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When you're an Action Adventure Hero, lacking a Hyperspace Arsenal can be somewhat problematic: carrying that BFS around is not only tiresome, it also takes away a free hand that would see much better use in the complex acrobatics that are so common in your line of work. Luckily, Trope Co has the next best thing to offer: a form of quite literal Scotch Tape that lets the Badass just slide his pointy tool along his dorsum and have it held in place by some invisible force.
One could even say that like how cartoon characters can pick stuff up without fingers, sometimes a sword just Sticks to the Back.
This phenomenon also allows characters to draw swords that outstrip their entire arm -- after all, there's no actual scabbard to get in the way. Note that though the words "sword" and "back" are used a lot through this article, this trope covers any and all situations where a character's equipment is held in place without a viable sheathing mechanism, be it by the hip or on the back, a BFG or a shield, by a diminutive sash or someone's bare skin, etcetera.
Anime & Manga
- In both the Violinist of Hameln manga and anime, Hamel's big violin seems to hang off his back with a strap that's only pictured in four panels in all 37 volumes.
- Ichigo from can keep his BFS in place surprisingly well with a tiny sash. Justified by his BFS not being an actual physical object but a sentient familiar spirit, and close inspection shows that the cloth that wraps around his sword to form a makeshift sheath does so while also wrapping itself around the sash he wears. In the Fullbring arc, Ichigo's new intermediate Fullbring form allows him to magically clasp his sword to his back.
- Subverted by Hitsugaya: His sword, held across his back in a sheath, is too long for him to unsheathe normally, so he draws it by simply pulling it off his back and letting the sheath tear apart. Though it's more like he's too short rather than the sword is too long.
- Berserk's Guts avoids this by having a BFS with a visible scabbard. Later on he gets an even bigger BFS that almost seems to just hang on his back... were it not for a single link near the hilt, implying that it hangs off a hook. The hook is attached to a chain that hangs off his back, which is used to holster the sword. It's rarely visible, however, because of the cape he usually wears. Interestingly, in the Golden Age, he uses a strap that resembles a devil's tail.
- Mahou Sensei Negima has Negi doing this with his staff. Of course, he's a mage.
- The Keyblade in Shiro Amano's Kingdom Hearts manga doesn't appear and disappear as needed as it does in the games, but instead sticks to Sora's back. One panel in the Chain of Memories manga shows that it's actually jutting out of his pants belt.
- Coon in Free Collars Kingdom carries his anchor around like this.
- Zabuza in Naruto exhibits this with their rather sizable swords, as Zabuza carries no visible strap on him. Suigestu averts this, as you can see the strap from his front, and it's shown quite clearly how it wraps around (which also explains the functional purpose of the huge semicircular notch in the Decapitating Carving Knife). Likewise Samehada, being a giant mass of hooks/spikes, is "sheathed" in a cloth wrapping and has a strap (or in Killer Bee's case, a rope) that goes around that, thought it's often very hard to see.
- Haru Glory from Rave Master does this with the Ten Powers. There appears to be a leather strap near his shoulder that holds the blade but how he sheaths/draws it is anyone's guess.
- Yu-Gi-Oh has Marik and his Millennium Rod. (Though Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series points out the possibility that it could just be clenched between his buttocks.)
- Ukyō Kuonji of Ranma One Half carries a huge spatula (or rather, a baker peel) on her back most of the time, as part of her Okonomiyaki Martial Art. A tiny strap linking it to her bandolier can eventually be spotted, but most of the time it just seems to stick to her back.
- Serial Experiments Lain has a scene where Taro has a sword stick in his back with an audible click. Justified since it was in an online computer game.
- Some versions of DC Comics character Steel has him just sticking his huge hammer to his back. Justified, usually, with the explanation that magnets (which do often play a role in his arsenal) are involved.
Films -- Animation
- Unlike in the games, this is averted in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, where Cloud is seen with a very complex set of scabbards for carrying around his six swords.
- In Nine, Eight uses a magnet to keep his BFS attached to his back. Which he also uses to get high off of.
