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Clean Cut

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Prisoner: Oh, my Lord Headsman! Thou hast swung thy sword too low! Hast thou heard my pleas? Hast thou chosen to spare this wretched life of mine? Oh, whatever can I do to repay thy kindness to me?
Executioner: Nod.
— A Classic piece of Gallows Humour... or should that be Block Humour?

Animating and detailing realistic battles with edged weapons is remarkably difficult. Real-life edged weapons usually leave rough, horrible wounds, and severing arms, legs, or the neck of an individual is a very difficult task requiring either brute strength or significant time to saw at the wound, and that's assuming you manage to line the cut up with a joint, because you are not going to cut through solid bone. Buy a ham from the grocery store and try it yourself. But quite aside from the simulation issues, if realistic blade wounds were done, then a Single-Stroke Battle would be far more difficult to conceive of as trying to go all the way through your victim would be nearly impossible. Nearly.

As a result, most bladed weapons in fiction are impossibly finely-edged things, capable of slicing straight through a victim and leaving such a thin cut as to be almost unnoticeable. Passing straight through a spine or rib cage? No problem! Decapitating an individual with a single blow, or even cutting them apart in multiple angles? Can do!

Bonus points if it doesn't manifest until the attacker has sheathed their sword, and extra bonus points if the wound does not manifest until the victim (for example) reaches up to feel his neck, at which point his head falls off, or the victim assumes the attacker missed. Even more bonus points if the sword is thick enough (i.e. the sword blade is visible) that no matter what the edge is like, the width of the blade should shove out the pieces of the object as it passes through them, but it somehow doesn't.

May be justified (read: Hand Waved) if the swords are explicitly magical, really high-tech, unnaturally large, or absurdly sharp. If weapon is Razor Floss, almost every hit is Clean Cut.

