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A weapon or type of weapon, once common, that is only used by a small group of people (or just one person) who are just better than you. Don't expect the weapon to actually be practical. There are times when it's justified, because it requires magic to use.

Qualification for such weapons is extensive, and often tied to other skills that "aren't magic". They are often granted by a master or even passed down through the generations.

Usually used as a metaphor on how combat has become impersonal over the ages. Can be used as a concrete form of Good Is Old-Fashioned or Good Old Ways.

See also: Unusable Enemy Equipment, Cool Sword, and Katanas Are Just Better.

Examples of Elegant Weapon for a More Civilized Age include:


Anime & Manga

  • The Caster Gun from Outlaw Star qualifies. It's not unique, just very old, and very rare. It's just barely common enough for its ammunition to be available, albeit in extremely short supply, in various knick-nack shops and from merchants.
  • Dragon Ball Goku's power pole.
  • Belkan-style Devices in the second season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, optimized for close combat in a variety of forms. They get more common in the third season, but the majority of mages still wield staff-type ranged weapons.
  • Actually inverted in The Five Star Stories. Personal combat has come back into fashion once more because people realized what a waste nuking things from orbit was, the goal of most warfare in the series being to conquer territory while doing as little damage to said territory as possible (after all, who wants to rule over a radioactive crater?). The trope is also somewhat deconstructed here, as the dominance of showy, impractical weapons like Laser Blades and ridiculously elaborate, sword-fighting Humongous Mecha are seen as a sign that war has become some kind of sick game to the rulers of the galaxy.


Western Animation


Comic Books


Film

  • Star Wars: lightsabers, the weapon a Jedi knight. Essentially swords for a futuristic setting, they help paint the Jedi as a futuristic version of the Knight Errant or samurai. The weapons seem to have a number of clear advantages over blasters, being able to cut through anything and deflect blaster fire. Obi-Wan is the only person to call them "more civilized," however. In Revenge of The Sith, he's forced to use a blaster pistol and sniffs, "So uncivilized!"
  • The Glaive of Krull, a returning bladed disc.
  • In The Last Samurai, the samurai rebellion is caused because the Emperor wants to modernize and Westernize Japan. They fight the Imperial army with old-fashioned bows, spears and swords and do surprisingly well before getting cut down in a hail of machinegun fire. The real rebels upon which the film is based actually used equally modern weapons. They died in a last-ditch charge when their ammo ran out.
  • The Operative in Serenity uses a Chinese-style sword as an apparent throwback to the warrior traditions of old. He lectures one man about how a dishonored Romans would fall on their sword... while forcing the man to do so.
  • The film adaptation of Starship Troopers features a scene where the soldiers are learning how to use knives. One recruit questions the wisdom of stabbing weapons in a push-button war, and it's explained to him. Painfully.


Literature

  It was an ancient tool of his people and a laughable anachronism, save that Stenwold had witnessed what he could do with it.

  • Robert A. Heinlein - who was a competitive fencer in his Naval Academy days - goes to some length to point out how a sword is really great in several of his books. Never jams, never runs out of ammo, and so on.
    • Actually a sword might be a nice thing to have around in some rough parts of town. It is long, sharp and intimidating and precise enough to do exactly as much damage as the wielder wishes. For instance by using the flat or a slash cut to the ribcage with a downward inclination(because the bones overlap in that direction and prevent entering the vitals the way they would in an upward blow) someone can make an assailant uncomfortable without killing.
    • He also has his Mary Sue (Lazarus Long) talk about learning how to best use a bayonet in the twenty-fifth century.
  • Hiro Protagonist, the hero protagonist of Snow Crash, carries a katana for various reasons, not least because it makes him look like a Badass. In one job he was equipped with a particularly powerful pocket-sized handgun that looked like a fashion accessory and so was somewhat inadequate for intimidation. Carrying a sword, on the other hand, gets you a little more respect.
    • Hiro also uses his... "Redneck Katana", which is a piece of rebar a meter long with tape wrapped around the end to make a handle. Whether or not this is an "elegant" weapon is left as an exercise for the reader.
      • The "redneck katana" was used by Hiro as a training weapon in his apartment (storage building), specifically to increase strength and muscle tone.
  • Subverted in Dune; swords, knives, and such have made a comeback in Herbert's universe, not because they're more civilized, but because they don't cause small nuclear explosions when they hit shields, like lasguns do.
  • Averted in a Spider Robinson short story. Street gangs carry swords because they look cool, and a critic dies because he refuses to accept a world with both swords and laser pistols. He walks into a sword while getting mugged.