- Earlier Bionicle promotional animations showed Toa with obvious weapons as doing this, though it wasn't until 2004 that the actual sets regularly were designed to really do this (and that functionality was promptly discarded the next year anyway). The films instead opted to give everyone Hammerspace... which still involves reaching behind to their backs.
- This becomes especially obvious with any game that has a "nude mod" or "sex mod" applied to it, allowing to remove clothes but not necessarilly taking care of other equipement. Thus you can have quivers or weapons sticking to the back or to the hip of a naked character with no trace of any belt or strap to hold them.
- The namesakes of Mercenaries Playground of Destruction do seem to be using a type of harness for the weapons they carry, but on the other hand not only will it accept anything from a light submachinegun to an anti-tank missile launcher, they also appear to attach them with Velcro. The player models generally have visible clips and straps to hold the guns; at least they tried.
- In God of War, the Blade of Artemis just sticks to Kratos' back, but then it is a divine artifact.
- Metal Gear Solid has The Ninja "sheathe" his sword as though expecting it to stick to his back, though it simply vanishes. Stealth camouflage?
- The new Tri-Ace game Infinite Undiscovery both averts this trope and plays it straight: Edward, the resident BFS user, has his sword stick to his back, but Sigmund, The Man, sheaths his sword in a holder at the back of his shield.
- Nearly averted in Mount and Blade by a variety of visible sheaths, belt straps, quivers and bow cases to hold equipped items. Most two-handed weapons and shorter polearms simply stick to the back, though.
- And also done in PlanetSide, where there is an animation but they don't even look backwards to see if it's on right. One possible justification is that the Exo-suits have a built-in Ancient-tech Device that keeps the Weapons from falling off.
- This trope has turned up in some of the cinematics of Hellgate London, namely the game's intro and the initial announcement trailer. In both videos, a character draws a large two-handed sword from their back, despite clearly not having any sheath for it. Though it could be an unexplained version in the game's intro; because if you look closely, you can see a pair of metal... clamps is the only thing I can describe them as, on his back right where the sword's blade goes and it wouldn't be inconceivable that there are magnets in there as well (you could also say that it's held by magic considering the story).
- Fallout 3 follows this trope, although for the bigger weapons this only applies to the ammo reservoir; the gun itself is presumably kept in the Hyperspace Arsenal. Except for most one-handed weapons, which stick to the hip.
- Continued in Fallout: New Vegas, except with most of the Badass Longcoat armors, where the guns clip into the back instead.
- The Elder Scrolls games also fall into it, though it is most noticeable in Oblivion. Many one-handed swords and daggers do actually have sheaths. Sheaths that stick to the hip.
- In Ultima IX all weapons from staffs to huge lightning swords Stick to the Back.
- This trope even sometimes occurs with Humongous Mecha; in Mobile Suit Gundam Crossfire, your suit's weapons are stuck to the back while you have your melee weapon out. Said melee weapons usually avert this trope, though, as mobile suit designs usually include dedicated holding spots for their melee weapons.
- Final Fantasy
- Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII, of course. The joke in the fandom goes that the small ring on the back of his outfit is actually a powerful magnet. Which may not be a joke: it's reportedly All There in the Manual (that is, the thousand or so encyclopedias Square have released for VII and its Compilation).
- The trope is taken to absurd new heights in the prequel Crisis Core. Shirtless Zack wields an umbrella that does as much damage as the Buster Sword, and when the "DMW" Finishing Move associated with Angeal is activated, the umbrella is magically attached to his half-naked body while he does uppercuts and roundhouse kicks. To clarify, the round thing is a magnet. Angeal's being an Artificial Human might explain how he can easily overcome the pull of a magnet strong enough to carry a Buster Sword. Furthermore, cosplayers have replicated the effect in Real Life, just see here.
