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Like so many tropes, this one exists for one reason. It's cool. You don't have to be an arrow scientist to figure out that arrows go at speeds crazy. Very few people in the world can catch arrows. Although we have to admit, when they do do it, it's pretty darn cool. It also shows that it would only be possible if the archer is on their side.
Can be justified in some cases by giving a character actual supernatural powers. Most of the time, though, this kind of thing is the province of the Badass Normal, or just the general Badass in works where everybody's going medieval on each other.
Anime and Manga
- Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star did this in the 2nd episode. It's called Hokuto Shinken Nishii Shinkuu Ha.
- He used this technique in the following episode to save a boy whose father was being forced by one of Diamond's mooks to shoot a can off his head William Tell style. In both examples, he returned the arrow at high speed into the mook responsible.
- Vampire Hunter D does this in the second anime movie - Bloodlust.
- Ashitaka does this in Princess Mononoke at one point. It's the shot that takes some guy's arm off. Extra Badass points in that he immediately reloads it in his bow.
- He's also shown to be capable to cutting flying arrows out of the air.
- One of the samurai of Samurai 7 could do this. He practiced it as a street performer.
- As pictured above, the various warriors in Mahou Sensei Negima are capable of moving at speeds enough to catch quickly moving objects out of the air (the catcher in queston is Kaede, a super-powered Ninja).
- In Rurouni Kenshin Kenshin does this in the manga during the Jinchu arc when Otowa Hyoko shot an arrow at him, albeit a small one from a hidden shooter, it's still impressive nonetheless.
- Happens in the Ranma ½ manga.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Kyouya does an impressive feat of catching Belphegor's knives between his fingers.
- Haru Glory catches one with his mouth at point-blank range in Rave Master.
- Souma did this in Kannazuki no Miko. Unfortunately, the arrow immediately exploded in his face.
- Bazette does this in Fate Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya when Kuro attempts to use the Archer card on her. She then throws it back to Kuro like a javelin.
Bazette: I've already seen this tactic.
- Sting from Fairy Tail not only catches an arrow, but then eats it and shoots it back with a massive gust of wind using his Dragon Roar attack.
- This popped up in Young Justice, where the villain Harm caught an arrow shot by Arrowette and used it to stab her in the shoulder. Superboy (who was enamored of Arrowette) spent the next issue or two trying and failing to catch her arrows. When an alarm comes, Robin is able to catch the arrow and get them on topic.
- Later, when Arrowette is about to kill a criminal, Superboy manages to catch it just in time.
- Batman once caught a Trick Arrow shot by Speedy (Roy) over his shoulder, without looking. It was meant as a joke by Roy, and it made a durable impression on him until long after he became Arsenal.
Arsenal: Dick, he caught the frickin' arrow.
Nightwing: Would you stop with that already? How many years ago was that?
Arsenal: He didn't even turn around and he caught the frickin' arrow!
- This was a trademark move of villain Constantine Drakon in Green Arrow; much to the Emerald Archer's annoyance.
- Mr. Miyagi in
The Karate Kid Part 3TheNextKarateKid does the Zen Archery thing, catching an arrow before it hits him.
- The Swan Princess: The Prince Charming was sometimes seen to practice this with his dopey Sidekick. The sidekick would shoot an arrow at him, then he'd spin around, grab the arrow out of the air, and shoot it back with his bow. At the right moment, his sidekick fired the arrow at him, and he caught it and shot it at the monster.
- Master Pain (aka Betty) does this in Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.
- Also happens in The Scorpion King. The villain likes to show off this ability in front of his troops. The first time we see it, he catches an arrow during practice. Later, when the hero goes to fire an arrow at him, he tries to block it with his swords...and misses.
- Used by the Big Bad in the film The Hunted. And it was at point blank range too.
- Taimak in The Last Dragon karate-chops an arrow out of the air. As it turns out, he really did, and the stunt only took two hours to get right.
- Parodied in Mulan when an arrow flies right into Yao's hands without him attempting to grab it.
- In Hero Nameless and Flying Snow are able to effortlessly sweep aside hundreds of arrows, while Broken Sword catches one without even looking.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights has one of Robin's merry men save him by catching an arrow fired by a crossbow. Said catcher was blind!
- Of course, this was distinctly meant as a parody -
Ahchoo: Blinkin! How did you do that?
Blinkin: I heard that coming a mile away.
Robin Hood: Right-o, Blinkin, very good.
Blinkin: Pardon? Who's talking?
- Lucien does this once in the beginning of Underworld Rise of the Lycans He then spends the rest of movie getting shot in the back. Who says the bad guys never learn?
- A variant occurs in O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The 'heroes' bust up a KKK rally while trying to save Tommy Johnson from being lynched. One of them grabs their flag and waves it around, distracting all the Klansmen who don't want it to touch the ground. He then throws the flag into the air, then Big Dan Teague catches it - with the arrowhead on top of the flagpole an inch from his eye. Unfortunately for him, he then doesn't move out of the way from a falling giant burning cross...
