April 23rd, 2010
In Focus Review: Kabuki Models 21st Century Pinups & Dark Messiah models
This may be a general observation, but it sure seams that most of the nicest sculpted, and most unique miniatures pieces are coming from overseas these days. Countries like Spain, Italy, France and the UK are busting out some utterly amazing stuff.
Kabuki Models is one of those companies. They're from Italy. While they don't have a huge range of models, there are two series that they offer at present, 21st Century Pinups, and Dark Messiah. Both of these are roughly 30-33mm in size, so they're a little taller than most 28mm pieces, but fit in quite well with stuff like Warmachine, which itself is supposed to be in the 30mm range for the smallest pieces.
The 21st Century Pinups as the name would suggest, are mostly scantly clad female models, but one is partially naked, and the other fully naked. Now anyone can sculpt up a naked or scantly clad chick with big boobs... those kind of models are a dime a dozen, but these are very different.
There's only four pieces in the series so far, but everyone is a true work of art. The nudity is done tastefully. The nudity is no more gratuitous than that of WWII-era pinup art, and nose art found on most American bombers of the same era. There's nothing disgusting, or over the top about them if you ask me.
There's one piece called the Executioness, which we've been fortunate enough to review. This is a take on the famous Frank Frazetta piece called the Death Dealer (to be exact, this looks very much like the 1987 piece Death Dealer III), and it's truly amazing how much it looks just like that piece, minus the fact it's a curvy woman holding the axe.
Right down to how the sword hangs from the lower back region, to the helmet and axe design, she totally looks like a female version of the Death Dealer. They evidently wanted to pay homage to Frazetta, and did an amazing job.
I don't think there's a single thirty-something+ person who's into fantasy miniatures, RPGs or just a fan of fantasy art in general, who isn't familiar with the work of Frank Frazetta. Frazetta and Boris are two of the most inspirational artists on the face of the Earth who are beloved for their centuries worth of contributions to the fantasy and sci-fi art genre in general. Frazetta may be most commercially recognized for his Molly Hatchet album covers in the 70s and 80s, and some of his Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and John Carter: Warlord of Mars book covers, but he's done so much more than that alone.
There's a trend here too. The more I look at the entire 21st Century Pinups line, it becomes clear, that every piece in the line looks a lot like a Frazetta or Boris painting. For those who aren't aware, Boris is another artist whose style looks so much like Frazetta's that its often mistaken for Frazetta, he's that good.
The piece called Hellinka: Daughter of Sparta is fully nude, wearing nothing but a Spartan helmet a red Spartan cape, and holding a shield and spear. If Frazetta ever did a female Spartan, there's a good bet she'd look just like this miniature. The studio painted miniature, looks just like a painting too. Amazing stuff. At a glance, one could easily mistake that for a Frazetta or Boris painting.
The other piece from this line that we've been looking at is Lunah: Elven Sorceress. She's not naked, but she'd definitely catch a cold wearing what she is. Despite this, she's not wearing anything you wouldn't find any other Elf Sorceress miniature wearing. The sculpt, like the rest of the pieces in this range is stunning.
She's dramatically posed leaning forward, with her arm outstretched behind her, perched upon a tree base. The decorative base is an entire single piece of resin, sculpted into an impressive little tree. She's mostly a single molded piece, with the arm with weapon, ponytail and right foot being separate pieces. Clean up was very minimal, and assembly was a breeze.
They have another piece like her called Nerah who is the Dark Elf Warrior counterpart, but I think you could easily paint either of these as Dark Elves or regular Elves, but Nerah is a completely different piece, posed differently, with a different base and all. I tend to like Lunah better. Lunah also comes with a single 30mm lipped base, like those that are used in Warmachine. I love the lipped bases, so that's a big plus.
The Executioness is mostly a single molded piece, with the axe and hands cupped over the butt of the handle as a separate piece, along with a separate head, and a metal scenic base covered with skulls. She also comes with a 30mm lipped base to set the scenic base upon. I really like this piece, and not because it's partially nude, but because it is done so well, and depicts an extremely ass-kicking female warrior with a big axe.