- In Final Fantasy XI, whichever melee weapon (or weapons) your character currently has equipped seems to simply hover a few inches from the character's hip (if one-handed) or back (if two-handed) when not in use. (Ranged weapons, by contrast, go into your Hyperspace Arsenal.) Made even more glaring by the fact that you hear unsheathing or unbuckling sounds anyway. Interestingly, despite being two-handed weapons, Great Katanas are hip-mounted instead of back-mounted. Don't get the wrong idea, there is a practical reason for this: it's to accommodate the various weapon textures so that none of them clip through your character's body, which most would agree looks worse.
- In Final Fantasy XII, all the great swords stick right to your back, with a slight clang, suggesting they're stuck there with magnets.
- In Final Fantasy XIII, it's averted with Lightning and Sazh, who have visible holsters for their weapons. Played straight with Vanille and Fang, whose staff and spear just stick on their backs.
- Devil May Cry
- Dante is another necessary example, sometimes carrying his sword just on his naked back. Maybe it's a nifty feature of his magical blade or something. Considering that a lot of his weapons can literally merge with him for his Devil Trigger, this isn't that implausible... for, y'know, the DMC universe.
- Partly averted in regards to the second game, namely the second novel -- one illustration shows that the leather belt/harness he's wearing across his chest (in official game art, at that) holsters Rebellion.
- Also Partly averted in the third game, where he wears a harness with holsters for his guns and the back of his trenchcoat has a strap for holding in Rebellion. Played straight with all his other weapons, though.
- Trish with the sword Sparda in 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Nero in 4 with his Red Queen.
- Link's shield and sword both Stick to the Back in some games of The Legend of Zelda series. Though scabbards and such are usually shown in art, graphical limitations often caused them not to appear in actual gameplay. He has an actual scabbard in Ocarina of Time (except for the Biggorron Sword), but the scabbard itself appears to stick to his back. Majora's Mask eventually gave him a proper belt with which to hold his scabbard. He was supposed to have the baldric in Ocarina of Time as well, according to the art. Its absence was an oversight and was corrected in the 3DS version. This lack led to a player asking Nintendo Power how Link keeps his sword attached to his back. The response? Hylian Velcro.
- The Prince of Persia series plays with this, with Sands of Time being an aversion and both Warrior Within and Two Thrones playing it straight. Two Thrones features the "by the hip" variation.
- Fable does this as well. And by "does this" we mean that you can run around completely barechested, with no sign of a leather strap on you, and no scabbard for the sword even and the sword sticks to your back. Oddly enough, you still hear Audible Sharpness when you draw your sword. Or whatever you happen to have equipped.
- As does World of Warcraft; with two-handed weapons and shields use the classic "on the back" version, while the rest just stick to the hip.
- Ditto Warhammer Online.
- In the Tomb Raider series, any two-handed weapons such as shotguns seem to stick to Lara's back without any obvious unclipping mechanism. In Legend, Excalibur does this, with sheathing and unsheathing sounds to boot!
- Justified in Halo 3, where the official explanation is that the Player Character's armor is literally magnetized, even causing weapons to stick with a distinct *clunk* noise. A Bungee employee who stated the magnetization holstering also said about where the ammo and grenades go: "Who knows? It's magic."
- A Halo novel describes the armor having thigh compartments for holding grenades, a clamp system for sticking rifles to his back, and double-sided tape for gluing ammo to himself.
- All the guns except the pistol in Gears of War stick on the back of the characters. Makes even less sense when shirtless Locust have their guns sticking on bare skin.
- Mass Effect
- Present with Shepard and his/her party members carrying a shotgun, assault rifle and sniper rifle on their backs simultaneously using a futuristic harness, and having a pistol in a side holster. Justified in that their weapons reduce in size when not in use due to advanced futuristic design. Though it makes one question why they don't just keep them in the same Hyperspace Arsenal as the other 150 weapons they can carry. Less justified with Jack, who despite not wearing a shirt, can still stick a shotgun to her lower back. She is a powerful biotic, though...
- In Mass Effect 2 the Sub-Machine Guns are also in holsters.
- In Dragon Age, everyone's weapons and shields hover a couple of inches away from their backs: swords, shields, daggers, staffs, axes, maces... everything. Can be pretty jarring if seen from the side. Or when the weapons are on fire!
