Posts Tagged ‘hira’

Abominable Batarangs…

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I ran across an interesting set of throwing stars, of a rather counter intuitive design. Yes, I said counter intuitive.  Yes, I know, not exactly the words you’d expect to see in the same sentence as “throwing stars” but that’s just how it is. Let me show you the counter intuitive goods:

Rainbow Batman Batarangs

Rainbow Batman Batarangs

Yeah… Rainbow Batarangs. Two words you never thought you’d see in the same sentence no? “Rainbow” and “Batarang”? Yeah, me neither. But there it is. A far cry from the rather beautiful, jet black batarangs of The Dark Knight. And entirely out of character. The Bats does not do light colors. I can pretty much guarantee you that.

In fact, I think the day that the Batman uses rainbow finished batarangs is the day he trades in his black (or navy blue, depending on what era you are partial to) superhero costume, and dons a multicolored spandex body suit and cape, complete with a big, bright, rainbow colored clown fro, and big red nose. At which point even the Joker would probably throw in the towel, and give up his life of crime forever. I kid you not.

But don’t hold your breath. It ain’t ever gonna happen. The Bats just ain’t that kind of guy.

Either way, you are hopefully beginning to see why I consider these designs are  counter intuitive. But wait! There’s more! Besides the completely off color scheme, I find the batarang design fundamentally flawed. Yes. I do. I really do.

Oh don’t look at me like that, I idolize the Bats just as much as the next guy, In fact, he is actually my favorite superhero, followed closely by Wolvie. But I still think this batarang design just… Sucks. Yeah. That would be the technical term. Batarang Suckage. And you can quote me on that.

You do know I can hear you right? No reason to yell. “Blasphemy!”, “Sacrilege!”, “How dare I!?” Whatever. Put a sock in it. If you’ll stop frothing at the mouth in rage and anger for a moment, I’ll explain why I feel as I do.

First and foremost, the first and original incarnation of the “Batarang”, as it was called, was never intended to be a shuriken. It was intended to be a custom, Batman designed boomerang. Combining a high tech computer controlled propulsion system, with the traditional Australian throwing weapon design, it was designed for double duty as either a traditional boomerang whose trajectory could be modified, or a simple impact thrower.

That implementation made sense. Even though it was much smaller, the boomerang-like curved shape of  the weapon, (even if it did have uncharacteristically sharp inner contours) and even the name, all made sense: Bat+Boomerang=Batarang!

However with the advent of “Batman Begins” (at least in the movies) the batarang concept was corrupted in homage to his Ninjutsu training. The weapon, which actually became quite a distinctive character, (Yes, I said “character”. Weapons are just as much characters in movies as the actors that wield them. But this is a discussion for a nother post.  🙂 ) was recast as a bat styled shuriken.

And that is where they went wrong.

A quick look at any of the many, many traditional Japanese hira shuriken (throwing star) designs, will quickly reveal that they all have one characteristic that the batarang does not. They are generally radially symmetrical in at least 3 axes. And those that aren’t are throwing spikes, or bo-shuriken, which are completely different.

Now this multi axis symmetry has several benefits. It helps make a shuriken’s rotation consistent and predictable in midflight. It also positions the bulk of the mass of the weapon behind each point and as it rotates towards the target, so as to increase the depth of penetration upon impact. And it also increases the chances that a point sticks into the target by giving each point the greatest possible amount ot time pointing to the target for any give number of points, and for any given number of rotations, as it flies to the target.

And therein lies the kicker. The batarang design, violated and heinously pressed into services as a bat shuriken, completely flies in the face of this tried and true conventional wisdom, and is only symmetrical in one axis. Down the center. It’s center of gravity is offset from the line of it’s points, and it is assymety is such that it is only likely to stick at one of two positions.

Now that’s just poor shuriken design if you ask me. I can see the need for the Bats to have some way of marking his work, and a bat shuriken is certainly a cool one, however I don’t really see the point of compromising the design of a weapon in order to do so. He could just as easily have used a symmetrical 4 point shuriken, utilizing a half bat wing for each point. Or even a whole bat.

So long as it was radially symmetrical, it would have worked brilliantly. And it would still have conveyed the whole Bat-thing just as well. But I will admit that the concept of the Bat shuriken is still kinda cool. I Just wish they didn’t have to completely obliterate the effectiveness of the weapon in order to achieve those cool aesthetics…

Rainbow Batman Batarangs – [The Happy Ninja]

If Professor Xavier were a ninja, What would he throw?

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Now, clearly Ninjas are awesome. But how would a ninja fare against Professor Xavier from the X-Men? My rational mind clearly and logically argued that a ninja wouldn’t stand a chance. But lo and behold, the ninja fanboi in me tried to argue, that Professor X would get pwned. In the resulting mental struggle, I was forceed to rip that stupid fanbois arms off, and beat the sense back into him with his own limbs.

Now as a side note, this should be a clear warning regarding how much I dislike fanbois. I do not even tolerate my own. So for future reference, don’t tempt me. You’ll just make me home sick.

