Review of the month; TSF Close Combat weapons overview

Fantasy weapons are rarely useful. They’re overdesigned pieces of trash that use excuse of magic or other bullshit to make them plausible. While Japan has produced some fine examples and utter bullshit, like the Final Fantasy 8 Gunblade or Clouds Buster Sword, the West is no stranger to absolutely batshit stupid designs. Skyrim’s Red Eagles Fury and Daedric Sword are good examples of awful design as is the Frostmourne from World of Warcraft.

The TSF close combat weapons don’t get a free pass from me just because it’s Muv-Luv. The problem with giant robot weapons is that they’re pretty much always made of bullshittium or the like. In case of TSF’s close combat weapons, they’re most likely made of some sort of derivative of supercarbon to give them high resistance to damage and light weight rather than made straight up same type the TSF’s are made of. Outside the fact that close combat is not the best idea when it comes to fighting the BETA, these close combat weaponry range from night retarded to plausible.

To add to the discussion whether or not these should be called Melee Halberds or something else, I’m sticking with my grounds and refusing to call these halberds despite me finally finding some materials having the term in plain English. Furthermore, Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse World Guidance, or just TEWG, splits Melee Halberds into types; halberds and claymores. This can be countered with two arguments; 1) there are no halberds in Muv-Luv and 2) there are no claymores in Muv-Luv. This is largely a case where the writers have just thrown in cool sounding terms they no jack shit about. You might as well start calling a gun a longsword while you’re at it and missiles as Volkswagens. I may  need to read up on fighters and jet planes with each TSF comparison, but I know my way around blade weapons pretty well.

The Type-74 PB Blade is the sword we see the most in the franchise as it is used by the Japanese. It’s not really modelled after any real life sword, and while most people will see it modelled after a katana, the closes analogue would be the Chinese changdao as all of them are named after this particular type of sword. Tachi or nodachi would be the closest Japanese equivalent. Maybe the back carrying is taken from nodachi due to their huge size, but the grip with Type-74 is too short to be one.

Incidentally, the Type-74 PB Blade bears resamblence toa changdao in blade curvature. As a sidenote, changdao directly translates as long knife
Re-using this one from my previous entry

The blade part of Type-74 is nothing special outside the sudden increase in curvature towards the tip of the blade, thus excluding it from any standard Japanse curvature standards. This curvature is needed for the blade to slash, not necessarily cut straight. A curved blade is mechanically superior to straight one when it comes to delivering edge blows. However, this is a bit moot point seeing all TSFs do is large wind-up motions to hack through BETA. A common problem in fantasy is that it doesn’t model itself after real world sword combat, and Muv-Luv is no different. Only when it’s applicable for the drama of the scene, poses are used. The first episode of Total Eclipse is a good example of this, and in the second episode all sword fighting is forgot in favour of hacking.

It should be noted that the blade geometry follows the usual Japanese sharpening and blade width, meaning the back should have a false edge and the blade is overall thicker than western swords. The more thick a sword is, the more material it needs to push itself through. Seeing the BETA don’t use shields or armour, the swords should be thinner what the Type-74 is. The reason why Japanese swords were thick was because the traditional steel used was soft and prone to damage. Unlike most Japanese swords, it would seem the sword actually has a back edge that goes way back to the grip region.

Another thing worth noting is that the intricate motions used by the TSF are most likely largely automated. A human controller can’t achieve a high level of control over each and every joint of a mecha without large amounts of automation and use of motion macros. Driving an automatic car is closer mecha piloting than driving manual. When you remember that TSFs reset to a balanced position after every move, TSFs are without a doubt highly automated with the support of learning computers.

Type-74 PB Blade has its problems, but this is the biggest one thus far; the overall shape of the sword.

098

When the shape is simplified to lines, your should be able to see the problems without me saying them. The marked points in the sword’s geometry share a region that is most likely to snap under high stress, most likely from just above the grip. For a human this sort of sword would not be very ergonomic, as the control point is removed away from the cutting surface. Because of this, there is less control how the blade moves and cuts. The reason why swords tend to avoid this sort of removed geometry is that it removes direct control and feedback from the user. Of course, a robot that’s specifically programmed to use the sword as effectively as possible would most likely have no problems using it, but I question the reason of designing a sword that would require an additional level of programming. It also requires higher production costs and material to produce sword with this geometry with no higher performance.