- In Threads of Fate, Rue's weapon the Arc Edge -- a large circular axe -- is stuck to his back when not in use. Somewhat less noticeable but still just as odd is Mint's weapons, a pair of hoops called the Dual Halos, levitate at the small of her back. IF you look closely, There is a loop in the sash around her waist where the rings hook onto. How they connect and disconnect from that, who knows? She is a spellcaster, a Ring trick maybe?
- Splinter Cell: If Sam Fisher's toting the "SC-20K" (the F2000) in a mission but doesn't have it equipped and thus in his hands, this applies. Depending on which game is being played he may actually have a fully-modeled holster for both rifle and pistol.
- Non-RPG variant example: The guitars in Rock Band 1 and 2 have no shoulder straps. Yet they don't move... apparently because they stick to your belt buckle.
- Averted in .hack, where in The World R:1, weapons only appear outside towns, and they never appear inside towns for some unexplained unknown reason. Kinda jarring when BlackRose is carrying a sword that is as tall as she is. In R:2, they decided to sod the issue entirely by having everyone the ability to pull said weapons from a flash of light from their backs. Justified that The World is an online game, and it's the kind of game where small things like that is simply glossed over for cool points.
- In Left 4 Dead, the large firearms curiously and conveniently attach to the characters backs when they're not being used, with no straps apparent. The same applies to the medical kits. Straps are shown on the guns in the characters' official art, though. Still doesn't explain how to have one for a baseball bat or frying pan....
- The stronger swords in Maple Story actually have scabbards that appear on a character's back when he or she is climbing a ladder. This trope is still played straight in that there is no sheathing animation and the swords just kind of "teleport" themselves to their storage position. Weaker swords just disappear under the same circumstances.
- Rayne of Blood Rayne usually keeps her weapons in her Hyperspace Arsenal, but a cheat in the first game sticks her weapons (somewhat arbitrarily) all over her body. Since there's no upward limit on how many guns she can have at a given moment, it looks ridiculous (probably why it's not on by default). But also pretty awesome since she discards any guns that are out of ammo and grabs new ones as you fight. In slow motion, no less. The exception are her dedicated melee weapons, which are attached to her arms with visible straps.
- The Angelic Rifle in Baroque sticks to the protagonist's back when he's not using it. Interestingly, any swords he's carrying don't; if a sword isn't in his hands, it's in his Hyperspace Arsenal.
- Okami's Amaterasu does this when she wields a glaive or reflector. The rosaries kind of float around her neck. Same goes for Chibiterasu, who gets another divine instrument: a pair of crystals that float by his sides. Technically, they never really "wield" them; they just fly off their back/neck/sides and attack.
- Probably justified by Amaterasu & Chibiterasu being Physical God protagonists.
- The Monster Hunter series exhibits this in every game made so far. The games various BFSs, bows, lances, gunlances and hammers all stick to the players back or hips when not in use. Slightly averted with the Longsword as it is held in a sheathe, although the sheath itself Sticks to the Back. Shields however are attached firmly to the arm.
- Melee weapons in Jurassic Park: Trespasser are stored on the player character's back, and can be seen hovering behind her character in the Dummied Out third-person viewmode. Sadly, this caused a glitch where the player would be constantly taking damage because the weapon's hitbox would collide with the character's, so they fixed this by removing all mass from melee weapons, making them completely useless...apart from Nedry's mace.
- In Darkened Skye, Skye can stow her staff by sticking it on her back, and doing so has an additional feature of letting her run faster.
- Particularly ridiculous in Nie R, where the main character tucks away his weapon by literally sticking it to his back -- whether it's a reasonably-sized one-handed sword, a two meter-long polearm, or a two-handed sword bigger than he is. The weapons even "click" audibly when they attach to... something on his back.
- Averted in the Soul Calibur series, where the characters simply never let go of their weapons. Unless they're deliberately throwing them. Or having them explode into a dozen tiny blades and shredding you with a whirlwind of evil-powered steel. Mitsurugi plays the exception-to-the-exception, having moves based upon drawing his sword from its scabbard (or just hitting you with the scabbard). Not actually that ridiculous: Samurai (like Mitsurugi) were regularly trained in Iaijutsu. See that trope for details. Played straight with Taki though. While the art shows otherwise, the scabbard for her right hand kodachi looks more like this trope.