Anyway, my inner nerd ran across something he thought might redeem him. Take a look.

X-WAR Throwing Stars

X-WAR Throwing Stars

Well, I’m no genius, but those look a little to me like X-Men themed hira shuriken. And (of course) my inner nerd argued that Professor Xavier could just as easily be a ninja.

Well… No. He can’t. you see, one of the trademarks of a ninja is their physical agility. And Professor X, you see, well, he can’t walk. Thus, he could not be a ninja. He objected to this line of reasoning, and I actually had to pick up his dismembered arm again to get him to shut up. I also had to point out that if Professor Xavier were a ninja, the question of who would pwn whom would be pointless, because he would be a ninja, and he couldn’t very well fight himself.

However, I did cede that *IF* Professor Xavier were, in fact, a ninja, he might use something like this. And he would be awesome, because he could throw them using his mind… 😀

Wait wat? Dagnabbit nerdboi! Don’t make me go in there and rip out one of your legs…!  >: {

X-War Throwing Stars – [True Swords]

Pauls Problematic Projectile.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Today, while doing a little pic gathering for a future post on shuriken, I ran across a sweet triple razor thrower I thought you all might like to see. And no, regardless of any similarity the description may have to any number of commercial disposable razors, it is, in fact, a hira-shuriken style thrower, designed by Paul Ehlers:

Paul Ehlers - Triple Razor Throwing Star

Paul Ehlers - Triple Razor Throwing Star

Now I have to admit, this is a nice looking thrower. A good 5.25″ of heavy gauge swirling steel blades. The three blades are adorned with a set of three equally wicked looking scallopped edges/points on the inside of each razor arm, accompanied by a neat cross drilled pattern. And at the end of each arm a large sweeping razor edge, looking for all the world like thier sole purpose in life is to sever the jugulars of whichever unfortunate happend to be in thier path.

If ever there was such a thing as an evil hira-shuriken, this would be it. For many reasons. Which I will, of course, expound upon shortly. No, you may not go to the bathroom. Hold it. This will only take a minute. Sissy.

Anyway, in case it isn’t obvious, this weapon is designed to kill you. Yes. Say what? No, not the person it is being thrown at, but the person who threw it. Yeah. Really. I mean look at it. Reeeaaally look at it. Do you think those absolutely sinister edges on the inside of the shuriken are intended for the target? No, I didn’t think so. And have you noticed how conveniently shaped everything is so that it would guide your fingers right to said inside edges/points should you not be paying attention even slightly? Yeah… You see that now don’t you?

And did you know there is a reason why shuriken use points instead of blades? No, it’s not really for safety, though that is a good byproduct of the design. It’s because the smaller the impact surface area, the better the penetration. A point just sticks better than a blade. So why, exactly would someone use a blade on a shuriken? Yes, I see a few neurons firing and the light bulb clicking in some of your skulls out there… Yes… That’s it. It’s so they can cut the thrower! (Yes, that means you dufus.)

So yes, this blade is wicked. Evil. Sinister. Diabolical even, in a beautiful, sexy and lethally attractive kind of way… Errrmmm… *cough* Where was I? Ah. Homicidal tendencies. Yes. As I was saying, sure, get it, if it suits your fancy, but just don’t think for a second it has your best interests in mind. And whatever you do, do not bequeath anything to it in your will. Just put it up on a wall. A plaque. A pedestal, whatever, and worship it from afar. Trust me, you will live a lot longer that way.

Paul Ehlers Triple Razor Thrower – [True Swords]

The hollywood glamour of the Ninja throwing star…

Friday, January 18th, 2008

As a great fan of Ninja lore, I’ve always loved the Hira-Shuriken, or throwing star. It was a very useful tool for the Japanese Ninja, but simply not as lethal or as universally effective as Hollywood has made them out to be. Nonetheless this Hollywood glorification of ninja throwing stars has spawned some rather unique variations, like the following pieces of junk “art”:

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister
[view full size]

OK, so this is hira-shuriken pocketknife hybrid design. Very cool lookin’. But of course, the first question that popped into my head was… “A ninja would not touch this with an extended length manrikgusari…”.

Folding blades are neat in concept, but even if they are cool and open in mid flight, so you don’t have to stand there for 5 minutes opening them up before you throw them, they always introduce structural weaknesses, and you can never be sure the blade locks will survive the chronic repeated impacts of throwing… I think I’m gonna pass on this one…

Shiflett Tech Twister

Shiflett Tech Twister
[view full size]

Now here I thought I was making progress. Then that little nerd in my head deigned to raise his screechy voice at me: “Buuuut why are the points all split in half? Won’t that weaken the points?” Blasted geekoid… But good question. No good answers. Save perhaps because it makes it looks a little cooler. But we all know a true Ninja craves not things like “cool”. Only strength, efficiency and functionality. So we move on…

Ninja Shuriken

Ninja Shuriken
[view full size]

AHA! What’s this!? Ninja Shuriken! Now this is a design I could see a ninja using. Simple, effective, solid, reliable, What more could a Shinobi Warrior want? Look at the thickness of this weapon. The sharp points. It would be heavy, and strong… Except for one thing. It’s cast from some cheap metal. If you look closely you can see the casting imperfections superficially covered by black paint. Dagnabbit! The points on this thing are gonna wear down to nothing, in mid air, during your first throw…

At the end of all of this, as I sit here writing my conclusion, I realize two things. First, I am torturing myself for no good reason. After all, there are actually a good number of perfectly good stainless steel hira shuriken designs available that I have chosen to totally ignore, just to rip on the stupid Hollywood and TV inspired cheap rip offs reproductions.