- In a movie version of The Mahabarta, Shiva catches an enemy's arrow in his mouth.
- Tigress does it in Kung Fu Panda 2. Bonus points for the arrows being on fire, and her not even turning to face the arrow when she caught it.
- Michael Dudikoff's character does this in the second American Ninja film.
- Amitabh Bachchan's character does this with multiple arrows in the 1991 Bollywood film Ajooba. Also an example of Right Back At Ya
- In The Avengers, Loki very smugly catches one of Hawkeye's arrows a second before it can go through his eye, as Hawkeye has expressed a desire to do. And then its explosive tip detonates.
- This happened in the Discworld novel Jingo with Vetinari.
- Happened earlier in Feet of Clay, where Dorfl the golem catches a crossbow bolt fired by Sergeant Detritus. Well, he doesn't so much catch the arrow as stop it, but the bolt in question was a huge metal arrow fired from a converted ballista. Golems are incredibly strong, and much faster than they look.
- Then happens again later in Making Money with Gladys, another golem. The arrow's sudden deceleration causes it to catch fire in her (ceramic) hand. Good thing that didn't happen to Vetinari.
- Vetinari didn't actually catch it, he stole it off the crossbow that Vimes was holding just before he pulled the trigger (ironically, he pulled the trigger by reflex on feeling someone grabbing at his crossbow).
- Richard from the Sword of Truth series does this once in the second book, to intimidate a group of natives. He rarely gets the chance thereafter, since when arrows are fired at him, they tend to come in larger numbers.
- The internal justification is that it's part of the manifestation of his War Wizard powers in the context of bladed weapons. He doesn't actively use his power, so it forces itself out of him. He'll vigorously deny it, but especially in later books with the whole "I can do awesome things with any blade with no additional training" shenanigans...
- In a David Gemmell novel a character knocks an arrow out of the air with his sword which impresses the would be assassin so much it leads to a Defeat Means Friendship moment. Subverted because the guy with a sword is a kid who was just practising his fencing and didn't even know he was being shot at, Beginner's Luck.
- Kellhus in Second Apocalypse can pick up arrows from the air without much trouble because he's just that good. Not only can he pluck them from the air, the first time he was shot at he went on to curiously study the arrow (having never seen them before) whilst simultaneously dodging round the hundreds of other arrows landing around him.
- Both Nawat and Liam demonstrated this power in Tamora Pierce's novels. While Nawat only did it as entertainment, Liam gains extra badass points for being able to do it in combat.
- Shanir weapons-master Randiroc easily catches an arrow in To Ride a Rathorn, book 4 of P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath--but then, he's pretty much the only living Kencyr with combat skills that match heroine Jame's undead teacher Tirandys.
- Jiang Wei in Romance of the Three Kingdoms is capable of this.
- Lanik, the protagonist of the book Treason by Orson Scott Card does this in a sense, but ups the badass level to impossible by slowing time (really just speeding himself up so that everyone else appears to be moving in 100x slow motion) right as a squad of archers shoot at his friend. In quicktime, he grabs the arrows and sticks them into the wall behind his friend. The archers, which are an execution squad, are perplexed, but fire again. This time, he goes into quicktime just after they fire, takes the arrows out of midair, and stabs them back through the respective archers' hands!
- Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures: Rumo can do this, thanks to wolpertings' prodigious speed. It does, however, hurt his hand.
- Eragon does one near the end of Eldest.
- Parrying an arrow is a skill witchers are known for. Geralt at one point managed to parry two arrows at once, but his success came to him as a genuine surprise.
Live Action TV
- Busted by Myth Busters, an arrow would be easier to catch than a bullet but you would have to be incredibly lucky to grab the shaft (and grab it so you won't injure your hand). A bullet simply won't be stopped by your hand.
- A quick reminder is that busted doesn't mean impossible, but instead incredibly unlikely or impractical. They brought in a martial artist to test the myth, and he did manage to catch a few arrows, but would have been killed by the other two dozen that hit him (if not for the safety precautions). The main thing they did note was that if you had the skill it would be more practical (just less badass) to either dodge the arrow entirely or deflect it.
- In a way, they did. The ninja they brought in called foul, and said that a real ninja wouldn't just stand there taking it -- the whole point of being a ninja is not to be noticed to begin with, so any ninja worth anything wouldn't be seen by the archers anyway. Still, He proved that an arrow could be deflected with a sword. So, in a way, Samurai > Archers > Ninja. (Also, the ninja was in his forties, which is past the prime for such a profession.)
- Earlier than Mythbusters was Ripley's Believe It Or Not. The man in question was in his 50s and barely missed the arrow, having the head cut into his palm. Although, he did manage to stop the arrow at least.
- In the Merlin TV movie Mordred shoots an arrow at Maab and she just catches it. She's an elemental being (sorceress/witch, just like the Lady of the Lake), so she has an excuse.
- Xena: Warrior Princess did this all the time, and so did Hercules in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He at least has the excuse of Super Strength, though.
