Posts Tagged ‘Firefly’

The Ever So Versatile Ninjatō

Monday, September 10th, 2007

You are probably all familiar with Japanese swords. And I’m willing to bet that when someone talks about a Japanese sword, you conjure up visions of a long, shiny, curving blade. The swords of the samurai. They were ornate, and highly symbolic blades. It was said that the soul of a Samurai rested in his blade. As a result, Samurai swords were elevated to aristocratic status, and became symbols of rank and prestige.

Today, however, we aren’t going to talk about samurai swords. Nope. There was another, more pragmatic sword that probably had just as much an effect on Japanese history as did the Samurai Sword. And it was a soulless, heartless instrument indeed. None other than the spartan Ninjatō. The sword of the Ninja. The Ninjatō (or Ninjaken) were designed to play a much different role. They were neither swords of ceremony or of prestige. They were made to do one thing, and they did it very well. They were the Ninjas weapon-of-all-trades.

Ninjaken – Polished and Gold trim

Ninja Katana Polished ChromeNinj Katana 24k Gold trim
[view full size] [view full size]

Samurai swords were excellent weapons. However Ninja needed more from their weapons than just cutting excellence. They needed functional flexibility and versatility. And thus was born Ninjaken. Ninjaken differed from their high-brow cousins in many ways. First off, they were shorter. This allowed them to be used in smaller spaces, concealed much more easily, and were faster on the draw than the longer Samurai sword.

Battleready Ninja, Blk, Musashi Koga Ninja, Blk

Battle Ready Stealth NinjatoMusashi Koga Ninja Sword Black
[view full size] [view full size]

Another advantage of the shorter sword is that they were a little lighter, stiffer and less susceptible to lateral bending stresses than their longer Samurai counterparts. Ninjaken usually have a larger, square tsuba (guard). This, in conjunction with the shorter stiffer blade allowed them to be used in ways a samurai sword might not have tolerated well, such as leaning it against a wall, and using the larger, stronger square guard as a step.

They could also still be used with a full sized saya (scabbard), which would deceive an opponent into underestimating how long the sword was, and how fast it could be drawn. Then there was the added bonus that the remaining saya space could be used to hide all manner of small items, such as blinding powders and such. Between the numerous hiding places that could be engineered into a ninjaken and it’s saya, one could conceal a set of spike or star shuriken (throwing knives), tenouchi (small, hand-held impact weapons), powders, rope, tools, etc. The possibilities were endless.

Deluxe Ninja Warrior Set

Ninja Warrior Sword Kit
[view full size]

Due to the popularity of Ninjas in the media over the past two decades, Ninjaken design has been copied rather shamelessly, spawning numerous replicas, such as the weapon used by the Operative in the movie Firefly Serenity. But the basic formula has always remained the same. A medium sized, full tang, single-edged straight blade, usually with a square tsuba (quard), and a uniquely angled, tanto-like point.

Galaxy Viper, Striking Cobra

Galaxy Viper Sword SetStriking Cobra Sword Set
[view full size] [view full size]

All in all, Ninjaken fulfilled their design objectives admirably. It is truly an interesting weapon, well suited for it’s task as the versatile, multi-function, close quarters combat version of the prestigious Samurai sword, kinda like the medieval equivalent of a carbine, as opposed to a rifle… Not quite the same range, but just as deadly…

Galaxy Viper Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – 24-K Gold Trim – [True Swords]
Striking Cobra Sword Set – [True Swords]
Ninja Katana – Polished Chrome Trim – [True Swords]
Deluxe Ninja Warrior Sword Kit – [True Swords]
Musashi Koga Ninja Sword, Black – [True Swords]
Battle Ready Ninja Tech – [True Swords]

Another Fantastic Axe!

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Today I thought I’d talk about another interesting designer melee/throwing axe I ran into a while back.

Fantasy Axe

Fantasy Axe

Now the first question that popped into my head when I read the description, and then looked at the axe, was: Couldn’t anyone come up with a more fitting name than “Fantasy Axe”? Did marketing run out of fantasy weapon descriptors? Bah! Anyway, this axe has a lot of similarities to the War Shark axe I blogged about not too long ago. They may have had the same designer.

But unlike the War Shark axe, the Fantasy axe seems to have a lot more aesthetic design cues that do not appear to have any functionality beyond trying to make it look… Fantastic… At which they do a mediocre job. Not that it’s an ugly axe mind you. It looks good. Just doesn’t seem to deliver what the name promised. Freakin’ marketing…

I will say however that it does have the kind of wicked points and curviness about it that I really like. It certainly beats the snot out of the Reaver Axe I blogged about a while back. In fact with slightly more depth to the design, I think this axe would have made a better companion for the Reaver sword than that poor, butchered excuse of a battle cleaver did.

