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Perfection: Thy name is Katana! ...Really?

TressetTresset Member, Moderator Posts: 7,740
Ok, so This is kind of a pet peeve of mine so bear with me here.

Why the crap does it seem like everyone all over the world seems to praise the katana as the ultimate sword? I'm not even talking about just BG here (although the phenomenon does exist in BG). Everyone everywhere in the world treats the katana as the most perfect thing that people ever created to cut up other people. Why? What makes it so darn good? Lets use BG as an example. The in game description of a katana basically says that it is already so darn perfect that even the greatest of magic can't improve it's performance. What is wrong with a good old fashioned long sword or great sword or, heck, every other type of sword in existence? Why is it that katanas seem to get ALL the praise at the expense of other swords?

Now I know some basic history about katanas. I know that they are very important in Japanese culture and tradition and all that. I also know that the process of constructing one is very complicated and technical. I will even admit that they are probably sharper than your average sword. What I don't quite understand is why all this makes them superior in every way to all other swords. From what I have heard they are actually somewhat unwieldy and even dangerous to the wielder.

I'm not sure exactly what kind of response I am looking for here. Mostly I am wondering if I am alone in my belief that katanas are overrated in the real world. I would also welcome people who want to talk about facts involving katanas on a historical or technical perspective. (Just don't make a giant wall of text as I am unlikely to read the whole thing.)

TJ_HookerUlfgar_TorunnKidCarnivalTeflonAnduinEudaemoniumBelgarathMTHSilyDecrepitDragonSCARY_WIZARDCrevsDaak
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Comments

  • TJ_HookerTJ_Hooker Member Posts: 2,438
    Yeah, I've thought the same thing. Somehow they got the reputation as being cool, and now everyone has a hard on for them (ok, "everyone" may be an exaggeration, but way more people than you'd expect). Hell, the Kill Bill movies are pretty much just katana porn. My best guess is that the exotic aspect has a lot to due with it, but beyond that I really don't know.

    TeflonTressetAristillius
  • KidCarnivalKidCarnival Member Posts: 3,747
    I think the question is more why a katana has good stats to begin with. Whoever came up with the stats must have had a reason to say "yup, katana gets better damage than long sword because x".

  • moopymoopy Member Posts: 938
  • TJ_HookerTJ_Hooker Member Posts: 2,438

    Not to say that I dislike katanas (in fact, I'm also a big katana fan), but they're just a type of sword. Nothing much more than that.

    Yeah I can agree with that. One thing that annoys me is that they are semi-regularly featured in movies, where they are portrayed as a competitive alternative to modern firearms. And I think it's all because of the cool factor; I doubt people would like these movies if you were to replace the katana with something like a longsword.

  • moopymoopy Member Posts: 938
    edited January 2013
    image

    Katana signed by Masamune with an inscription (城和泉守所持) in gold inlay, Kamakura period, 14th century, blade length: 70.6 cm

    Look at that. It is glorious.

    Plus, here is all the proof you will need that katanas are superior.

    In order to beat Sephiroth armed with the Masamune, Cloud had to use Omnislash which summons like 15 broadswords. So I think it is safe, and completely logical to assume that 1 Katana > 14 Broadswords.

    That was me being silly, in all seriousness:

    I was still under the impression that katanas were better crafted and were sharper, they were definitely easier to draw and attack in one motion. Though it seems the better crafted may be up for debate.


    Also:
    @TJ_Hooker

    Not saying a Katana is equal to firearms, but as to why they are portrayed that way in fiction and longswords aren't.



    Show me a guy cutting a bb gun pellet shot at him in one quickdraw with a longsword. :P

  • KidCarnivalKidCarnival Member Posts: 3,747
    The video doesn't say why game developers see a katana as vastly superior to long swords. The foreign factor and especially that it's an ASIAN kind of foreign plays a big role in that. Many people like Asian culture. Ninja or samurai characters are popular, so are anime and manga in general. Hence many people would complain if a game made the weapon they percieve as the "coolest" weaker than others, or equal to weapons seen as "boring" or "uncool".
    In real life, a weapon is only as good as the person wielding it. So by definition, a katana isn't better or worse than a long sword or a kitchen knife. Each can be a lethal weapon in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, or utterly useless in the hands of someone who has no idea what to do with it.

  • moopymoopy Member Posts: 938
    edited January 2013
    @KidCarnival

    That video does show a katana being much sharper, and I could see someone counting sharper as more damage.

    Obviously skill counts more, but we are talking equal skill in a longsword vs equal skill in a katana.

    I'll admit I'm a fanboi, but I think there is a lot of evidence that points to katana being sharper and having better techniques that accompany it, and I think the idea that it is only liked so much for being foreign is anti-fanboism.