Costs are something that was not considered during design of then Type-74. Seeing how this is supposed to be a military grade equipment that is meant to be used, discarded and replaced on the fly on the field, the material needs to be cheap and fast to produce. The complex geometry racks the cost up pretty fast. In addition, the guard in front of the grip most likely functions as a counterweight to the blade’s weight, which could be countered with a weight inside the handle or a pommel.

Untitled-1
Notice how a Chinese sword is called a halberd

However, the center of gravity is still fucked up and it’s because of this removed geometry. The weight does not rest on top of the hand or inside of it, but in front of it. This adds further wear and tear to hand and arm structure, robot and human alike. We can also discern that the Type-74’s material is not uniform in mass. The guard has to have more mass to it than the blade part itself, otherwise the center of gravity would be around notch above the leftmost pylon holes.

The grip itself essentially ruined by the ridges at the top of it and they serve no function other than chafe against the TSF’s hand. The handle itself is serviceable, to put it mildly. It’s not the best shape, and as robots don’t really have a need for comfort, the curves are largely unnecessary. It’s not unusable or terrible, just overly convoluted for no real reason. The pommel makes it looks more like a jelly dildo than anything else, but a grip like that could be surprisingly effective without the ridges at the top. However, just having a simple curve would be enough and would streamline production costs in mass production.

The Chinese Type-77 Close Combat Blade is modelled after a Chinese dao with no real type. It’s more a stereotypical Chinese sword, but it has most resemblance to dadao. However, if the above comparison between the two swords is in scale, Type-77 is not a dadao due to the long blade and short handle. It’s more like a fatter huyadao.

098_150The Type-77 is cleaver sword. It’s slightly curved to enhance its cutting strength, but where its power lies is that its made to hack flesh and armour. The way TSFs are often showed to slice through BETA with the Type-74 is more along the lines how Type-77 would be used with strong, large swings. However, whoever designed the edge geometry needs to recheck as most swords of this type don’t have a visible sharpening surface like Japanese swords do. It’s far more sleeker and meant to hack deep into the cleaved object. The material’s properties also needs to be different as the abuse the two swords experience is very different.

 Much like the Type-74, this is shown to be swung by one hand. Sources argue that because of its different center of gravity and overall mass distribution it has slower swing speed. Sure, but as always, it’s not so straightforward. This sort of sword has a different type of method of fighting and its effectiveness can’t simple be attributed to center of gravity or slower initial swing speed. This is supposed to be a one-handed cleaver, not a slicing weapon. Schwarzesmarken shows that Type-77 is used as an all-around sword, which it shouldn’t be.

The Type-77 has faster swing motion too compared to the Type-74 due to its weight distribution. The tip heavy weight distribution gives it a lore more cutting power, hence how it can just cleave through matter. Neither aforementioned are good for thrusting.

The differences in BETA sizes and numbers don’t really require multiple type of swords. The Type-74 should be enough, as the slower swing speed and recovery from the swing of Type-77 would mean the TSF is longer exposed to Tank-Class strains. The Type-77 should be reserved only for Grappler-Class and larger strains, but then we can always ask why not emphasize more on firepower, and then we question TSFs’ overall function and shape and we go down the line where we end up realizing there would be better options than TSFs. But this is a mecha franchise that requires different archetypical swords.

The Type-77 has a very poor guard to the point that it shouldn’t be in there. Whether or not the sectional design hints at separate parts or just something that’s included in the design doesn’t matter, either one affects the sword’s sturdiness and raises production costs. The grip itself is sensible and something I’d like to see more often, but the pommel has a wedge that would dig into your hand. With TSFs using artificial muscles, this most likely would chafe the surface open. Same goes for the ridges on top of the grip.

It’s still better design than Type-74’s by the simple fact that it keeps control straight and does not place it in front of the hand. It gives a direct control to the user. It’s simpler and more effective, and if its center of gravity was in the guard or in the handle, Type-77 would be best Asian styled sword in the franchise. As they currently are, both of the suffer from over designed fantasy/SF sword designs.

