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Yes, he CAN kill servants.

Animating and detailing realistic battles with edged weapons is remarkably difficult. Real-life edged weapons usually leave rough, horrible wounds, and severing arms, legs, or the neck of an individual is a very difficult task requiring either brute strength or significant time to saw at the wound. But quite aside from the simulation issues, if realistic blade wounds were done, then a Single-Stroke Battle would be far more difficult to conceive of as trying to go all the way through your victim would be nearly impossible. Nearly.

As a result, most bladed weapons in fiction are impossibly finely-edged things, capable of slicing straight through a victim and leaving such a thin cut as to be almost unnoticeable. Passing straight through a spine or rib cage? No problem! Decapitating an individual with a single blow, or even cutting them apart in multiple angles? Can do!

Bonus points if it doesn't manifest until the attacker has sheathed their sword, and extra bonus points if the wound does not manifest until the victim (for example) reaches up to feel his neck, at which point his head falls off, or the victim assumes the attacker missed. Even more bonus points if the sword is thick enough (i.e. the sword blade is visible) that no matter what the edge is like, the width of the blade should shove out the pieces of the object as it passes through them.

May be Justified Trope (read: Hand Waved) if the swords are explicitly magical, really high-tech, unnaturally large, or Absurdly Sharp Blade. If weapon is Razor Floss, almost every hit is Clean Cut.

See also the delayed version, the Diagonal Cut, and cousin trope Half the Man He Used To Be. See also Paper Cutting. Contrast Like Cannot Cut Like.


Anime and Manga

  • The parasites in Parasyte/Kiseijuu can turn parts of their bodies into blades that can slice and dice multiple humans in the blink of an eye. This happens a lot.
  • Integra Hellsing is Badass enough a Normal to easily cut apart Nazi vampires. She was using a sabre, though.
    • Her butler can do the same, but uses apparently limitless razor wires with enough skill to earn the nickname "Angel of Death."
    • And Luke Valentine as well, although he's a supernaturally strong and fast vampire.
  • Happened a lot in Lone Wolf and Cub, especially with Ogami Itto, the protagonist. Justified occasionally in that in his old line of work, cutting heads clean off with a single strike was his job.
  • Tsukihime's Shiki Tohno can see "lines of death" on pretty much everything, and any cuts he makes along these lines are Clean Cuts.
  • Justice decapitates the title character's dad in Afro Samurai... with a pistol. Or so it looks. He actually has three arms, the last one holding a sword and tucked under his cape.
  • Until Death Do Us Part features a cutting edge (no pun intended) katana that uses tech to maintain a blade a single molecule in width. And it's wielded by a blind guy.
    • In all fairness, he did have some vision from his sunglasses.
  • Happened at least once with Akabane in GetBackers, who carved up (and cut the letter J onto his torso) a Mook without the Mook noticing for at least five minutes or so.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has Negi's arm severed cleanly ( and later re-attached), but here it's magic, so it kind of makes sense.
  • GoLion/Voltron loves this, as it occurs every time he uses the Juuohken/Blazing Sword, which is just about Once Per Episode.
  • Claymore has, with virtually EVERY SINGLE CUT, those on the business end not realizing they've been cut until they blast High-Pressure Blood/suddenly lose an appendage or three. Sometimes both at once.
  • Happens fairly often in Ranma One Half, though never on a living target, and from all sorts of strange weapons. In his first appearance,Tatewaki Kuno cuts down a tree this way with a single, one-handed back-stroke from his bokken. In a late manga story, Ranma cuts a circular opening in a wall big enough to walk through... with his bare hands.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: In the manga, Wrath jumps through a rain of bullets at a group of soldiers. Four of them (or more, hard to tell with all the flying body parts) simultaneously fall to pieces two panels later.
  • Goemon, in Lupin III, does this regularly. In one movie, he cuts through a helicopter's blades in such a way that they stay on for a few seconds while still turning and keeping the chopper in mid air.
  • Averted by Guts from Berserk in that the wounds (pieces?) left by his BFS are generally fairly rough around the edges.
    • Played straight by swords used by Casca or Griffith, as well as the sword made by Godo that Guts used immediately before the Dragon Slayer, which cleanly slice through another sword and the edge of an anvil before it broke on an Apostle's hide.
  • Happens in Rurouni Kenshin a few times. One notable example is Kenshin cutting a vegetable in half so cleanly and so quickly that it heals after the pieces are reassembled.
  • This is how the Ultimateblade, the only male Wielder in Witchblade, bites it, courtesy of Masane.
  • Macross Frontier has Brera's Absurdly Sharp Blade Blade Below the Shoulder do this to a Hydra in episode 10. Lengthwise and his knife is barely larger than a combat knife.
  • Characters in Blood Plus are fond of this. Justified to some extent by many characters being superhuman Chiropterans.
  • Happens in Soul Eater, only accentuated by the author's early simpler style and (fairly) bloodless carnage. Stein slicing up Medusa into very neat pieces is a good example in the series. Although in that case there is a delay before the High Pressure Blood-loss.