See also the delayed version, the Diagonal Cut, and cousin trope Half the Man He Used to Be. See also Paper Cutting. Contrast Like Cannot Cut Like and Blade Spam.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Stardust Crusaders: Anubis's sword allows him to cleanly slice through a stone pillar.
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: Okuyasu's Stand, The Hand, when utilized, anything along the target path will vanish, and the resulting gap will close.
    • Golden Wind: Diavolo's King Crimson is able to slice off someone's arms and legs when thrusted with enough force.
    • Stone Ocean: In the last fight, Enrico Pucci manages to kill Jotaro and Ermes merely by cutting through them with Made In Heaven after slicing off their face and arms.
  • Choujin Sensen: Sasamura's sword style is dedicated to the [Void] technique in order to cut his opponent down.
  • The parasites in Parasyte/Kiseijuu can turn parts of their bodies into blades that can slice and dice multiple humans in the blink of an eye. This happens a lot.
  • Integra Hellsing is Badass enough a Normal to easily slice apart Nazi vampires. She was using a sabre, though.
    • Her butler can do the same, but uses apparently limitless razor wires with enough skill to earn the nickname "Angel of Death."
    • And Luke Valentine as well, although he's a supernaturally strong and fast vampire.
  • Chainsaw Man: Denji's chainsaws are powerful weapons that he typically swings around and stabs enemies with to shred their flesh, but his targets will be neatly sliced apart when dramatically appropriate.
  • Happened a lot in Lone Wolf and Cub, especially with Ogami Itto, the protagonist. Justified occasionally in that in his old line of work, cut:ting heads clean off with a single strike was his job.
  • Tsukihime's Shiki Tohno can see "lines of death" on pretty much everything, and any cuts he makes along these lines are Clean Cuts.
  • Justice decapitates the title character's dad in Afro Samurai... with a pistol. Or so it looks. He actually has three arms, the last one holding a sword and tucked under his cape.
  • Until Death Do Us Part features a cutting edge (no pun intended) katana that uses tech to maintain a blade a single molecule in width. And it's wielded by a blind guy.
  • Happened at least once with Akabane in Get Backers, who carved up (and cut the letter J onto his torso) a Mook without the Mook noticing for at least five minutes or so.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has Negi's arm severed cleanly ( and later re-attached), but here it's magic, so it kind of makes sense.
  • One Piece: In his first appearance, Mihawk effortlessly holds off Zoro's three swords with a knife, deflects bullets with his sword, and slices through a ship the size of a building with just one swing.
  • GoLion/Voltron loves this, as it occurs every time he uses the Juuohken/Blazing Sword, which is just about Once per Episode.
  • Twilight Suzuka of Outlaw Star clean cuts through a delivery truck (among other things), lengthwise as it drives at her, with a wooden sword.
  • Claymore has, with virtually EVERY SINGLE CUT, those on the business end not realizing they've been cut until they blast High-Pressure Blood/suddenly lose an appendage or three. Sometimes both at once.
  • Happens fairly often in Ranma ˝, though never on a living target, and from all sorts of strange weapons. In his first appearance,Tatewaki Kuno cuts down a tree this way with a single, one-handed back-stroke from his bokken. In a late manga story, Ranma cuts a circular opening in a wall big enough to walk through... with his bare hands.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Wrath jumps through a rain of bullets at a group of soldiers. Four of them (or more, hard to tell with all the flying body parts) simultaneously fall to pieces two panels later.
  • Goemon, in Lupin III, does this regularly. In one movie, he cuts through a helicopter's blades in such a way that they stay on for a few seconds while still turning and keeping the chopper in mid air.
  • Berserk: While the wounds (pieces?) left by Guts' BFS are notably rough around the edges, most other talented sword users cut limbs cleanly to pieces.
  • Happens in Rurouni Kenshin a few times. One notable example is Kenshin cutting a vegetable in half so cleanly and so quickly that it heals after the pieces are reassembled.
  • This is how the Ultimateblade, the only male Wielder in Witchblade, bites it, courtesy of Masane.
  • Macross Frontier has Brera's Absurdly Sharp Blade Below the Shoulder do this to a Hydra in episode 10. Lengthwise and his knife is barely larger than a combat knife.
  • Characters in Blood+ are fond of this. Justified to some extent by many characters being superhuman Chiropterans.
  • Happens in Soul Eater, only accentuated by the author's early simpler style and (fairly) bloodless carnage. Stein slicing up Medusa into very neat pieces is a good example in the series. Although in that case there is a delay before the High Pressure Blood-loss.
  • Angel Beats!: In the Heaven's Door manga and Track Zero light novel, Shiina does this to Hinata. The cuts are so clean that he doesn't feel them, and thinks she missed until Yuri tells him to fall down already.
  • In Digimon Adventure Wargreymon takes out Mugenmon (Machinedramon) with a You Are Already Dead attack that Mugenmon assumed had missed. Wargreymon charged straight through Mugenmon without leaving a visible scratch and reverted to Koromon on the other side. Queue Mugenmon taunting the uselessness of the attack, followed by promptly falling into several pieces. As the dub put it:
    You missed what I did as Wargreymon. I sliced ya like an onion!
  • Nanto practitioners from Fist of the North Star are more than capable of doing this with their bare hands.

    Comic Books 
  • IDW's G.I. Joe gives us the ninja Snake-Eyes. He slices up some practice dummies and seemingly misses. Until he stomps the floor and they slide apart.
    • In the same issue, one of the characters referred to Snake-Eyes as the "Master of the Subtle Cut." "True subtlety is when you have to remind the target that it's been cut."
  • Colleen Wing's victims in Marvel Comics sometimes don't feel where she cuts them right away.
  • The ease with which Blade dices his enemies may be justified since he was upgraded with super strength (thanks to the movies), once punching the jaw off some charging creature in Midnight Sons Unlimited. Weapons sometimes don't hold up against some of the tougher enemies he fights, even when he clearly beats them.
  • Miho in Sin City is known for having such clean cuts that her victims don't know they've been slashed. She often only has to make one sword thrust before a head or arm comes off. In one instance, she threw her shuriken and chopped a man's head clean in half to the point that even his eyeballs were sliced and still in their sockets.
  • Recurring Alpha Flight character Nemesis uses a mono-molecular blade that can slice through practically anything.
  • In Kick-Ass, Hit Girl's swords are implausibly sharp for a comic that claims to be set in reality. There's also the fact that even a grown adult wouldn't be able to generate enough force to cut through bone in one swing (at least with those weapons), let alone a ten year old girl.
  • Robin (1993): Tim tosses batarangs which effortlessly slice straight through the guns and sights of the private contractors Strader had hired to "clean up" the homeless victims of their illegal human experimentation who had survived the process.
  • In a fight scene of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, the Operative gets into a swordfight with one of his former fellows named Denon. He ends the fight with a Delayed Causality cut through Denon's entire head, front to back.
  • Discussed in X-Force:
    Marrow: "You... you sliced his head in half, right?
    Psylocke: "No."
    Marrow: "Yeah yeah, I know this trick. It's like your sword's so sharp it'll take a moment for the wound to, y'know, pop open. Like in the movies."
    Psylocke: "No."
    Marrow: "And then there'll be this enormous fountain of blood and brai..."
    Psylocke: "Shut up. Psychic blade. I downsized his ego."
  • Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: In "Gothamazon" Diana has a brief Imagine Spot where she pictures killing or maiming the murderous and irritating Bat-Rogues she's fighting and pictures splitting Two-Face in two with a sword, right down the middle.