Live Action TV


Tabletop Games

  • The world of Exalted is a Magitek Fantasy Kitchen Sink, with flamethrowers, beam cannons, and Wave Motion Guns all available in somewhere in the setting. However, even at the technological heights of the First Age, the traditional weapon of the titular Exalted is the daiklave, a BFS that is so massive that it needs to be enchanted just so the wielder can use it without difficulty.
  • In Warhammer 40000
    • Eldar Phoenix Lords wear armor and wield weapons forged probably more than 20,000 years ago, all of which are at least as good as their modern counterparts.
    • A lot of the Imperium works like this as well: Artificer Armor and Master Crafted Weapons tend to be centuries, if not millennia, old. The reason they're still in use isn't just because of sentimentality; it's because they still work better than a lot of newer things, and in fact repairs and modifications may make them better. This also plays into the fact that, prior to the formation of the Imperium, humanity lost vast swathes of technological knowledge during the Age of Strife, afterwards leaving the newly-formed Imperium to scramble to secure whatever was left over. It's rather a Big Thing whenever a new Standard Template Construct is discovered.
  • Traveller
    • Aslan: they prefer to fight duels with claws. As humans have no claws, a human fighting Aslan fashion would wear an Ayloi, or artificial claw. Ayloi could count as this.
    • Another example with Aslan is their taste for ornate decoration for weapons of all kinds including more modern ones.
    • Imperial Marines in Traveller have a serious cutlass-fetish.
      • Semi-averted because shooting guns inside a ship does bad things to delicate electronics, so melee is used in order to have a usable ship after boarding.


Video Games

  • Final Fantasy VIII features the gunblade, a weapon which combines elements of sword and gun to create an Impossibly Cool Sword that is also so difficult to use that only the most dedicated soldiers are able to master it. And the more advanced the model, the more elegant it becomes.
    • It's so difficult to use, in fact, that only three people in the game use them: Squall, Seifer, and Laguna (though he only uses it as an awkward sword). Seifer uses it because it matches his fantasy, and there's some in-universe speculation that Squall uses it because it's difficult to master, reflecting his stubborn nature.
  • The Keyblade Wielders were once common enough to form a Knighthood. By the time the first game rolls around, there are only a few left.
  • Inverted by the Howling Voice Guild of the Suikoden series, who are the only people in the world to wield guns. As Cathari explains in Suikoden V, they're louder than bows, so worse for stealth, less accurate, and less reliable (Though not in actual combat, where one shot from Cathari can do more damage than most fighters can pull of in three, she also has a high hit rate). In a civilized age, they're the only ones using these uncivilized weapons. The only thing that makes them useful is as an intimidation tactic.
  • Parodied meta-wise in Halo. Luke Smith says that the Spartan Laser is not an overpowered weapon, but an elegant weapon from a more civilized age. Said "Elegant Weapon" is a Goddamn Laser Cannon that kills nearly everything that goes into the path of the laser. And that thing costs more than four fully-armed warthogs and is worth only five shots per battery! (Not that it isn't fun to use)
  • The Lord of the Rings Online extends the reforged weapons from earlier ages (as seen referenced above from the books) to players with Legendary Items.
  • The various beam katanas from No More Heroes are quite common, but the people who actually know how to skilfully use them, like Travis and Henry, aren't the ones who are getting their heads cut off.
  • In Arcanum Of Steamwork & Magick Obscura, the kingdom of Dernholm is in terminal decline due to their refusal to embrace technology. In the last war, their much-celebrated Dragon Knights were slaughtered en masse by rifle-wielding infantry. In the good ending, The true king returns and usher in an era of prosperity by uniting the new ways with the old.
  • Sudeki references this with Buki's weapons, handheld claws. Despite being a traditional Shadani weapon, they're falling out of use as they require a lot of training to use,and many recruits prefer easier-to-handle human weapons like swords and spears.
  • Invoked in Republic Commando when the player finds a lightsaber.

  Boss: A weapon for a more civilized time, eh? Well guess what - times have changed...

