varied array of photon arts that allow it to deal damage effectively in virtually any situation. There's almost nothing that the other melee weapons can do better then it and overall, it's one of the strongest weapon types in the game, if not the strongest.
Main character Snowball from Bunny Kill has a katana as his trademark weapon. But he uses many more weapons in the series.
Ronin Galaxy: The main character uses a samurai's traditional katana-wakazashi combo, despite the setting being in the future where guns are still widespread. This is justified by the swords having a function that can allow them to deflect incoming blows automatically, with a margin of error...
In Harkovast, a battle is looking dire for one side until an ally shows up and defeats the enemy with little effort. Of course, unlike the other combatants that were losing their lives on the battlefield, he wields a katana!
In The Order of the Stick, Azurites and the Sapphire Guard paladins fight with katanas (justified by Azure City being the Stick-verse's Wutai setting). Subverted by Belkar and Nale, who've both fought with katanas they stole from Azurites, but who switch to their Weapons of choice at the first opportunity.
Boxer Hockey: Daisuke, who is Japanese, defends his honor with a Katana, when he was promised a win (with pay) by Skip, and lost the game.
In Homestuck, several characters use swords regularly and all use katanas. Subverted later though. Jack's own sword, despite being a katana when Jade prototyped the crow, is more of a generic sword shape than anything else, and he beats Bro by killing him with his own sword. Dave's higher end weapons and most commonly seen weapon are based on European swords too.
In Corgi Quest, Kousuke Shiba's weapon of choice is a katana, to go with his role as a Samurai.
Weapon of choice of the strongest in Greek Ninja. Played straight.
Subverted in Survival of the Fittest; while people have been assigned katana as weapons before, the people with katana are not shown as any more skilled than anyone else for the most part, and rarely accomplish much. In fact, the person assigned a katana in V1 was quickly killed off in their debut thread, and to add insult to injury their killer discarded the sword as useless. Adam Dodd would later use the weapon near the end of V1 to pin his nemesis Cody Jenson to a tree before carving the word "rapist" into his chest, a reference to one of the acts that drove Cody over the Moral Event Horizon.
Both parodied and played straight in zOMG. In the introductory comic, the guard's weapons all shatter on the hides of the Animated. When a heroic looking guard steps in to save the day with his katana, the other guards express awe at the sheer awesomeness of his weapon... only for them to scream in horror as his Katana is shattered and he gets attacked by Animated Buzzsaws. Despite this, the Mantis Ring generates a G'hi Katana that actually can harm the Animated. Even then, the Katana isn't the most powerful weapon, as the Hack and Slash rings (which summon cutlasses) deal more damage in exchange for speed and energy consumption.
Sapphire: Especially when it's the detonator for a bunch of exploding throwing stars.
Mall Fight: Tox's choice weapon, Epsilon, is a katana.
So popular in the Whateley Universe that when sensei Tolman sees that Bladedancer wields a jian, she makes note of it. Swordmaiden wields a katana, as well as a couple other types of sword, and her own manifested-matter sword.
CJ on We're Alive uses a Katana as her weapon of choice.
In the Transformers Generation 1 episode "The Burden Hardest to Bear", a Japanese man is able to use a katana to hurt a Matrix-powered Scourge.
In Transformers Prime, Wheeljack has two katanas which have kicked liberal ass of enemies wielding what should be much more powerful weapons whenever he shows.
Averted in Samurai Jack. The title character has a magic katana, but the Scotsman has a magic claymore which is just as powerful... and bigger. And it's not just any magic katana. It's a katana forged by the gods from his father's righteousness.
Ulrich Stern from Code Lyoko is certainly a victim of this trope. The Lyoko forms are hypothesized to be created from the subconscious of the virtualized persons... and seeing himself as The Hero, his avatar is quite naturally a samurai with a katana. Since this is a virtual world, he can get away with things like Reflecting Laser, Throwing Your Sword Always Works or Sword Dragging. But in "A Bad Turn", he uses an authentic katana in the real world with just as much skill.
On Frisky Dingo, Killface's plan to recover his son Simon from Torpedo Vegas while wading through the sewers under Vegas's hideout is laughably over-the-top, and involves witty catchphrases, throwing stars and Xander/Barnaby's ludicrous distraction technique (he's already completely naked anyway, and in Killface's imagination, his job is get the attention of a guard, rub his nipples and yell, "OH ME SO HORNY! YOU DISTRACTED? YOU LIKE TEABAG, CHINATOWN?!"). But the trope comes into play when Killface muses that the final showdown with Vegas will be an epic battle, "probably with katanas!". Of course, while he slices Vegas in two in his imagination, they're captured before even getting out of the sewer.
Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender . Although the Kyoshi Warriors do carry katanas, they are only shown using them once, and even then they aren't much help (Azula even jumps in the air and smacks it out of Suki's hand when she tries to stab her with it). Chinese weapons, such as the Dao (curved sword) and the Jian (straight sword) are portrayed a bit more positively, but in general pretty much all weapons are shown as being inferior to element bending, which isn't surprising since a sword isn't much match for a fireball. Although, weapons used in conjunction with bending have shown to be particularly effective, but these weapons are often ones reflective of the actual bending art, for instance the Battle fan's in Aang's case.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) makes it pretty clear that the skill of the wielder is more important than the blade itself, and a Simple Staff or a pair of sai are just as good. However, that doesn't stop Leonardo's swords from cutting through robots and metal garage doors like a chainsaw through butter. With katanas he made himself.
In an episode of the Justice League, Hawkgirl was briefly fighting against a Samurai wielding a katana. This trope is averted because Hawk Girl was able to hit the sword with her mace hard enough to snap it in half.
Pre Vizsla from Star Wars: The Clone Wars uses a black-bladed lightsaber shaped like a katana. He's still beaten by Obi-Wan, who could equal him in swordsmanship and beat him with the Force.
Enforced and subverted during World War II. Japanese officers originally carried kyū-guntō ("old military sword" in Japanese), which resembled western cavalry sabers, until a nationalist movement demanded a more traditional katana shape. Most of the resulting katanas, called shin-guntō ("new military sword") were simply mass-produced pieces of machined steel with an edge ground into them. The swords also made it easy for enemy soldiers to spot officers from a distance.
A notable aversion is the Defense of the Great Wall during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In spite of inferior equipment and numbers, Chinese soldiers managed to inflict heavy casualties on the invading Japanese army using, among other light weapons, traditional Chinese swords such as the dāo and dàdāo. These swords were accounted to be superior to the katana for use by untrained peasants against infantry and mounted soldiers.
Katanas are quite popular among criminals in countries such as the United Kingdom and Malaysia, where firearms are harder or more expensive to purchase. Cheap katanas have become quite common due to their popularity as a collector's item, so many of them naturally find their way into the hands of unscrupulous people who are prepared to use them. The UK even bans the selling of all mass-produced curved swords due to their use in violent crime.
The MythBusters showed whether or not a katana could actually decapitate a sheep in one swing (Warning: Possible icky video). This isn't particularly surprising, since the victim is stationary and braced to get the maximum effect from the swing.
There is a minor internet meme of a Japanese-made President Obama action figure posed with two katanas.◊ Further pictures reveal that the toy doesn't come with katanas, but does have hands that can hold about just about any scale weapons you might have lying around.
The History Channel show Lock and Load has R. Lee Ermey attempting to determine whether the katana or the longsword is "better." The test, determined by damage to a metal breastplate by an untrained user, concluded katanas to be the overall better weapon. The validity of the test, and the quality of the weapons tested, are both in question.
On Weapon Masters, in a comparison between a traditional katana and a sword made of modern alloys by Chad Houseknecht (albeit in the same shape so it could be used by a Japanese sword expert in tests the same way), both swords performed equally well.
One Japanese-based cutlery smith, KAI Industries (who release their kitchen knives under the brand name "Shun"), uses this trope in advertising their wares, claiming that usage of katana forging techniques makes their knives the best in the world. Professional chefs aren't fooled, however, and do not generally rate their knives particularly high.
On a German TV show, the katana is shown to be just another sword with all the accompanying limitations. The blades are forged by Stefan Roth, a smith known for both European and Japanese styled blades.
Actual samurai used their katana only as a back-up sidearm in battles. When their opponents were at a more comfortable distance, they preferred their other two traditional weapons, the spear (yari) and bow (yumi). It was only during the Edo period when the concept of the wandering ronin swordsman became romanticized and katana gained a larger cultural importance.
The Ascent Of Man has an episode (or chapter, if you read the book of the series) called "The Grain In The Stone" examining how humanity's investigations into the structure of matter has advanced technology. One sequence examines the traditional forging of a katana blade, detailing how the folding process made the blade both flexible and capable of holding a cutting edge, how smiths of the era knew the temperature of the metal they were working (through visual cues) and how the blade was ultimately tested. It can be seen here.