    Fan Works 
  • In "The 61st Annual Hunger Games'', the boy from District 4, Caspian Hadala, is an expert with a katana and clean cuts the ear of the girl from District 10, Sarahva.
  • In The Dark Lords of Nerima Mousse defeats a youma called the Darkmistress this way.
  • Notably averted in The Good Hunter. The Hunter's attacks with his melee weapon tend to leave rough gashes and wounds on the target rather than slicing through the target cleanly and effortlessly, yet enough to be lethal. One example is during Chapter 18, when the Hunter goes after some slavers in the village of Glaspire. The first victim has her throat slashed open, leaving a hideous gash instead of cutting through the whole neck. He later embeds his Saw Cleaver into the second victim's skull, the force not strong enough to pass through the skull entirely.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, Tatsu Yamashiro's twin swords cleanly slice through as many as four people at once and were previously shown to carve up robots like tofu.
  • Zig-zagged in The Night Unfurls. The Hunters' impossibly cool bladed weapons do not consistently pass through their victims. For example, the strongest of the Hunters, Kyril, is strong enough to sever a regular enemy in two vertical halvesnote , but most of his attacks to the head bite deep into the skull instead of passing through the torso vertically. Generally, effortless decapitation and dismemberment are A-OK, but they cannot do the absurd feats (e.g., the "smooth" cuts or multiple slashes in a millisecond). By toning down the fantastical factor and amping up the realism, the story illustrates how fights involving edged weapons tend to leave rough, nasty, horrible, and lethal woundsnote .

    Films — Live-Acton 
  • A Xenomorph falls victim to this in Alien vs. Predator.
  • In the teaser for Cube, a character is in one room when something happens. The character freezes in shock, and seconds later falls apart in neatly diced cubes. The something turns out to be a moving grid made of razor wire.
  • Variant: Practically all the dismemberment in 300 is like this. No matter how strong you are, cutting a man's limbs or head off is a remarkably difficult task, but Leonidas in particular is a walking Cuisinart despite the small, none-too-fine sword he uses.
  • The Cell: That poor, poor horse. Or was it? I mean, it didn't appear to actually die...
  • Underworld: Selene slashes the Big Bad as she leaps over him, and he has time to turn around, draw two swords, then look shocked before half of his head slides off.
  • Equilibrium: During the final battle of the movie, John Preston disarms and incapacitates his former partner with four quick, obviously fatal slices. The former partner sinks to his knees and looks shocked before his face slides off.
  • Johnny Mnemonic: the Big Bad has a sort of laser whip that cuts through almost anything. At a certain point he swings it near a minor baddie in an attempt to cut open a chain; said minor baddie is shocked that the Big Bad did that without regard to the baddie's safety, and says so. Not showing much respect for his opinion, the Big Bad slices through the baddie with his whip. He briefly glances up, before falling apart in three clean pieces.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: the sword Green Destiny, in the hands of the right wielder, can be drawn, cut pieces of iron in half, and sheathed again all in the one movement.
  • In the extended cut of Sin City, Miho dispatches Manute this way at the end of The Big Fat Kill.
  • Averted in Star Wars. The lightsabers do cut through almost anything (they cannot cut through other lightsabers, beskar, cortosis blades, Phrik or blades created by Sith alchemy, and it can be difficult to make them cut through anything with an electromagnetic field), but are obviously immune from material limitations, what with being plasma and all. Also people don't spend half a minute looking shocked before falling to pieces. Limbs and appendages tend to fly all over the place, although bleeding is very limited as the laser cauterizes as it cuts, and leaves a gap due to the width of the blade and the fact that surrounding flesh is heated white hot and thus charred.

