Sadness and Strangeness Weekend

The news this weekend in Scotland has been all about the terrible helicopter crash in Glasgow in which, it seems now, several (now confirmed nine) people lost their lives.  People in the helicopter died and also in the Clutha Vaults bar that it landed upon. This is very sad and the reasons are not quite clear as yet.  I actually got two emails to Alternative Armies and some to my own email account asking if I or anyone I know had been involved in the accident.  The answer is no. Everyone I know is safe (I checked all my friends who live in the city too).  I used to go into the Clutha when I was a student (scene of many fun evenings but no more about that) but its been years since I have been in that part of Glasgow.  My thoughts are with all involved.  A sad weekend for Scotland.

The one in the middle is the most real

But the other news item this week that caught my attention came from one of my favourite places, the land of the rising sun Japan.  Lady Gaga, there on promotional work, unveiled two singing life sized dolls.  Creepy in the extreme but ultimately disappointing as the early twitter and news posts spoke of them being actual AI (Artifical Intelligence) capable of hugs, kisses and conversation.  Robo Geisha!  But no.  They are impressive constructs certainly, but just a gimmick.  Seems I will have to wait a bit longer for Bladerunner to become real.    Have a look at this video for the build guide.

A weekend of sadness and weirdness.  I am glad to see it over.


Pacific Rim – Review


Pacific Rim Poster!

Two weeks ago I got the chance to be treated to a showing of Pacific Rim at the Odeon Kilmarnock.  It has taken me some time to get around to posting this review of the film basically because I have been mired in the shallows of the summer school holidays, birthdays, house guests and other things which have slowed me right down on non-essentials (see I do this blogging lark out of love not money!).  But now here we are and the film is still very much on at the cinema so its still relevant.  A full 3D experience in a modern and this time fully functioning cinema (my experience last year with Dredd was interrupted by technical problems in the same cinema)…how was it?

As normal I tried to avoid trailers, adverts and especially reviews of the movie before going and in this I was successful.  Aside from a TV spot and the basic idea I knew nothing and went into it with an open mind.  A mind that was frankly very excited to see the film since I really like giant robots, giant monsters and the whole anime roots and premise of Pacific Rim.  I also really like the films of Guillermo del Toro too and Hellboy as well.  So my mind was looking for comparisons for Pacific Rim and while some people have used Transformers and the 1990’s version of Godzilla they are wrong the true father of Pacific Rim is the seminal Robot Jox from the 1980’s (which you should watch if you like mecha) and it delivered big style.

The giant robots and the monsters were superbly rendered on screen and the action set pieces were at times really tense and nail biting too.  Characters are often a let down in summer blockbusters but not in this case as the cast played off each other brilliantly.  From the names of the ‘Jagers’ to the names of the pilots there was a tongue in cheek humour.  The film had heart and drive while dropping the nod to its source material.  At no point in the cinema did I feel bored or did my attention wander from the screen and while you could have written the ending on a postcard and mailed it from minute one of the performance it did not matter.  In short it is a very good film in its own right before you get to the genre and in terms of the genre it is one of the finest of its kind ever filmed.  Go and see it!

In terms of wargaming there is plenty of scope for giant robots in scales such as 15mm with 1/100th and 1/72nd plastic kits…heck even a few 1/60th if you want really big.  Gives me ideas!

pacific rim books

Pacific Rim Movie book and Pacific Rim Year Zero book

Finally I got a package this morning ordered just after seeing the movie containing the two books that go along with the Pacific Rim film.  Excellent!  Once time allows I will read them and hopefully post a wee look at each of them.

Go see the film!


Highlander the Search for Vengeance – Review


Its been a while since my last review of any film or especially my second great love (after wargaming and well my wife, so make it third great love!) anime from the far east.  So last night I perused my pile of unwatched anime and foreign language films on DVD and selected one.  You might remember I picked up a pile in HMW back in February this year and only now are they reaching the top of the list to watch in the free time I have.  I had planned on keeping Highlander the Search for Vengeance for watching with a friend but Friday night found me alone after being ditched by all and the sundry too; so mate less watching alone it was!  So was it any good?