  • In the Fallout series, the Brotherhood of Steel are individually highly trained warriors who use powered armor, energy weapons and combat robots, which are all from a more civilized age. They are fewer in number compared to the raiders, mutants and NCR Army, but one Brotherhood Paladin is the equal of three to five (or for even less developed foes, ten or more) of the aforementioned. However, their inability to quickly replace lost soldiers was a major reason why they lost the Brotherhood-NCR conflict. A similar statement can be said for the forces of the Enclave.


Web Comic

  • Errant Story Features "Durus Flamma" weapons, that look a lot like lightsabers and are used by the elves exclusively for duels. And a dual bladed one, that is completely impractical, (even in-universe) but the one person who uses them anyway is just that Badass.
  • Parodied in XKCD #297.
  • Subverted, complete with a Star Wars reference, in this Sluggy Freelance strip.

 Gwynn: Torg, are you stupid or something (...) running into a gunfight with a sword?

Torg: A sword is an elegant weapon. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster. CHEEEARGE!

(Torg runs into battle. Cue hail of gunfire)

Torg (running away): Clumsy and random's got my name all over it!

    • Double Subverted when the sword actually does prove decisive, in that battle and in others down the road. It saved the characters more than once, in situations where other weapons would obviously fail (soul trading demons in the spirit world for example).
  • Schlock Mercenary's The Very Reverend Lieutenant Theo Fobius is an accomplished fencer since his seminary days. He even makes it work for him. (Well, sometimes.)


Real Life

  • Today, there are many groups worldwide committed to the reconstruction and safeguarding of old European weapon martial arts, particularly with the light, two-handed longsword. These martial arts prove to be highly efficient and holistic, often including unarmed combat and use of other weapons as part of the complete martial art.
  • Swords, particularly some varieties thereof (the Rapier and the Jian, for instance) have often been the mark of noblemen, military officers and others in high social standing, presumably owing to the fact that they were expensive. Ironically, one of their functions was to hack at any Dirty Coward who tried to break formation and run away.
  • Subverted in the Battle of Agincourt, where France clung to the weapons and tactics of chivalry, charging at the English army of longbowman, who rained arrows down on them as they slogged through mud and sharpened stakes. Bows were considered a lowly peasants weapon by the French, but the English made them the backbone of their army.
  • Similarly subverted by Nobunaga in Japan. The reason this had been played straight for so long wasn't because Katanas Are Just Better, but because most noblemen and warriors were trained in melee weapons and archery. Nobunaga comes along with a unit of trained musketeers and the strategic skill to use them effectively and then suddenly he's unified Japan (mostly).
  • Subverted during the Boshin Wars and Satsuma Rebellions. The forces of the Emperor of Japan utilized conscripts, imported foreign weapons such as rifles and howitzers and utilized commanders who served in European or American armies and used their native tactics. The Shogunate's forces, on the other hand, used a mixture of traditional Japanese weapons, a few smooth bore firearms and highly trained warriors in fewer numbers. While the forces of the Shogunate, and later Satsuma rebels had more highly trained individuals, the Imperial forces outnumbered, outgunned and outmaneuvered them. The Shogunate were defeated, and the rebels completely annihilated.
  • Blades (especially the bayonet) have long been used and still have a place on modern battlefields, because firearms have limited ammunition and rifles may not be practically aimed and fired in close quarters. Over-reliance on the ability to simply shoot the enemy can lead to a soldier's death. A knife doesn't jam or run out of ammo.
    • Famous saying by some 19th-century Russian general: "A bullet sometimes misses; a bayonet never does."
  • Archery fell out of military use due to the long training time needed. However, hunters commonly end up abandoning guns in favor of bows, for both sentimental and practical reasons (bows/arrows are quieter and lighter than guns and make cleaner kills). This is often an Enforced Trope. Gun season for deer is often only a week or two (with half that time dedicated to black powder arms), while bow season is open for the entire winter.
  • The best real-life example would be Fighting Jack Churchill of the British Army, who not only carried a bow and arrows and sword with him into combat during World War II but killed Germans with them. You can't fit this trope any better than by telling a general, as Churchill did, "In my opinion, sir, any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed."
  • In a looser application of this trope, most fly-fishermen have this sort of discreet snobbishness about their way of angling as compared to spin-rod and bait fishing. In particular, it is the fly rod itself—thinner, lighter and longer than its counterparts, giving it an almost katana-like sensitivity to the angler's whims, with a reel whose basic design still looks very 19th-century—that symbolizes this.
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