Comic Books

  • G.I. Joe with the ninja Snake-Eyes. He slices up some practice dummies and seemingly misses. Until he stomps the floor and they slide apart.
    • In the same issue, one of the characters referred to Snake-Eyes as the "Master of the Subtle Cut". "True subtlety is when you have to remind the target that it's been cut."
  • Colleen Wing's victims in Marvel Comics sometimes don't feel where she cuts them right away.
  • The ease with which Blade dices his enemies may be justified since he was upgraded with super strength (thanks to the movies), once punching the jaw off some charging creature in Midnight Sons Unlimited. Weapons sometimes don't hold up against some of the tougher enemies he fights, even when he clearly beats them.
  • Man Thing has this done to him in the recent Thunderbolts. He'll come back from it. He always does.
    • Man-Thing probably doesn't count, however, given that it is (despite its human origins) little more than a mobile mass of vegetable matter and slime.
  • Miho in Sin City is known for having such clean cuts that her victims don't know they've been slashed. She often only has to make one sword thrust before a head or arm comes off. In one instance, she threw her shuriken and chopped a man's head clean in half to the point that even his eyeballs were sliced and still in their sockets.


  • In the teaser for Cube, a character is in one room when something happens. The character freezes in shock, and seconds later falls apart in neatly diced cubes. The something turns out to be a moving grid made of razor wire.
  • Variant: Practically all the dismemberment in Three Hundred is like this. No matter how strong you are, cutting a man's limbs or head off is a remarkably difficult task, but Leonidas in particular is a walking Cuisinart despite the small, none-too-fine sword he uses.
  • The Cell: That poor, poor horse. Or was it? I mean, it didn't appear to actually die...
  • Underworld: Selene slashes the Big Bad as she leaps over him, and he has time to turn around, draw two swords, then look shocked before half of his head slides off.
  • Equilibrium: John Preston incapacitates his former partner with four quick, obviously fatal slices. The former partner sinks to his knees and looks shocked before his face slides off.
  • Johnny Mnemonic: the Big Bad has a sort of laser whip that cuts through almost anything. At a certain point he swings it near a minor baddie in an attempt to cut open a chain; said minor baddie is shocked that the Big Bad did that without regard to the baddie's safety, and says so. Not showing much respect for his opinion, the Big Bad slices through the baddie with his whip. He briefly glances up, before falling apart in three clean pieces.
    • It's generally assumed that he's using a monomolecular whip as described below, with added visual effects because slashing nothing around while people are getting dismembered would look stupid. The weapon is quite popular in the cyberpunk game Shadowrun, too (among psychos no-one wants to have anything to do with, that is.) Light is probably being routed along the wire, fiberoptic style, so the wielder can see where it is. That said, yes, just pretending it's there wouldn't have had the same impact.
      • In the Gibson short story, it's a weighted monomolecular wire concealed in his thumb. It's worth noting that you would be able to feel the location and movement of a device like that, in much the same way as one can feel how a set of poi are moving.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: the sword Green Destiny, in the hands of the right wielder, can be drawn, cut pieces of iron in half, and sheathed again all in the one movement.
    • In theory, this is because the Green Destiny Sword is extremely hard and sharp steel, cutting not-quite-as-hard iron.
      • Even the finest steel doesn't cut the poorest iron this way. Also, the sword is only effective in the hands of a right bearer. Master Li Mu Bai defeats an opponent wielding Green Destiny with a thin branch of wood.
  • In the extended cut of Sin City, Miho dispatches Manute this way at the end of The Big Fat Kill.
  • Averted in Star Wars. The lightsabers do cut through almost anything (they cannot cut through other lightsabers, cortosis blades, Phrik or blades created by sith alchemy, and it can be difficult to make them cut through anything with an electromagnetic field), but are obviously immune from material limitations, what with being plasma and all. Also people don't spend half a minute looking shocked before falling to pieces. Limbs and appendages tend to fly all over the place, although bleeding is very limited as the laser cauterizes as it cuts, and leaves a gap due to the width of the blade and the fact that surrounding flesh is heated white hot and thus charred.