    I would like to see evidence that a blade forged by someone in Europe around 1300 would compete with a blade forged by Masamune.

  • KidCarnivalKidCarnival Member Posts: 3,747
    Being sharper has no consequences in games, unless that is included in the system a game uses. In Baldur's Gate, there is no difference between the type of damage for swords.
    Sharper will also not make a difference if you fight a well-armored enemy. In that case, a heavier weapon may be "better". There are tons of factors that make a weapon "better" in a specific situation. A katana being sharper makes it "better" for situations where it counts how sharp a weapon is. (Duh, I know.)

    An example how katanas are "cool" and therefore included (unlike other swords) would be Star Trek. There is no reason an otherwise intelligent person like Zulu would carry a katana in the age of ENERGY WEAPONS than the producers deciding that it is "cool". Contrast: the Scottish character doesn't carry a William Wallace style European weapon. If blade weapons were that effective, why would they not be Starfleet standard? The Klingons are called out on using their bat'leths in that day and age several times by others. That makes a katana much "cooler" than every other type of sword, including badass fantasy weapons. It's hard to not see the fanboism in that.

    Teflon
  • TJ_HookerTJ_Hooker Member Posts: 2,438
    edited January 2013

    The video doesn't say why game developers see a katana as vastly superior to long swords. The foreign factor and especially that it's an ASIAN kind of foreign plays a big role in that. Many people like Asian culture. Ninja or samurai characters are popular, so are anime and manga in general. Hence many people would complain if a game made the weapon they percieve as the "coolest" weaker than others, or equal to weapons seen as "boring" or "uncool".

    I agree with this part. Asian culture does seem to be surprisingly popular these days. Kind of like how in the 90's/early 00's, rap (especially gangster rap) was pretty popular, so you had a bunch of suburban white kids decked out in their G-Unit gear, listening to 50 Cent. Except now it's reading manga, eating sushi and drinking bubble tea, and being into being into stereotypical eastern things katanas/martial arts.

    In real life, a weapon is only as good as the person wielding it. So by definition, a katana isn't better or worse than a long sword or a kitchen knife. Each can be a lethal weapon in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, or utterly useless in the hands of someone who has no idea what to do with it.

    Sure, skill plays a huge part, but weapons can be objectively more effective than others. For example, a flintlock rifle is inferior in every way to a modern rifle. Even someone inexperienced with guns would probably be more effective in combat with today's firearms than an expert with a musket.

    Post edited by TJ_Hooker on
    SilyIllustair
  • moopymoopy Member Posts: 938
    I may be the odd one out here, but I just don't buy the Asian things are cooler narrative. I love manga and anime, but sushi and bubble tea are stupid. I don't even know what bubble tea is, but it sounds dumb.

    The reason I'm not buying that narrative is a lot of anime / manga focuses on European style swords instead of katanas.

    Again, I may be the odd one out here.

    I honestly believe the craftsmanship on katanas in 1300 was far better than weapons in Europe. However, as I think was previously stated, that could have a large part to do with Japan keeping better records on these things since katanas were a part of their culture.

    And ALL that being said, I still take longswords in BG over katanas. Unless I want to play with Celestial Fury, but more times than not it's longswords.

  • TJ_HookerTJ_Hooker Member Posts: 2,438
    moopy said:

    I don't even know what bubble tea is, but it sounds dumb.

    Yeah it kinda is. I've only tried it once, when my sis came home with one and got me to try it. It's not really tea, but some sweet, fruity drink (I think the one I tried was green apple), which big tapioca balls in it (maybe a little over half a centimeter in diameter, IIRC). I didn't like it. I get the feeling it's the kind of thing where you end up with a mass produced, commercial product that's nothing like the original beverage. It seems like the kind of thing trendy college students drink.
    moopy said:

    I honestly believe the craftsmanship on katanas in 1300 was far better than weapons in Europe.

    Oh, yeah, I agree with this. I had more or less thought this way before, and your video seems to support it.

  • moopymoopy Member Posts: 938
    edited January 2013
    It also occurs to me that there is probably a lot more manga / anime that features katanas than longswords, and I probably read a smaller subset that doesn't.

    Also that drink sounds terrible.

    And if one of the underlying points is why do some people INSIST on using katanas even though their selection in BG sucks, and they keep lobbying for more katanas in the game etc.. etc.. then I don't understand that either.

    @KidCarnival

    I see your point. I think it would also depend a lot on what type of armor is being used (Eastern vs Western armor) as to what weapon type was better. That is just conjecture obviously, but I don't think a katana being sharper is going to help a lot against full plate mail or a shield.

