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Combat Aestheticist

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"They know the science of war... but not the art!"

This is a character who takes delight in the elegance of combat. At the one on one level it results in the preference for beautiful weapons and elegant tactics. Or it can result in a character who uses planning when Good Old Fisticuffs would have a greater chance of ensuring victory. Not necessarily incompatible with Combat Pragmatist, though it can verge on Combat Sadomasochist when taken too far.

Goes well with the Warrior Poet and Blood Knight and may sometimes overlap. The sister trope is Showy Invincible Hero, when heroes care more about being badass rather than elegant. Many Fighting Narcissists play at being this.

Compare Art Attacker when they literally are aestheticists who use their talents for combat, as well as Martial Arts and Crafts who devises refined combat moves out of mundane activities. See also Flynning.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Rose cares so much about elegance in fighting that he objects when he's helped out of rubble because it ruined his attempt to artistically escape it.
    • Played with in the case of Yumichika who abhors ugliness but who defines beautiful combat by the Blood Knight style of the 11th division. Turns out he's hiding his true combat style because it's not what 11th division allows.
  • Soul Eater's Death the Kid has slight elements of this due to his OCD-like obsession with symmetry. It's the reason why his weapon partners are the Thompson sisters; there are two of them, and they transform into identical guns, allowing him to fight with symmetrical weaponry. When one of the sisters is incapacitated, he refuses to use the other on her own for that reason.
  • In Hellsing, many characters would wear this description with pride, but the Big Bad, the Major, more than the others. His love for war surpasses any loyalty he might have ever had for Nazi ideals, his desire to create it is his sole motivation in life, and he extolls his immortal amore for every facet of conflict with greater poetic fanaticism than the most radical religious zealot.
  • In Claymore Hysteria embodies this. Jeez she is even nicknamed 'Hysteria the elegant'. She is immensely proud of her fighting style which is considered the most beautiful of all warriors. Even after awakening she holds firmly to her vision of beauty and views the combat pragmatic strategy of the protagonists as hideous. As Miria said it, her hubris is actually the cause of her defeat.
  • Sunny, one of the Four Heavenly Kings from Toriko espouses this philosophy. While most others search for rare ingredients because they're delicious, he's only interested in those that enhance beauty. He frequently tries to invoke the 'Just in Time' trope (generally failing) because he thinks swooping in to the rescue in the nick of time is 'beautiful'. At one point, he refuses to sample a legendary ingredient simply because its sheer deliciousness causes anyone who tastes it to break out in a huge, inelegant smile.
  • In Vinland Saga, Askeladd bemoans how no-one these days has any notion of beauty in fighting, everyone just screams and charges wildly. This attitude does not stop him from being a brutally effective fighter.
  • Treize Khushrenada of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. He goes so far as to betray his benefactors (even when their forces on the verge of winning) simply because they want to use computer-controlled Mobile Suits in place of human pilots, which Treize believes ruins the beauty of warfare and turns it into a "game" played by anyone rich enough to afford their own army, with the innocents caught in the middle, suffering.
  • Lotton the Wizard from Black Lagoon. Laughable in this case as all he is actually good at is making an entrance; though to be fair, it is never shown if he is a decent shot because he's yet to get one off.

    Comic Books 
  • Miho from Sin City uses a lot of leaps and slashes, going through various ninja weapons in the process. Considering she's usually fighting random mob Mooks, it seems a little much.

  • Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus from Star Wars has a very graceful, flowing fighting style and even has a cool-looking lightsaber hilt that's curved like a (real-life) saber. He also offers a salute to Yoda before fighting him.
    • Darth Maul also has aspects of this in his duel with Qui-Gonn and Obi-Wan, throwing in lots of spins and somersaults that serve very little practical purpose but look awesome.
  • Tristan of King Arthur (2004). In the opening battle, his kill count is not as high as the other knights, but his sword swings are graceful and flowing, and by the end, he's the only knight who isn't out of breath and covered in blood.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Oberyn Martell believes in putting on a good show in front of a crowd, including lots of weapon-twirling and acrobatics. Somewhat justified as a way to distract his opponent, as well as make it hard to tell what's flashiness and what's an actual attack.
  • The Operative in Serenity, especially compared to Mal. Also Atherton Wing. Though he's less formidable than the Operative, he did kill a dozen men in duels and has a great love of swords.
  • Michael Westen in Burn Notice fights with a concern for elegance. He is also a Combat Pragmatist.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The Minbari are this. They have elaborate rituals around combat as around everything else, and their warships are the most pretty.
    • Londo Mollari is an intrigue aestheticist. For instance he goes out of his way to assassinate Emperor Cartagia with a jeweled hyperdermic needle. He appears not to be alone about this: Apparently Centauri have as loving a care for their poisons as humans have for swords.

