Archive for the 'Ninjaken' Category

23
Oct
08

Cool Replicas – Part 3: The Kusanagi Grass Cutter.

Welcome to the latest entry in my “Cool Replicas” series. Today, I’ll be talking about an interesting anime sword which I like for quite a few of reasons, the most cool (imho) being that the name of this sword actually has a history in Japanese culture. Kinda like the British Excalibur… More on that later.

For now, let me introduce you to a unique shikomizue from the Naruto anime series (one of my favorites) wielded by Sasuke Uchiha, a highly talented young ninja, who later on becomes so entirely corrupted by his need for power that, much like young Anakin Skywalker, he succumbs to the dark side.

This is his signature weapon after his definitive turn to evil; The Kusanagi Grass Cutter sword.

Sasukes Kusanagi Grass Cutter

Sasukes Kusanagi Grass Cutter

[click image to view full size]

Now if you’ve read enough of my posts, you’ll immediately spot two things that I like. Want to take a stab at guessing what they are? Sure, go right ahead. I’ll wait… 🙂

LOL yep. The astute among you might have picked up on my shikomizue reference before, and you would be right. This is very similar in design to staff sword, saya and tsuki designed to look like a single piece of wood when closed. One of my very favorite designs.

The second? OK. For those not so familiar with my taste in weapons, I’ll be nice and give you a hint:

Sasukes Kusanagi Grass Cutter - *BLADE* and saya...

Sasukes Kusanagi Grass Cutter - *BLADE* and saya...

[click image to view full size]

Ok, if you didn’t pick up on it that time, you phail. The blade is the other thing I like on this. Why? BECAUSE IT’S BLACK!!!! Ha! OK. Now that we’ve gotten those little details out of the way, a little more about the sword. One of the first things I noticed was that the saya and tsuki were rectangular in cross section, which is an unusual trait.

Below you can see the detail of the black and white rectangular saya, sporting Sasuke Uchihas clan crest, (the fan in red), and more importantly, the point of the blade, an interesting hybrid between the traditional sweeping Japanese katana point style and the straight cut, sharply angled points we see on modernized/westernized ninjaken today.

Kusanagi Grass Cutter - Saya, Point

Kusanagi Grass Cutter - Saya, Point

[click image to view full size]

Now the great thing about a weapon like this is that it’s pretty hard to mess up, replica wise. Unless the components are really dirt cheap, and it is poorly put together, it is perhaps one of the simplest designs to replicate. All in all, I like this design. Thought it could stand to be a little darker… 🙂

BUT, interestingly enough, I did find another version of this sword, a much darker version, which proved to be not so accurate, though, to their credit, they did not try to pass it off as Sasukes sword, even though it is clearly a blatant rip off:

Kusanagi Grass Cutter - Anime Rip Off

Kusanagi Grass Cutter - Anime Rip Off

[click image to view full size]

Not so great. But now for some trivia. This particular design (in black) did not come out of nowhere. If you are one of the many who only watch anime on the cartoon channel here in the US, and don’t really know where they come from (besides from Japan, obviously) you may not realize that a great many of the popular anime series started of as Manga, or Japanese comics.

In fact most of the popular ones running now, like Naruto and Bleach, both got thier starts as Japanese comic books, and went almost immediately to TV syndication, so that the TV episodes aired almost as soon as a comic story line arc was complete. (Sometimes sooner, which often causes frequent non-storyline related filler arcs, much to my, and many others, chagrin).

Anyway the reason I brought this up is that there is a discrepancy between the Anime version and the Manga version of The Kusanagi sword. The versions we see above are actually the Manga version of the sword. The version that first appears in the Anime is a straight shikomizue (no curve) with a black saya and tsuki (no white lines), and a polished steel blade, quite similar to the black one above (except straight).

OK, so enough with the Anime trivia, on to Japanese folk history. The name of this sword is actually the name of a legendary sword in Japanese culture. The name “Kusanagi Grass Cutter” is actually a Japanese/English mix of the traditional name Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, which literally translates to “Grass cutter sword”.

There is actually a very cool story associated with this legendary sword, I was going to go into, but I won’t bore you with it, this post has gotten too long already. However If you want more details you can click here: Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi

As you can probably imagine, my ideal Kusanagi sword would be a black saya, black tsuki shikomizue, with a straight, black, westernized tanto point blade… mmm… a totally black sword… wait… I think I’m drooling… OK I’m done. I need to get a bib for these kinds of posts… 🙂

*Edit*

An astute reader, Zharkman, was kind enough to point out that my assumption about the last, black sheathed sword being a rip off of Sasukes Kusanagi is actually false, and that it actually came from the anime D. Gray-Man. I went back and looked it up, and lo and behold, I goofed!