  • KidCarnivalKidCarnival Member Posts: 3,747
    The question remains... do "most people" KNOW that there are other swords in manga/anime? Or do they assume BECAUSE those weapons are in them, they must be katanas? Asian culture is a trend, which means a lot people will just buy into it because it's trendy, and may not have any deeper knowledge. So they might as well think that every sword in Asian media is some sort of katana, and if it looks weird, it's probably like the difference between "long sword", "bastard sword", "two-handed sword" and so on - a different type of katana. In games, things are clearly named and categorized, so they'll read "long sword" and skip to the katana section, regardless if the long sword looks like whatever-cool-weapon-their-fave-anime-character-has. From there, it is a small step to complain that there aren't enough katanas - because most things have "sword" in the name yet look like they should be "katanas" as seen in animes.

    I don't mind them being in the game, and maybe it would be nice to have a better selection, but I don't need it. To me, katanas don't really fit in a setting like Baldur's Gate. Sure, there are other cultures that resemble Asia in the Forgotten Realms, but they aren't on the Sword Coast or in Amn. Having every merchant offer katanas nonetheless takes away a part of being "exotic" weapons, which they should be in that area. It's a bit like selling impi gear on every corner despite the game being set far away from cultures resembling Africa.

  • scriverscriver Member Posts: 1,823
    Katanas aren't better than European medieval swords. They're not used in the same manner. They don't have the same purpose. You might as well compare axes to spears.

    TeflonSilySCARY_WIZARDCrevsDaak
  • ajwzajwz Member Posts: 4,122
    Katana's look cooler, therefore are more powerful.
    Standard rpg fare that. Same with armours too.

    TJ_HookerAristillius
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    scriver said:

    Katanas aren't better than European medieval swords. They're not used in the same manner. They don't have the same purpose. You might as well compare axes to spears.

    Axes, of course. ;)

    Unless you're fighting a dragon. ...In which case, halberds. ;)

    scriverSCARY_WIZARDCrevsDaak
  • CuvCuv Member, Developer Posts: 2,535
    @moopy I watched the video... sold on katana's for being superior:)

    toanwrathIllustairCrevsDaak
  • DeeDee Member Posts: 10,447
    One of the main advantages of the katana and similarly curved weapons is that they allow you to take advantage of specialized technique in a way that a broadsword can't. As @scriver said, they're not used in the same manner as a medieval sword.

    So what makes the katana "better", really, is the person wielding it, not necessarily the weapon itself. If you put a long sword in the hands of a samurai and a katana in the hands of an English knight, they will both be less effective--but the long sword, requiring less skill to use, will be more effective than the katana.

    CrevsDaak
  • AgricolaAgricola Member Posts: 21
    moopy said:

    @KidCarnival

    That video does show a katana being much sharper, and I could see someone counting sharper as more damage.

    Obviously skill counts more, but we are talking equal skill in a longsword vs equal skill in a katana.

    I'll admit I'm a fanboi, but I think there is a lot of evidence that points to katana being sharper and having better techniques that accompany it, and I think the idea that it is only liked so much for being foreign is anti-fanboism.

    I would like to see evidence that a blade forged by someone in Europe around 1300 would compete with a blade forged by Masamune.

    I don't think the katana's sharpness is why it cut better. The blade is curved so the contact area is smaller than that of the longsword resulting in more focused work. Furthermore, because it is curved it doesn't press straight in, it should slide slightly as it encounters resistance without the wielder having to do extra work to make it slide, this should result in a more effective cut; try cutting by pressing straight down with a knife, then try moving the knife as you cut instead.

    TJ_HookerSenashArchaos
  • toanwrathtoanwrath Member Posts: 621
    Cuv said:

    @moopy I watched the video... sold on katana's for being superior:)

    Agreed!

  • H0RSEH0RSE Member Posts: 114
    pffft, I don't even like swords that much, I prefer hammers. The shear brutality of the weapon appeals greatly to me.

    Perhaps from a technical or 'engineering' standpoint, the katana could be seen as a superior sword, but that can only go so far. You can't simply put the 'best' weapon in the hands of a fighter, and expect him to automatically be a better fighter. Preference and individual skill come into play.

    My personal opinions on the weapon are as such - I recognize the craftsmanship and lethality of the weapon, and understand it is essentially a marvel in terms of engineering, but personally I really don't care for them. I don't really care for their physical appearance or the culture that surrounds them. I'm not really a big fan of eastern culture - samurai, katanas, ninjas, Japanese architecture, anime, even video games with that eastern 'feel.'

    I don't really care for the secrecy and subterfuge and the martial arts and sneaking around - I'm a much bigger fan of muscle and brute force, which is why I prefer Barbarians and Vikings over Samurai and ninjas. You can keep your katana, I'll take a 2-handed warhammer.

    KidCarnival
  • TeflonTeflon Member, Translator (NDA) Posts: 517

    Because he says so.