    • Lightsabers also cannot cut superconductors. Apparently, the Star Wars Expanded Universe has room-temperature superconductors that can hold an edge. Combine that with Vibro Weapons, and you get the vibro-shields (yes, shields used as swords, contrasted with the lightsaber's status as a sword used as a shield) of the Akk Guards, who fight Mace Windu in Shatterpoint. Aside from the cauterizing, Vibro Weapons in general can perform this trope just like lightsabers. Better, maybe, since cauterizing is not strictly part of the trope. However, hold a lightsaber against a superconductor for long enough and the whole thing will melt. Also, vibro weapons have less cutting power than lightsabers.
  • In Gabriel Byrne's Ghost Ship, the opening sequence has a group of partygoers dancing in the ballroom of an ocean liner. An unseen person hooks up a spool of wire cord level with the ballroom deck. The spool snaps and flails across the room, and the guests look around to see what's wrong. It turns out that all of the guests (save for one little girl) have been bisected, falling apart more than ten seconds after the incident. Of note is the captain of the ship, who has been dancing with the little girl. He looks down at her in concern, then half of his head falls off. To some, this was narm, especially when the cut superceded the one guy's enormous grin.
  • Final Destination 2 features a similar scene, except with two fenceposts with barbed wire spun in between, slicing apart one of the destined to die.
  • A deleted scene from Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai has the lead character, Nathan Algren, witness a samurai named Ujio walking along a street, who gets hassled by a pair of businessmen. The samurai takes their insults for a few moments, as they insult his heritage and his swords, but when one of them pokes him with a cane, Ujio slices off the head of the man in a clean, swift fashion, and sheaths his katana in one fluid movement while the other scrambles backwards.
  • There is a scene in Resident Evil which traps several characters in a Laser Hallway. The first is decapitated, the second cut in half through the waist, and the third diced into chunks... which fall apart, very slowly.
  • In Highlander, Connor 's final fight with the Kurgan ends with the Kurgan giving an ambiguous smile, just before his head slowly flops off. You see, Katanas Are Just Better.
  • Stargate: Continuum features Que'tesh warning Ba'al that her sword's blade has been sharpened to the width of an atom and that it would be very easy to cut a body in half as she later does.
  • Arguably inverted in The Fifth Element. Leeloo kicks a sword perfectly in half.
  • Slither, except only partially, has a guy slashed open in the front of his body, but not his half, resulting in all of his innards falling out.
  • The most important blows are delivered this way in Kill Bill. Oren Ishii beheaded a mutinous henchman with a single swipe, and the Bride cut of an arm off Sophia Fatale, chopped another sword in pieces like it was a straw, and then sliced Oren's head in half.
  • In John Carpenter's Vampires, the Big Bad slices somebody in half vertically using his hand.
  • Maida decapitates a Mook quite cleanly in The Ice Pirates.
  • Michael Myers from the Halloween series is fond of this trope. A particularly memorable example had him decapitate Jen in Resurrection in one clean swipe with a kitchen knife.
  • In the 2006 remake of The Omen, photographer Keith Jennings gets his head sliced cleanly an unhinged sign post. Seeing as the momentum wasn't terribly large, that thing must've been sharp as hell. Then again, though, higher powers are also at work, which might help explain it.
  • Thirteen Ghosts (the 2001 remake) features this Karmic Death for the cast member whose ulterior motives put the whole diabolical clockwork into action, in exchange for money. A sheet of glass descends from the ceiling, and for a few seconds he's frozen and can't move. His eyes blink, and then his front half succombs to gravity as his back half remains suspended. Complete with Gallows Humor when an oblivious cast member asks, "Did the lawyer split?"