    Lightsabers also cannot cut superconductors. Apparently, the Star Wars Expanded Universe has room-temperature superconductors that can hold an edge. Combine that with Vibro Weapons, and you get the vibro-shields (yes, shields used as swords, contrasted with the lightsaber's status as a sword used as a shield) of the Akk Guards, who fight Mace Windu in Shatterpoint. Aside from the cauterizing, Vibro Weapons in general can perform this trope just like lightsabers. Better, maybe, since cauterizing is not strictly part of the trope. However, hold a lightsaber against a superconductor for long enough and the whole thing will melt. Also, vibro weapons have less cutting power than lightsabers.
  • In Ghost Ship, the opening sequence has a group of partygoers dancing in the ballroom of an ocean liner. An unseen person hooks up a spool of wire cord level with the ballroom deck. The spool snaps and flails across the room, and the guests look around to see what's wrong. It turns out that all of the guests (save for one little girl) have been bisected, falling apart more than ten seconds after the incident. Of note is the captain of the ship, who has been dancing with the little girl. He looks down at her in concern, then half of his head falls off.
  • Final Destination 2 features a similar scene, except with two fenceposts with barbed wire spun in between, slicing apart one of the destined to die.
  • A deleted scene from Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai has the lead character, Nathan Algren, witness a samurai named Ujio walking along a street, who gets hassled by a pair of businessmen. The samurai takes their insults for a few moments, as they insult his heritage and his swords, but when one of them pokes him with a cane, Ujio slices off the head of the man in a clean, swift fashion, and sheaths his katana in one fluid movement while the other scrambles backwards. Nathan Algren himself does this to a bad guy in the movie proper - true to form, the guy is kneeling down when Algren kills him, but it's not until he falls over unto the ground that his head rolls off and away.
  • There is a scene in Resident Evil (2002) which traps several characters in a Laser Hallway. The first is decapitated, the second cut in half through the waist, and the third gets "cubed" when the lasers make a grid that passes right through him.
  • In Highlander, Connor 's final fight with the Kurgan ends with the Kurgan giving an ambiguous smile, just before his head slowly flops off. You see, Katanas Are Just Better.
  • Stargate: Continuum features Que'tesh warning Ba'al that her sword's blade has been sharpened to the width of an atom and that it would be very easy to cut a body in half as she later does.
  • Arguably inverted in The Fifth Element. Leeloo kicks a sword perfectly in half.
  • Slither, except only partially, has a guy slashed open in the front of his body, but not his half, resulting in all of his innards falling out.
  • The most important blows are delivered this way in Kill Bill. O-Ren Ishii beheaded a mutinous henchman with a single swipe, and the Bride cut an arm off Sofie Fatale, chopped another sword into pieces like it was a straw, and then sliced off the very top of O-Ren's head.
  • In John Carpenter's Vampires, the Big Bad slices somebody in half vertically using his hand.
  • Maida decapitates a mook quite cleanly in The Ice Pirates.
  • Michael Myers from the Halloween series is fond of this trope. A particularly memorable example had him decapitate Jen in Halloween: Resurrection in one clean swipe with a kitchen knife.
  • In the remake of The Omen (2006), photographer Keith Jennings gets his head sliced cleanly off... by an unhinged sign post. Seeing as the momentum wasn't terribly large, that thing must've been sharp as hell. Then again, higher powers are also at work, which might help explain it.
  • Thir13en Ghosts features this Karmic Death for the cast member whose ulterior motives put the whole diabolical clockwork into action, in exchange for money. A sheet of glass descends from the ceiling, and for a few seconds he's frozen and can't move. His eyes blink, and then his front half succumbs to gravity as his back half remains suspended. Complete with Gallows Humor when an oblivious cast member asks, "Did the lawyer split?"
  • In Clash of the Titans when the hero slashes Medusa, she's standing right up for a few moments before her head finally falls off her shoulders.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Gazelle is introduced by slicing Lancelot, a Kingsman, lengthwise. We get to see his shocked expression and a drop of blood from his nose before the two halves break apart.

