Before I go on, let me lay out the opposite, let's call it "Western Style Combat". This style seems to focus on offense and defense, with maneuver being a minor consideration. An example being a bar brawl where the two fighters stand there trading blows and taking hit after punishing hit. You're badass because you can dish it out and you can take it. A big part of being a combatant is that you can take a lot of damage and still come back strong. This is rather like D&D, where there is minimal maneuver and a lot of trading blows until somebody runs out of hit points.
But in Japanese Style Combat damage is wicked deadly and armor is mostly a fashion statement. Thus maneuver is critically important to avoid being hit at all. (Check out this video on YouTube for an example of "Japanese Style Combat" with a scene from Macross.) And damage seems to come in three levels: the nick, the critical wound, and the killing blow.
- A nick is a very minor, essentially cosmetic wound which can score you psychological points, be the drawing of first blood, or (in large numbers) make you look like you've been through hell. But the nick has no actual effect on the victim.
- A critical wound is major damage, like a limb lopped off or a pierced lung. The victim isn't dead but they are seriously impaired and will die soon with out major medical care. Someone with a critical wound can still act for a little while (in RPG terms a few rounds) but is probably a goner. They are usually literally bleeding all over the place in spectacular fashion. A good example is the club fight scene in Kill Bill where she takes on the Crazy 88s and chops off arms and legs right and left.
- The killing blow is just that, a hit which kills instantly. The victim may live just long enough for one brief, minor action like pressing a button or uttering a curse, but that's about it.