Second, I am anal retentive, and need to seek help about that shrill voice I keep hearing in my head that I sometimes wish I could burn out of my skull… It’s OK now though. I’m fine. No, really, I’m fine… 🙂

Ninja Shuriken – [True Swords]

Shiflett Tech Twister – [True Swords]

Shiflett Iron Cross Twister – [True Swords]

The Mighty Shuriken!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Since I have been running into so many interesting throwing weapons lately, and I’ve already posted an expose on the enigmatic kunai, I thought it would only be fair to give you all a deeper look into another one of the oft-toted ninja weapons of stage and screen. The ubiquitous shuriken! ‘Cause the etymology of shuriken is just about as interesting as that of kunai. Not to mention that there are a lot of Hollywood induced misconceptions about shuriken. So here goes nothin’!!

Contrary to what you might think, the term “Shuriken” is not restricted to throwing “stars”, but rather refer to two general forms of small, hand held throwing implements. The first form is basically a throwing spike called the bo shuriken. The second, more commonly seen shuriken type, the throwing star, are called hira shuriken, aka “Shaken”. Each requires a different throwing technique, but are equally effective. The history of these shuriken is quite interesting.

Bo Shuriken

Bo Shuriken

Back in the times of feudal Japan, Ninjas were perhaps best known for being skillful and wily assassins. Their greatest abilities were their stealth and resourcefulness. A common ninja practice was to hide in plain sight, as farmers, peasants, monks, etc. However the incognito assassin faced a tough challenge. How to carry the tools of the trade, as it were, in an inconspicuous manner. Generally, “farmers” and “peasants” did not routinely tote big, black ninjatō around. Kinda a dead giveaway, if ya know what I mean. The ever resourceful ninja often circumvented this troublesome little issue by disguising their weapons as commonplace items, like walking canes, flutes and such.

Hira Shuriken

Hira Shuriken

But the clever shinobi warrior could do even better: turn common items into weapons! Sickles become kama, flails turned into nunchaku, etc. Shurikens evolved in much the same way. In fact, shuriken was often sourced from some random building material, most commonly construction nails, pressed into duty as bo shuriken, and roofing washers, into hira shuriken. And of course these items being of plentiful supply in farms, constructions and so forth, were easy to find.

In some traditional shuriken designs you can see the influence of thier original forms. Many traditional bo shuriken often had square or triangle cross sections, mimicking the shape of the large nails of the period. Similarly, both square, triangle and sharpened ovoid style hira shuriken replicate the shapes of coins, roofing washers and other construction pieces, sword guards and so on. True to the ninja style, they probably palmed whatever was available, sharpened them on a rock, and held on to them for when the need arose. Did I mention they were really resourceful? The little kleptos… As the use of shuriken grew, clans began designing their own special flavor of shuriken.

Traditional clan-specific Hira Shuriken Design

Traditional clan-specific Hira Shuriken Design

A common misconception was that shuriken were used for killing. Yes, they could be used to kill someone, but they were hardly the ideal killing tool. Unless they were poisoned. But then again, back in the day, there were few acting poisons that could cause instantaneous death in very small quantities, and I rather doubt that any self respecting shinobi warrior would hang around just to see if their particular brand of poison performed in accordance to the advertised claims. I’m sure the victims family would get most suspicious of the “friend” in black that showed up unexpectedly to supposedly pay their respects.

Rather, they were used for distraction, deterrence and disruption, to hinder the movement of the enemy, or discourage pursuit. A shuriken to the face, or in an extremity, might not have killed an attacker, but would certainly be enough to delay an enemy long enough for a shinobi warrior to escape. Similarly shuriken could be thrown in the ground as makeshift makibishi or punji sticks, slowing down pursuing forces. They could also be used as push daggers in a pinch.

A Contemporary Hira Shuriken

A Contemporary Hira Shuriken

The shuriken changed a lot over the years. Many Japanese clans redesigned them to meet their specific needs. But even today, their basic simplicity belies how truly effective they were. They may not be the lethal universal weapons pictured in the movies, but they still hold a place of honor in the historic halls of weapons of stealth and efficiency, which, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, makes them just my kind of weapon…

6 Point Hira Shuriken – [Gung-Fu]
4 Point Classic Hira Shuriken – [Gung-Fu]

Read more about shuriken here: Practical Shuriken Design

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