Zanbatō simply refers to a large blade which has the capacity to slay a horse, hence it's translation as "horse-slaying sword" or "horse-chopping saber".
Due to the lack of uniformity of this relatively exotic family of weapons, there can be no detailed analysis as they would have to be custom made and therefore it's properties being unique to the user. Undoubtedly, however, it would require a being of unsurpassed strength and grit to wield such a weapon easily.
As zanbatō are bladed weapons, it would not be too hard to imagine that with exceptional skill a shinobi would be able to embue the blade with an elemental nature. Some example applications include:
- Lightning at the tip of the blade to drastically increase penetration and potential nervous system damage.
- Fire around the blade to increase the effective range through burns upon near misses. With the potential to trigger tags, this allows close-quarters control.
- Water around the blade to buffer and soften blow or even at the tip of the blade to inject within the opponent to cause grievous internal damage.
- Earth around the blade to drastically increase durability of the weapon and provide a powerful shield if skilled with manipulation.
- Wind around the blade to drastically increase the sharpness and slicing capabilities of the weapon, even allowing ranged cuts of wind if sufficiently skilled.
There is only one other distinct factor binding the blades together and that is of length. A zanbatō would easly reach a minimum of 5 feet (60 inches) in length. As of such, it would be impossible to conceal from others, and is therefore useless for daily shinobi activities. It's only virtue is that of an immense weapon for high-profile combat and warfare, able to clear a squad of soldiers in a single sweep.
Although the zanbatō is fictional it's origins may date back to the zhǎn mǎ dāo. It is an exceptionally huge sword dwarfing both the nodaichi and ōdachi, with the blade's length akin to the shaft of a polearm. The zhǎn mǎ dāo was used to combat cavalry and obstacles such as high fortifications and walls.