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Single-Stroke Battle
Shwing! And the gibs paint a lovely picture in the moonlight.
"Now, Superstar Funana, we will retreat to opposite ends of the arena. We will run at each other. We will pass the other in mid-air. And fifteen seconds later, you will burst into blood."
Rick, Shortpacked!

Two enemies of nearly equal skill meet, about twenty yards apart. They may be ninja or samurai. They observe each other from a distance. The aspect ratio is widescreen, letterboxed if the show is shot in 4:3. They stand at opposite ends of a very wide, low-angle shot.

On cue — sometimes triggered by an outside event, such as a slowly falling flower petal touching the ground — they break into a sprint toward each other, leaning far forward, hands on weapons. Each character is shown in a frontal shot from the other's perspective.

Reaching critical distance, they leap. Each is shown leaping in a closeup, probably from the waist down, although the leap is simultaneous.

The characters move past each other in midair, weapons drawn, but no weapon strikes are shown. This happens in slow motion. They face forward and do not look back. Alternately there is the sound of steel on steel, but events pass too quickly for the audience to see what happened. If this is an anime, expect the screen to go black and the stroke to be painted by a white or blue streak across the screen.

Both characters land in a crouching position. They are shown in a shot from the front of one character, with the other in the background. This shot is usually shown for both characters.

A beat goes by.

One character falls to the ground, dead. Sometimes in pieces. The other stands.

Note: it is also incredibly common to have a beat go by, one character (99% of the time the hero) falls to one knee as if he has been hit, and then have the other character fall over dead. In Real Life, kendo kata #7 ends this way. Another common subversion involves revealing both combatants to have been injured (or killed).

An increasingly favoured method of ending the final fight in a movie already heavy on well-orchestrated brawls.

Contains some Truth in Television, even if embellished. Real swordfights often take only a few seconds or even a fraction of a second (contrast this with Flynning).