- Averted in Freedom Fighters where your longarm is strapped to your back when not in use.
- Played perfectly straight in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2's multiplayer. Any secondary weapon that the player has in his weapon class will show up on the character's back, regardless if it's a pistol, shotgun, or grenade launcher. Taken to further lengths with the FIM-92 Stinger anti-air missile launcher - the thing is so long that it will stick up above the character's head when put on the back. As expected, this can be a problem if you're using a stealthier loadout.
- The Witcher was originally going to avert this --- pre-release screenshots show both of Geralt's swords in sheaths on his back -- but the sheaths were dropped not long before release, making the game fall square into this trope. There is a third-party mod however that adds the sheaths back into the game (although they don't clip properly during the sheathing/unsheathing animations). This is also shown by how he draws his sword: rather then just removing it from his back like a fridge magnet he pulls it up and out, keeping it straight as if it were in a scabbard. He does the same when putting it away again, holding it partially by the blade. Proper back sheaths for Geralt's swords did manage to make it into The Witcher 2.
- Almost averted by Age of Conan. Sheaths existed during the game's beta, but they were removed at the last minute due to clipping bugs.
- Xenoblade has this particularly blatantly, given the size of some weapons. Something interesting is the two characters who don't use something with a sheathe (Sharna's Ether rifles and Reyn's massive shields with gun and sword attachments) visibly duck under their weapons as they put them away, suggesting the presence of an invisible strap. Shulk uses the Monado for a great portion of the game, which makes it all the more blatant when some camera angles show you that the thing isn't even touching his back at all.
- Occasionally when sprinting while equipping anything larger than a pistol in Saints Row: The Third, the Boss will move the gun onto his/her back as s/he starts doing so, and then pull it back into his/her hands after the player releases the sprint button or runs out of stamina.
- Present in Operation Flashpoint and ARMA, though as per the series' focus on realism, weapons are still treated as though they're actually attached via a strap -- for instance, swimming for too long causes your character to drop your primary weapon and lose it.
- Counter-Strike Global Offensive invert this: rifles sticks to the front when unequipped.
- Haloid: Some kind of system involving visible electrical currents allows Master Chief to clip a shotgun to his back. So awesome is this scene that it's in Slo Mo.
- Alexander Carter's sword from The Dreamland Chronicles: no sheath, it really does just stick to the back of his armor. Justified: "Cool! A magnet!"
- Rangerhorde: The Bloody Crusade, itself based on World of Warcraft, lampshades this when a clearly shirtless character is asked, "What is keeping that sword on your back?" His reply? "... Attitude."
- The title character's ninja-to in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.
- From The Order of the Stick: Roy Greenhilt's greatsword, Haley Starshine's longbow, and Thog's barbarian greataxe. Mostly related to the limited Stick Figure Comic style. Post-Art Evolution, Roy actually has straps for the sword, as seen in strip #689.
- Mind Mistress, of the eponymous comic, has recently done a literal version of a Magnetic Back.
- In Thundercats, while the Sword of Omens was actually sheathed in the clawshield, the clawshield just stuck to Lion-o's leg, often with a glowing effect. Similarly, Cheetara's bo-staff stuck to her armband and Wilykit's capsules just stuck to her belt (her brother's were at least in a pouch).
- In Xcalibur, the 2nd episode has Herrik provide Princess Djana with a magical scabbard for the eponymous sword. All she has to do is place it on her back, and the scabbard will form around it, essentially sticking it to her back. She doesn't even have to de-sheathe her sword either: she takes it off her back and the sheath disappears.
- Phantom 2040 had the title hero wielding twin pistols that magnetically attached to his thighs.
- Over at Zombie Squad, it was once suggested that powerful magnets would hold a homemade ninja sword on the back of a trench coat. Needless to say, this idea didn't go over very well.