  • Taken to the logical extreme with Death's scythe in the Discworld series - so thin and fine that it sharpens on daylight and can cut a person's words to pieces. His sword too, introduced in Discworld/Hogfather is only visible at the edge, due to it cutting tiny pieces of the air in half. Said sword cut through, without any effort on the part of the wielder, in fact by accident, a large portion of the dining table at UU, as well as numerous forks, knives etc. So little effort was needed, in fact, that the wielder was rather surprised to find a large chunk of table falling away.
    • In The Fifth Elephant, a highly trained assassin uses a karate chop on an opponent and decapitates him with his bare hands; At least, that's what it looks like, until we find out later about his palm dagger. Which was apparently remarkably sharp.
    • In Carpe Jugulum, a rather unimpressive priest completely decapitates a vampire with a simple axe without harming a baby the vampire was holding or even knocking the vampire's head off his shoulders. Said vampire is told not to nod quickly. It's suggested that narrative causality and/or Granny Weatherwax had something to do with that, though.
    • Lampshaded in Interesting Times. A messenger delivers bad news to Lord Hong. Lord Hong picks up the sword he's working on. The messenger, who can't bear to look, shuts his eyes and hears the swish of the blade. When he opens his eyes, he's still alive. He gingerly touches his neck... "you heard terrible stories about Lord Hong's swords." Turns out he had cut the head off a would-be assassin.
    • Toward the end of Guards Guards, Carrot's sword is used to block another sword. The attacker's sword is cut clean in two, leaving its wielder flabbergasted. To my knowledge, it's never been used for such, but imagine what it could do if turned against a villain (in a cut, not a thrust, which it has been used for).
  • In the His Dark Materials series, the Subtle Knife has two blades edges: one for cutting through anything tangible, and the other for cutting through the fabric separating alternate universes.
  • Also taken to extremes in the various Hammers Slammers stories by David Drake. In many of the stories, the mercenaries are shown to have knives so sharp that they can cut leaves hanging on trees without disturbing them. In addition, there is a "cutting bar" used that can slice through things such as chain link fencing without stopping. Though the cutting bar is said to have "vibrating, interlocking teeth" in it, making it a combination of a Machete and a chainsaw in action...
  • The Gears of War novel Aspho Fields averts this, as a character's attacking a Locust with the chainsaw bayonet on the game's infamous Lancer Assault Rifle is an extended pushing of the chainsaw into the Locust, and they later found out they had a piece of bone stuck in them that flung off during the altercation.
  • Also done in the Known Space series of short stories by Larry Niven. Not by a knife though... In the stories there is a type of thread referred to as "Sinclair molecule chain" — a thread that is one molecule wide, and can slice through anything with just a gentle tug. How they manage to attach handles to it is a different story... This is also used in the "variable-knife" and "variable-sword" from the same series, which is nothing more than Sinclair chain spun out from a handle, with a "stasis field" to support it. Not to mention a red ball at the end, so you can tell where the thread ends.
    • In another Larry Niven story, the 'attach handles' part is explained when we find out that Sinclair had no trouble designing the monomolecular chain, but the hard part was devising molecular links for the ends so handles could be attached and the chain wouldn't unravel.
  • In Endymion a trap made of monomolecular wire gets noticed when one of the heroes realizes he doesn't have an arm any more.
  • Alice in Wonderland features the Vorpal Sword. Capable of removing the head of a Jabberwock with little more than a snicker-snack.
  • Raven's weapons of choice in Snow Crash are glass knives, invisible to millimetre-wave radar and not much thicker than a molecule along the cutting edge. Usually mounted on an Aleut whaling harpoon for armour-piercing death at a distance.
  • Headhunter: Michael Slade's serial killer can take a victim's head off with one blow. Possibly justified, as the cutlass-like killing blade is equipped with a sliding weight on its blunt side, which shifts from hilt to tip when the weapon is swung and dramatically increases the force of impact.
  • Harry Potter: Neville decapitates Nagini (Voldemort's snake) with a single swipe of a sword.
  • In the short story "Epinikion" by Desmond Warzel, the alien Squids have natural weaponry that not only does this to their human opponents, but leaves them alive for several hours after being bisected.
  • This is what the Shardblades in The Way of Kings do to anything not living. If it is alive, it Cleanly Cuts the soul.