The fantasy axe does have some good things going for it, in that the spike opposite the axe blade seems like it could do some damage to armor, and is better positioned to do so than the on the War Shark. It also looks like it would be better suited for throwing, though how much so is hard to tell. But it does look cool nonetheless, and complemented by the nifty leather-wrapped handle, it seems like a nice, all around melee/throwing weapon I could see taking into battle with me, were I a medieval warlord…

Fantasy Axe – [Realm Collections]

The Weapon of a Lethal Operator.

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Now in my last post, I talked about a pair of weapons from the movie Firefly: Serenity. In the comments that followed, I was reminded that the movie also had another very blog worthy sword. Namely, the sword of the Operative. (Nice catch Jonathan!)

Now, I actually agree wholeheartedly with his opinion of the sword, and for some reason, I thought I had already posted about it, but much to my dismay, I realized I hadn’t. So this post should serve to correct that travesty, especially since this was one of the two most noteworthy weapons in the movie. I present to you, the sword of the Operative:

Sword of the Operative

Sword of the Operative

Much like the Reaver weapons did for River Tam in the climactic fight scene I described in my last post, this sword played an important role in defining one of the key characters in the movie, namely the Alliance Operative. The Operative was an intriguing and deadly character. Perhaps more dangerous than most because he believed his cause to be just. He was a man who sought “A world without sin” and was willing to do anything to make that happen.

He was intelligent, determined and tenacious, but most notable about him was his ruthlessness in the pursuit of his goals. He engaged in many acts of murderous brutality in order to achieve them, and I think he was also the most tragic character of the movie, because at the end of the day, he realized that all of the heinous acts he had committed were for naught, and he had simply made himself a part of the problem.

But let’s get back to the sword. Much like light sabers were for Jedi Knights, the Operative considered the sword a more elegant and civilized killing weapon than a firearm, and used it almost exclusively. Interestingly, the swords design possesses the features of a modernized urban battle sword, having many of the elements of a weapon intended for speed, stealth and efficiency in close quarters combat, much like a ninjas sword.

In fact, I’m betting the designer of this blade must have had some experience with Japanese swords, as the Operatives sword is very reminiscent of traditional Japanese ninjaken. The basic design elements are very similar. A straight, single edged, mid-sized sword, designed to maximize flexibility, ease of carry and speed of deployment.

Also of note on the Operatives weapon is the modernized tanto point. This is a very durable general purpose point, a design that allows for great piercing strength but still allows good slashing and shallow stabbing moves at range. The overall design of the sword is simple and rugged, while the addition of blood grooves, or slots towards the hilt of the sword was also a nice touch. Very cool.

All in all, a cool, no nonsense, highly utilitarian but aesthetically pleasing sword, very befitting the character who used it. The kinda guy you should still be worried about, even if he shows up to a gunfight with a sword…

The Operative’s Sword – [Reliks]

The blades of the evil reavers…

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

I recently came across a pair of weapons from the very short-lived, but extremely good (I thought) Sci-Fi TV-series-turned-movie: Firefly: Serenity

Reaver Axe and Sword

Reaver Axe and Sword

In the movie, the super genius scientific human weapon experiment known as River Tam (played by dancer/actor Summer Glau) relieves members of a race of evil mutants called the Reavers of their weapons, and proceeds to methodically, mercilessly, you could even say gracefully, eliminate them, one after the other, until there are literally none left in the building to challenge her.

River Tam - Serenity

River Tam - Serenity

As a side note, as contemporary modern weapon fight scenes go, I found that particular fight scene to possess some of the most aesthetically pleasing choreographed sword fight sequences, second only to that of actor Wesley Snipes antics in the Blade movies. Ms. Glau really puts her dancing experience to good use. But, as usual, I digress.

Reaver Sword

Reaver Sword

The thing about this pair that caught my eye was the Reaver sword. It posseses a kind of barbaric grace, almost as if it were a physical representation of a dancer practicing a most lethal ballet. Combining both sinister curves and a kind of brutish simplicity, it was perfectly suited for it’s role in the movie.

Reaver Sword - Hilt Detail

Reaver Sword - Hilt Detail

Now the axe, on the other hand, mades no aesthetic sense to me. Looked kind of like a mutant cleaver. Perhaps it does make sense, given the kind of creatures the reavers were, but I just didn’t get the right feel from it’s aesthetics. But given that, in the fight scene I mention earlier, River Tam used both the sword and the axe to great effect, I suppose it would have been an even greater evil to omit the axe from the collection.

Reaver Axe

Reaver Axe

Me personally, I would have been happy with just the sword…

Reaver Sword and Axe – [Kult of Athena]

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