I'm in the process of working on my Warmachine Doom Reaver pieces while working on this article, and by total coincidence I ended up with those pieces standing next to the Excecutioness in my staging area where I set pieces that I'm working on. She looks like she could easily be used as a Doom Reaver unit leader for Warmachine. This piece just totally looks the part, and I'm probably going to end up using her as just that now.
The Dark Messiah line is more of a sci-fi than fantasy range of miniatures. There's only six pieces in that range as well at present. Each of these pieces are just as impressive as the 21st Century Pinup range, only these ones aren't all female. The two pieces I asked for to review specifically were Uriel and Ikazuchi No Tora. I won't even pretend to know what that means, but Ikazuchi as we'll call him is what appears to be a really amazing sci-fi looking samurai warrior.
Ikazuchi is a multiple piece figure, with two different head options, one helmeted, the other without helmet. Both of the heads look amazing, as does this entire figure. The base is a scenic resin base, with what looks like an Asian statue ruins on the base, plus it comes with another 50mm round plinth that the scenic base fits within, to be used for displaying the figure.
He's dramatically posed with a pistol in one hand, and sword in the other, dressed in samurai armor, and some ornate disk that goes on his back, with some Asian symbols carved all around it. I don't quite understand the disk, but it looks neat.
As for clean up, it's not a difficult model to clean and assemble, but there's a little basic pinning the feet of the model to the base required, and a little clean up of the resin base that needed tending to. It was nothing that's not expected of a model of this quality.
Next up is Uriel. I was very impressed by the pictures of this model from the start. Being a Space Marine player in Warhammer 40k, I totally saw the possibilities of this guy the minute I laid eyes on him. He looks like he's wearing some pre Heresy Terminator or some other antique blessed armor from the 40k world. Nice big and bulky shoulder pads, huge armor... this guy is so ripped right out of the 40k universe from somewhere in that timeline.
Just the same, he could easily double as a Warcaster in Warmachine too, for maybe Cygnar or the Mercenary faction. I stood him next to a Space Marine Terminator Librarian and he looked just about the right size for a heavy armor wearing 40k piece. The Terminator Librarian was slumped down in some crouched dramatic pose, and Uriel was a hair taller, which looks right, since he's standing fully upright. He'd make a really nice Space Marine, DemonHunter/Grey Knight hero or special character without a doubt.
Uriel is a multiple piece figure, and clean up was no different than that of Ikazuchi No Tora. He also comes complete with a scenic resin base, and a bonus plinth collectors display base too. He was easy to secure to his base, as the feet had pegs already. All that was needed was drilling the holes out of the resin base to plug him into it. It was that simple. The mold lines, like all the rest of the figures, were minimal too.
He's holding his lance in the left hand, with his right arm stretched out with his pointer finger doing the "come here" motion. He also came with two head options, and the helmet is so nice that I was really torn about not using it, so I plan to glue it to the base later and paint it like he set it down by his feet as he directs his troops.
Other models in the Dark Messiah range are just as impressive. I really want to review Anubus: Lord of Envy now, which is about 70mm tall, and is the largest piece in the range. He looks a lot like something ripped out of the Stargate universe. Maybe we can get the chance to cover that at a later date. Samael is another amazing looking male armored figure, the seductive Medusa has no snakes for hair, but looks poised to kill and lastly Mater Lacrimosa is a female assassin and definitely looks the part, all of which come complete with intricately detailed bases too.
I'm really impressed with Kabuki Models. I've seen a lot of great models over the years, but these have to the be the most detailed and amazing ones I've seen yet first-hand. These are truly gems, the kind of models that Golden Demon-quality painters no doubt would love to get their hands on. These are so nice, that once I had a good look at them, I really didn't want to begin to paint them, in fear of messing them up, or not doing them real justice.