The last sword is actually a replica of Mugen, the signature shirasaya of the D. Gray-Man protagonist Yu Kanda. And in that capacity it is actually an excellent likeness. This is what I get for making unfounded assumptions. And for not keeping up on my anime… There are just too many of them… Dagnabbit!

Sasukes Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (Naruto) – [Kingdom of Swords]

Sasukes Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (Naruto) – [Swords, Swords]

Yu Kandas’ Mugen Sword (From D. Gray-Man) – [True Swords]

21
Oct
08

Cool Replicas – Part 2: Benihime

Welcome to the next installment of my miniseries about second gen replicas that are think are improvements of ones I have already posted about. Today we take a look at yet another Zanpakuto from the anime Bleach, Specifically that of Kisuke Urahara. This is another great weapon found by Mozza (thanks again!) called Benihime – The Crimson Princess:

Kisuke Uraharas Zanpakuto - Benihime Shikai

Kisuke Urahara's Zanpakuto - Benihime (Crimson Princess) Shikai

This sword is the Shikai form of Kisukes Zanpakuto Benihime (Crimson Princess), which is a sword cane with a curved handle in its unawakened form. In an earlier post, I had talked a little bit about how I thought this particular design actually had a lot of good practical design point.

I won’t go over its detailed physical attributes again, but I will point out that the other sword was not so much a sucky sword as much as it was not as detailed, accurate and meticulously finished as this one. In this design, you can see a lot more effort has been put into giving it more depth and character.

In this one the canted pommel is much more prominently featured, as is the unusual ricasso. The little triangles attached to the ricasso actually hang from a tassel in the anime, but I suppose it’s a minor detail that is not of much structural significance.

It is difficult to tell from this pic whether this shares the same full tang construction of the first Benihime I posted about, but if it does not it would be an inferior design, though it would make for an interesting contrast. Shame that the pictures are not particularly clear about how well put together this weapon is at a physical level.

If I were a betting creature, I would guess this build is structurally of lesser quality than the other. Which makes this kind of a bittersweet weapon to post about, since even though the it is a much more “accurate” reproduction compared to the other, the other one appeared to be constructed in a way that would still make a superior weapon.

So while It’s aesthetically clearly superior, and gets a good grade on accuracy, fit and finish, the practicality and the durability of it’s construction may leave something to be desired.

Why does it seem like there is always a trade off somewhere… ?

Kisuke Urahara’s Zanpakuto: Benihime Shikai – [Anime Castle]

07
Jul
08

A rather wicked bowie…

A while back while doing some research on a little project, (the results of which you may get to see here at some point in the future) I ran across a wicked looking little sword:

Viper Night Bowie

Viper Night Bowie

[view full size]

Now you may notice, if you go to the site I found this sweet looking sword on, (link at the bottom of the page) that it is called a “Black Ronin Full Tang Ninja Sword”. I chose to use the Viper Bowie because frankly there are too many Black Ronin weapons floating about, and also because this swords design, beyond anything more than being fairly straight, actually has more in common with a bowie than it does a ninjato.

However, as swords go, this one combines a rather unusual number of bowie-like design elements, such as a false edge on the spine that seems to run into a long clip-like point, opposite a blade with an almost imperceptible belly. Definitely Bowie inspired. Beyond that you have a serrated section below the straight edge that runs into thee short cut our ricasso, and into the small finger guard.

Behind the false rear edge on the spine of the blade we see a set of cut outs, much like those on the survival knives I blogged about a while ago, that runs into a small raised section that looks almost like a thumb rest with a grip slots cut into the surface. The blade itself has been rather heinously violated by a set of three slots set between the serrated section of the blade and just below the cut outs in the spine.

If you look at the profile of the blade, you can see that it is actually at it’s narrowest just above the slot area, and gets wider before and after, which, to me, makes the placement, and even the existence of those slots all the more mind boggling.