Swordplay equivalent to Showdown at High Noon. One use of the Flash Step. Probably implies a One-Hit Kill. If the battle is one sided and the winner uses a flash step, then there is a good chance that the loser will perform a Snap to the Side before realizing that they've just been cut in two.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Lone Wolf and Cub. Regularly.
  • Valkyria Chronicles does this once in the battle between Selvaria and Alicia. Despite the fact that Selvaria was winning for most of the battle.
  • Tenchi and Kagato's final clash in Tenchi Muyo!. Double subversion in that they actually both get hit. But Tenchi's sword somehow cancels Kagato's normal regenerative powers, while Tenchi's newfound powers allowed him to regenerate instantly.
    • And the ship was cut in half also.
    • The Tenchiverse was rife with this trope, taking it to absurd levels. It was practically the national pasttime. This trope could be renamed "The Tenchi Cross."
  • Most of the duels in Revolutionary Girl Utena end this way, after quite a bit of preliminary sparring.
  • Any number of battles in The Hakkenden.
  • Samurai Champloo played it straight in the fourth episode — Mugen and a yakuza clash in a single blow, with Mugen walking away — and subverted it in a later episode — as Mugen approaches two people who betrayed him, one reaches for his sword and Mugen cuts him down without even stopping.
    • In one of the last episodes, Jin and Master Swordsman Kariya Kagetoki charge each other dramatically on the docks. In a flashback later in the episode, Jin is seen plummeting to the waters below while Kariya nonchalantly sheathes his sword.
  • Erza's final showdown with Ikaruga in Fairy Tail.
  • In One Piece, the finale in the fight between Sanji and Mr. 2 Bon Clay was this - though they had no weapons save for their feet.
    • Was also done during Zoro's battles with Mihawk, T-Bone, and Mr. 1.
    • Happens to an even greater extreme in a match between Brook and Ryuuma - both characters are so adept at launching attacks faster than the eye can follow that they do so while appearing to walk casually past each other.
    • Brook has an attack that prolongs how long the strike takes to be visible to the audience, allowing Brook to walk around as this trope is slowly killing his opponent.
  • Subverted in one of the theatrical films for The Slayers — what falls to pieces is not Lina's opponent, but Lina's opponent's cheap-ass wicker armor and wooden sword.
  • Also parodied in the first Slayers TV series, when Zelgadis fights Dilgear. Neither can be hurt by normal swords.
  • Also subverted in Seishoujo Senshi Saint Valkyrie — Yuuki wins one of these in the first episode by stealing a pair of pink panties from the jacket pocket of the Monster of the Week.
  • Considering that the non-leaping non-ninja version of this phenomena is essentially the most extreme form of Iai or Battoujutsu, it's rather surprising that Rurouni Kenshin doesn't make heavy use of the technique; whenever Kenshin uses a battou attack, the location of the weapon in his opponent is clearly shown. That may have something to do with the fact that being a blunt weapon, he's not exactly capable of cleaving enemies to pieces.
    • Except when using Amekakeru Ryu No Hirameki, in which case it was always a double lens flare. We saw the immediate after effects, but never the sword physically connecting. Given the nature of the attack, this is justified.
    • This trope is (ab)used in Trust and Betrayal OVA, where Kenshin was still willing to kill.
  • Outlaw Star does this frequently, although usually after a long battle. Subverted in episode five when Aisha doesn't collapse as expected, shattering the blade instead, because it turns out she is Made of Iron
  • Pictured above: Shiki cutting through zombies in the fifth Garden of Sinners movie like butter. And it was awesome!
  • Chrome Shelled Regios - an early fight between Haia and Layfon comes down to this, both waiting for the other to show an opening, since both are trained in the same techniques.
  • Kagura's debut in Ga Rei Zero. One strike against a monster which spent half an episode wiping out entire fire-teams of special forces.
  • This is done at least twice in the original Dragon Ball, though with fists and feet instead of swords. First, Goku faces off barehanded against Yamcha's "Wolf Fang Fist." Later, capping off his match against Jackie Chun at the World Martial Arts Tournament (after a series of ridiculous events have already transpired such as blowing up the moon) Goku has a single stroke jump-kick faceoff with Chun. And loses to Chun, who is really Master Roshi in disguise, because Roshi's legs are longer.
    • Parodied mercilessly earlier in the same Tenka Ichi Budokai, during Jackie Chun and Krillin's match. They rush each other, there's a flash of action too fast for the eye to follow, and they land... and Krillin collapses. But since the audience (and the announcer) missed it, they pantomime the entire event all over again, for the audience's benefit, with running commentary on the dozens of techniques and attacks they used in that split-second rush.
    • Actually played straight in one instance. Yajirobe defeats Cymbal with one stroke of his sword.
    • In the Android Dragon Ball Z movie, Trunks and Vegeta's fights with the lesser androids both end this way (although Trunks was the only one with a sword). In both cases, the Saiyan stumbles and shows visible damage, while the android seems unharmed - and then boom.
  • Bleach plays with this. Few battles are truly of this trope in their entirety but will end this way. After a few episodes of monologuing, taunts, releasing zanpakuto and explaining their abilities, flashbacks, Superpowered Evil Sides, random philosophy, and building up one's Battle Aura, both parties agree to end the fight in a single strike. At that point, this trope gets played straight.
    • Ichigo versus Kenpachi. Ichigo is the first to fall (with an intact sword), believing he's lost. Then Kenpachi confirms Ichigo won and collapses next to him, his sword being revealed as shattered. Confirmed in the Official Bootleg and the final arc that Kenpachi did indeed lose the fight.
    • Ichigo versus Byakuya. They agree that they have no strength left to prolong the fight so decide to end it in a single strike. Ichigo staggers, blood flowing everywhere as he desperately tries to prop himself up with his sword to avoid falling over. Then Byakuya staggers (but doesn't fall), blood spurts and he opens his hand, revealing his sword had shattered. He graciously concedes defeat to Ichigo on those grounds.
    • Ichigo and Jin Kariya at the end of the anime Bount arc.
    • Ichigo and Captain Amagai. Subverted. It looks like this but Ichigo's opponent isn't killed and goes on to attack someone else.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Hiei and Shigure fight to the death for Mukuro's edification. Both deal out lethal wounds too quickly to spot, and have a keel-over moment afterwards. Of course, Mukuro revives them both, and even ends up falling in love (sorta) with Hiei. Hiei also pulled this trope out much earlier, in the battle against Seiryuu of the Four Saint Beasts (in the manga, anyway; the anime extended the fight by a few minutes, though Seiryuu still went down faster than the other three beasts). Though it was actually 16 strokes. They just came so fast that Seiryuu didn't even know he'd been hit until he died.
  • A non-sword version of this trope occurs in the Battle Frontier season of Pokémon: at the end of the battle between Charizard and Articuno, both Pokémon hit each other with one last attack. Charizard falls to the ground, while Articuno lands seemingly unharmed. The referee begins to declare Articuno the winner, but Charizard manages to struggle back to his feet. Then Articuno suddenly collapses.
    • In an earlier episode, Team Rocket's Meowth has a Single Stroke Battle with a Persian involving an incredibly long and drawn out beat.
    • Parodied in a duel between an Electabuzz and Scyther. After a lengthy buildup, the two charge at each other, the action freezes at the point of contact... and both fall, having run headfirst into each other.
    • Brock's Croagunk is involved in one against a Politoed in an episode of DP.
    • The final move between Ash's Grovyle and Norman's Slaking.
    • A variation of this happens a lot in Pokémon, similar to the Charizard/Articuno example above. Both combatants score a final attack, they stand panting with their backs to each other, one feigns fainting, the other faints for real.
    • And Ash's Oshawott in his battle with Cilan's Pansage. It ended up giving Ash the Gym badge.
  • Hellsing did this in a scene decidedly not drawn from the manga during the battle between Alucard and Father Anderson. Subverted in that Alucard doesn't actually win the showdown, but that hardly matters.
    • This tends to be a staple of the whole series. If it's not a serious battle or they're not toying with their prey, this is how most fights end for Alucard and Anderson. Due to their roles as the respective Juggernauts of Hellsing and Iscariot, they're just too powerful for most enemies to last more than a single shot or bayonet stroke against them.