Well yes I enjoyed it but it has little resemblance to the seminal film of the 1980’s from which it takes its name.  Its Japanese through and through and made by Yoshiaki Kawajiri of whom I am a big fan but its far from the best anime out there.  The story is fairly thin concerning Colin MacLeod and his quest for vengeance against Roman general Marcus Octavius.  Marcus kills Colin’s life love Moya in the 3rd century AD in Northern England and swearing revenge for this Colin is promptly killed by Marcus but lands up on Celtic holy ground where his immortal resurrection is witnessed by the ghost of a Celtic Seer, Amergan, who then accompanies Colin as he tracks Marcus through the next two millennia.  Colin fails again and again to kill Marcus and the narrative ends up in post-apocalypse New York for a cyberpunk showdown.  I will not spoil the ending.

The best things about this anime are firstly the voice acting which is spot on and secondly the flash back scenes to my beloved Scotland (it is Highlander after all) and to Rome and Japan during the Tokugawa period which are by far the best parts of the animation.  Yoshiaki Kawajiri delivers on his Fist of the North Star style with intense action, over muscled characters, busty women (no gravity in this world!) and so on.  It is far superior to the awful 1990’s Highlander TV series and as far as I know its canon.  I must also mention the music which is really good and sets the scene moving from the ancient world to the near future with ease.

What lets the whole anime down is the repetition of cliché and sequences.  In seems in places that the action set in the past was what the directors and animators wanted to do and the near future material was a ‘do we have to?’ bolt on later.  Its also not classic stagecraft with dialogue that will make you cringe in your seat.

Overall if you are a fan of Highlander at all then seek this out and watch it.  If you like sci-fi like I do then give it a try too.  If you liked  Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s other works then also see it.  For a few pounds give it a try!

It seems not just ‘there can be only one’, there can be many…


‘Robo Basho Arto Framo’


Just another print on the wall…blame Pink Floyd

I actually carried out what this post is about a couple of weeks ago but work and other things have kept me from publishing this post…mainly as until this morning I thought I already had!

In a previous post I told you all about the artwork and article Sam Croes and I had created for Irregular Magazine.  Sam based the artwork on my description of the giant fighting machines of the 22nd century.  I thought the image was so awesome that I had it printed at a very high resolution and then framed by Green Jam here in Girvan.   Green Jam do an excellent job in framing, highly recommended.  Its an A2 sized print in top grade ink on a thick vellum like paper which is a little raised for a rich feel which was then fitted into a wooden frame with white border.  Normally I only place frame prints of my wargame titles on the walls (you can see DarkeStorme to the right of the Robo Basho picture) but I made an exception here.  Eventually wall space will run out but for now I am gold as they say.

Sam saw the print when he was here last week and he liked it a lot.  I offered to send him another A2 sized print if he desired it, perhaps he shall.

Anyway call it a sin of pride but I just wanted to show you all what I got!  🙂


A haul of DVD’s for GBS

Today was a good day for shopping.  I don’t mean the kind of shopping where I trail about after my good lady uttering the mantras of ‘that looks good’ and ‘your bum ain’t fat in that’ I mean the kind of shopping where circumstances provide a golden chance to acquire something you want at a great price and without hassle.  Well this happened to me today in Ayr at the local branch of doomed HMV store and also in the mail this morning.  Below you can see a picture of the haul.  Sorry about the lens flare but shrink wrapping does that.  I have listed the titles under the image with links to their IMDB pages if you want to learn more about them.


Anime, World Cinema and Bargain Bin gold!

This lot cost me just over thirty five pounds sterling including the postage on the Amazon order for Gazariki which was superb.  The others were discounted on the racks, discounted and binned and then with a 25% blue sticker sale on top it was like Christmas at two pounds a pop!

I hope to review each of these films and series in the next couple of months.  If anyone reading wants something put to the top of the que just email me or comment.


Robo Basho – My Article in Irregular Magazine 13

Last summer I wrote a short article for Irregular Magazine for their thirteenth issue.  I was happy to be asked by a customer of who is also on the staff of the magazine as they were looking for professional writers to create material for a ‘Mysteries of the East’ focused set of content.  My love of all things Japanese combined with giant robots (more on this next month…it will be worth the wait) gave me an idea for a piece all about a sport that replaced war in a ravaged future Japan.  Wrestling in the form of two hundred foot tall, two thousand ton machines, which shake a stadium and make a crowd of tens of thousands roar in approval.  Robo Basho 2115!

You can view and download the issue on Irregular Magazine website.

The article is part one of two with the first part focusing on the history and background of Japan in 2115 which then leads to the sport of Robo Basho and the customs of the giant machines themselves the ‘Roborikishi’ in their stables.  An account of that occurs inside the ring and the weapons allowed along with the Gyoiji or Referee too.  The Kuroboshi III type giant mecha is looked over and its super thick armour and massive muscle servo bunches compared to western war machines of similar size.  Ending with the roleplaying possibilities for Robo Basho the article explains what would be featured in part two.  A good read if I say so myself!

