The Otaku Armoury is a series that profiles Japanese-inspired weapons from popular culture. A variety of Japanese armaments have been utilised in mainstream media, ranging from katanas to shuriken. One of Japan’s most versatile weapons is the war fan and perhaps the most famous character to wield one is Kitana from the Mortal Kombat series.
Sharpened to kill
Kitana’s war fans rank among the deadliest weapons to be used in Mortal Kombat, their elegant appearance belying a deadly purpose. Both fans feature five razor sharp steel blades that can be used to cut and slice opponents. When closed, the fans take on the appearance of twin knives.
During battle, Kitana wields the fans in close combat and as projectiles. The light quality of each fan makes them ideal for throwing and Kitana is skilled enough to toss them in such a way that they always return to her hands.
The flight pattern could be compared to a boomerang, which means that in order for Kitana to accurately throw the fans, she needs to account for wind direction, angle and the amount of strength necessary for each motion. It’s possible the fans also possess magical qualities, as Kitana can use them to summon a small cyclone and disorientate her foes.
Man At Arms: Reforged, a team of professional blacksmiths, did an incredible job of bringing Kitana’s fans to life. In the video, they take viewers step by step through the creation of each blade and explain the process behind attaching the steel to the silk. All the blades were oil-tempered at 400 degrees and polished rigorously to reveal a smooth hamon, the outline of the hardened zone which contains the cutting edge of the blade.
Kitana’s weapons share similar qualities to the war fans used by Japanese warriors. Traditional war fans were generally used in a defensive manner to deflect or parry sword and spear attacks. However, they could be used for attacking purposes as well, stabbing opponents at close range. This was especially useful for stealth missions, as the fans could be taken into public areas without arousing suspicion.
There were three types of war fan:
- Gunsen – Made from wood or bronze, gunsen were folding fans that warriors carried to cool off. They were usually carried on the belt or could be hung from a breastplate.
- Tessen – These fans featured iron spokes that were crafted to look like normal folding fans. Samurai carried them around in public and often utilised tessen as a last resort kind of weapon. They were also useful for fending off arrows and swimming.
- Gunbai – This type of fan was carried by high-ranking officers and used to signal troops or deflect arrows. Made from iron with a wooden core, Gunbai were typically larger than other fans.
Kitana’s war fans are based on the tessen variety, which she incorporates into the Japanese martial arts style of tessenjutsu. Kitana’s speed, fighting prowess and determination make her one of the most accomplished fighters in the Mortal Kombat universe, and her fans will always be a key part of her identity.