    • Their young protégés, Seras Victoria for Alucard and both Heinkel Wolfe and Yumie Takagi for Anderson, are just as likely to take down and destroy enormous swathes of opponents in a blood-soaked glory of single strokes, bullets, or cannon shots.
  • Setsuna in Mahou Sensei Negima! suggested she and Negi do this to finish their match in the Tournament Arc seeing as they only had 15 seconds left in the match.
  • In Fate/stay night, Saber and Assassin end their fight with a Single Stroke Battle.
  • In Digimon Adventure 01, Wargreymon has one of these with Mugendramon(Machinedramon). Wargreymon charges at Mugendramon who just makes a dismissing sound and raises his metal claw. They strike simultaneously, and end up standing back to back for a second, then Wargreymon reverts back to Koromon and a cut appears on his face. Mugendramon looks back and gloats, but Koromon says he won't lose because all his friends are backing him up. The camera cycles through all of said friends, and then Mugendramon falls to pieces while groaning in disbelief. Single-Stroke Battle powered by The Power of Friendship
    • Alternatively:
    Koromon: "Uh, I think you forgot something when I was Wargreymon!" *Top third of Machinedramon slides off and disintegrates, then the middle, and then the bottom disappears*
    • Or even more alternately:
    Koromon: You missed what I did when I was Wargreymon. I sliced you like an onion! *Cue sliding and dissolving as stated above*
  • Parodied in Ranma ˝. Happosai wants Ranma to wear a one-piece Playboy Bunny outfit. Ranma wants to beat him up in righteous anger (and also because his mother is in the next room, waiting to meet him for the first time.) They lunge at each other, cross fists, land in a crouch... and Happosai collapses, knocked out. But Ranma's entire outfit has changed into a schoolgirl's sailor uniform, which Happosai dressed him in without Ranma even noticing.
  • One of these occurs in the first episode of Real Bout High School between Ryoko and the last member of the Amateur Ninja Club. Ryoko wins.
  • In Weiß Kreuz the final confrontation between Ken and Kase turns out to be a single stroke battle, though Ken's armed with Wolverine Claws and Kase has a gun. Kase turns out to have missed. Ken more sort of doesn't.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S, this is how Fate defeated Sette (i.e. by running/flying around, and shattering her weapon and knocking her out with a single blow).
  • In the 22nd episode of Macross Frontier, Alto and Ozma somehow manage to pull this off, even though both are flying Humongous Mecha that fire energy beams. They charge at each other in their respective space-planes, and fire at each other as they barely avoid collision, and follow this trope closely by only showing the results a few seconds afterwards. They both suffer damage, though only Alto is crippled.
  • Zoids, of all things, does this between the Liger Zero and the Berserk Fury in their first fight. They jump at each other clash bright light we can't see... the Liger lands on its gut with a noticeable cut on its shoulder but quickly gets back up. The Fury lands on its feet with a cut across its chest, both turn around, ready for round two.
  • Claymore's cast of Action Girls pull these off on a regular basis. Best example? When confronted by an execution squad of six Claymores, #1 ranked Teresa takes them all out at once this way.
  • In the Soul Eater anime: the third and final showdown between Black☆Star and Mifune ends like this.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Fuhrer King Bradley pulls off a pair of these in the first few episodes, apparently slicing up enemies too quickly to be seen by the viewer.
    • Episode 15 has a variation in Scar's fight with the Silver Alchemist. The Silver Alchemist isn't killed by Scar's attack, but his prosthetic leg shatters, causing him to fall into the water and drown.
  • This pretty much happens in the Cloud fight during the Ring Conflict arc of Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. Mosca flies at Hibari of the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, and it looks like he might be in trouble. But unsurprisingly for him, Hibari one-shots him and can't even walk away fast enough before he turns to attack Xanxus. Granted, Mosca was a Caped Mecha who ran on the power of a Nice Old Man who loves puppies, and is a Mafia Boss at the same time. And it was playing dead. All apart of Xanxus' Evil Plan.
  • In Black Blood Brothers, when Jiro fights Auguste.
  • The fight between Shirahime (Sai) & Suzuka (Hatoko) in Angelic Layer. Suzuka loses.
  • Happens at least a couple of times (with unarmed fighters, though) in the Saint Seiya anime; also, the first to fall to the ground is the one who actually survives.
  • A non-lethal version of this occurs in Utawarerumono when Nawunga tests out Karula's skills in battle.
  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle the anime was about to set up one of these between Kurogane and Seishiro when they are stopped at the last moment by Mokona. Just as well too because both characters had Plot Armor and neither could die, being that Kurogane is a main character in Tsubasa and Seishiro's last battle is destined to be against Subaru in X1999.
    • However, Kurogane gets a real one when he kills/maims Fei Wong Reed - it's not entirely clear which, but it certainly fills the prerequisite for epic.
  • Ginga Nagareboshi Gin and all it's sequals are known to do this, in tune with the idea that ''The dogs are like Samurai. For example.
  • Ital wins most of his fights this way in Genesis Survivor Gaiarth.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Although This Is a Drill and not a sword, the way the Giga Drill Breaker goes off - Gurren Lagann passes through the victim, swings its right arm back while retracting the drill, followed by the victim exploding - is stylistically identical to the archetypal Diagonal Cut Single-Stroke Battle.
  • The climax of the final battle between Heero and Zechs in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is one of these… in giant robots with light sabers!!!
  • The fight between Afro Samurai's father and Justice ends with one of these coupled with a Diagonal Cut... with the winner using a revolver. It is not until the last episode that we learn Justice has a hidden third arm with a blade.
    • The duel between Afro and Kuma aka Jinnosuke ends with one of these. Just before the clash, Afro switches to a thrust, allowing him to fully utilize the greater length of his sword as well as strike faster than even the cybernetically-enhanced Kuma.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Mizoguchi's Samurai Deck has a trap, Pause of the Certain Kill, that turns battle between monsters into this. It even has Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro in the illustration.
  • Much of Goemon's battles from Lupin III are like this. One of the best examples is in the movie The Mystery of Mamo where he faces off against Mamo's lead henchman Flinch; when they land, Goemon has a deep cut on his arm and a broken sword-tip. Flinch laughs at him only for his head to separate into three pieces — the broken sword was still plenty sharp.
  • The second duel between Guts and Griffith of Berserk is carried out this way. Guts wins by breaking Griffith's sword with one strike.
  • The climax of the final showdown between Spike and Vicious in Cowboy Bebop is one of these, with an additional Shout-Out to A Better Tomorrow II (Spike has Vicious' sword, Vicious has Spike's gun). After both weapons are returned to their original owners, and the final attacks are made, both men fall, but Vicious goes down first, with Spike living just long enough to deliver his final line to the Red Dragons gathered before him: "Bang."
  • Done at the climax of "The Duel" (part of Halo Legends). It results in a Mutual Kill.
    • Something worth noting: that episode was heavily based on a samurai legend.
  • Basilisk has an interesting variation: Yakushiji Tenzen gets to be on both the receiving and giving end of this trope... and in that order! First Jimushi Juubei pierces Tenzen's cheast with his hidden blade, killing him. Then Tenzen comes back and cuts Juubei in half with his katana.
  • Kamui Den: Any fight involving Kamui's "kasumi-giri" is likely this. Also of note is Matsubayashi Kenpu's fight with a marauding duelist. He severs both of the man's legs with a single draw and cut.
  • Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star is known for his Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs, but he'll occasionally pull off a non-weapon-version of this trope: a single strike to a Pressure Point, usually either because time is of the essence or to humiliate someone a little more before they pop. Played with in the flash-back to when he and his adopted brothers were learning Hokuto Shinken: after a long bout, Kenshiro was left a bloody mess but was declared the winner, due to the fact that he had struck every single one of his brother's pressure points on the first pass.
  • One episode of Kirby: Right Back at Ya! had one such fight featuring Meta Knight and Chilidog / WolfWrath. It gave Meta Knight a fang in his forehead that paralyzed him until Kirby destroyed Chilidog / WolfWrath.

