Article: Weapons and what they mean

Weapons and what they mean
Warpshadow

Weapons and what they mean

As a form of conflict, fighting is very common in anime with many shows revolving around it. Far from being something that takes place of character development these fights often contain hidden meaning for those who know what to look for. One aspect overlooked by those not in the know is what a character's armament and fighting style say about his or her personality. As developed by Japan's long feudal history and many home grown martial arts Japanese martial arts have many subtle meanings going far beyond simple battlefield applicability. Although this article is far from comprehensive these are some of the inferences I have found from watching anime. Some shows will feature most of the cast using the same type weapon thus rendering character insights based on weapons almost useless so take these explanations with a grain of salt.

The katana is the traditional weapon of the Samurai and is considered a symbol of Japan. The symbology of the katana and the samurai are so complex that discussing them in full would go far beyond the scope of this article. Since it's association with the samurai and thus nobility in general it is very common for the main character or leader of a group to choose the katana as his weapon of choice. Anime characters that wield a katana often take after the samurai in terms of personality. This generally means that they are straightforward in manner and very determined in their goals. Even when villainous characters wield a katana, such as Vicious from Cowboy Bebop they will tend to express villainy in terms of cruelty rather than deception or betrayal.

Other swords are also found in anime. The European long sword is typically found in fantasy anime and almost nowhere else. Something important thing to note is despite that they are European swords they are typically wielded like the katana using both hands instead of being wielded with one hand and the other using a shield. One simple interpretation is that they are simply samurai in a foreign garb.

Even though it is a European sword the rapier is also fairly common in anime. Unlike the long sword when the rapier appears in anime it's European connection remain in place. Characters that wield a rapier often are European themselves. Even if they are not they tend to exhibit a refinement in character, which is markedly different than the more sanguine nobility portrayed by those that wield a katana.

The bow and the Naganita (a type of pole arm) are women's weapons. As can be expected they are almost always in the hands of female characters. When the majority of the show's cast is female these weapons are in the hands of the more reserved, cultured and effeminate characters as opposed to the more tomboyish characters that use swords and other such weapons.

Although the trend is so inconsistent as to make me wary about including it in this article is that gun wielders are often dishonorable. While this is definitely not the case in shows depicting the modern era (Taisho onwards) or the future the case is true with shows about the past. The reason behind this is that long ago guns were considered a threat to the power of the samurai and were suppressed. A similar but less effective trend also occurred in the west. At least this can be said, an honorable character would never use a gun against an opponent armed with a sword. This may be part of the reason why even in mecha shows melee combat is so common

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