  • Martin van Creveld wrote an entire book on the subject called The Culture of War.
  • The Sword Monks of The Scavenger Trilogy devote their lives to combat asthetics. They raise fighting to a form of sculpture — an artwork carved in time, position and flesh.
  • Variant in The Art Of War, as it details more about multiple kinds of battle strategies and large-scale wars rather than mano-a-mano combat.
  • The Thrawn Trilogy:
    • Admiral Pellaeon: he has long been tired of the act of war itself, but loves tactics for their own sake. Matching wits with an equally skilled opponent and so on.
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn, too, was a big fan of strategy and elegance. In fact, his last words, after being successfully assassinated, were: "But... it was so artistically done." He even appreciated being on the receiving end of war.
      • This carries over into his canon depiction in Star Wars Rebels in which he studies other cultures, collects their artwork, and uses the insight he gains to predict their tactics.
    • Thrawn never told Pellaeon why he chose him out of all the surviving captains of the Empire to be his flag captain and protege, though Pellaeon often wondered. It's possible that their shared belief in this trope was a factor.
  • Underground: Robyn, due to her training as a ballerina. Her graceful fighting style helps her be agile against more pragmatic and straightforward opponents and Andrew even comments that she smiles while fighting, enjoying it as her only outlet for performing anything dancelike.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Chess: Before the advent of "positional" chess in the late 19th century, an ideal game finished with a spectacular sacrifice, and gambits were never declined. Anything less was considered uncivilized, or at best gauche. The beauty of the game was important, and Grandmasters were considered to be somehow divinely blessed with the ability to pull off such feats of derring-do over the board. Then, Wilhelm Steinitz — already skilled in the flashy, "romantic" style — started poring over games of old Grandmasters, and realized that there were certain identifiable, repeatable aspects of these games — that the flashes of brilliance were made possible in the first place by very mundane positioning of the pawns and pieces. He compiled his research into a new system, and soon dominated the chess world, become the first world champion of the modern era in the process, and forever changing the game into what it is today, ultimately averting this trope in the process.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons setting Spelljammer, the fabulous reigar view combat as the highest form of artistic expression, and carefully consider the aesthetics behind every act of violence - a fireball spell is boring because it blasts victims in an instant, but cloudkill gives the caster more time to enjoy their victims' last choking, writhing moments of life. "To a reigar, this is art at its best." The reigar take this trope to such extremes that their "Master Stroke," the grand finale of their effort to "create the most beautiful display of carnage the multiverse had ever seen," ended up destroying their homeworld.
  • In Exalted, the martial arts Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style and Crystal Chameleon Style share both philosophical subtext and graceful, eye-catching aesthetics. If a player does the former style incorrectly, their physical body may actually dissipate into pure, unrestrained Essence.
  • In Warhammer, champions of Slaanesh tend to exemplify this trope. Their sense of aesthetics gets more and more bizarre as they progress.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • This is essentially one of the Eldar's hats. Everything about the Aspect Warriors - their appearance, their tactics and even their weapons - are greatly influenced by their mythology and ancient traditions: the Howling Banshees (close combat specialists that use special masks to amplify their screams, leaving them disoriented and vulnerable) reference the Eldar crone goddess Morag-Hei and the screaming banshee that foretells deaths, the Warp Spiders (teleporting heavy infantry armed with brutal anti-infantry weapons that fire clouds of Razor Floss) reference the little constructs that glean the Infinity Matrix and ward off Chaos influence, the Fire Dragons (their anti-tank and anti-fortification specialists) reference the brutal, wanton destruction of war, etc. Fittingly, a lot of their heavier weapons, such as the Fire Prism and the D-Cannon, are capable of some really awesome pyrotechnics. Eldar units are sleek, colourful and look dazzling on the tabletop and contrast greatly in terms of aesthetics with, say, the Necrons, the Imperial Guard or the Orks.
    • Plus Lucius The Eternal, who fights all the more furiously against worthy opponents, but goes into apathetic ennui against unskilled enemies. Also, a lot of the Dark Eldar now embody this even more than their "good" cousins, with a lot of the troops competing to get the most elegant/spectacular/daring/hilarious kills.
    • There's also an alien race, mentioned in the fluff, that lives by Hollywood Tactics and measure success and victory in battle by how cool they were able to make the battle look, not if they succeeded at any tactical or strategic goals. This makes them infuriatingly annoying to fight, and unfortunately they have some very flashy technology that will kill you just as dead as any other species' weapons (just in a more flashy way).
    • The Viskeons were a Proud Warrior Race who delighted in the intricacies of hand-to-hand combat and individual duels, to the point where they held ranged weapons in disdain and refrained from using them. Eldrad Ulthran guided a Tyranid hive fleet into the Viskeon's planet to protect an Eldar maiden world. Against the ravenous and incalculable hordes of Tyranid monsters, they didn't last a single night.