    Comic Books 
  • Usagi Yojimbo lives and breathes this trope… although considering how much it owes to Lone Wolf and Cub, along with the classic samurai films, that's hardly surprising. Any duel involving Usagi is pretty much guaranteed to leave Usagi the last one standing. But the most suspenseful of these duels took place in Duel At Kitanoji, where Usagi's mentor is called into an Honor Duel with the rival who lost to him twenty years ago and now seeks to regain his honor. Said opponent had already beaten Usagi in a duel once, and it was genuinely uncertain which of them would win. After the battle took place, the beat was held for several pages before one of them fell down dead. Usagi's mentor wins, but commented that it could easily have gone either way. Stan Sakai has said it even took him a while to decide how that one should end.
  • The last issue of Robin's solo title has Tim Drake being challenged to a duel to the death by his teacher, Lady Shiva. They meet, and have what looks like one of these, after which Tim is stumbling, with three broken ribs, while Shiva is standing triumphantly. Then, Shiva collapses, and Tim explains that he slipped her a paralytic poison, activated by a heightened heart beat, before she even made the challenge.
  • The duel between Scott Pilgrim and Roxanne is a direct Shout-Out to Ninja Gaiden, ending with a Diagonal Cut.
  • The final battle between Leonardo and the resurrected Shredder ends this way in the first volume of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    Film 
  • Kill Bill Volume One's showdown between the Bride and O-Ren Ishii concludes with one of these.
    • The Bride's climactic battle with Bill is almost this, given the buildup. The fight itself lasts less than ten seconds, with neither the Bride nor Bill even getting out of their chairs before the Bride performs the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique on Bill.
  • Played for shock value in Equilibrium, where a confrontation between Preston and The Dragon Brandt is teased throughout the film. When the time finally comes for them to face off, Preston chops Brandt's face off without any effort at all and barely breaks stride.
  • Ultraviolet, which is also written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, features a similar scene. Several Curb Stomp Battles establish that Violet's hemophage superpowers prevent any mere human from challenging her. Then she's confronted by a whole room full of her fellow hemophage assassins. Prepare for an epic battle, right? Wrong. She cuts off all of their heads with a single swing. Yay.
  • The final fight in the pulpy Underworld is this trope down to a tee, although somewhat more drawn out than usual.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Underworld Awakening. Selene is armed with a scalpel and is facing a corridor filled with armed Mooks. She sprints down the hall and slices all their throats in about a second.
    • Subverted and played with later. Selene is fighting a huge Lycan, she flips over it and stabs it in the base of the skull with a silver blade. The blade snaps in half, the wound heals instantly, and the Lycan then knocks her out with one punch.
  • The face-off between Kyuuzo and an anonymous opponent early in Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is probably the West's first exposure to this.
    • It actually happens twice in a row. Kyuuzo and his opponent first fight with bamboo shoots. The opponent claims a draw, but Kyuuzo replies, "A real sword would have killed you" (and it would have). When the man presses the issue, Kyuuzo draws his sword, but not before insisting that the arrogant samurai not throw his life away. Kambei, observing the duel, mutters "This is preposterous... there's no contest." Kambei's words ring true when, instead of standing in place like he did during the bamboo spar, Kyuuzo pulls off a lightning-quick dodge at the last second to slice his opponent right down the front.
  • The last fight in Kurosawa's Sanjuro.
  • Shogun's Samurai features a Cool Old Guy vs. Retired Badass SSB that dramatically uses a stylistic conjuction of Diagonal Cut.
  • Most of the fights in Elektra amounted to this.
  • The final battle of Azumi: Azumi and the Big Bad do this after a long swordfight. After the unseen swordstrike, both fighters are standing with their backs to each other, filmed from different angles. A small trail of blood starts to encircle the Big Bad's neck, he tries to turn while jumping and he lands.....with his head pointing the wrong way. The decapitation takes full effect only as he collapses.
  • The Star Wars fan film Duality uses this quite nicely when the two Sith wannabes simultaneously kill each other, leaving the Emperor to grieve at the lost opportunity.
  • The Matrix Reloaded has one....in the form of Morpheus vs. an SUV. As Trinity and the Keymaker make their getaway, the Twins try to run Morpheus down. He rolls to the side at the last minute, and uses his katana to slice through one of their tires as they pass him. The SUV starts to flip over, setting up Morpheus's next move - emptying his gun into the gas tank.
  • While it was preceded by a long choreographed battle, that was just a long lead-up to one of these between Connor MacLeod and the Kurgan to end it all.
  • In the beginning of Troy, Brad Pitt as Achilles does this to an enemy army's champion, who didn't even have time to react because Achilles strolled up to him so casually.
    "Is there no one else? Is there no one else?"
  • Zatoichi. The duel on the beach between Zatoichi and Hattori Gennosuke probably counts for this, with bonus points for having the two duellists' badassery played up throughout the film, so it's clear that the fight between them will be epic. They even have a sequence of Hattori imagining how the fight will go, and altering his stance and grip to give himself a chance. It isn't enough.
    • In the 1964 Adventures of Zatoichi, the final duel takes place at night in the snow and ends with them running at each other, swinging, continueing past one another and then pausing. Zatoichi's opponent starts to drip blood into the snow, concedes defeat, and falls dead.
  • Maximus in Gladiator does this against a soldier on a horse. It even includes Maximus falling to his knees from the attack before the soldier falls off, dead.
  • Occurs near the end of Bunraku when Yoshi faces off against a member of the Killers gang who is also a samurai.
  • Nameless and Long Sky engage in this after first playing out a battle in their minds in Hero.
  • Hanzo, a Yakuza gangster and one of the Predators do this in Predators. Both die, but the Predator falls first.
  • In the opening scene of The Impostors, we are introduced to two con-artists who fake an altercation in an outdoor diner, culminating with a knife fight. At the climax of the fight, they both rush each other, simultaneously cry out, and then one of them falls "dead" and the other runs off without paying his bill. In the next scene we see them argue over the fact that the wrong man "died".
  • At the very end of Legion, between the angels Michael and Gabriel.
  • In John Carter, John kills Tal Hajus this way.
  • In The Princess Bride Inigo does this to one of Count Rugen's guards without taking his eyes off Rugen. He then repeats it on the other 3.
  • The fight between Perseus and Medusa in Clash of the Titans (2010) where he finishes her with a single Clean Cut.

