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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Katanas in fiction

Katanas in fiction
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Main article: Katana

[edit] Traditional myths
Many myths surround Japanese swords, the most frequent being that the blades are folded an immense number of times, gaining magical properties in the meantime.
While blades folded hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times are encountered in fiction, there is no record of real blades being folded more than around 20 times. With each fold made by the maker, every internal layer is also folded, and so the total number of layers in a sword blade is doubled at each fold; since the thickness of a katana blade is less than 230 iron atoms, going beyond 20 folds no longer adds meaningfully to the number of layers in the blade.
Furthermore, while heating and folding serves to even out the distribution of carbon throughout the blade, a small amount of carbon is also 'burnt out' of the steel in this process; repeated folding will eventually remove most of the carbon, turning the material into softer iron and reducing its ability to hold a sharp edge.
Some swords were reputed to reflect their creators' personalities. Those made by Muramasa had a reputation for violence and bloodshed,[1] while those made by Masamune were considered weapons of peace. A popular legend tells of what happens when two swords made by Muramasa and Masamune were held in a stream carrying fallen leaves: while those leaves touching the Muramasa blade were cut in two, those coming towards the Masamune suddenly changed course and went around the blade without touching it.
Kusanagi (probably a tsurugi, a type of bronze Age sword which precedes the katana by centuries) is the most famous legendary sword in Japanese mythology, involved in several folk stories. Along with the Jewel and the Mirror, it was one of the three godly treasures of Japan.
A common misconception is that Katanas magically sprung into existence in Japan, utterly isolated from the mainland. The technique of folding steel came from the manufacture of the Jian in China, and contact with the mainland would affect how the katana evolved through the centuries.

[edit] Modern Fiction
Due to the renowned quality of the sword and the mysticism surrounding the relationship between the blade and its wielder, the katana appears in various works of fiction, including film, anime, manga, other forms of literature, and computer games.[2] It is frequently used not only in Japanese settings, but also in other settings, often by non-Japanese creators, partly to its status as an easily recognisable icon of Japan and partly to its high reputation as a formidable weapon in skilled hands. Three well-known appearances in Western culture are the Bride's signature weapon in Kill Bill (which was strongly influenced by Japanese samurai movies) and the katana used by the main character Duncan MacLeod in Highlander and the 1975 Tom Laughlin action/cult Western film Master Gunfighter.
It is the prime weapon of choice for Japanese heroes in historical fiction set before the Meiji period. Carrying a non-sealed katana is illegal in present-day Japan, but in fiction this law is often ignored or circumvented to allow characters to carry katana as a matter of artistic licence. For instance, some stories state that carrying weapons has been permitted due to a serious increase in crimes or an invasion of monsters from other dimensions. With this law in mind, katana are sometimes used for comic relief in anime and manga set in the present, although this is sometimes replaced by the use of a bokken having surprisingly comparable capabilities.
In many works, especially when magical or supernatural powers are significant story elements, katana are more than a match for any other weapons, such as Goemon Ishikawa's blade Zantetsuken, which can cut through almost any material. In some cases, writers make a new weapon based on ideas from katana, as a signature weapon of heroes and villains.
In the manga One Piece, the sword master Roronoa Zoro uses three katana (one in each hand and another one in his mouth) in his unique sword style, santoryu.
In the Square-Enix game "Final Fantasy XI", the Samurai class has the ability to wield various "Katana" weapons. Also, the Ninja Class can wield some smaller versions of the Katana.
See also: List of fictional swords

[edit] References
^ Stone, George Cameron (1999). A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times. Dover Publications, Inc., 460. ISBN 0-486-40726-8.
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