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In animated shows that involve fighting, the sharper the weapon, the less likely its user will hit a character with it.
It's far more common to see a character hit by a blunt weapon than with an edged or pointy one. This is most likely because swords, spears, axes, and chainsaws cause bleeding and leave visible scars. The only externally visible damage done by maces, warhammers, and quarterstaves is bruising and lumps. Crowbars can work either way. In either case, even if blunt weapons do as much damage as the sharp ones would, they will do it more cleanly.
In reality, of course, hammers, quarterstaves, and crowbars are known to cause as much physical carnage as sharp edged weapons, it's merely that sharpness invokes our childhood safety intuitions about what will easily break skin and cause blood loss, so that it's more intuitively plausible that a character hit very hard by something blunt might emerge with only a bruised rib and be capable of re-entering the fight.
A variant exists with regard to guns:
Bullets are much less accurate than lasers and tasers.
Bullets invariably miss. Energy blasts and stun guns are fairly accurate. This is because Pure Energy usually only cause Clothing Damage and dirty smudges, even when they kill. That, and no one has a phaser cabinet at home.
Oh, and pies hit 100% of the time (unless there's more than one... or you dodge, in which case it's guaranteed to hit someone else square in the face).
There is one caveat though; characters with Improbable Aiming Skills and Implausible Fencing Powers can use their abilities to pull off unlikely feats of skill like a Knife Outline or Blasting It Out of Their Hands. But they can never use those tricks to harm enemies.
Another likely explanation for this rule's prevalence is its role in drawing out battles, especially of the one-on-one kind. A powerful, sharp, lethal weapon can end a battle in one strike -- and if that happens, then the fight scene is over. If the attacks are more comic or less effective, then combatants can land dozens of hits without risking the fight's end. In a battle between a sharp blade and a blunt weapon, if the blade is going to win, then expect a long series of blocks and dodging before any strikes land.
In reality, blunt weapons are just as lethal as sharp ones. In fact, the whole point of maces is that they can cause damage through armour. Blunt weapons also frequently break bones, which can leave a soldier crippled even if they survive the battle.
Compare Could Have Been Messy, Family-Friendly Firearms, Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality, Never Bring a Knife to A Fist Fight. One of the tools used to neuter a Badass and turn it into a Badbutt.
- Rurouni Kenshin loves this one. Kenshin, who uses a sword with a blunt curved side, and Sano, who uses his fists, reliably land far more significant blows than sword-wielding foes.
- Although this is more because they are just better fighters than everyone else. When Kenshin used a normal sword, he hit his opponent just as often. You would think, though, that they would have busted someone's organs up pretty badly by now though. People get killed by blunt trauma to the stomach all the time. Heck, just look at all the European knights who died this way, and they were wearing metal armor!
- Plus Kenshin does things like hit people in the neck or smash them headfirst through a ceiling in a way that makes you go: Paralyzed for life? Okay, I GUESS that's less morally staining than death...I guess...
- Taken to an extreme in Dragonball Z. Krillin's Kienzan attack ("Destructo-Disc" in the dub) can cut through anything... but missed damn near every single time it was used. And even on the rare occasion when it did hit, it still managed to suck for him:
- First, he managed to barely nick Nappa's face. Nappa responded by beating him senseless.
- Later, he managed to cut off the tip Frieza's tail...but A) Frieza had him so far outclassed that it took a swarm of discs to land a single lucky hit, and B) once again, all this really did was annoy his opponent. Krillin was blown to smithereens for his insolence shortly afterwards.
- Finally, a brief anime-only filler scene has him getting a full-on hit with it on the new Perfect Cell. In the neck, no less! Cell doesn't even notice.
- And as if all that weren't humiliating enough, several other characters copy his attack after seeing it, and when they use it, it actually hits something. Vegeta, for example, uses it to cut off Gohan's tail, Goku uses it to cut Buu in half... Not that this did anything... hell, even Freeza manages to incorporate a homing function! Although, the only thing he manages to hit with it is himself, so maybe the attack really is cursed...
- So when in the Budokai Tenkaichi game series, Krillin's Multiple Kienzan Ultimate Blast is one of the weakest Ultimate Blasts in the game, it's being faithful to the series.
- Let's examine Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Energy attacks and bullets meant to deal Magical Damage? Effective as demonstrated by Nanoha, and to a lesser extent Teana, who both have some of the best
killbefriending count in the series. Blunt weapons? Not quite as effective, but at least they hit often as shown by Vita and Subaru, and sometimes by Fate and Signum when they use unarmed attacks or the flat of their blades. Sharp weapons? The only time they're shown fully hitting someone who wasn't Undead or Mecha-Mooks was when Signum killed Zest. All the other times, they hit cloth, Deflector Shields, or weapons. An attempt to avoid this may be why Signum didn't get into as much battles as the other Captains and Vice-Captains in the third season. As she's shown to not be averse towards killing, her missing a lot would have made her look incompetent.
- "Once again I have cut a worthless object."
- In the OVA of Tales of Symphonia, Kratos never actually slashes Sheena with his sword, even though he gets more than one opportunity to do so. Instead, he just jabs her body with the hilt of his sword, which is really more annoying than painful, and you would think that protecting the freakin' Messiah is something that Kratos would take seriously, and he wouldn't be screwing around with an (not literally) Ax Crazy assassin.
- This of course, could just be another example of how badass Kratos is.
- As though he needs it.