    Literature 
  • Vorkosigan Saga. Aral Vorkosigan's brilliant conquering of Komarr in his Back Story - too bad his political officer turned him into The Butcher with a single betrayal.
  • Played seriously in David Weber's Flag in Exile, where Honor Harrington has to face a traitorous nobleman in a Trial By Combat. She took a second stroke, swinging back the other way from her initial stroke, but the first would've been fatal by itself without the second one decapitating her opponent. It should be noted that the swords used in this case are derived from the samurai swords seen in The Seven Samurai but longer and with the back edge partly sharpened, allowing it to be used for a reverse stroke.
  • The final battle in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a magical variant of this trope. Harry and Voldemort circle each other. Harry explains that the horcruxes are gone, Voldemort is mortal, and he's doomed to lose the fight ahead. Harry's words lay out how hopeless the situation is and offer Voldemort a chance at salvation. Voldemort scoffs at the offer, the two each cast a single spell, Voldemort's wand flies from his hand, lands in Harry's, and Voldemort drops dead on the floor.
  • Codex Alera has one of these in the final clash between the Vord Queen and Tavi at the Princeps Memorial.
  • The Iliad is an endless series of these - of the literally hundreds of duels, only a few take more than a stanza.
  • The fight between Willikins and Stratford near the end of Snuff. Willikins doesn't even bother to do the runup.