- One episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Buffy catching a crossbow bolt that was fired by an automated trap, and in the first season finale, the Master catches a bolt from her crossbow.
- Angel also managed this trick when Faith fired at him with a crossbow. From about 2 feet away. From behind. And yet, he never demonstrates this power before or after, though Angelus sure does. Right after he escapes in season 4 and sneaks back to the hotel, Cordy shoots a crossbow at him, and he catches it. Oh and then he throws the bolt back at her and nails her in the thigh. With him being a floor above her, one might say that it was badass. Subverted in the episode WarZone, Angel catches the arrow alright, but with a very painful open palm.
- Criss Angel did this once for Mindfreak... after many, many, many attempts. From the footage they shot, it looked like he injured his hand pretty badly as well.
Myth And Legend
- One of the powers of Odin in Norse Mythology was, that he could catch arrows.
- The Vikings would catch thrown javelins and then throw them back at their enemies.
- Robin Hood's companion Friar Tuck is sometimes said to have trained his dogs to catch arrows (though Little John's shafts were too fast for them).
- In a Peanuts strip from long ago, Charlie Brown was trying to play fetch with Snoopy using a bow and (suction-cup-tipped) arrow: as explained by Charlie Brown, he would shoot the arrow and Snoopy would run to where it landed and fetch it back. Snoopy didn't feel like expending the running energy though, so he just caught the arrow with his mouth right after Charlie Brown shot it. (Snoopy was standing right next to CB at the time, so the arrow had only been shot about a foot before Snoopy caught it.)
- The monk class in Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition has the Missile Snare ability starting at level 3. This can be used to dodge or catch any non-magical missile, including arrows, quarrels, ballista shot, and boulders(!).
- In 3.5, this is changed to a combination of two feats: Deflect Arrows and Snatch Arrows, and specifically said that it wouldn't work for things like boulders and ballistae. You could also only use it once per round...until you were epic levelled.
- Also, in Final Fantasy Tactics, the 'Archer' class can gain the ability 'Arrow Catch', which effectively allows them to block and counter any arrow-based attack by doing this. Ninja have the ability catch any thrown projectile, but not arrows. On a similar note, due to a bug, the 'Sword Grasp' ability of the Samurai Class, works against EVERYTHING - swords, maces, fists, arrows, and yes - bullets too.
- Hrist is shown doing this in Valkyrie Profile Silmeria. Justified by the fact that she's a goddess of battle.
- Played with in The Witcher. The Professor claims to have heard that a Witcher can catch arrows in mid-flight, shortly before shooting Witcher-in-training Leo with a crossbow and killing him. Geralt later parries a crossbow bolt, causing the professor to realize he was right all along.
- In The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings you can get a skill to parry arrows, and even deflect them back to the shooter, although how the arrow keeps the momentum or still hits with its point is not explained. Most players don't find the skill worth investing points to, since archers and arbalists are very rare enemy type in the game, and can usually be eliminated before they get two arrows/bolts shot.
- If you Screw Destiny in Dynasty Warriors 5 and save Sun Jian during the battle of Jing province, he'll do one of these to intimidate the archers who were firing on him.
- Theoretically possible in Skyrim as arrows in flight can be interacted with and *picked up*, but to do so would require inhuman reflexes.
- Easier to do with one of the shouts, which slows the game down effectively giving you inhuman reflexes.
- Freddie Wong uses this trope in his Skyrim Badass video to defy the tired "arrow to the knee" meme.
- Guere pulls this off in Miamaska.
- The webcomic Goblins also alludes to the Monk class goblin as having this ability, which is not surprising since it's based on D&D.
- Cale'Anon from Looking for Group can do this with a crossbow bolt fired from behind him. And then he impaled the shooter through the head in the same motion as turning around, as part of his continued taking of levels in badass. But he's an elf.
- Melna pulls this off in Dominic Deegan, complete with incredulous Lampshade Hanging by another character.
- Keychain of Creation features the badass Dragon-blooded monk Ten Winds pulling this off here. While being a Deadpan Snarker.
- Jenka of Girl Genius, with an actual arrow..
Jenka: I forgive. Once.
- John Redcorn caught an arrow in an episode of King of the Hill. It probably helped that he was standing right next to the archer at the time.
- Finn in Adventure Time catches an arrow of ice in the episode "Chamber of Frozen Blades" where Finn and Jake were in a ninja fad.
- Storm-Shadow from G.I. Joe (a ninja character) was capable of, and performed this feat. Followed shortly thereafter by a double-face-kick to two guys either side of him.
- Robin of Teen Titans does this once.
- Samurai Jack managed to catch one once, but the arrow turned into a venomous snake and bit him.
- Danny does this in an episode of Danny Phantom. He was mad impressed when he did so, but failed to notice until the last minute that said arrow had dynamite strapped to it. You can tell what happens next...
- Harm catches one of Artemis' arrows in an episode of Young Justice.