Main Katanas Are Just Better Discussion

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08:40:34 PM Sep 7th 2017
The trope description was getting severely bloated, so I've greatly reduced it to manageable size and tried to keep it on the topic of katanas being better weapons than everything else. There was a lot of analysis of the real-world effectiveness of katanas and descriptions about swords in general but not this trope specifically. Some major parts I removed are:

  • In reality, the katana is nothing more and nothing less than a unique sword with particular advantages and drawbacks. A traditionally made Japanese sword (of which the katana is only the most internationally famous) is defined by three things: being made of folded tamahagane steel smelted from iron-rich sand; being of laminated construction, of which the basic version is a hard outer "jacket" wrapped around a tough inner core; and being differentially hardened by applying clay to the back of the blade before heating and quenching, so that the more rapidly-cooled edge becomes harder than the rest of the sword and develops a cloud-like pattern called the hamonnote . Contrary to popular belief, tamahagane is not a particularly high-quality steel; in fact the folding process is necessary to remove impurities and reduce the carbon content to the right level, and while the traditional process does this quite effectively, it is obsolete and inefficient compared to post-blast furnace metallurgy which produces better steel in greater volumes and with more consistency. Folded tamahagane is still used in sword making not because it's somehow "superior" to modern steel, but rather because it's valued as a historical tradition, and because it gives the sword the prized aesthetic effect of a grained surface pattern. In contrast, lamination and differential hardening do still have a functional purpose: they allow the sword to have a very hard edgenote  which retains its sharpness longer than a softer edge would, while the tougher and more pliable body of the sword helps it to absorb stress without breaking. A "through-hardened" blade made from one homogeneous piece of steel cannot be made quite as hard-edged and will tend to dull more easilynote , but has the advantage of durability: the hard, sharp edge of a katana is more likely to chip if struck against something too hard and unyielding because it is more brittle, and the blade is more likely to bend or twist if exposed to lateral force, taking a set instead of springing back as a through-hardened blade wouldnote . For more information about the unique properties of the katana, see the Analysis section; the point is that the katana is not categorically superior to other swords, and whether or not it will serve you better than a different type of sword depends entirely on the context in which you're going to use it.

This section is just a very long analysis of real-world katanas. That's all fine and good, but it doesn't matter. The trope is about how katanas are portrayed as superior to other weapons in storytelling. The reality is beside the point and ultimately off-topic when describing the trope. All we really need to say is that the trope doesn't reflect reality and leave it at that. People can go to a number of other pages if they want to get a detailed breakdown on the engineering of real katanas.

  • Often in a Zombie Apocalypse, one of the survivors will somehow get their hands on a katana, but since works about zombies are usually less about finesse and more about killing the monsters in the messiest way possible, it won't necessarily work better against the shamblers than a baseball bat, axe, machette, or chainsaw; it just adds a bit of exotic variety to the zombie-hunting arsenal. In modern settings you might get a parody in the form of a Basement-Dweller who has a cheap wall-hanger katana replica that he doesn't know how to properly use, and wrongly thinks that simply having one will make him cooler when he's really just trying too hard.

This section seemed to be getting very specific in its examples of possible scenarios, and I don't think these are as universal as the write-up seems to claim. If these generalizations hold true in specific examples, it should be described there. If someone thinks these are very common aspects of the trope to the point that they need to go in the trope description itself, go ahead and speak up.
09:38:57 PM Sep 7th 2017
Fair enough. The factual section only appeared in the first place because i wanted to set the record straight in response to a certain other user who started turning a relatively short factual disclaimer into a longer and somewhat off-base listing of the katana's drawbacks, and in trying to create the most accurate possible replacement I kind of lost sight of how the section was unnecessary in the first place. What I'm gonna do is make that deleted paragraph the first part of the analysis section I've been building up.

As for the zombie and basement dweller bits, that was just me getting carried away with the specifics. I didn't see the harm in discussing certain niche applications of the trope, but i can take it or leave it.
07:43:37 AM Aug 19th 2017
In the real life section, the Chinese dao and dadao are referred to as "swords", when the name in Chinese literally translates into "knife" and "big (ass) knife" to be distinguished from the jian (what is typically considered a sword in China). Was this intentional?
08:00:29 AM Aug 19th 2017
edited by TheBigBopper
The Chinese language might make a distinction between knives and swords which is slightly different from how the words are used in English: maybe it's based on whether the weapon has one or two edges, and not how large it is, whether it's hilted like a sword, etc. While we might acknowledge the literal meaning of these names in Chinese, the dao and dadao fit the English definition of "sword" far better than they do that of "knife", and they are universally considered swords by English-speaking sword enthusiasts. It would be unwise to confuse the reader for the sake of an overly literal translation.
06:51:27 AM Aug 21st 2017
^ Yeah, that.
05:08:45 PM Jun 10th 2017
Can we consider changing the main quote? Lindybeige really isn't a katana expert, and the quote kind of commits the Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana fallacy while ignoring the evolution of the Japanese sword's construction over time. It isn't good to present a source like that which may be mistaken as correct information; much better to have a quote exemplifying the obviously exaggerated nature of fictional katana.
03:49:43 PM May 9th 2014
edited by
So, I made an edit discussing an example given that I felt was poor. And the very next morning someone cleared the edit and rewrote the original example to basically say the same thing I was trying to give a counterpoint to. I'd ask to move this to a YMMV subpage, but there isn't one for this article.