The Europeans have their own swords, one of which is surprisingly useful and the other that’s just stupid.

The BWS-3 Great Sword is the stupid one.

If there is a claymore in the franchise, it would be BWS-3, but it end up being just a generic two-handed fantasy sword
If there is a claymore in the franchise, it would be BWS-3, but it end up being just a generic two-handed fantasy sword

 The BWS-3 has the most common problem fantasy swords have; oversized blade. While it’s not as bad as with e.g. Buster Sword, it’s up there. The extra grips it has don’t really help at anything as they’re angled awkwardly rather than at 90-degree angle from the sword’s center line. It’s without a doubt the heaviest, most cumbersome and least useful sword there is, and whoever designed this in-universe needs to be fed to the BETA.

Sword of this size requires more much more power to wield on the field, carry it around, to produce and maintain. These reasons alone are enough not to have in  production any longer. Sharpening the sword would be a bitch because of the serration. It should be noted that the serration is oversized in BWS-3, as that scale serration was believed to slow down opponent’s sword and to cause higher damage. While Flammard’s undulating design would slow opponent’s weapon down, serration itself didn’t add to the damage. The serration would cause the sword chip much easier and each tooth would break relatively fast, especially if hits hard parts of a BETA.

It doesn’t really matter how good the edge is in this one, as it’s clearly more about just giant swings to cleave through whatever is in the way. It’s sheer size makes it awkward to use for piercing, but seems like that something it does well despite the width and thickness of the blade. At least it doesn’t have a sectional design, but the holes in the middle do not help losing its heavy weight. This sword, above all, should have I-beam structure to create a fuller, but that applies to all Western swords in the franchise.

BWS-3’s design is laughable. If it had followed how a real world two-handed sword functioned and looked like, it would’ve been a nice design. As it is now, it’s laughable. I don’t even know why Brits would’ve used either German or Scottish weapon as their signature sword.

Surprisingly, the French Falcate Sword is surprisingly sensible compared to the BWS-3.

While mounted
While mounted

While Falcate gets its name from the falcata sword, it’s shape doesn’t really fit its description. Sickle swords are not too uncommon in history, and their main use was to get around the enemy’s shield. The were relatively effective too. The size of a Falcate steals the grip from Type-74, so everything aforementioned applies here as well, but the undulating shape makes less sense here as the sword itself is not curved. The overall size seems to be relatively the same.

It’s completely uniform in design, probably making it the strongest design and structurally sound design in the franchise. Whether or not it has a false edge on its back is an open question.

The blade geometry overall is almost sound. The basic blade looks fine despite tapering off towards the sickle. Instead of having a hard angle to connect the sickle to the main blade, there’s a sharp notch that can be used to cut off libs. It’s overly specialised, but the main thing Falcate functions in is stabbing. As the sickle is sharp all around, it’s mean to bypass Grappler-Class’ arms and have the sickle stab them. Whether or not the BETA feel pain is another thing, but they clearly register damage and are affected by it. Another thing a sickle sword excels at is throwing opponent’s weapon away, it doesn’t really translate all that well against the BETA, but in TSF vs. TSF close combat the Falcate may prove surprisingly effective.

Unlike BWS-3, producing this sort of sword would not be out of question. The sickle is essentially the only pricey part, especially with the recycled grip. Just makes me wonder why in the hell they didn’t recycle BWS-3’s, it would fit the Falcate far better. I have to admit that Falcate reminds me of mambele, just a lot longer. It’s never mentioned or pointed out whether or not TFSs can handle more than one kind of sword fighting commands, but without a doubt pilots themselves would be able to create their own command macros and movements in simulators. Unlike the mambele, the Falcata is too large to be a nimble weapon, but it’s a sort of sword/pick hybrid and should excel in draw cuts next to chopping. I recommend checking this video for basic mambele techniques to gain some contrast and idea what more reasonably sized Falcata could be used in the series. However, it is still specialised weapon and not the best option for all-around use.

Surprisingly, the most reasonable sword was designed by Americans and never put into production.