    Video Games 
  • Vega of Street Fighter fame: the only thing he loves more than fighting (in his trademark flamboyant style), in fact, is himself.
  • The Devil May Cry series incentivizes players to kill demons with style. Both Dante and the player are expected to be Combat Aestheticists.
  • Pretty much Zhang He's personality in Dynasty Warriors, although in 7 it's somewhat tempered with seriousness later when Xiahou Yuan is killed during the fighting at Mount Dingjun.
  • HK-47 of Knights of the Old Republic at times expresses sentiments like this, most explicitly at one point in the sequel where he outright calls his assassinations art. In context, this is a positive aspect, as HK-47's art tastes runs towards the minimalistic — he prefers clean, efficient kills that limits collateral damage (he is happy to have groups as targets, of course. He is still a murderous robotic psychopath). This is contrasted with his HK-50 knock-offs, who go out of their way to kill as many people as they can without jeopardizing the mission (at one point, one of them even rejects the term assassination droid in favour of calling his function wanton slaughter).
  • Elden Ring: While Malenia doesn't seem to hold this view herself, her swordplay often invoked this reaction in other people. A talisman carried by her knights describes her sword as "forever beautiful", and a spirit in the Swamp of Aeonia begs to "see it, if only one last time; your splendid blade dancing amidst the rot."
  • Matador, the living embodiment of beautiful killing, in Shin Megami Tensei.
  • Nifilhema in Lusternia. It's a package deal of Combat Aestheticist, Torture Technician, Combat Sadomasochist and Mad Artist: she spends most of her time devising tortures as unnecessarily intricate and harrowing as possible, for the sheer artistry of it. Her followers are much the same way, killing their enemies with as much style and finesse as possible.
  • In Vega Strike, judging by communication lines, for all their differences both Rlaan ("Hulls pop like vibrant seeds. Splashing photons in a void. I am sticky.") and Aera ("A superior display — may we both be remembered...") have such trends.
  • League of Legends
    • Jhin is a variant. While he has very showy animations that blur the line between graceful and over-exaggerated, he focuses primarily on the act of murder itself, finding a perfectly-crafted death a work of art. Incidentally, rather than thinking of himself as a traditional artist or painter like you would expect, he compares himself to a stage director and thinks of his murders as a performance.
    • Samira loves to make a show out of combat. It's even integrated into her passive, which rewards you for showy and dangerous moves in combat and is the only way you can use her ult.
  • Mega Man X: Launch Octopus refers to himself as an artist of underwater combat. But according to him, no one has recognized his art, up until Sigma fed to his ego, which makes Octopus join him.
  • The Borderlands series has the Maliwan Corporation, whose corporate image is based around this.
    Combat is an art. Maliwan weapons are the paint. Our elemental tech transforms the battlefield from a cacophony of idiocy, into a masterpiece of destruction. The unwashed hordes will burn, and fry, and melt, into a portrait of exquisite death. Maliwan. Beauty through destruction.


    Web Original 
  • Omega Zell from Noob likes to take poses mid-combat despite being a Fragile Speedster and inverts the stereotype of using charisma as a Dump Stat, regularly refusing new gear that would protect him better because it doesn't look good on him and/or has a cost in charisma.