Being as nice as these are, I'd have to say that these are definitely more of a true painting enthusiast's models, and not just the kind of models that a casual wargaming enthusiast will take full advantage of. I think I'm a really good painter too, but they are so nice they were intimidating. This is a good thing though. These are the kind of models, that inspire hobbyists' like myself to become even better painters.
Overall, I really can't say a bad thing about these, aside from the fact that they're not readily available everywhere yet. If they were, I think these would go over really well here in the US. Where I did find them, they were $21.99 each, and $18.99 for Excecutioness at Cool Mini Or Not's online shop.
Dollar for dollar, that's quite a bit more than the average pieces that most gaming enthusiasts buy. The resin scenic bases shouldn't be overlooked tho, and in the case of the Dark Messiah pieces, they even toss in a bonus plinth display base to set the scenic base within. So you do totally get what you pay for, and more with Kabuki Models. They're worth it. I paid $20 for my Terminator Librarian from GamesWorkshop, and ended up with a lot less overall, than if I spent that same money on a Kabuki Models piece.
Manufacturer: Kabuki Models
Unofficial Frank Frazetta Gallery
As an added bonus, we've included an Interview with Rodolfo and Aurelio from Kabuki Models...
WarGameGuru: What inspired you to start Kabuki Models?
Rodolfo: Oh that's very easy to answer...simply our passion for miniatures and hobby in general. I founded Kabuki Models with my illustrator Aurelio Lecis during March 2009, but we were hobbyists from not less than 20 years. The idea at the base of KM was very easy, to design and produce figures according to our very personal style and taste, in particular we wanted to do something far from the classic grotesque miniatures proportions (ie. big heads, huge hands and so on) paying more attention to the anatomy and overall design.
WarGameGuru: By looking at all of the 21st Century Pinups line, it's very evident that there's a strong Frank Frazetta influence, what other
artists have been an inspiration for Kabuki Models?
Aurelio: Pin-Ups influences come from a rich background we developed during the year taking inspiration from illustrations, comics and movies as well. Surely Frazetta is one of the major inspirational sources, in particular regarding the pose and the "dramaticity" we want to give to our figures.
But I could quote other key influences: Boris Vallejo or Luis Rojo and the great mangakas too as Shunia Yamashita; Tsukasa Jun and of course Masamune Shirow. There are not only illustrators that inspired our works, in fact a great source for anatomy and dynamism came from Frank Cho or Adam Hughes.
WarGameGuru: Who are the sculptors for your products, is it one person, or many?
Rodolfo: we work with more than one sculptor, currently the team is composed by 3 elements and we are looking for at least other 2 ones.
WarGameGuru: Do you use the same painter for all of your studio models or various artists, and who are they?
Rodolfo: We worked with many artists but at the moment we have an exclusive collaboration with Alfonso Giraldes (aka Banshee) that's our lead painter and a great person too.
WarGameGuru: On the Dark Messiah page, it reads like you plan to release rules and make a game out of that line, as there are references to factions,
and a lot of mention of Arcanum. What can you tell us about that?
Rodolfo: Well, I can tell you that Dark Messiah is our main project, and also a very ambitious one, because our goal is to create a background more than just a miniature range. Then the game system will be only one of the many things we are working, for instance during this year you will see also the first chapters of the on-line comic.
WarGameGuru: All of the models are metal at present, are there any plans to go the plastic route like many of the larger companies have done in
Rodolfo: Nope, we love white metal and we think that plastic is good for vehicles or "gaming miniatures" instead we will keep working with "collectors" pieces. But surely in the near future you will see more resin in our range 'cause we will start to workalso with larger scales.
WarGameGuru: What's next for Kabuki Models?
Rodolfo: Considering we are just at the very beginning, and still in the "start-up" stage, there are really many things coming next. Both from the boundary side as: a background/rules website for Dark Messiah; the online comic and a new packaging as from the core itself, or better: new range for larger scale as 1:6 busts or 70mm models as 1:1 replicas too (amours and weapons) and last but not least a range fully dedicated to the vintage Anime robots that will look much similar to the Bandai's "Soul Of Chogokin".