098
It has unique mount because America, fuck yeah!

The XCIWS-2B Close In Weapon System is a straight-edged sword that’s without a doubt the best sword design in the whole franchise. It drops most bullshit previous swords has going on with them and opts for straight performance. Both of sides have a cutting edge, and like the piece of shit BWS-3, it can actually stab. It looks like light, fast and damaging and without a doubt that’s what it could’ve been. Despite it being an example of high performance no-bullshit design, it has two points that keeps it from being a 10/10 sword.

The first point is that it has similar guard to Type-74 PB Blade, and despite it having a notch to stop the opponent’s sword, this sort of sword would have no need to that sized extra counter weight. Just like with the Type-74, this moves weight from the TSF’s hands, which lessens how effectively the sword can be handled. As such, the guard should’ve been smaller and more effective rather than bulky slope with a notch.

The second point is that it lacks a fuller. If it had a fuller, this sword would be less likely to be broken.

While Type-74 may be better at cutting mechanically due to its curved nature, a straight edge does not fall behind too much. Curved swords are always better at cutting than thrusting, but a straight-edged sword like XCIWS-2B balanced between both. Another thing a straight sword excels better than a curved blade is in guarding and parrying, and that’s simply because a straight sword geometry. The curvature also makes the Type-74 a specialised sword, just like all the other swords in the franchise, except XCIWS-2B. This straight sword is the only true multi-task close combat weapon in the franchise, it would be cheaper to produce to boot. One shouldn’t underestimate the technical versatility the XCIWS-2B has over other swords.

It really boggles my mind why in the hell a modified version of this sword is not in larger use in the franchise. You’d think the military and manufacturers would’ve celebrated to get a good multi-tasking tool to the field with lower production costs. But hey, war economy, bitches!

I'm not a halberdThe last weapon in this review is the BWS-8 Flugelberte. Called a halberd type long sword in the books, it’s really an axe of sorts. The Flugelberte suffers the most for being a science fiction weapon, with the axe head being segmented into two slim bits for no purpose.

The shape it has does not fill halberd’s requirements, as we’ve discussed before, but it could be a variation of a bardiche. A bardiche is different from a halberd in that it lacks both hook at the back and the spear at the top. This is similar to the Scottish Lochaber axe, which both of them belong to the very maximum sizes axes could have before they would become voulge-like weapon. The head is very similar to both mentioned axe types, as they can have widely different heads, from small and flat like the Flugerlberte’s to broad and curvy ones.

The Flugelberte wants to fit in, it really does. It’s meant to chop and take place from BWS-3’s as the most choppy weapon. It sorta does, and seeing how it can be wielded with one hand tells us that it’s about the same weight as any other TSF close combat weapon despite having the least material dedicated to it. Let’s just assume it’s much denser supercarbon, it’s all the same in the end; fantasy.

The biggest problem in Flugelberte is that the handle curves to the wrong direction. Here’s how it should look.

fixedIn all my life I have no seen an axe handle that curves backwards. The main problem of having backwards curved axe handle is that the axe itself will curve backwards when held. This is less ergonomic even for a TSF, and it takes raw force from the swing, as the hand takes the shock from the impact towards the back rather than in the middle or from the front. There’s a great entry from 2011 with curved Vs. straight axe handle that I recommend you to read if you’re interested. Even after going through historical axes, I saw no examples that had backwards curing handle.

In short; BWS-8’s design overall is awful, they couldn’t even get the curve direction right.

All the weapons in Muv-Luv franchise suffer from both SF weapons over designing and the lack of understanding about how and why the weapons work. We are offered platitudes about ace Surface Pilots being awesome with their weapons but we’re never specified why exactly. This isn’t specific to Muv-Luv exactly, but a show like Gundam or the like do not put an emphasize on the whole close combat speciality Muv-Luv’s Japanese get. We’re told they’re great in close combat, but never exactly why. We know from Total Eclipse that cadets are trained in close combat, but this alone can’t explain it.