Black Viper Bowie

Why remove more material so close to one of the weakest parts of the blade? Maybe they like seeing swords bend/snap in half at inopportune moments, impaling the users big toe with a wayward slab of sharp black steel? Looking at some of these designs, I can help but ask…

Yet another interesting design cue was the black cord wrapped grip, which, in addition to having a nice gradual swell towards the open pommel, is actually biased forward a little, kinda like how a kukri is designed. I can imagine this providing a great grip for the weapon. This weapon seems to have been designed for more for heavy duty chopping, rough cutting and thrusting duty than anything else. Definitely not a Ninjato inspired sword.

But Ninjato or Bowie, between the flat black finish, and it’s wicked, no nonsense design, this sword by any other name is still freakin’ sweet…

Viper Night Bowie – [Swords 24]

23
May
08

2 Special Ninja LOLsticks for the price of one…

OK, so I’m cruisin’ my regular spots, lookin’ for cool blades when SHAZAM! This set of swords hit me. Twice. In the head. Yes. It happens. Your truly, every now and then, gets smacked down by something so absurdly funny, (to me anyway) that for short periods of time, I have difficulties forming coherent thoughts. It all happens so fast… WHAPOW! Seriously… It’s like KRAKOW!!… Like that… and it hits ya…

THE NINJA STRIKE FORCE!!!

Ninja Strike force - black blades

[view full size]

Aaaaawwwwwww Yeah…! That’s right… It’s the Ninja Strike force, Comin’ at you live and in color (in black, of course) from the heart of feudal Japan G… ‘Cause them Ninja’s, you know they got it all on lockdown, they be packing double gats shanks n stuff yo… And they stuff be all black and stealthy and stuff yo… They ain’t playin’… And stuff… Yeah..

OK… So that was a bit over the top… I’ll admit it. It’s just that the whole Ninja thing, well it hit ridiculous years ago and is now cruising at ludicrous speed… 😛 The name “Ninja Strike Force”, it just triggers all kinds of corniness in my head. Notwithstanding the fact that I’d kinda think that dual ninjaken wielding ninja would be pretty much as rare as, say, a US Navy SEAL running around with two M4A1 SOPMODs strapped to his back… well… You get the picture…

OK, so the swords aren’t entirely worthless. I like the black treatment of the blade… And that’s about it. The highly polished guard and pommel really kinda kill the whole “Shinobi weapon” concept… (Even If we ignore the fact that there are two of them). And the black wrapped grip is a little large and cylindrical, which would kill any orientation feedback you’d normally get from a traditional Japanese Tsuka.

Ironically, I really didn’t begin this post with the intention of totally mocking the set… I saw the black blades and (after the initial laughing fit had subsided) I thought “This might be cool to blog about…” But after taking a closer look at it… it just sucks sooo bad… I can’t help it… 😛

Ninja Strike Force *snicker* – [True Swords]

07
May
08

Why I Love Dark Blades…

OK, so In reality there aren’t many specific reasons why I like black weapons, suffice to say they look cooler. Here’s an example:

Wire Wrapped Sword – Black Blade

Wire Wrapped Sword - Black Blade

[view full size]

OK now clearly, in contrast to the rather nebulous description, the only thing that is wire wrapped on this sword is the grip. Not the entire sword. I wish folks would pay attention to how they named these things. But I digress.

So here’s the thing. This sword, or at least some of the elements of it’s basic design, are fairly standard. The blade follows what could be described as a straight saber design. It is a single edged sword of medium length, with a prominent fuller, and a fairly rounded transition to the point.

Except is has Japanese fittings. The entire hilt, small, multi-faceted guard, wire wrapped handle, butt cap, etc. is of Japanese design, almost creating a fusion of European and Japanese design influences. Though the Japanese cues definitely stand out.

Of course the kanji on the blade is kind of a dead giveaway to it’s japanese heritage. Ironically this is what an early Ninjato might have looked like, though for some reason, in this one instance where it might have made sense, the designers did not see fit to capitalize upon that fact. Go figure.

Anyway, had this been finished in the standard, regular, highly polished steel, I might not have given it a second glance. Seriously. There is a sea of shiny steel out there, and picking out one distinctive piece out of that is becoming harder and harder. The dark ones, on the other hand… Well… They are already quite distinctive. And easy to pick out. And sinister. And just look… meaner… And I like black. Cause black makes things look cooler. Seriously.

Did I mention I like black?

Black Sword – Wire wrapped grip – [True Swords]

02
Mar
08

Two swords: Better than one?

