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Zanbatō (斬馬刀), an especially large, curved type of fictional sword used by characters in Japanese anime and manga. Books written about nihonto (traditional Japanese swords) make no references to zanbatō as being actual swords used in feudal Japan. The name zanbatō literally translates to "horse-slaying sword" or "horse-chopping saber". Replicas of zanbatō swords can be found for sale in tourist shops and stands in Japan. Extremely long Zanbatō type swords existed in Japan as in the nodachi or ōdachi; these swords, along with the phonetically similar zhan ma dao Chinese sword, may have been the inspiration for the creation of Zanbatō as an anime and manga weapon.
Chinese zhǎn mǎ dāo
A Chinese anti-cavalry weapon of the Song Dynasty written also as 斬馬刀 (zhǎn mǎ dāo) is of similar proportion to a Zanbatō, although it differs in form. Surviving examples include a sword that might resemble a nagamaki in construction; it had a wrapped handle 37 cm (15 in) long, like the Zanbatō. However, the blade differed, having only a slight curve in the last half, whereas the Zanbatō's curve stretches the length of the blade and handle, similar to a katana.
Zanbatō in modern fiction
The fictional interpretation of the weapon consists of a large, wide blade attached to an extended, pole-like hilt. The sword, and variations of it, are used by many characters in anime and video games. These interpretations often simply depict the weapon as an oversized sword or being imbued with magical properties. However, the weapon which most closely resembles such instances is the eku, or "wooden oar".
A few notable series featuring Zanbatō include
- The manga series Rurouni Kenshin, where major character Sagara Sanosuke uses a polearm he refers to as a Zanbatō as his signature weapon,
- In the classic manga Kozure Ōkami, known in the west as Lone Wolf and Cub, the main character Ogami Ittō employs a swordmanship technique called Sui'ō-ryū Zanbatō as one of his most lethal attacks, although using a dōtanuki to perform it.
- In the manga/anime Naruto four of the seven swords of the mist(Kubikiribōchō, Samehada, Hiramekarei, and Shibuki) are zanbatos.
- Also in episode 137 - A Town of Outlaws, The Shadow of the Fuma Clan it is said that a Fuma's sword is one.
- In the video game Final Fantasy VII both the main character Cloud and main villain Sephiroth wield massive Zanbato style blades, known as The "Buster Sword" (relatively short and very large) and "Masamune" (extremely long and thin).
- In manga/anime series Bleach the main character's (Kurosaki Ichigo) sword takes the form of an Butcher knife styled Zanbato.
- The manga/anime series Berserk also has its main character (Guts) wields a Zanbato.
- They are also used in popular RPG series Fire Emblem, where it is a weapon specialized against mounted units
- In the manga/anime series Freezing a supporting character's (Ticy Phenyl) volt weapon is a large, straight zanbatō.
- The game Super Scribblenauts also has a usable Zanbatō.
- In the online game Dungeon Fighter Online the sword-wielding Slayer class can use and specialize in the Zanbatos.
- In Samurai Sentai Shinkenger/Power Rangers Samurai, a Zanbato-esque is wielded by ShinkenRed/Red Samurai Ranger. Also in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger one of Shinken Gokaioh's weapons is a Zanbatō similar to Shinkenred's.
- In Sword Art Online, The Gleameyes (the boss of the 74th floor) is described as wielding a Zanbato-like sword.
- In the manga/anime Inuyasha, the character Bankotsu uses a large Zanbato that's even larger than himself.
- Rurouni Kenshin volume 1, chapter 6, page 16.
- Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones calls the weapon a Zanbatō specifically, while other English games in the series use translations of the term, such as "cavalry sword".
- Sword Art Online volume 1, chapter 11.