    Live Action TV 
  • Asuka / Abareblack and his brainwashed love interest Mahoro / Jannu do this in Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger (after they'd already nearly killed each other more than once). The moment they run past each other becomes a plot point - Mahoro uses it to touch their cheek-markings, which lets them communicate mentally. She uses this moment to tell him she's no longer brainwashed, and is going to be helping them from inside the enemy base.
    • This is how the duel between Trent and his evil clone ended in Power Rangers Dino Thunder. "I guess you wanted it more. Goodbye, White Ranger."
    • Happens near the end of Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, between the Black Ranger (Will) and his primary antagonist (as there were four enemy groups, each individual Ranger got one or more individual rivals). This was the alternate version, with the Black Ranger falling to one knee first, and the enemy going "Now that that's out of the way, time to go find the—YEARGHH!" and violently exploding.
    • Taylor and Zen-Aku have this in Power Rangers Wild Force. After they strike each other in passing, it is Taylor who falls and involuntarily demorphs, allowing ZA to snag two of her Animal Crystals (and thus control two more of the Rangers' Humongous Mecha. ZA was all about the Gundam Jacking.) However, the previously-untouchable ZA was made to bleed a little - red blood, proving he wasn't what he seemed.
    • Doggie Kruger vs. his similarly armed and similarly trained old rival in Power Rangers S.P.D.. Victory goes to the big blue dog, but The Rival survives.
    • This happens in Power Rangers and Super Sentai a lot - not even always at the same times. (Kamdor vs. Will didn't have this in sentai, Jannu and Asuka didn't have this in PR, Zen-Aku and Taylor as well as Doggie and Ichthior were the same in both.) Also, it's seldom the entire battle. Oftentimes it's more, after fighting for the whole episode, they gather themselves for one more strike.
    • Subverted one time in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy: Leo and the Monster charge each other and slash with the swords. They keep going and then pause for several seconds, sparks fly off the monster and it collapses... only for it to be revealed this was because the Magna Defender threw a knife into its back after it and Leo fought.
  • Kaiketsu Lion Maru, Kamen no Ninja Akakage, and Henshin Ninja Arashi have all had battles like this at one time or another.
  • Happens in a swordless manner in Ultraman Tiga during the final fight with Evil Tiga. After an evenly matched battle, the two run passed each other and jump with strikes. Tiga falls to his knees but as he's celebrating his victory, Evil Tiga collapses to the ground. Subverted slightly as this doesn't kill Evil Tiga, but merely allows Tiga to hit the finishing move.
  • Satirized in Kamen Rider Kabuto in a single-pass duel between makeup artists (both male). Whoever ends up prettiest (due to the opponent's makeup application) loses.