  • Lone Wolf: Can happen with the Sommerswerd due to Cutscene Power to the Max — especially to The Undead. The Sword of the Sun can sever limbs with minimal efforts, cut a shield in twain with one blow, or tear off armor like paper.

  • In the Dagorhir system of foam-padded swordfighting, any solid hit to a limb with a slashing weapon is considered to have cut it off. In this game, your limbs are essentially your hit points, and the only other damage that's tracked is damage to shields and armor; therefore there's no middle ground between Only a Flesh Wound and Deliberate Injury Gambit.

  • Discworld:
    • Taken to the logical extreme with Death's scythe — so thin and fine that it sharpens on daylight and can cut a person's words to pieces. His sword too, introduced in Hogfather is only visible at the edge, due to it cutting tiny pieces of the air in half. Said sword cut through, without any effort on the part of the wielder, in fact by accident, a large portion of the dining table at UU, as well as numerous forks, knives etc. So little effort was needed, in fact, that the wielder was rather surprised to find a large chunk of table falling away.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, a highly trained assassin uses a karate chop on an opponent and decapitates him with his bare hands; At least, that's what it looks like, until we find out later about his palm dagger. Which was apparently remarkably sharp.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, a rather unimpressive priest completely decapitates a vampire with a simple axe without harming a baby the vampire was holding or even knocking the vampire's head off his shoulders. Said vampire is told not to nod quickly. It's suggested that narrative causality and/or Granny Weatherwax had something to do with that, though.
    • Lampshaded in Interesting Times. A messenger delivers bad news to Lord Hong. Lord Hong picks up the sword he's working on. The messenger, who thinks he knows what's about to happen, has his eyes frozen open in terror. Lord Hong readies the blade, the messenger shuts his eyes, and hears the swish of the blade swinging. When he opens his eyes, he's still alive. He gingerly touches his neck... "you heard terrible stories about Lord Hong's swords." Turns out he had cut the head off a would-be assassin, who Lord Hong had seen reflected in the messenger's eyes.
    • Toward the end of Guards! Guards!, Carrot's sword is used to block another sword. The attacker's sword is cut clean in two, leaving its wielder flabbergasted. It's never been used for such, but imagine what it could do if turned against a villain (in a cut, not a thrust, which it has been used for).
  • In the His Dark Materials series, the Subtle Knife has two blades edges: one for cutting through anything tangible, and the other for cutting through the fabric separating alternate universes.
  • Taken to extremes in the various Hammer's Slammers stories by David Drake. In many of the stories, the mercenaries are shown to have knives so sharp that they can cut leaves hanging on trees without disturbing them. In addition, there is a "cutting bar" used that can slice through things such as chain link fencing without stopping. Though the cutting bar is said to have "vibrating, interlocking teeth" in it, making it a combination of a Machete and a chainsaw in action...
  • The Gears of War novel Aspho Fields averts this, as a character's attacking a Locust with the chainsaw bayonet on the game's infamous Lancer Assault Rifle is an extended pushing of the chainsaw into the Locust, and they later found out they had a piece of bone stuck in them that flung off during the altercation.
  • In the Known Space series of short stories by Larry Niven, there is a type of thread referred to as "Sinclair molecule chain" — a thread that is one molecule wide, and can slice through anything with just a gentle tug. How they manage to attach handles to it is a different story... This is also used in the "variable-knife" and "variable-sword" from the same series, which is nothing more than Sinclair chain spun out from a handle, with a "stasis field" to support it. Not to mention a red ball at the end, so you can tell where the thread ends. In another Larry Niven story, the 'attach handles' part is explained when we find out that Sinclair had no trouble designing the monomolecular chain, but the hard part was devising molecular links for the ends so handles could be attached and the chain wouldn't unravel.
  • In Endymion a trap made of monomolecular wire gets noticed when one of the heroes realizes he doesn't have an arm any more.
  • Alice in Wonderland features the Vorpal Sword, a Parody of this trope. Capable of removing the head of a Jabberwock with little more than a snicker-snack.
  • Raven's weapons of choice in Snow Crash are glass knives, invisible to millimetre-wave radar and not much thicker than a molecule along the cutting edge. Usually mounted on an Aleut whaling harpoon for armour-piercing death at a distance.
  • Headhunter: Michael Slade's serial killer can take a victim's head off with one blow. Possibly justified, as the cutlass-like killing blade is equipped with a sliding weight on its blunt side, which shifts from hilt to tip when the weapon is swung and dramatically increases the force of impact.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Neville decapitates Nagini (Voldemort's snake) with a single swipe of a sword.
  • In the short story "Epinikion" by Desmond Warzel, the alien Squids have natural weaponry that not only does this to their human opponents, but leaves them alive for several hours after being bisected.
  • This is what the Shardblades in The Stormlight Archive do to anything not living. If it is alive, it Cleanly Cuts the soul.
  • All blades in Greek Ninja seem to have this ability. The most profound example is Sasha cutting off Creon's arm with ease, near the end of the battle.
