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(Musashi no Bouken, "The Adventures of Musashi")


I "fake-joined" the I Love Monsters" Swap at Craftster, which simply means that, while you still have to follow the rules for said event, instead of actually exchanging the item(s) that you made with another member, you're creating them for yourself. The object of said swap was to create one "medium" monstrous item. Creature projects are always a safe bet for me as that's mostly all I ever do anyway.

Initially, I was leaning towards modeling a Weretree (one-eyed, four-legged wood beasts) from the Nintendo DS RPG Glory of Heracles, but then I read a recent Hardcore Gaming 101 article about the old 1990 Famicom (a truncated combination of "Family + Computer", which is the original Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System) RPG Musashi no Bouken ("The Adventures of Musashi") and fell in love with a screenshot of a zany bamboo monster instead. I've made several tree creatures over the years, but never a bamboo one, so that was also a factor in my decision. While said game was never released in North America, thankfully, Musashi no Bouken received a full English fan translation, which can easily be found online, so, I was able to experience things in my language.

The protagonist of the game, Musashi (Junior), is the fictional son of the legendary real Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Senior Musashi's arch rival, Sasaki Kojiro, whom he slew during their famous duel on Ganryu Island, has risen from the dead and brought a host of demons with him to terrorize Japan. Naturally, Junior wants to follow in his father's footsteps and bring glory to his family, save the country, and apparently lose his virginity in the process. Let in never be said that this young man doesn't understand what's important in life!

Like most classic RPGs, the vast majority of your time in Musashi no Bouken will be spent fighting and killing the monsters that ambush you with disturbing frequency whenever you dare to set foot outside of the safety of a village. Doing so gets you money, experience points, and occasionally items, that will strengthen Musashi over time and/or help him progress further into his journey. As a novice, outside his hometown, Junior will find himself struggling against sentient and vicious pine cones, corn cobs, and, of course, stalks of bamboo! While those aren't exactly the most intimidating opponents, every hero has to start somewhere, and beating on his veggies is apparently how Musashi aims to make his mark in the world. Surely you'd be impressed if I told you that I once singlehandedly slew an entire army of rabid potatoes on my way to school one morning? By slew I mean ate, and by army of potatoes I mean a bag of chips. Okay, I'm not impressed either; Musashi and I are both losers!

Since they're enemies encountered very early in the game, Bamboos aren't too tough (they only have 12 hit points, but Musashi will still have some trouble dealing with them until he gains a few experience levels and/or some better gear). In addition to smacking you upside the head with their branches, Bamboos can also cast the "Skunker" spell which may cause our hero to involuntarily fall asleep, whereupon the Bamboo will gleefully beat upon Musashi's comatose and defenseless body until he awakens (if you were already low on hit points before nap time, you're probably screwed). Defeated Bamboos are only worth a measly two experience points and nine ryo (the in-game currency); however, if you get really lucky, these foes also sometimes drop a Bamboo Sword when they die, which just happens to be the worst weapon in the entire game, but then, it's a glorified pointy wooden stick, what did you expect? It's kind of tasteless to smack around other monsters with a piece of Bamboo's corpse, so sell it for some extra cash to the gullible town shopkeepers and buy a real blade instead.

Here's a closer look at the Bamboo game sprite without the background graphics. I believe that this was the first time I'd ever fought a bamboo monster in a RPG, and that novelty was one of the reasons I found the plant creature appealing. The idea of malicious bamboo is so ridiculous that it's hard to take it seriously as a threat and I love the thing's goofy expression. Please note that the monster sprite is immobile and doesn't move at all like this in the game, I just animated it here for fun.

Back in the day, conserving memory in video games was very important, as the storage capacity of cartridges were very limited in comparison to the newer media we enjoy now (i.e., DVDs), as such, monsters were often "recycled" by changing their names and color schemes (although, to be fair, that's often still done today, in the form of reskinned polygons, to save time/resources, or, if you're being less charitable, out of sheer laziness). That being the case, the mustard-hued "Bamboo" enemy was also re-used as the red "Akagare" (literally "Red Wilting", which is a disease that afflicts rice plants and causes rust-colored spots to appear on their leaves--who says you can't learn anything from video games, albeit indirectly?) and the green "Kuzama" [I couldn't figure out a definitive translation for that one, but my best guess is "Esteemed Kudzu" (a truncation of the "kudzu" plant name coupled with the "-sama" honoriffic suffix)]. And, yes, I realize that rice and kudzu aren't bamboo, but game programmers tend to interpret monster sprites in a very loose general sense when it comes to recoloring/renaming them--if there's some thematic connection (in this case, they're obviously all plants), that's usually enough, even if the game sprite's anatomy doesn't necessarily match all of the species in question.

