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Paper Cutting

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You should see the size of the sword making that cut...

The act of making a very fine incision upon someone with an attack that cannot even remotely believably do such a thing, usually incorporating elements of Ludicrous Mêlée Accuracy or Improbable Aiming Skills. Though paper cutting is usually just the leading cause for the third item of Standard Bleeding Spots, used to maintain tension in a long battle or uphold realism when Hit Points are in play, it can also effectively drive home a point about the character on either end of the attack:

  • If the character who receives a papercut does not flinch or generally carries on with his or her business, it is a very good indication of his or her badassery.
  • If the character who receives a papercut flinches or stops dead in his or her tracks, chances are the attack was a mere warning shot by the true badass to make the recipient stop whatever he or she was going to do.
  • Papercuts also trigger almost every Minor Injury Overreaction.

Paper cutting is done with equal yet ever improbable frequency both with actual bladed weapons such as swords and knives and with bullets and magic projectiles. Never mind what properties have been attributed to the latter and that a bullet passing right by the skin would more likely burn and bruise it than cut it with surgical precision.

It should also be noted that it has recently become fashionable for paper cutting attacks to take some hair with them when aimed at the face.

A subtrope of Could Have Been Messy. Highly pervasive in shonen series, though thanks to the Rule of Cool, it has surfaced in nearly every form of fictional violence. A leading cause of Rugged Scars. Frequently seen with attacks that use Petal Power, Feather Flechettes or a Death Dealer's projectiles. If the combatant actually used paper as the weapon in question, see Paper Master. Compare First Blood.

Compare Clean Cut.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Berserk: Guts' Single-Stroke Battle with Serpico in the Chapter of the Binding Chain has Serpico end up with the front of his boot torn open because he narrowly avoided Guts' Dragon Slayer by jumping, while Guts finds that he received a very thin, shallow cut on the cheek from Serpico's saber. Guts, impressed at how Serpico almost got him, licks the blood that flows from the cut and says "Nice draw style".
  • In one of the Attack on Titan OVA's, Eren's group gets attacked by bandits. He fights back against a guy with a gun, and the others try to escape. The gun fires, just grazing Jean's cheek, causing him to freeze in shock over how close the bullet was to killing him.
  • Though Dragon Ball Z has paper cutting occur on innumerable occasions, it is mostly of the cookie-cutter Standard Bleeding Spots variety. One memorable subversion: When Super Saiyan 3 Goku tosses a provocative little Ki ball past Super Buu, the audience expects a paper cut - but instead the tiny ball rips a horrible gash on Super Buu's face, revealing all manner of alien anatomy. Gross.
    • This may have something to do with the Buus being Made of Plasticine.
      • There is another subversion when Vegetto punched the air to cut Superbuu's cheek. Instead of a neat, surgical precission cut, it leaves a very noticeable and wide gash that reveals the flesh below it. (If it can even be called flesh, that is)
  • In Hellsing, Alucard underlines his badassery by not showing an ounce of effect after the Dandy Man played it straight with a razor-sharp playing card thrown by his cheek. Although this is subverted in that the wound in question is apparently magical and will not stop bleeding, leading to Alucard later pausing to rest over a large pool of his blood.
    • Averted in Hellsing: when the Captain gives an assassin nun a warning shot, he doesn't care to carefully aim it so as to only papercut (or just not shoot at her in general) - he shoots right through her mouth. It's okay though, he tosses her a first aid kit afterward.
    • For vampires in fiction in general, no excuse is too little to get a vampire's cheek cut open so it can take a provocative lick of his own blood. This practically qualifies as a trope of its own.
  • In Samurai Champloo, after being deprived of his sword, Mugen is still able to provide a very fine cut across an opponent's cheek with a roundhouse kick. He's just that badass.
    • The metal on the bottom of his geta sandals certainly helped.
  • In Ranma ½, during their first battle, Ryoga strikes at Ranma with an open-handed punch, which results in a Paper Cutting wound on Ranma's cheek. This indicates both Ryoga's incredible strength (especially considering he missed Ranma with the strike in question) and Ranma's badassery, since he didn't seem to think much of it and proceeded to soundly thump Ryoga.
    • Much later on, Ranma does the same to Shinnosuke during a Single-Stroke Battle, and gets a small tear in his clothes in return. Particularly impressive in that Ranma had punched at Shinnosuke's face, and while the latter does get a small but consistent bruise in the manga, he gets a papercut in the anime.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy for the Devil", Spike takes a paper-cut bullet to the cheek, without flinching, and proceeds to shoot his target.
  • During the non-canon Christian Arc of Rurouni Kenshin, Sanosuke learns a martial arts move that allows him to paper cut an opponent if his punches miss within a small margin.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, during the fight between Tasuki and Tamahome, Tasuki stabs at Tamahome with a relatively blunt instrument. Tamahome's face is completely unscathed, but as he turns away, the very thin headband he was wearing splits apart.
    • The gang fight in Episode 4, where after getting a Paper Cut, Tamahome does this: *bleeds; glares; kicks ass*
  • Black Cat's Train Hartnet receives one of these in the first volume from an old friend from Chronos. It doesn't seem to do much except piss him off.
  • Happens quite often in One Piece.
  • Bleach does this all the time. The attack that caused that cut was probably powerful enough to destroy a building.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi does this occasionally. The most straightforward example is probably the training exercise where Asuna does this to Evangeline using a Paper Fan of Doom. Eva is disturbingly blissed-out by this, and encases Asuna in a block of ice as a response.
  • Baccano! does this during the fight between Ladd and Graham. Ladd fires his shotgun at Graham and Graham deflects the bullet back at Ladd with his giant wrench, causing it to graze Ladd's cheek.
  • The Season 1 Final Battle from the Sengoku Basara anime has Nobunaga inflict a shallow cut on Yukimura's cheek...with his cape.
    • In the Bloody Angel manga, Mitsunari suffers this after narrowly dodging a bullet from Magoichi.
  • Pride does this to Lieutenant Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist using his shadows.
  • In Fairy Tail Scarlet and Knightwalker do this to each other and it becomes a plot point later.
  • When Haru and Lucia finally throw down in Rave Master, this is the first bit of damage done to Lucia.
  • Holyland: This being done to King in chapter 174 convinces him to get serious.
  • Happens quite a lot in Fist of the North Star, mostly of the 'Shoulder Clothing Damage' or 'Cheek Papercut' varieties. The latter usually gets followed up by the recipient of the wound (usually Kenshiro) taking a finger to the cut and then licking blood from it.
  • Samurai Deeper Kyo: parodied when Bikara shows up in front of the heroes while Kyo is deep asleep but reassures them, while toying with a twig, that he won't attack them while Kyo is sleeping... he then accidentally gives himself a papercut on his face with said twig and freaks out, attacking Yuya and Sasuke.
  • Occurs during the final battle of Sword of the Stranger, twice in the same battle- with Luo-Lang managing to nick Nanashi's leg, while Nanashi scores a classic delayed cheek-cut moments later. It gets messier after that, though.
  • Happens to Dilandau in The Vision of Escaflowne, courtesy of Van's sword. To say that this angers Dilandau is a huge Understatement, especially as it does scar over, but it really was just a scratch. The only reason it scars over is that Dilandau kept picking at it.

