Zanbatō (斬馬刀), an especially large, single-edged sword dating to the Heian period of historical Japan. The name zanbatō translates to "horse-slaying sword" or "horse-chopping saber". Original examples came from Song Dynasty China and were employed by anti-cavalry infantry in the same manner.[1]

Chinese equivalent

Zhanmadao, a Chinese anti-cavalry weapon that originated during the Han Dynasty 206 BCE- 220 CE and became especially common during the Song Dynasty written also as 斬馬刀 (zhǎn mǎ dāo) is of similar proportion to a Zanbatō, although some variants differs in form. Surviving examples include a sword that might resemble a nagamaki in construction; it had a wrapped handle 37 cm (15 in) long, like the Zanbatō. However, the blade differed, having only a slight curve in the last half, whereas the Zanbatō's curve stretches the length of the blade and handle, similar to a katana.[2]

Zanbatō in modern fiction

The fictional interpretation of the weapon consists of a large, wide blade attached to an extended, pole-like hilt. The sword, and variations of it, are used by many characters in anime and video games. These interpretations often simply depict the weapon as an oversized sword or being imbued with magical properties. However, the weapon which most closely resembles such instances is the eku, or "wooden oar".

A few notable series featuring Zanbatō include

  • In the manga/anime One Piece there are several Zanbato wielders. For example, - Arlong with his Kiribachi or Dracule Mihawk and his Named Sword Yoru.
  • The manga series Rurouni Kenshin, where major character Sagara Sanosuke uses a polearm he refers to as a Zanbatō as his signature weapon.[3]
  • In the classic manga Kozure Ōkami, known in the west as Lone Wolf and Cub, the main character Ogami Ittō employs a swordsmanship technique called Sui'ō-ryū Zanbatō as one of his most lethal attacks, although using a dōtanuki to perform it.[4]
  • In the manga/anime Naruto four of the seven swords of the Mist (Kubikiribōchō, Samehada, Hiramekarei, and Shibuki) are zanbatos.
    • Also in episode 137 - A Town of Outlaws, The Shadow of the Fuma Clan it is said that a Fuma's sword is one.
  • In the video game Final Fantasy VII both the main character Cloud and main villain Sephiroth wield massive Zanbato style blades, known as The "Buster Sword" (relatively short and very large) and "Masamune" (extremely long and thin) respectively.
    • In Final Fantasy X, the Aeon Yojimbo can use a Zanmato katana to instantly defeat any enemy.[5]
  • In manga/anime series Bleach the main character's (Kurosaki Ichigo) sword takes the form of a Butcher knife styled Zanbato.
  • They are also used in RPG series Fire Emblem, where it is a weapon specialized against mounted units[6]
  • In the manga/anime series Freezing a supporting character's (Ticy Phenyl) volt weapon is a large, straight zanbatō.
  • The game series Scribblenauts also has a usable Zanbatō.[5]
  • In the game series Monster Hunter the weapon category "Long Sword" is modeled after the Zanbatō. Of note is that every monster is easily horse-sized or larger.
  • In the online game Dungeon Fighter Online the sword-wielding Slayer class can use and specialize in the Zanbatos.
  • In Samurai Sentai Shinkenger/Power Rangers Samurai, a Zanbato-esque weapon, called Rekka Daizantou, is wielded by ShinkenRed/Red Samurai Ranger. Also in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger/Power Rangers Super Megaforce one of Shinken Gokaioh's/Legendary Samurai Megazord weapons is that same weapon which previously wielded by Shinkenred's/Red Samurai Ranger's.
  • In the video game series Samurai Warriors the strategist Sakon Shima wields a Zanbato.
  • In Sword Art Online, The Gleameyes (the boss of the 74th floor) is described as wielding a Zanbato-like sword.[7]
  • In the manga/anime InuYasha, the character Bankotsu uses a large Zanbato that's even larger than himself.[5]
  • In the manga/anime Berserk, the main character (Guts) uses a large Zanbato called "Dragonslayer".
  • The game series Dark Souls has a recurring Zanbato known as "Murakumo ".
  • In the manga Shamo, one of The Foolish Brothers, the antagonist duo in the last arc, wield a Zanbatō.


  1. Breverton, Terry (1 October 2013). Breverton's Encyclopedia of Inventions. Quercus. p. 39. ISBN 978-1-62365-234-0.
  2. Jarymowycz, Roman Johann (2008). Cavalry from Hoof to Track. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-275-98726-8.
  3. Fujie, Kazuhisa; Wyman, Walt (January 2006). The Rurouni Kenshin Companion: The Unofficial Guide. DH Publishing Inc. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-932897-11-1.
  4. Koike, Kazuo; Kojima, Goseki; Miller, Frank (2000). Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road. Dark Horse. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-56971-502-4.
  5. Animation, Society for the Promotion of Japanese (1997). Anime reference guide. 4 (1 ed.). Yonin Gümi Inc. and the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation. p. 111. ISBN 978-0-9647158-1-3.
  6. Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones calls the weapon a Zanbatō specifically, while other English games in the series use translations of the term, such as "cavalry sword".
  7. Kawahara, Reki (18 August 2010). Sword Art Online (in Spanish). 1. Joinville: Clube de Autores. p. 118.
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