    Video Games 
  • The Explorer in Age of Empires III is always given 2 or 3 special attacks that often end in a single stroke battle
  • Baiken's Instant Kill from Guilty Gear is a classic Single Stroke Battle, concealed by a paper screen. (After the beat, there's a splash of blood onto said screen as the blow takes effect.)
    • Ky's "Rising Force" Instant Kill from the same game gets promoted to this trope in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-.
  • Kingdom Hearts
    • Sora in Kingdom Hearts II can initiate a reaction command when fighting a Samurai Nobodies. When pressed, everything else on the screen freezes as Sora and the samurai take stance. There are even cherry blossoms fluttering over their heads. After about 2 or 3 seconds, the words "The End" appear in one of your (now empty) command boxes. You have to get to and click on "The End" in time to win the face-off. Regardless of who wins or loses, the two opponents suddenly strike each other, the screen goes white for a second, and the victor is shown behind the victim with their weapon drawn as the opponent recoils with pain.
    • In the Japan-only Final Mix+ version of the game, the same applies to their controller, Roxas (now a boss, instead of a cutscene). Initiating the Duel Stance reaction command shows a scene of the two charging at each, Keyblades at the ready and in slow-mo. If Sora selects the right command in time, he'll knock Roxas into the air and telekinetically steal his Oathkeeper and Oblivion Keyblades, using them in tandem with his regular combos for a short period of time until Roxas (now reduced to his light powers) steals them back. If Sora fails, let's just say he'll be feeling sore in the morning. Or not.
    • After fighting Luxord in the World That Never Was, the battle ends when Luxord tries to put up a wall of cards around himself, but Sora just sprints right at him and slices through the cards (and Luxord) with one swing. Cue Sora's Ass Kicking Pose.
    • Also in II, Bonus Boss Sephiroth always opens up the battle with and afterwards periodically uses a move called "Flash", where the screen darkens, Sephiroth makes a short remark ("That's enough."), and he dashes past Sora with quick footwork. If Sora doesn't use the "Reflect" reaction command (or—with very good timing—use Reflect or even jump), Sora is struck by multiple invisible blows that usually bring Sora's health down to critical levels (if underleveled/unprepared, this almost certainly spells disaster).
    • Terra in Birth by Sleep can meld together other commands to get Zantetsuken to use in normal combat. Much like its Final Fantasy origins, it can take out a normal enemy in one swing, if you're lucky. Otherwise, it just does regular damage. It's ineffective against bosses though.
    • In Chain of Memories after Lexaeus knocks Riku after their boss battle, Ansem takes over Riku's body and slays him, combining this with a Flash Step.
  • At the end of the "YMCA" level of Elite Beat Agents, a ship captain engages in this against a pirate skeleton. The level "La La" also uses it, as a white blood cell (portrayed as a nurse) fights a virus this way... several times. Yes, it's a weird game.
    • Not to be outdone, the "Julia ni Shoushin" level of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2 features a Single Stroke Battle between two rival barbers. The winner shaves the kanji for "loser" into his opponent's head.
      • Naturally, this is also the ending to one of the multiplayer scenarios— the vampire and the yeti do this, and depending on which player played better (or maybe they tied, it's surprisingly common), one (or both) of them falls down in defeat.
  • The opening to the NES game Ninja Gaiden features such a scene. It plays out almost exactly as the scene described in the main article.
    • Its arcade predecessor, featuring Ryu versus one of the hockey-mask Mooks. The Continue screen is just as dramatic.
  • Capcom's cutesy arcade fighting game Super Gem Fighter Mini-Mix features the ninja Ibuki from Street Fighter III. One of her Supers in this game was to dash at the enemy (all kitted out for it, too!): contact results in a single stroke that slices the enemy into tiny cubes (it's all very cartoonish).
  • Parodied in the Samurai Kirby minigame from Kirby Super Star, where Kirby and his opponent dress up as samurai and attack each other with silly weapons such as paper fans and frying pans.
    • Except for Meta Knight, who you attack with your sword. He's damn near impossible to beat, as well.
      • If you do manage to beat him, his mask gets cut in half.
    • The previous iteration of this concept, Quick Draw from Kirby's Adventure, is a western gunslinger duel where the guns that Kirby fire get increasingly ridiculous.
  • A version of this appears in Soulcalibur III, just before the penultimate battle in story mode (regardless of which character is played or the story path). Siegfried and Nightmare square off in the cutscene, swing their swords simultaneously, there's a one-second beat, then one of them falls over. Which one survives to fight the player depends on which character you are playing at the time: good characters fight Nightmare, evil ones fight Siegfried. If you have chosen either of those characters, you simply fight the other.
    • This is also how Siegfried kills Nightmare in his ending in Soulcalibur IV.
      • And Setsuka's Critical Finish, also in IV.
      • As Setsuka's student, Alpha Patroklos uses this as his Critical Edge in V.
    • Also, playing vs matches with health set to 0% can do this, handy for farming the vs match total count.
  • In the awesome manga adaptation of Mega Man X2, X is challenged to a duel by Flame Stag, who previously lost a duel and is itching for revenge. Stag, having received an upgrade from the Big Bad, and X, who has been blinded, rush past each other in a dormant volcano. X is then shown bleeding (oil?), while Stag is completely unharmed. X then crumples to the ground. Of course, there's no way X is going to lose here, and Stag suddenly bursts into flames, due to some crazy close-range tampering by X earlier when passing by. The Irony is that had Stag not been upgraded, he might have been able to contain the damage.
  • The PS2 game Shinobi carries this to its logical conclusion: upon defeating an opponent, a timer would start to count down at the bottom of the screen, and each time another opponent was defeated the timer would start over. Meanwhile, the protagonists magical vampiric katana would glow, with the glow intensifying with each successive kill, and the damage inflicted by an attack also increasing. When all goes well, every enemy in an area is killed within the fairly limited time available, at which point the camera flashes to each defeated enemy in turn before returning to the protagonist (in a suitably cocky victory pose, sword sheathed), at which point every enemy would simultaneously slide apart. Also, several boss fights are effectively impossible without the extra damage potential that comes from killing six monsters in seven seconds.
  • The Odin summon from various Final Fantasy games would randomly kill all on-screen enemies (or would simply deal a good chunk of damage to a single foe). The Final Fantasy VIII version follows the trope to a T (except for Odin being mounted). Appropriately, Odin's unexpected death in that game at the hands of Seifer came in the form of a one-stroke battle as well.
    • To put that last part in perspective, Seifer counters Odin's Zantetsuken with a move (judging by the kanji shown afterward) called the "Zantetsuken Reverse". It only involves Seifer raising his free hand. That's right. The Law of Diminishing Defensive Effort was used to enact a Single Stroke Battle. Luckily for the player, this cutscene leads to a Big Damn Heroes moment from Gilgamesh, who shows up several turns later to one-shot Seifer with some Razor Wind and then joins the party as a semi-Guardian Force replacement for Odin.
    • Odin and Raiden show up in Final Fantasy VI, but Cyan is capable of doing this by himself, and without magic. His top-level Swordtech/Bushido skill has him charge across the field of battle with his sword out, leap back to his original position, flourish his blade, and (hopefully) watch all the enemies on the field fall to pieces. He can even kill ghosts with that move.
    • Final Fantasy VII has a "Flash" command obtainable by increasing the level of the "Slash-All" materia. Flash instantly kills all enemies...but only if "Death" attacks are allowed by them.
    • The Yojimbo summon in Final Fantasy X has the special move zanmato, which follows the trope exactly and cleaves pretty much any in-game enemy in half, as a non-standard enemy death scene to boot.
    • In Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, one of Zack's memories of Sephiroth triggered by the DMW involves him doing this to a monster. Of course, it's Cutscene Power to the Max.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics has a variation. In an early cutscene, we are shown two knights fighting. One rushes at the other, sword raised for a downward strike, but the other merely steps out of the way before striking.
    • The final ability of the Samurai in Final Fantasy V, Iainuki, attempts to kill off all enemies when used, after a long charge time. The catch? It doesn't always hit, and undead enemies get back up with full health.
  • Similarly, in Breath of Fire 2, Jean's "Chop" wiped out all enemies.
  • Vergil of Devil May Cry 3 has this as a special attack - his "Rapid Slash" move consists of charging straight ahead and drawing his katana. Half a second later, anything that was in his path gets cut to pieces.
    • Also used plot-wise:Vergil and Dante end up finishing their last confrontation in demon world this way, providing almost spot-on example of the trope. The "almost" resulting from the fact that you see the finishing blow.
  • This shows up a lot in Samurai Warriors. Notable instances of the trope are the endings for Ranmaru Mori, Mitsuhide Akechi, and Oda Nobunaga.
    • The closely related Dynasty Warriors series also has a few examples, such as Guan Yu's death in DW5.
  • The Mortal Draw technique from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is an on-demand example. Link has to have his sword sheathed and not targeting his intended target to pull it off, but in most cases, as the instructor says, "the Mortal Draw deals death."
  • The first trailer for No More Heroes features Travis and Helter Skelter in a Single Stroke Battle. Travis wins, and Helter either collapses, or has his head removed, depending on the trailer version. "Your shining armor and fine words won't get you anywhere!"
  • Tekken
    • In Tekken 3, Yoshimitsu's move "Yoshimitsu Blade" is a nasty two-handed whack in the stomach with the hilt of his energy sword. However, if the target happens to be running at full pace towards you, Yoshi quickly turns the sword upwards at the end of the move and runs the poor sap through, dealing heavy damage.
    • Tekken Tag Tournament: the ending cutscenes for Yoshimitsu and Kunimitsu begin the same way, with them engaging in this. Whoever the player used wins against the other.
    • Also happens in the ending cutscenes of Tekken 5 for Anna and Nina, although in this case, it was for a movie shoot. If it's Anna's ending, she (the victor) fakes her defeat against the script (unlike Nina's ending). It does pay off for Anna, though, as the blow had the unintentional effect of causing a wardrobe malfunction for Nina, treating the film crew (and the player) a peak at an embarrassed Nina hastily trying to cover herself as a Sexophone plays in the background. Anna gets a chuckle out of her sister's predicament.
  • In the Samurai Shodown games, the player has the ability to break their POW gauge in order to allow an Issen attack, which effectively describes this trope, but it's generally seen as a cheap attack. Issen will do more damage to the enemy the less damage your character has, and will do almost a 3/4 of the maximum health when only a sliver of health is left for your character. If both characters use Issen, the battle will usually end in a draw.
    • One of the Samurai Shodown 64 games resolved draws using this trope. Also one of Ukyo Tachibana's desperation attacks from that era was an issen-like attack. Genjuro also can use it in one of the crossover games he appears in.
  • The Bushido Blade series may do this trope the best for video games. Any attack can be fatal, so while some battles involve extensive parrying or countering, others end with a single, perfectly placed stroke.
    • This editor and his cousin used to accidentally do the same basic leap attack at the same time about one duel in five. See the trope description.
  • Jin and Hakumen from BlazBlue have the Yukikaze move note , which follows a counter. Yeah, they're the same person... sort of, why do you ask?
  • The third mission of Vanguard Bandits features a duel between Kamorge and Faulkner that ends this way. There is also a move called the Wind Strike, which essentially allows players to do this to enemies.
  • God Hand: The Daisy Cutter God Reel move looks like this. Gene blows the target into the air, slides past it, then punches his fists together, causing an explosion. Azel kills off the Three Evil Stooges this way.
  • This can happen in Halo 2 if both players use the sword dash.
  • Straw Hat Samurai is a game based on this trope.
  • The first trailer for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood shows Ezio slashing at a horseman who goes past and stays on his horse for a while before falling off.
  • A sword in Team Fortress 2, called the Half-Zatoichi, allows the player to one-hit kill another player who is also wielding this sword.
  • In Dragon Quest 9 the move 'Blind Man's Biff' has an animation which looks rather like this. Although, as it strikes a random opponent, it's not going to allow for a Single Stroke battle unless it's against a single opponent you're assured of OHKO-ing.
  • Most Star Wars games that allow the player to have lightsabers can turn into this, assuming the saber deals the kind of damage a sword-shaped plasma beam should do. Especially prevalent in the later Jedi Knight games, where it was sometimes harder to find a multiplayer game whose rules weren't "Force Speed Only, Lightsaber Only, Minimum Health, 2 players maximum".