    Comic Books 
  • The Powerpuff Girls story "Eenie Meanie Mini Mojo" (DC runs issue #33) has Bubbles making cut-out paper dolls at the Pokey Oaks kindergarten playground. When Mojo Jojo tries to intervene, he suffers a paper cut.
  • Star Wars: Republic reveals that the thin scar across Anakin Skywalker's eyebrow comes from a lightsaber duel. Asajj Ventress makes the surface cut instead of a killing blow to flaunt her perceived superiority as a duelist — which apparently enables her to leave razorlike slashes with an inch-thick energy blade.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, given the massive size of Ming's panda form it is implied that she did this to Grandma Wu to cause the scar above her eye.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Season Four finale of Arrow, Oliver does this do Damien Darhk with one of his arrows to taunt him, right before they engage in melee combat.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In "Dog Star Swing", Spike puts Vicious in the sights of a sniper rifle but doesn’t fire until he gets inside his bulletproof car, firing a shot that stars the glass, sending a splinter of glass flying into Vicious' cheek.

    Video Games 
  • A variant in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: near the end of the first "execution" cutscene, where Monokuma demonstrates his power by gunning down Monomi, a single ricochet leaves a cut on protagonist Hajime Hinata's cheek in exactly this fashion, underscoring just how real the stakes are.
  • Played with in Final Fantasy IX, where the papercut effect is not deliberate from the point of the attacker, but rather to emphasize powerful magical defenses of the target. The great dragon Bahamut fires his breath weapon at Kuja, just one, normal-sized, not very manly wizard who should by all accounts be squishy. A whole war fleet is firing cannons at the same guy. The results? Ow, a paper cut.
  • Meet the Spy has the eponymous class pull one of these on the Sniper with his butterfly knife. Then he just stabs him in the back.
  • One scene in Resident Evil 4's "Separate Ways" DLC show Ada lying on a sacrificial altar of some sort while cultists speak an incantation. One cultist, wielding a two-handed axe, swings it to kill Ada, but she wakes up and vaults herself off the table. Although she escapes death, she receives a small cut on her thigh from the axe.
  • One of the bad endings in School Days has Sekai receive one of these from a saw, only for the cut to start spurting out High-Pressure Blood once she reacts to it.
  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant: At the end of the first disc Special Agent Kato attacks Yuri with a magic charge as a warning not to interfere with Kato taking in a defeated Nicolai, to use him in his superiors' schemes. The attacks leaves a bloody scratch, but Yuri ignores it and prepares to fight, before the enemy leaves anyway.
  • If Clementine stays in Wellington at the end of The Walking Dead: Season Two, she will have a scar on her cheek when you meet her again in A New Frontier. A flashback in the first episode will explain that this is something she sustained from a bullet that grazed her while she was fleeing from Wellington, the stronghold having been overtaken by a rival group.

    Web Comics 
  • In the first chapter of Angel Down Bernard uses his mark ability to redirect Ariel's bullet to scratch her along the cheek.

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest version three, Maxie Dasai gets hit in the face by an arrow and comes away with a minor wound across her cheek, somehow managing to avoid any serious harm. (By luck, rather than skill, the archer, Renee Valenti, had been trying to kill Maxie).