Live Action TV

  • Xena: Warrior Princess featured numerous instances of unusually clean cuts, however one of the most graphic of these examples was in the (incredibly controversial) episode "The Way", in which Xena's arms were cut clean off by Indrajit, the King of Demons. It's alright though, not two minutes later into the episode she has six arms. By the end of the episode, all is well again and she has her own two arms back.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a few good examples. Notably Anya's death in "Chosen".
  • Angel features quite a few of these, mostly with beheadings.
  • An episode of CSI: NY featured a corpse killed by a cut so clean that the wound wasn't obvious until the body was moved, at which point the head fell off. It turned out to have been made by a katana.
    • To be fair, they did spend a good part of the episode clarifying at the person wielding said katana was incredibly well trained and strong enough to make such a cut.
  • An episode of Midsomer Murders had a person decapitated by a wire strung across the area where he rode his motorcycle.
  • In the adaptation of Shogun, Englishman John Blackthorne is shocked to see a samurai slice the head off an oldster who did not bow when he was supposed to. You get a great look at Blackthorne's face (and that of the Jesuit priest accompanying him) and just a glimpse of a headless neck - and vertebra - before the body falls out of camera shot.
  • Happens in pretty much every episode of Highlander the Series.
  • Most bladed weapons shown on Deadliest Warrior leave jagged, messy wounds; even those that hack limbs off. Of course, more often than not they're cutting through gel torsos. Though in a few instances, this was played straight. The samurai cleanly cut through two pigs with a katana.
  • In the 1998 Merlin-1998 miniseries, the titular wizard demonstrates this with Excalibur, cutting cleanly through a regular sword used by an enemy just by parrying it.

Tabletop Games

  • Fading Suns has wireblades - monomolecular swords that will cut through anything with ease. In game mechanics, this means they ignore any armor the opponent is wearing.
  • Shadowrun had monomolecular whips which were often as dangerous to the user as they were to the enemy, but its Crowning Moment of Awesome has to be the monomolecular Axe; an axe with a monofilament edge capable of cutting through virtually anything. It tended to lose its edge quickly though.
  • More critical hits, regardless of system, than can ever be counted. Completely justified by the Rule of Cool, too.


  • Final Fantasys Odin does this to his enemies when using his Zantetsuken (effectively, decapitating iron sword), slicing them cleanly into two pieces.
  • Devil May Cry has Yamato, a katana apparently so sharp it can effortlessly cut through several feet of stone. From about half a mile away. Also used to separate dimensions.
    • Not to mention Dante's Rebellion. It cuts a cubic meter of solid steel/stone/magic die neatly in half.
    • With Yamato, Vergil swishes his sword, turns around, puts it in his scabbard, waits a second... and then as he clicks it in the enemy is slashed apart by the attack—multiple times. It's like a time delayed series of slashes.
      • One of the enemies even manages to speak several lines after the slash, before its head goes in pieces.
  • Call of Duty 4 and World at War kind of exhibits this trope for bullets, as the game allows you to shoot through certain materials - many things make sense for the bullets to go through, like wood and sheet metal, and they always do so with reduced damage. However, once they start shooting through stone, it kinda stretches it since the bullets can still go through and actually hurt. If they implemented a mechanic that allows you to permanently damage all material, it might make more sense with continuous shooting, but, there currently isn't.
  • In Jedi Knight 2, there is a cheat setting that allows the lightsaber to do this, accurately slicing models along the cuts, making it possible to filet enemies and friends alike. The setting to allow this implies that it was a feature of the game that was censored.
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has this as one of its newest gameplay features.
  • One of Yashas attgacks from Asura's Wrath.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe Dreamblade's sword always produces clean cuts... mostly because it isn't a real sword, but rather a very focused, very specific form of telekinesis.
  • The magical sword Destiny's Wave, wielded by The Handmaid Of The Tao (a superheroine codenamed Bladedancer), in the Whateley Universe stories. In the hands of rightful user, it can cut through anything (even unstoppable superhuman bricks), if the Tao requires it. At other times, it is as blunt and harmless as you'd expect of a blade made of white jade.
  • All blades in Greek Ninja seem to have this ability. The most profound example is Sasha cutting off Creon's arm with ease, near the end of the battle.

