A Jedi with their lightsaber is as iconic a Star Wars image as an astromech droid in an X-Wing, or Han Solo in a vest, or Lando in a cape. While lightsabers are really fricking cool, they are not as cool as the following anime weapons, which are positively not based on the lightsabers from Star Wars. Definitely not. Not even if you squint. Not even if you’re exceedingly generous with your definition of a lightsaber. Not even if you assume that any energy-based blade was inspired by Star Wars’ lightsabers.
I mean, just look at that. Those are giant robots. There are no giant robots in Star Wars, and walkers don’t count. AT-ATs aren’t bipedal, and the AT-STs lack the necessary appendages (i.e. “arms”) with which to hold weapons, unlike our mecha friend in the screencap up there. Vader might be “more machine than man,” but there’s still some Anakin-meat left on his skull during his unmasking. There is absolutely no way that a Gundam’s beam sword is a lightsaber. Also, look at the shape of the blade. That, my friends, is a sword with a tapered tip, like a katana. Ever see a lightsaber with a tapered tip?
The agents of World Trigger utilize a number of energy blades (NOT lightsabers) designed with sophisticated technology from the future to protect the planet from invading aliens known as Neighbors. The most popular weapon of this type is the Kogetsu, which is wielded by a number of different agents throughout the series. Similar to Gundam, these blades look a lot more like katanas than the more blunt lightsabers. Heck, Lucas took inspiration from samurai, so why shouldn't these energy blade designs hew close to the OG swords wielded by badass, honorable warriors?
Sword Art Online
Kirito’s proton sword is also most assuredly not based on a lightsaber! Kirito is a master swordsman, and this is the only available sword in the Gun Gale Online MMO he’s playing. He just hates the clumsy randomness of a gun, you know? He’s a lot more used to getting up close and personal with his enemies, and he just wants the elegance of a sword. That’s all. He can also deflect gunfire with it, so that’s a win-win.
Bleach is an anime where everyone (or everyone important, anyway) is expected to have their own unique sword. A person's weapon is considered an extension of their identity, so it's a little surprising that energy swords are pretty rare in this setting. Most blades appear to be made of steel, but Pesche Guatiche is one of the only characters who can get away with a glowy sword. His sword, Ultima, isn't really a laser sword because it’s not powered with frickin’ laser beams, but with "reishi," the spiritual energy inherent in all things.
Dim but heroic Gourry Gabriev wields the Sword of Light. This sword isn’t powered by frickin’ laser beams or by the spiritual energy inherent in all things, but by good old-fashioned magic. A family heirloom that's been passed down for generations, this sword is capable of taking down enormous dragons and even demonic gods, and not just used for knowledge and defense.
Gourry’s partner-in-adventuring Lina Inverse (considered one of the best mages in history) also wields a sword formed from magic, specifically the well of magic that emanates from the Lord of Nightmares. The Ragna Blade is, without a doubt, not a spell for beginners and is powerful enough to destroy the world. Since one has to call upon the Lord of Nightmares and offer up one's body and soul in order to channel her power and cast the spell, one probably shouldn’t be casting the Ragna Blade for every Tom, Dick, or Sith Lord who crosses one's path. The Ragna Blade is also unique in that it's not a glowy, laser sword. It's black, which is fitting for its chaotic power.
Yu Yu Hakusho
Classic anime Yu Yu Hakusho tells the story of a group of spirit detectives who go around defeating demons and monsters before they unleash havoc on an unsuspecting human population. Kuwabara’s Spirit Sword, created by channeling his spirit energy into a blade, is also definitely not a lightsaber. In fact, it's barely a sword at all. Initially, Kuwabara was only able to create this weapon while holding the hilt of a broken regular sword, but, through training and effort (and not while carrying around a little green guy like a backpack), Kuwabara was soon able to produce his Spirit Sword without the hilt. No hilt. No need for a belt clip to hold the hilt. No muss. No fuss. All ass-kicking.
One character from Dragonball Z uses a similar technique to create his weapon. Salza channels his ki (NOT the Force) through his arm in order to manifest a blade-like weapon made from his spiritual energy. He's not even trying to make the energy look remotely like a sword. He doesn't pretend to hold onto a hilt, and when he fights, the blade becomes an extension of his arm.
That's right. This guy can four-finger point you to death.
The sea-faring, superpower-wielding pirates of One Piece also have an energy blade user in their midst. Marine Admiral Borsalino, more commonly known around the Blue as Kizaru, has the ability to manipulate light into a weapon. He projects bolts from his fingertips that can pierce an unsuspecting victim's body like a hail of bullets, and he can produce a literal
lightsaber light sword that slices through anything and everything with laser-like precision.
And is it just me, or does he look a little like the PPAP guy?
Tenchi Masaki is just your average Japanese teenager until he stumbles upon an ancient
lightsaber sword. The sword, also inexplicably named Tenchi, is powered by the psychic energy of its wielder. Tenchi initially has no idea that he's a descendant of the royal family of the house of Jurai (not Jedi), an ancient clan which rules a far-off galaxy with a mixture of ancient magic and advanced technology. Tenchi's called to adventure when outsiders from beyond his planet bring an intergalactic war to his doorstep, but his story is definitely not like Luke Skywalker's! Tenchi farms carrots, not moisture. See, two completely separate characters.
Gintama is a comedy series set in an alternate universe Edo-era Japan where aliens have taken over and outlawed the use of swords in public. This tiny detail drives the samurai underground and forces them to seek out alternative means of protection. Enter this guy: Hajime Obi (aka Obi Wan Kenoji), a master of the beam sword technique. He does not look like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
See that scar? Kenobi has no scar.