While the standard mustard version is my favorite, trust me, if making a mold and doing casts wasn't so time-consuming (or, alternatively, modeling the figure in triplicate from scratch), I would have done all three monster species. Kind of Christmas-y, no?

Below is the progress I had made on the body/face at the end of the first day of work. I modeled the figure around a metal rod attachment (one of the gazillion bits and pieces that came with the last power drill I bought, half of which I don't even know what they're for--I'm no handy man!) in order to make the bamboo shaft hollow. Funny story: there used to be a rubber bulb thingy on one end of that metal shaft, but, I once modeled a bread clay bust of a woman on it, and that darn part came off inside of her head and I wasn't about to destroy my work just to get it back out again (like I said, it's not like I even understand what sticking that thing on my power drill is supposed to accomplish anyway), so it became a permanent part of her.

While it's arguably appropriate, given the subject matter of the model, the "Monster Lab" you see written down the side of the shaft has absolutely nothing to do with this project. It's just the name of a Nintendo DS video game, that was on a handwritten shopping list of titles that I recently bought from, and I just happened to use that sheet of paper to make this figure. It's kind of amusing how words, whether written or printed, unintentionally end up in conspicuous spots like that when you're working on a papier mache project. I really should have used a clean piece of paper though (or at the very least put some light-colored primer on first), because I had to apply extra coats of acrylic paint to cover that text up, as it kept showing through!

In this photo, I've added the four root "legs" and one of the branch "arms" to the figure. The eyes you see here are actually the third set. After trying to adjust their positioning, I lost the first two, seen in the photos above, somewhere on the carpet and, as is often the case when your floors are already messy to begin with, couldn't find them again. The second replacement pair I made (not pictured) turned out too small, so those got tossed too.

Here's a front and back view of the finished, unpainted figure at the end of the second day of work. The roots, branches, and leaves all have internal bendable wire reinforcement to prevent them from snapping off during handling. While I could make all of those shapes without said wire, it wouldn't be very smart, as I can guarantee you, from past experience, that those thin structures would have broken off multiple times during the modeling and painting processes. With that wire inside, nothing should snap off when I inevitably drop my Bamboo on the floor either!

And this is the completed figure. The eyes are a tad wonky (although that arguably adds to its goofy expression), but, other than that, I think I stayed on-model pretty well. I considered applying a darker brown or green paint wash to the figure, to make it a bit more realistic in appearance, but I worried that would also make the Bamboo look muddy and I'd lose the cartoon-y aspect of the monster design in the process. I also thought about strategically drawing or painting some "hard" shadows on the figure too but I didn't think that would work out all that well either, so I ultimately just left well enough alone.

Newsprint, white paper, wire twist ties, white glue, permanent marker, and acrylic paint.

5.0 cm (2.0") wide x 6.8 cm (2.7") tall x 3.8 cm (1.5") deep.

Four days: May 8th, 16th-18th, 2017.
Yup, in my typical industrious fashion, I took an eight day vacation to do "important" stuff like digging up and cleaning virtual dinosaur bones (Fossil Fighters on the Nintendo DS). Modeling the figure was only a two-day process; I was just super lazy about painting and sealing it, which took me another two days, even though neither task was terribly time-consuming (the figure is only three colors after all).

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This page is dedicated to the memory of "Chauncey", our 16-year-old tabby cat who recently passed away on Thursday, May 4th. I also often referred to him as "Chauncey-Mo" or "Momo" (Japanese for "peach"). He was old and his mobility and health had been declining for some time, so his death wasn't a surprise, but it was still sad to lose another fuzzy friend. He will be missed.

If you're wondering, the reason why one of his ears is always up, and the other down, is because, years ago, one of the other cats we used to have bit his ear and caused a huge blood blister which a veterinarian had to operate on, and that ear never stood up straight again after said procedure, although Chauncey could still hear out it fine.

We have another cat, Princess Butter Crumb (that's not the feline pictured above with Chauncey though, she's "Picklehead", a cat that also passed away, back in 2015), and Jethro, the dog, so there are still other four-legged critters around to provide companionship even though Chauncey is gone.