  • Asian Saga: In the adaptation of Shogun, Englishman John Blackthorne is shocked to see a samurai slice the head off an oldster who did not bow when he was supposed to. The audience gets a great look at Blackthorne's face (and that of the Jesuit priest accompanying him) and just a glimpse of a headless neck—and vertebra—before the body falls out of camera shot.
  • Wolf Hall: In conjunction with Off with His Head!. It's averted with Anne's accused lovers. It takes three swings to remove George Boleyn's head, but the rest come off in one. Anne herself is executed by an expert from France who uses a specially-designed sword and a technique to misdirect the condemned so that they'll be best positioned for the strike. He does tell Cromwell that even he can't guarantee it if they aren't steady in position.
  • Used as a metaphor in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency; Michael Wenton-Weakes calls his mother an old battleaxe, but the narrator says that if she was a battleaxe, she'd be a very elegant one, with a blade so sharp that you only realise it's hit you when you try to check your watch and notice you don't have an arm any more.
  • Temeraire: The first time Will Laurence fights with an exquisite sword he was gifted in Imperial China, he is shocked to decapitate a man with almost no resistance.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sweet Home (2020): Jae-heon slices off half a monster's head with ease. Especially notable because his sword is a keepsake, therefore he probably doesn't sharpen it regularly.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess featured numerous instances of unusually clean cuts, however one of the most graphic of these examples was in the (incredibly controversial) episode "The Way", in which Xena's arms were cut clean off by Indrajit, the King of Demons. It's alright though, not two minutes later into the episode she has six arms. By the end of the episode, all is well again and she has her own two arms back.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a few good examples. Notably Anya's death in "Chosen".
  • Angel features quite a few of these, mostly with beheadings.
  • An episode of CSI: NY featured a man sitting on a park bench who was decapitated by a cut so clean that the head stayed on until Mac lifted it off. It turned out to have been made by a katana.
  • An episode of Midsomer Murders had a person decapitated by a wire strung across the area where he rode his motorcycle.
  • In the adaptation of Shogun, Englishman John Blackthorne is shocked to see a samurai slice the head off an oldster who did not bow when he was supposed to. The audience gets a great look at Blackthorne's face (and that of the Jesuit priest accompanying him) and just a glimpse of a headless neck—and vertebra—before the body falls out of camera shot.
  • Happens in pretty much every episode of Highlander: The Series.
  • Most bladed weapons shown on Deadliest Warrior leave jagged, messy wounds; even those that hack limbs off. Of course, more often than not they're cutting through gel torsos. Though in a few instances, this was played straight. The samurai cleanly cut through two pigs with a katana.
  • In the 1998 Merlin miniseries, the titular wizard demonstrates this with Excalibur, cutting cleanly through a regular sword used by an enemy just by parrying it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The show appears to measure general awesomeness by whether you can do this or not; Stannis and Tyrion are both able to cut ridiculously cleanly in the Battle of Blackwater (sometimes through armour,) and Brienne and the Hound also achieve this easily but Theon requires a lot of frantic hacking to remove Ser Rodrik's head, and Gregor Clegane, despite being the strongest man in the series and wielding a BFS, fails to completely decapitate his horse.
    • Justified by anyone using a Valyrian Steel blade such as Ice, since any of these swords are a semi-magical Absurdly Sharp Blade.
    • In the books Robb Stark requires several swings during his execution. It's subverted in the show and the show writers had already did that with Theon and wanted to show Robb was better than Theon.
  • Wolf Hall shows the Real Life execution of Anne Boleyn in its final episode. They specially hired an executioner from France who was an expert in beheadings. He does tell Cromwell that even he can't guarantee a perfect cut if she's not steady, but he uses an Absurdly Sharp Blade and a special technique to misdirect the condemned so that they aren't tense when he makes the swing.
  • Discussed, Averted, and Played Straight in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, most notably with Crixus and Naevia. He originally tries to woo her by bragging that it isn't easy to cut someone's head off in a single blow, but that he can. Naevia later decapitates Ashur, and it takes her three times. She then immediately tells Crixus that he was right, and it isn't easy to do. Crixus lovingly responds "Then I will teach you". He somehow makes it sound like the most romantic thing ever.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Fading Suns has wireblades - monomolecular swords that will cut through anything with ease. In game mechanics, this means they ignore any armor the opponent is wearing.
  • Shadowrun had monomolecular whips which were often as dangerous to the user as they were to the enemy, but its Crowning Moment of Awesome has to be the monomolecular Axe, an axe with a monofilament edge capable of cutting through virtually anything. It tended to lose its edge quickly, though.
  • More critical hits, regardless of system, than can ever be counted. Completely justified by the Rule of Cool, too.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons there is the Sword of Sharpness (which can sever an opponent's limbs with ease) and the Vorpal Sword (which can decapitate an opponent with ease); while the official description does not specifically say that either makes a clean cut, most sources where they are mentioned claim that they do. (Maybe it depends on the individual Sword.)