While going through my archive of weapon pics, I came across a couple of sets of fighting sword pairs:

Black Mamba Twin Fighting Swords

Black Mamba Fighting Swords
[view full size]

Now I like this set for a couple of reasons. First, both swords are black. (Always a plus in my book) Second, they are both designed in the style of one of my favorite kinds of swords, Ninjaken! Not to mention that they have some nice looking grips, which is a rarity in this particular kind of design. Last, but certainly not least, there are two of them. And two is always better than one! Amirite? Well… No. Not always.

While I like the idea of practicing with dual weapons, one of the things I found interesting is the misconception that dual weapons are generally better than single ones, and having two weapons makes one twice the one man army they were before… The reality? Bah humbug.

Now I will readily admit to having little experience with wielding double ninjaken like these. I have studied the use of dual wushu swords, however that style differs greatly from the one that would be used for ninjaken, and even more so for dual unequal length (strong hand/weak hand) swords styles.

Viper Twin Fighting Swords

Viper Twin sword set
[view full size]

However I think the truth of the matter is that, while two swords should theoretically give you is the ability to double your offensive ability, it is already hard enough to learn to properly use a single sword. Attempting to replicate the offensive philosophy of a single sword, with two, actually presents a level is difficult that is orders of magnitude greater than that of a single sword. Let alone trying to apply that for swords of unequal length.

In fact, I’d think that the offensive ability of swordsman used to wielding a single sword, who now attempts to use two swords, might even be negatively affected. Of course experience is a relative thing, but all else being equal, I think that in practice, for all but the most well trained double swordsman, having two swords would not present any kind of advantage whatsoever…

And seriously, thats a real bummer…

05
Feb
08

Simplicity and Sword Design.

In my last post I lamented the fate of simplicity in decorative sword design. I may have been being unreasonable, since in actuality the only thing a decorative sword has going for it is it’s aesthetics, but I ran across this sword below, and was reminded that beautiful swords need not be so ornate, nor so finely detailed:

Emperor Kang-Xi Sword

Emperor Kang-Xi Sword
[view full size]

Ok, so in the vacuous area between my ears that conceptually constitutes my mind, this swords simplicity represents a thing of great beauty. Yes, yes, I know. The scabbard is afflicted with a bad case of “look-at-me-itis”. Never you mind about that, we will simply have to just ignore the scabbard for the duration of this post. But what I do want to draw your attention to is the sword. Oh sweet simplicity. Thou has a name. And thy name is the Emperor Kang-Xi sword… 🙂

This sword is a veritable epitome of simplicity. A simple, almost straight blade of continuous width. A simple round guard. An equally simple ridged cylindrical grip, and, again, a simple round pommel. It doesn’t get much more simple than that. Even Ninjaken, one of my favorite swords, are generally more complex in design than this, due to the design of the grip and the blade.

However Ninjaken are also a lot more user friendly and functionally versatile. You’ll notice that the point (if you can call it that) of the Emperor Kang-Xi sword is more or less almost flat. Unlike Ninjaken, this would not make for a good thrusting weapon. However because of the slight curve, it would be a pretty good slashing/cutting weapon. On the other hand, the grip, while cool, is a metal cylinder. This is a baaaaad battlefield weapon design.

A metal cylinder provides no real gripping surface (those ridges ain’t gonna cut it against sweat or blood) provides no sense of blade position (a cylinder is not directional), and the metal will transmit every impact directly to the wielders hands. (Ouch!) Ninjaken borrow their complex, but very effective grip design from traditional Japanese Katana grips.

While not the simplest, the traditional Japanese grip is probably one of the best, perhaps  bested only by the most modern grip materials. A Japanese katana’s tsuka (grip) is oval in cross section, and traditionally comprises three important parts.

First comes the wood shell around the tang, followed by bumpy ray skin scales, which is all bound together by a strategically folded cord wrap. This combination provides excellent shock absorption, a firm grip, lots of comfort and good tactile feedback to boot. Definitely can’t say that about the Emperor Kang-Xi sword. So I guess sheer simplicity is not the way to go. Unless aesthetics is your primary goal. Which, in my case, is not really so.

However there is always a happy medium. If we were to take the slightly curved, full-tang blade of the emperor Kang-Xi sword, put a westernized tanto point on it, and apply a simpler version of the traditional oval Japanese grip using modern materials… Well the result would be… Hmmm. How shall I put this. Let’s just say that in my book, such a sword would be worth dieing killing for… 😀

Emperor Kang-Xi Sword – [Red Dragon Sword CO.]




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