Under videogames, the example of Final Fantasy Tactics; The Samurai is a harder class to access, and has unique mystical powers that are... worthless AS a samurai, and have a strong probability of destroying the Katana used. Also the Knight's equipment breaking attacks are far, far more useful (especially because it's compatible with ranged weapons). Katana underperform compared to Knight Swords, and aren't noticeably better than late game regular Swords either. The other late-game Asian themed class, the Ninja can use them as a strong throwing weapon, but they are then lost forever.

Long story short, everything about the gameplay of FFT seems to de-emphasize katana because the best uses involve getting rid of them. And there's a whole slew of variant Knight classes for special characters that have vastly superior mystic skills which require western swords to be equipped, so even from a watsonian stand-point they really aren't anything special. Not only does it fail to demonstrate the trope in question, I strongly feel that this is a subverted trope example, if anything.

I don't want to come across as a single-issue wonk or start an editing war, so I'm just going to leave this argument here and let someone else decide what should be done about it.
04:07:39 PM May 9th 2014
If you feel that the samurai is not an example of the trope, you can go ahead remove it. Remember: Repair, Don't Respond.
04:51:48 PM May 9th 2014
edited by
Oh, cool. I didn't want to step on any toes, but since you made the second edit and you're okay with it, I'll go ahead then. Thanks for the speedy response, wasn't expecting anyone to reply so soon.
09:54:55 PM Oct 15th 2012
Would the Highlander franchise really be considered a straight example of this? I mean, despite being a major player in the whole "katanas are cool" thing, I can't recall a single instance in either the films or those episodes of the TV show that I've seen in which katanas were shown to be inherently better than any other kind of sword. The Mc Leods never chopped through other people's weapons, and they won fights by skill or, occasionally, luck, rather than through any inherent superiority of their weapon.

(On the other hand, I've seen maybe two dozen episodes of the TV series. For all I know they spend the rest of the show chopping through walls and preaching about their superior weaponry)
05:28:37 PM Mar 22nd 2012
Permission to edit the Real Life section of the article (not the example entries). I saw a documentary once that shows how the Katana, while not generally better, is the best choice of sword because of its physical properties.
11:48:19 AM Oct 5th 2012
I've seen that documentary. It's bullshit.
12:18:18 PM Dec 19th 2012
i have to agree with scardoll katanas were not great for thier physical propeties all though they where strong because they were forge welded but a good sword would be a medieval falchion becasue you have thrusting power and you can still cut things like butter.

10:50:46 AM Mar 9th 2012
edited by psychohistorian
Should halo 3 be mentioned here? The game features a purely aesthetic katana that players, if they achieve the right achievements, can attach to their characters' bodies.
09:46:13 AM Oct 25th 2012
No it shouldn't be here. The katana is purely aesthetic and therefore is not superior to any other weapon.
04:56:33 AM Sep 6th 2011
Bludgeon from Transformers uses one which surely comes under this given that he's probably the only TF to wield a katana when so many others have a variety of guns (and Bludgeon himself is capable of transforming into a tank). I'm just not sure where to put it though. He didn't appear in the cartoon as he was a later character. His original toy does not have the katana though his Marvel Comics appearances nearly always show him with one. The Revenge of the Fallen incarnation of Bludgeon's toy comes with two swords, one supposedly being his old katana (though the handle is his tank mode's gun barrel, a third party upgrade set which I own actually replaces this sword with a much more accurate katana, nicely chromed too) and he also has a short sword, the japanese name of which I always forget. Anyways which section should it be mentioned in? I would think most likely the comics section as his most prominent use of the sword happens in his Marvel Comics appearances but I wanted to be sure.
01:13:15 PM Aug 27th 2011
what ever happened to Mio Sakamoto from strike witches? id ad it my self but... im just too lazy...
08:28:07 PM Jun 23rd 2010
leonardo has twin katanas in all tmnt
06:22:02 PM Mar 21st 2017
that's what i thought too...
08:25:02 PM Jun 23rd 2010
setuna and tsuyomi has one in negima
08:23:45 PM Jun 23rd 2010
mokoto and her big sister in love hina has one!
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