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: Ann's Weapon of Choice are blue-colored blades that can slice through certain enemies.
  • Recurring Final Fantasy summon Odin tends to do this, slicing (non-immune) enemies in two or three pieces when summoned. Odin's sword, the Zantetsuken, also appears elsewhere in the franchise, either as an equippable weapon with the same effect, or in the hands of Gilgamesh.
  • Devil May Cry:
    • Yamato is a katana that is so sharp that it can cut through several feet of stone from about half a mile away and separate dimensions. At one point, Vergil swishes the sword, turns around, puts it in his scabbard, waits a second... and then as he clicks it in the enemy is slashed apart by the attack — multiple times. It's like a time delayed series of slashes. One of the enemies even manages to speak several lines after the slash, before its head goes in pieces.
    • Dante's Rebellion. It cuts a cubic meter of solid steel/stone/magic die neatly in half.
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and World at War kind of exhibits this trope for bullets, as the game allows you to shoot through certain materials - many things make sense for the bullets to go through, like wood and sheet metal, and they always do so with reduced damage. However, once they start shooting through stone, it kinda stretches it since the bullets can still go through and actually hurt. If they implemented a mechanic that allows you to permanently damage all material, it might make more sense with continuous shooting, but, there currently isn't.
  • In Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, there is a cheat setting that allows the lightsaber to do this, accurately slicing models along the cuts, making it possible to filet enemies and friends alike. The setting to allow this implies that it was a feature of the game that was censored.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
    • The game has this as one of its main gameplay features, allowing you to cut enemy cyborgs/the environment/giant robots cleanly in two (or however many more) pieces.
    • Notably, at one point this actually works against the person who made the cut. At the end of the Jetstream DLC, Sam manages to cut off Armstrong's hand, leaving a stump. However, Armstrong's body-hardening nanomachines then turn the stump into a razor-sharp shiv, which Armstrong then uses to skewer Sam, taking off his arm in return. This, along with Armstrong's subsequent Breaking Speech, sends Sam over the Despair Event Horizon and makes him join up with Desperado.

    Web Animation 
  • Both this and Diagonal Cut happen in DEATH BATTLE! before "Shredder vs. Silver Samurai" truly begins, with Silver Samurai practicing this on some trees as well as some Foot-bots before Shredder appears.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The Whateley Universe has a few weapons that can pull off a Clean Cut:
    • The magical sword Destiny's Wave, in the hands of its rightful wielder, the Handmaid Of The Tao, it can cut through anything (even unstoppable superhuman bricks) if the Tao requires it. At other times, it is as blunt and harmless as you'd expect of a blade made of white jade.
    • The sword wielded by Tennyo, which is made of anti-matter.