There is a need for further specialised functions in the TSFs themselves to utilise a generic form of sword fighting that the pilots can modify both on the fly and in the simulators. We’re probably never going to see detailed sword fighting that isn’t modelled after generic katana swinging or over the top motions, as very few writers are keen to spend time on reading something as trivial as how to use a sword outside. Something like half-swording is not well spread in the popular culture either, despite being a backbone of historical sword fighting of sorts. Half-swording would lessen the swing speed and recovery time with most of the swords, but I can’t really come up with any franchise that would go into deep details how their giant robots swing their swords and in what sort of techniques and methods. That doesn’t excuse them from depicting their giant robots slugging these swords like idiots.

To review once more, essentially all the larger melee weapons TSFs wield in Muv-Luv suffer from having a nice idea behind them, but having design points that makes no sense if such weapons would be needed at the size they are in.

Swords and the way they are used in mecha are almost always about the drama. They are supposed to look awesome while their use and poses are reserved when they serve the scene and the impact in the narrative rather than having an an actual thought out explanation or the like why such weapon has been selected and why is it swung like that.

More than ten years ago, this was called the Sunrise Pose, nowadays it seems to go under the name Brave Perspective. The reason why this pose is used has nothing to with the sword or techniques. It just looks awesome, and that's often enough
More than ten years ago, this was called the Sunrise Pose. Nowadays it seems to go under the name Brave Perspective. The reason why this pose is used has nothing to with the sword or techniques. It just looks awesome, and that’s often enough

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7 thoughts on “Review of the month; TSF Close Combat weapons overview

    1. Chainsaw on your arm on the battlefield is a stupid idea. Lots of parts requiring constant maintenance, lots of parts to break down. If you want to have saw on the field, a long dagger with a fine serration, like a shark’s tooth, does the job much better.
      Much like with halberds, âge doesn’t seem to know what’s the difference between a dagger and a knife. Type-65 and CIWS-1A are more or less perfectly suitable for their roles when we note that it’s a robot holding them, assuming they have a perfect grip, thou a small guard would still be a good idea. CIWS-1B is stupid, because there’s no reason to have it be a switchblade. Structurally it’s weaker than all the others and its production costs and time would be higher.

      It should be noted that the weapons in Muv-Luv are modelled after swords designed to battle other humans rather than design close combat weapons solely to take advantage of BETA’s weakness, but then these seem to get the job done.

      Maybe I should also point out that MOHS 15 shield would be brittle, and shatter whenever any of these weapons would hit its surface. MOHS scale is qualitative and intended for minerals, and is compared whether or not a material can scratch the surface of another. It doesn’t take into notion toughness or tensile strenght and is largely useless in industrial terms. Vickers, Brinell or Rockwell hardness scale would’ve been much more applicable.
      This is a whole another post tho.

  1. Also, where can I learn more about the properties of swords? Your article went into depth about many things I’ve been curious about for a long time; curved vs straight, what that weird hook on a falcata was for, etc. I am writing fiction that involves sword fighting and I want to know more about it.

    1. Part comes from personal experience from making production, prop and prototype bladed weapons and tools, part comes from consuming rather large amount of literature when I was young, part comes from discussion with more experienced designers and smiths, and part comes from TV documentaries regarding individual weapons or cultures surrounding these weapons.
      Your local library most likely has a selection of good books that cover historical weapons, like The Book of the Sword or The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Swords and Sabers. Different authors have slightly different opinions and approaches, so picking up different books would be the best idea. From documentary side, I would recommend watching Secrets of the Viking Sword, which tells about the Ulfberht. Sword fighting is an issue on its own, and there are numerous guides on historical sword fighting from various places. HEMA is its own thing, and there are numerous variations depending on the region and historical time.
      Sword buyers guide is surprisingly useful site for starters, just keep in mind that they want you to buy stuff too, not just browse. sword-site.com is a very nice reference for different types of swords across the world, usually with at least some sort of flavour text and with a source citing. It’s a site that takes some getting used to and can be used as a reference source.
      thearma.org have a good amount of sources for sword fighting itself, not just about the weapons, but they don’t deviate outside European schools.
      Most larger cities have some sort of sword fighting school, be it fencing or HEMA, and asking if you can sit and watch some of their practices should give an idea what goes into sword fighting.

      Of course, sword fighting mecha is a funny thing that’s more about the cool factor than being useful, but that’s whole another can-o-worms.

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