Western Animation

  • An assassin in Batman Beyond has a sword that can cut through anything (e.g. cutting a moving car in half). Examination by Wayne reveals that the blade terminates in an edge thinner than a molecule.
  • Samurai Jack: One of his signature moves is to leap at the enemy, perform a series of lightning-swift slashes in mid-fly, then land and pose dramatically with his eyes closed as the enemy falls apart and explodes behind his back.
  • A couple of Looney Tunes shorts like "Tree For Two" and "The Honey-Mousers" featured a gag where a character would get slashed by a pair of giant claws or a sword. After a few seconds the character appears to be fine and then says the strike missed only to fall into pieces on the ground. They would usually put themselves back together.
    • Done also in De Patie Freleng shorts such as The Inspector and The Ant and the Aardvark. Little wonder, as many of DPF's directors were old Warner Bros. alums. One particularly memorable gag involved the Aardvark actually flying through a wire fence and then plucking a small square out of his own hindquarters.
  • In an episode of The Flintstones, Wilma warns Fred not to tease the cat, it will scratch him. Fred denies that the cat would do that. After Fred teases the cat several times, the cat emits its razor-sharp claws and slices across him. "He never touched me," Fred says, before falling apart like sliced bread.

Real Life

  • As the link above shows, swords that can cut through several bodies in a single stroke aren't unheard of. "5-body blades" as they're called are out there, and fetch a ridiculously high price at auctions. In fact, it's not too unreasonable to assume that some of these swords can cut through MORE than five—the executioners only ever stacked up to five men, so who knows how many people they can actually cut through? Probably the same people who know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
    • Though it should be noted that since the amount you could cut through is just as, if not more dependent on momentum then sharpness, this trait isn't unique to the famously sharp Katana. Its just that no one other then the Japanese used unarmored and restrained corpses cut in a blow as a unit of measurement. One could probably cut through more with a heavier European weapon, with an axe cleaving deeper then a sword.
  • Obsidian scalpels. Sharper than normal surgical steel scalpels, but don't last as long.
    • Obsidian has also been historically used as a weapon in cultures where proper metal work wasn't available. While sharper then even the sharpest steel crafted with modern metallurgy, its rare for an obsidian weapon to survive more then a single blow before shattering.
  • Guillotines.
  • "Water saws", which use extremely hot and extremely high-pressure water. It cuts steel in half extremely quickly without resistance, and applying it to a human wouldn't be pretty.
  • Swords made of Damascus/Damascene Steel are said to be capable of this, being Absurdly Sharp Blades. The wavy patterns on them are really cool too...too bad the forging technique was lost to history.
    • Though people tend to forget that we're capable of so much more with the modern science of metallurgy. Theres no need to rediscover a lost technology we've now surpassed in performance.
      • However by rediscovering it we can build from it, and learn new things.
        • For example, Katana's are so sharp because of the way that they added carbon to the iron thus proving a metallurgical concept.
  • The way a Samurai's katana is made, from it's shape to the composition of the steel used is designed to pretty much cut through flesh and bone in a single stroke (provided that the wielder is a trained swordsman).
    • The composition of steel is to compensate for the generally poor grade irons available to Japan at the time. The lengthwise curvature is to ensure greater drawing action on the swing and to take advantage of the human body's natural vacuum to add pull to the swing's momentum. A less skilled swordsman could embed the sword so firmly it would take a struggle to free, but a more skilled swordsman would get a Clean Cut.


  • In the Dagorhir system of foam-padded swordfighting, any solid hit to a limb with a slashing weapon is considered to have cut it off. In this game, your limbs are essentially your Hit Points, and the only other damage that's tracked is damage to shields and armor; therefore there's no middle ground between Only a Flesh Wound and Deliberate Injury Gambit.