Samurai-themed Space Marines – Pt.1 – Furinkazan

I’d guess that shortly after Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader was released back in 1987 and the first boxed set of plastic Space Marines came out, people have been doing samurai-themed Marines. When I got my first boxed set of beaky boys 25 years ago, I decided I would do a samurai-themed Chapter and laid down the basic color scheme I still use today.

That 40K armies and Space Marine chapters often echo real world historical military colors and designs is no accident and it’s one of the things I enjoy about the minis. I like the Roman designs found in the Ultramarines and the Norse theme of the Space Wolves. GW obviously likes them too since they actually model the miniatures to look that way. But for samurai-themed Marines, making them actually look like samurai, you have to convert.

Many samurai Space Marine conversions are about actually changing the silhouette of the model to look like an armored samurai. I have seen some very good ones over the years and a quick google images search turns up these and these. Those are really great conversions and my hat’s off to the guys who did them since they look like they took a fair amount of work. Nowadays, Kromlech makes things a little easier by providing samurai heads and backpacks that can quickly alter the basic Marine silhouette into a samurai warrior. Ah, where were these 25 years ago? Anyway, until now, silhouette-altering conversions had to be done entirely from scratch.

Way back when I was just a young nerd, I didn’t have the modeling skill to do such conversions. But one thing I did know was Japanese. So I used this knowledge to create (well, “borrow from history”) a range of insignia and markings that would make it clear my Marines had a Japanese (if not a samurai) theme. So while the silhouette of my Marines was not altered, they still would stand out from the generally European influenced colors and designs most often seen on Space Marines.

I started first of all with writing kanji characters on each Marine. I tried a couple of different things before I hit on the design I use today – the Furinkazan motto. This is the maxim, if you will, of the famous Sengoku era warlord Takeda Shingen. Takeda himself got it from Sun Tzu.

Fu (風) “Move as swift as the Wind”
Rin (林) “Stay as silent as a Forest”
Ka (火) “Attack as fierce as Fire”
Zan (山) “Be immovable like a mountain”

I realized I could paint these four characters on the Space Marine armor. I tried it and it worked and I’ve done it this way ever since.

I actually evolved this scheme out of an earlier design. In place of the kanji I originally had “RDK” which stood for “Reptile Deth Korps”… c’mon, it was the ’80’s, what can I say. I’m just happy I made the jump to kanji!

It’s evolved only a little over the years. Certainly, my understanding and ability to write in Japanese has improved as well. Here are some of my early Marines. I painted these guys and their banner back in around 1991 or 1992 – can’t remember for certain.

I’ve tweaked the colors just a little – using gold for the trim now rather than grey, but as you can see it’s still the same – rising sun on the right shoulder, white greaves and grey armor. I hand-painted the Chapter banner and had a friend who could do Japanese calligraphy actually write out the Furikazan motto on the banner. The image symbolizes the first Rising Sun Chapter Master, Hachiman, slaying the dragon of Chaos.

So a squad of Marines in the current Chapter colors is like this:

And as I paint more Marine models and their equipment, I’m writing the motto all over the place:

That’s the evolution of one of the core aspects of my Space Marine Chapter colors. I do find it does stand out and looks good on the tabletop. By using this and other words and phrases written in kanji, I can create a look that sets my Marines apart yet maintains the familiar Space Marine silhouette that everyone instantly recognizes. They go, “Oh, Space Marines,” then look a little closer and go, “Hey, did you write all that?”

Yes I did! 🙂

More about samurai Space Marines next time!

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3 Responses to “Samurai-themed Space Marines – Pt.1 – Furinkazan”

  1. Hey brother in theme !
    Have a look on what I have done in the same samuraï idea by clicking on my name !

  2. stingersix Says:

    Nice looking stuff, Targol! Thanks for the link!

  3. […] check out this really cool Samurai themed Space Marine army I dug up while looking for ideas! For the Emperor….wait, which […]

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