    Western Animation 
  • Curare in Batman Beyond has a sword that can cut through anything (e.g. cutting a moving car in half). Examination by Wayne reveals that the blade terminates in an edge thinner than a molecule.
  • Samurai Jack: One of his signature moves is to leap at the enemy, perform a series of lightning-swift slashes in mid-fly, then land and pose dramatically with his eyes closed as the enemy falls apart and explodes behind his back. (Pretty much anything he does with it can be justified, as his sword is magical and forged by the gods, making it an Absurdly Sharp Blade, among other things.)
  • A couple of Looney Tunes shorts like "Tree for Two" and "The Honey-Mousers" featured a gag where a character would get slashed by a pair of giant claws or a sword. After a few seconds the character appears to be fine and then says the strike missed only to fall into pieces on the ground. They would usually put themselves back together.
  • In an episode of The Flintstones, Wilma warns Fred not to tease the cat, it will scratch him. Fred denies that the cat would do that. After Fred teases the cat several times, the cat emits its razor-sharp claws and slices across him. "He never touched me," Fred says, before falling apart like sliced bread.
  • The Simpsons: In "Realty Bites", Snake attempts to decapitate Homer with a length of piano wire strung across the road. He fails, but he does cleanly slice off the arm of Kirk van Houten's (who was waving a sandwich in the air).
  • Steven Universe: In "The Return", Jasper's Gem destabilizer neatly bisects Garnet before her body disintegrates apart entirely.

    Real Life 
  • Japanese swords that can cut through several bodies in a single stroke aren't unheard of. "5-body blades" as they're called are out there, and fetch a ridiculously high price at auctions. In fact, it's not too unreasonable to assume that some of these swords can cut through MORE than five—the executioners only ever stacked up to five men, so who knows how many people they can actually cut through? Probably the same people who know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
    • Though it should be noted that since the amount you could cut through is just as dependent on momentum, mass distribution, and blade cross section as on sharpness, this trait isn't unique to the famously sharp Katana. It's just that no culture other then the Japanese used unarmored and restrained corpses cut in one blow as a unit of measurement. One could probably cut through just as many with a well-made European, Middle-Eastern, or other Asian sword wielded in two hands. note 
  • Obsidian scalpels. Sharper than normal surgical steel scalpels, due to being a real-life example of (almost) being Sharpened to a Single Atom, but don't last as long, since obsidian is basically an exotic form of glass, and as such, breaks pretty easily. Obsidian has also been historically used as a weapon in cultures where proper metal work wasn't available. While sharper then even the sharpest steel crafted with modern metallurgy, it's rare for an obsidian weapon to survive more than a single blow before shattering.
  • Guillotines. In fact, that's the whole point; they were invented to make a beheading more humane and much less painful than an axe or a sword, which were rarely ever clean.
  • "Water saws", which use extremely hot and extremely high-pressure water. It cuts steel in half extremely quickly without resistance, and applying it to a human wouldn't be pretty.
  • Swords made of Damascus/Damascene Steel are said to be capable of this, being Absurdly Sharp Blades. The wavy patterns on them are really cool too. However, the forging technique has been lost to history. Though the alloy has been more recently analyzed and applied to known historical techniques to good effects. It used folding techniques common to the time, along with an advanced alloying technique common to European swords to get the right amounts of hydrogen into the metal, but the specific alloy found in the famed Toledo swords involved an impurity of vanadium that was peculiar to an iron deposit in the region. (Vanadium wasn't discovered as an element for much longer.)
  • Zweihänders of the type used by the 16th century German Landscknecht mercenaries were allegedly supposed to cut the heads off pikes, and were said by others to be able to decapitate multiple soldiers in one swing. While these accounts were almost certainly exaggerated, it was undoubtedly a fearsome cutter because of its long handle, large mass, and sharp tip area.
  • Modern Cossacks from Kuban, Russia, have an exercise in which plastic bottles of water have to be cut clean layer by layer with a shashka sword without the bottle being pushed away by the blade.