Irregular Magazine 13 was due out last summer and the delay is regrettable.  Here is a statement from the editor on this from their website:

First of all, we’d like to start with an apology to all of our readers and contributors. We were not able to publish Irregular Magazine in Summer 2012, which we deeply regret. We believe we’ve got through the problems that made this impossible and are now back on track with regular publications!

I do not want to get into this here but I think that the problems Irregular had are similar to those other online wargame magazines and indeed other printed monthly titles have had too.  Finding and obtaining content that interests an ever diverging readership is tough and adding to that the sheer speed of the online community and news feeds means that traditional formats are failing.  No point in putting news in a magazine these days.  Focusing on deep article content is the way forward, a more journal like approach.  This of course is hard to come by from writers and artists as it takes longer to create.  For those interested it took me eight hours to pen the article plus an hours proof reading.

Lastly I must give praise to Sam Croes my good friend who created the superb Robo Basho artwork for the article which also features as the cover of the magazine too.  His talent always makes me smile and he was very kind in agreeing to craft this piece of art in his limited free time for me.  He has also produced a blog post on how he created the superb image for Sumo Basho, check it out.


Fleet Scale Success from Eli Arndt!

Since August I have been watching the progress of Eli Arndt’s tiny Fleet Scale Mecha designs and I am pleased to be able to say that Eli giving me the chance to get them into production has turned out brilliantly.  This month will see them released in their own part of the website along with a special Barking Irons Online article for them all about their presence in USEME and how to make best use of them overall in gaming.

FS01 Sprue

FS01 Fleet Scale Mecha or 6mm Power Armour

FS06 Sprue

FS06 Fleet Scale Mecha or 6mm Power Armour

These are some of the smallest wargaming pieces I have ever dealt with and on average each of them is 6mm or less in size.  That said some clever mold making and production sees them in white metal which was then painted by Eve Hallow. They will be released as single miniatures and as value sprues which are a little cheaper.  There are nine different, and they are different, mecha and from the paint schemes I asked Eli for Eve has done a super job (I heard him gibber when he handed them over that never again…too small!).

O.G.Joel has a draft of a 6mm rules set for USEME and these will fit in lovely.

Well done Eli!


Big Man Japan (2007)

This is not one of my normal reviews of a Japanese movie or anime.  Oh, no.  This is something far worse that I subjected myself to this weekend and kind of regretted it aside from a couple of moments of real genius in film making.  But hey, for a fifty pence download I gave it a Sunday morning go.   What I am talking about…Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Japanese mockumentary send-up of monster movies: Big Man Japan!

The Japanese are a unique people with a real passion for the creative arts but they sometimes create things which to a non Japanese (even someone like me who has studied that nation for years) comes across as utterly surreal.  Big Man Japan follows Matsumoto’s Masaru Daisato, an unassuming, sad man living in a Japanese slum.  His wife has left him, taking his daughter away, and he is despised by the people of Japan.  Why?  Because he carries on the tradition of his forefathers as a protector of the country.  Unfortunately, this involved being zapped with electricity and growing into a giant man in small shorts who fights odd monsters who attack the country.  These monsters are nothing like Godzilla and are in fact downright weird including a head atop a leg, a monster that throws eyeballs, a white and black rubber band man monster who has a comb over hair cut and many more.  The film cuts back and forth between fight scenes (highlight of the film) and Daisato and his dull as dishwater, crappy life.  The pace of the movie is all over the place and it is badly let down the by overly long and badly done ending tribute to Ultraman fight which as well as being shockingly shoddy is overly long and too violent to be funny (at least to me).  The film ends with a conversation over dinner between monsters and Big Man…well no idea there.

Below are a couple of You Tube links.  Be warned this is not for kiddies (due to its lack of sanity) but they will give you an idea of what this is about.  The first one is the trailer, the second one is one of the weirder fights with the rubber band comb over monster.

You can get the film from Amazon for a few pounds in the UK.

Lastly the moment of genius…what is it?  Well just before they blast Daisato with electricity in a Hammer Horror esq sort of way he stands inside a vast pair of underpants which he then grows into!  Only in Japan would you see that.  He might be mad and crude and weird..but he can’t be butt naked!

Watch it or don’t…but if you understand it..let me know.  🙂