When Final Fantasy VII hit PlayStations around the globe in 1997, featuring some of the most gorgeous graphics and CG cut-scenes gamers had ever seen, it single-handedly opened up the Western market to Japanese console RPGs. In years since, though, there’s been some contention over just how deserving developer Square’s biggest hit ever is of its exalted place in video game lore. Does it have a gripping story, or does the narrative become a confused mess after its midgame plot twist? Do the title’s numerous mini games flesh out its world, or is spending hours breeding giant flightless birds to race for sport both silly and boring?
But no matter which side of the debate you fall on, there’s one thing gamers everywhere can agree on: Final Fantasy VII’s antagonist, Sephiroth, is a stone-cold badass. Now, Hollywood blacksmith Tony Swatton has brought the villain’s iconic weapon, the gigantic blade named Masamune, to life.
Just how cool is Sephiroth? When the Final Fantasy team decided to make a prequel to Final Fantasy VII, 2007’s Crisis Core, the game was packed full of scenes showing Sephiroth effortlessly fighting off highly trained swordsmen. Final Fantasy VII’s protagonist, Cloud, on the other hand, was shown vomiting and getting stabbed.
Aside from his impressive combat exploits, Sephiroth has an instantly recognizable design, and we see him here with his signature long hair, long coat, and very long sword.
His weapon is the sort of thing that could only appear in Japanese fiction. No one would actually go to the trouble of forging a blade that massive in real life.
Except for Tony Swatton.
▼ Seen here accessorizing well enough to appear in a Final Fantasy game himself
Swatton, who was born in London’s Hammersmith district, apparently looked at his birth certificate and decided that it was his destiny to become a blacksmith. Of course, most cities in our modern society have only a limited need for horseshoes and broadswords, so Swatton moved to Los Angeles and established himself as a master prop producer for Hollywood films. His creations have been featured in over 200 movies, including Pirates of the Carribean, X-Men, and The Last Samurai.
When he’s not producing weapons for Hollywood A-listers and/or their stuntmen, Swatton also hosts the web series Man at Arms, where he chronicles the process of reproducing the blades of animation and video game characters. Having already made a replica of Cloud’s Buster Sword, Swatton was next inundated with requests from his fans to forge Sephiroth’s Masamune. It was a challenge the craftsman was more than up for.
Swatton’s dedication is such that nothing less than a perfect 1:1 scale reproduction would do. Meaning that he first needed more than seven feet of steel.
Creating the blade required no less than four different striking tools: an automated power hammer, regular hammer, special flattener, and a uniquely shaped item traditionally used in forging Japanese katanas.
The sword’s handguard is fashioned out of bronze, with brass fittings. The handle itself is a mix of both the exotic and mundane. Its wooden core is a repurposed chair leg, which is then wrapped in stingray skin. This is once again wrapped in nylon to improve the grip.
To connect the blade to the unit, Swatton went with the traditional choice of bamboo pins. Lacking a bamboo grove from which to harvest the material, he turned to the next most logical choice: chopsticks.
▼ The finished product
So is the Masamune combat-ready? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it’s shown causing every bit of damage you’d expect from a piece of steel that would stand taller than 95 percent of professional basketball players.
On the other hand, the weapon’s ridiculous length means that it flops around like crazy, which would make it extremely difficult to control and worthless for parrying.
▼ Although this makes it perfect for the dark knight who needs to fight moogles, hobbits, or other vertically-challenged fantasy creatures, but at the same time worries about putting a strain on his back by bending over to mow them down.
Our verdict? As with the genocidal Sephiroth himself, there are logical reasons we should hate Swatton’s Masamune. But like Square’s most popular villain, we just can’t because of how awesome it looks.