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • Outright abused in Ree v. Seth, parts two and three, when the trope starts as usual. All of Ree's demons fall off, and she congratulates her opponent. He informs her that she probably shouldn't be in the tournament, then tells her she won. Then he basically explodes blood. The artist even lampshades it in the description.
  • Bunny Kill just can't get enough of these. Part 3.2 has a grenade-vs-blade standoff.
  • The Final Boss fight in College Saga ends with one of these.
  • The Death Battle between Ryu Hayabusa and Strider Hiryu naturally ends with one as a reference to the intro of the original Ninja Gaiden. As Hiryu was faster, he won the clash, leaving Ryu wide-open for his Ragnarok Finishing Move.

    Western Animation 
  • Occurs twice in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, first during a duel between Leonardo and the Shredder in the show's first season, in an adaption of a similar battle in the first volume of the original comic, the second in a duel between Posthumous Character Hamato Yoshi and Rival Turned Evil Yukio Mashimi in the fourth.
  • Used often in Samurai Jack, though one example stands out. A race of mountain-dwelling rock people drive their entire culture towards the creation of a sword of incredible power. It is frozen in a block of ice after being molded out of hard crystals and molten slag, tempered by dragon fire and hammered by dozens at once, sharpened on a grindstone powered by starving boars with meat hanging in front of them running on a treadmill, has runes written on it by a druid, who calls down lightning to strike it. It crackles with lightning as we see it cut through solid stone as if it were butter. A gladitorial competition is held to find the mightiest of their warriors, who is sent to face Jack with the sword. Jack cuts the sword in half without even breaking his stride.
  • Used by Asajj Ventress to take care of the last fighter in the battle that introduces her, and the nearest thing to an actual threat to her, in Star Wars: Clone Wars.
  • Used without swords in the fourth season finale of Jackie Chan Adventures. Two of the best fighters in the show both charge Tarakudo at the same time, in mid-air...and both of them are knocked to the ground completely beaten a second later, with Tarakudo landing on his feet completely unharmed.
  • G.I. Joe: Resolute has this with Snake-Eyes vs a random mook. The mook had an assault rifle. Guess what happened. (Hint: this.) Subverted later when he does the SSB with Storm Shadow and neither fall.
  • Used in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Close to a shot-for-shot of the Ninja Gaiden scene. Featuring a geriatric mule baker ninja. Against an enemy cake. Really.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars Ahsoka Tano beheads four armored Mandalorian Deathwatch warriors with one manoeuvre using her two lightsabers.

    Real Life 
  • Supposedly, this is how Miyamoto Musashi defeated Sasaki Kojirō. Historically Kojirō then proceeded to attack again from on the ground, until Musashi stoved in his ribcage with an oversized bokken. Said oversized bokken was carved from an oar Musashi picked up while traveling to the island where the duel took place. It should also be noted that the duel counts as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for both men: Musashi, beating the toughest swordsman he ever faced, and Kojirō, proving he could stand toe-to-toe with the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Interested tropers can read up on the whole thing here.
  • The fleche, a fencing move, works like this. It's basically a way to make a running attack relatively gracefully. The point of the move is that the referee will halt the match and allow both fencers to reassume their stance if one fencer passes the other without scoring, solving the obvious problem that if you miss you're going to end up in a bad position. Sabre fencers especially became notorious for turning matches into jousting contests until the fleche was banned for that sword.
    • Sabre was practically reduced to this trope until the ban - which was not on the fleche (though this was the primary cause for the ban), but specifically on crossing one's feet while advancing (which effectively rendered the technique impossible), through crossing on the retreat remains legal. Here's a breakdown of pre-ban sabre: "En garde! Ready! FENCE!" *both sabreurs meet in the middle* "Halt! Simultaneous action. En garde!" If this repeated three times (which it often did), the president would activate a "coin toss" function on the score box, which would randomly indicate one of the sabreurs, who would then have priority and thus be awarded the hit if the next action was simultaneous. The ban has improved the quality of sabre fencing beyond measure - not only is it more technical than it had previously been, it has become the fastest, most energetic weapon and now boasts the best footwork of any weapon as a result.
      • Incidentally, a technique known as the "flying lunge", or "flunge", - essentially a lunge accompanied by a forward leap - has been incorporated to replace the fleche, which is more difficult to pull off and is more easily defended against. Cool though...
    • There's also a rather well known (in fencing circles anyway) picture of two fencers attempting simultaneous fleches and running straight into each other. It's probably the sport's Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Iaido is an art that teaches cutting an enemy in the act of drawing your sword, among other skills, and most actual Japanese sword arts center around killing or maiming an opponent in a One-Hit Kill.
  • High-level kendo (say, 7-dan and above) is made of this. It's common to see opponents barely move for most of the battle, trying to get the precious few degrees, seconds and centimetres that would give them an advantage. Then, before you've realised what happened, they've passed each other and the judges have awarded a point.
  • Replace swords with lances, and this trope is how medieval jousts worked. Even the subversions are the same.
  • In Judo and Brazilian Jiujitsu the flying armbar can end matches in a single move.
  • During the Bakumatsu, Ishin Shishi assassin Gensai Kawakami famously cut down Shōzan Sakuma in broad daylight in a single stroke.
  • This boxing match from the 90s between fringe heavyweight contender Jimmy Thunder and Crawford Grimsley. Grimsley made the mistake of trying to come right at the powerful Thunder, and Thunder's first punch was a smashing right hand that laid Grimsley out in what would have been record time if the referee hadn't insisted on doing a full 10 count.
  • PRIDE 10. Garry Goodridge vs. Gilbert Yvel. Two scary black men, one well timed head kick, fight over.
  • Robert the Bruce versus Henry de Bohun. At the Battle of Bannockburn, de Bohun caught sight of Bruce, lowered his lance and charged. Bruce stood his ground, and at the last moment spurred his horse aside, and split de Bohun's head and helm with one blow from his axe. He was admonished by his advisers for risking himself in such a manner, but Bruce said his only regret was that he broke his axe.
  • Throughout the history of air warfare, this is how many dogfights worked out. If one pilot saw his opponent first and managed to avoid detection, the enemy pilot might never know he wasn't alone until his plane was riddled with bullets. The addition of long-ranged missiles capable of engaging from Beyond Visual Range meant that the advantage often landed squarely in the hands of the pilot with the better radar equipment. In more even matches, volleys of missiles might cross paths as the opponents closed with each other.
    • American dogfighting tactics in the Pacific Theater actually emphasized the classic example of this (while Japanese tactics discouraged it in turn), due to the fact that Japanese planes were typically more maneuverable, and American planes were faster, more rugged, and much more heavily armed. In a Head-On attack, the American would win almost every time.
  • Li Shuwen is famous for this. The sentence "I have yet to encounter an adversary of mine needing a second strike" is often attributed to him.


Knife NutSniper Index    
Sequel Non-EntityThis Index Happened Off ScreenSmash Cut
Shear MenaceWeapons and Wielding TropesSinister Scimitar
Battering RamCombat TropesSlide Attack
Kara no KyoukaiImageSource/Anime and MangaKarin
Implausible Fencing PowersFight SceneSword over Head

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