    Who am I kidding, frankly speaking I agree with @Tresset.
    I think It's because they don't know about real world katna ;)

  • CamDawgCamDawg Member, Developer Posts: 3,394

    The question remains... do "most people" KNOW that there are other swords in manga/anime? Or do they assume BECAUSE those weapons are in them, they must be katanas? Asian culture is a trend, which means a lot people will just buy into it because it's trendy, and may not have any deeper knowledge. So they might as well think that every sword in Asian media is some sort of katana, and if it looks weird, it's probably like the difference between "long sword", "bastard sword", "two-handed sword" and so on - a different type of katana. In games, things are clearly named and categorized, so they'll read "long sword" and skip to the katana section, regardless if the long sword looks like whatever-cool-weapon-their-fave-anime-character-has. From there, it is a small step to complain that there aren't enough katanas - because most things have "sword" in the name yet look like they should be "katanas" as seen in animes.

    To be fair, katana is used in Japanese as a generic term for sword, even though it has a specific meaning.
    scriver said:

    Katanas aren't better than European medieval swords. They're not used in the same manner. They don't have the same purpose. You might as well compare axes to spears.

    Ding, ding, ding. Different defenses requires different weaponry to counter--compare European armor to Japanese armor and you'll have your explanation for the differences in the weaponry.
    Agricola said:

    I don't think the katana's sharpness is why it cut better. The blade is curved so the contact area is smaller than that of the longsword resulting in more focused work. Furthermore, because it is curved it doesn't press straight in, it should slide slightly as it encounters resistance without the wielder having to do extra work to make it slide, this should result in a more effective cut; try cutting by pressing straight down with a knife, then try moving the knife as you cut instead.

    That's true to a point. So much of using a katana is technique--once the blow lands there's some natural cutting, but you really have to work your wrists to get the blade properly flowing across the target. If you just swing it at a target it's ineffectual. The idea of a one-handed katana continues to be one of silliest rules in the game. You can wield them one-handed and land all of the ineffective blows you wanted. They should properly be a two-handed weapon with a dexterity minimum.

    ElectricMonkRetsuyama
  • AnduinAnduin Member Posts: 5,745
    Europeans, dogged by chivalry, would usually fight to do the unchivalrous acts of robbing, pillaging and kidnapping. Most scraps involved one aristocrat getting captured and being sold back for ransom. Even Richard the Lionheart got captured and ransomed. This caused Prince John to put taxes up in England and the real POWER weapon of medieval choice, the longbow, was made famous by Robin Hood!

    Katanas were quick strike weapons. I was impressed how they could be unsheathed into an attack straight away.

    But they only have ONE sharp edge. Get above, and beyond the point and it would lose all efficacy in hurting the opponent. However it would be easier to engineer the swords strength behind that blade, basically making it stronger.

    Longswords have two bladed edges, you can swing it upwards and deliver a cut, useful against cavalry. Can be used one-handed to hold the reins of your horse or a shield.

    Anyway...

    the point is...

    THE CLAYMORE is the worlds coolest weapon! (Especially the ones in Edinburgh castle... They would make Minsc proud!)

    NonnahswriterTeflonAristilliuslolien
  • reedmilfamreedmilfam Member Posts: 2,808
    The uchigatana is essentially a master craft slashing weapon and would be rendered ineffective against heavy (plate) armor. Anyway, it's essentially urban legend that it is the best weapon ever and whatnot. What is true about them is that they were of the finest craftsmanship because of the scarcity of high quality iron in Japan - if it was being used, it was being used well. This partially explains why armor wasn't as highly developed.

  • LythunylLythunyl Member Posts: 30
    This one video shows that this one katana in the hands of this one guy is better than this one long sword in the hands of this guy, therefore, katanas are the superior blade? You people.

  • Kitteh_On_A_CloudKitteh_On_A_Cloud Member Posts: 1,629
    edited January 2013
    Lythunyl said:

    This one video shows that this one katana in the hands of this one guy is better than this one long sword in the hands of this guy, therefore, katanas are the superior blade? You people.

    ^This so much.

    But I don't really care, to be honest. Katanas are cool indeed, but I think a lot of other weapons, especially fantasy-styled ones, shouldn't be ignored either. I personally NEVER gave one of my BG party members a katana to fight with. Also, some daggers can be gorgeous too. My boyfriend collects them (just as a hobby and most of them aren't sharp anymore, plus he's careful with them) and I must say that some of them are very nice. :)

  • NWN_babaYagaNWN_babaYaga Member Posts: 732
    Medieval swords of europen origin can be so beautifull. I would take a sword like glamdring anytime over a katana. They have something speciall and were realy brutal.

    Sily
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