- Sonic X played with this rather obscurely during an episode which saw Chris slashed across the chest by Black Narcissus. The dub changed this to knocking him unconscious and removed the short instance of blood, but without explaining precisely how something that sharp did not cut into him.
- Inverted in Claymore where clean amputations by bladed weapons are shown to heal with relative ease, and broken or crushed limbs are quite severe. Swords seem to hit most of the time.
- Both used and averted in Karas. Used straight when Otoha is Karas, as the only living objects his sword gets used on are the semi-mechanical mikura demons. Then averted hard when human!Otoha goes up against a bunch of gun-toting mooks and slaughters them with extreme prejudice. And lots of blood.
- World War Hulk, The Hulk has a shadowforged sword(an alien equivalent to adamantium). He never actually cuts anyone with it, and indeed misses intentionally.
- Intentionally appears full-force in Tangled. Swords? Completely useless. Knives? Scary, but horribly inefficient. Frying Pans? The Guard eventually makes this their standard weapon.
- Though not an animated show, Jack of All Trades used this trope quite extensively, to the point where nearly every sword fight (and there were a lot of them) was ended not with a stab wound, but with a punch to the face.
- Inverted in Stargate SG-1 where the Jaffa use a projectile staff energy weapon which has very low accuracy. They also have a gun-like hand held weapon that stuns, kills, then vaporizes and is permitted to be accurate only because of those reasons. Jack O'Neill justifies this to a group of Jaffa in the fifth season.
O'Neill: (holding a Jaffa staff) This is a weapon of terror. It is meant to intimidate the enemy. (holding a P90) This is a weapon of war. It is meant to kill your enemy.
- Power Rangers only had sharp objects come into play when the Rangers were fully morphed. Rather than slicing, weapons sent up a shower of sparks and sometimes burnt patches appeared on the Ranger's outfits. Still, even this unrealistic level of violence was enough to get the show Bowdlerized.
- Very apparent in ~Avatar: The Last Airbender~. In the first two series, Sokka hits quite a few Mooks with his club and boomerang. After he gets a sword in series three, the only thing he cuts is some ropes, lots of things made out of metal, and a melon. This trope also appears in regard to Mai and Ty Lee - Mai uses knives, and specialises in not hitting the actual person. Ty Lee, on the other hand, fights unarmed and is very good at knocking out and paralysing her opponents. Also, Zuko's broadswords have never touched human skin, but he doesn't have a problem with slamming people against walls or lifting them with one hand by their necks.
- In the case of Mai, this is intentional; she doesn't really want to kill anyone, and besides it's more of a challenge to do that than aim center mass. And Sokka never hits anybody while in plain view of the screen... Let's just say that in the invasion during the Day of Black Sun, you weren't seeing a lot of wounded Fire Nation soldiers..
- To be fair, Zuko very nearly sliced Aang's head off in the Blue Spirit episode.
- In WITCH, despite numerous Mooks, redshirts, and important secondary characters being armed with swords and axes, no sharp weapons ever make contact with skin. Maces and quarterstaves are another matter.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Michaelangelo and Donatello wield nunchaku and a rod, and so hit baddies left, right, and centre. Leonardo and Raphael are armed with a katana and a pair of sai, with the result that Leo just cuts inanimate objects, and Raph does...not much at all. Ironically, since staffs and nunchaku are much easier to obtain, this led to much more violence among children imitating Mike and Don. This eventually resulted in Mike trading in his nunchakus for a grappling hook.
- Use of the pommel as a blunt weapon is within correct use of sai, something which TMNT does not address often if at all. Not to mention that sai aren't actually sharp in the first place.
- The revived TMNT cartoon almost averted Leonardo's "cuts only inanimate stuff" by beheading the Shredder. Then we find out his real head is a little further south. No, not like that, the armor is actually empty, controlled by a tiny alien in the chestpiece.
- Katana in ~Batman: The Brave and the Bold~.
- In any X-Men adaption (excepting the movies and Hulk vs. Wolverine which averts this and Bloodless Carnage to a notable degree), Wolverine's fighting style seems to consist entirely of cutting enemy's guns in half and then body tackling people.
- And doors. The man really hates doors.
- And walls. And ceilings. And support columns. Really, just architecture in general.
- Although in the live action movies, he gets to let loose a little.
- And doors. The man really hates doors.
- Quite amusingly, The Legend of Zelda cartoon features Link using a magic sword exclusively as a projectile weapon (as if he had full hearts, it shoots out energy). He never swings it at anything, though he may have cut a vine or rope with it once. When he picks up a normal sword in one episode he declares it useless because it doesn't shoot energy.
- Averted wholesale in Generator Rex. Rex's sword/buzzsaw isn't just for show (the first time Van Kleiss shows up, he cleaves him in two with it!), and neither are Six's dual blades. One episode, in fact, has Dr. Holiday hack her way through the Amazonian jungle and hack the head off a nearby snake in cavalier fashion.
- In Batman Beyond, the assassin Curare owned a scimitar, sharpened by lasers to an edge no thicker than a molecule, and she damn sure knew how to use it, cutting everything from park benches, steel poles, and reinforced doors down! However, not a single person felt the steel of her blade.
- Thundarr the Barbarian's Sunsword is an interesting case. It cut through robots with ease, cut rock monsters into pebbles, and generally rendered any non-biological opponent or obstacle into manageable chunks. Faced with living opponents, he either wouldn't use the sword, would use the sword by miss a lot, or used it, hit, and then shouted in dismay, "Demon dogs! It is immune to my Sunsword!"