by: Russ Amott [ ]
The Japanese army in WWII was essentially an infantry army with emphasis on the foot soldier. Their equipment was named for the Imperial year in which it was developed (much like the 1911 handgun in US arsenals) and was intended to be as functional for the infantryman as possible, although emphasis was put more on fighting spirit than on improving technology for combat.
Modelkasten, a Japanese company known more for aftermarket accessories for armored vehicles, has also released some very fine figures. The subject of this review, IJA mechanized infantry, offers a set of figures depicting a good blend of Japanese cultural tradition and modernized warfare.
I ordered my set from HobbyLink Japan (HLJ) and it arrived in a fairly large shipping box. Inside was a flat, end opening box a little smaller than a standard sheet of printer paper with a photograph on the top depicting the completed three figure set with a Pit Road resin motorcycle and sidecar. The back of the box has the instructions printed on a separate label and fixed to the box. Inside were three small sprues, each containing a figure. The box top states the figures were sculpted by Ichiro Take.
My first impression was very good. The figures are well sculpted and in particular, the faces show very smooth and refined detail, with clear Asian features, something not always seen in figure sets. There were no sink marks or ejector pin marks to contend with. Seam lines were moderate. The sprue attachment points were quite large.
Figure A is a standing infantryman. He is pointing off to the distance and holding a type 99 rifle in the other hand with the rifle butt resting on the ground. He wears a type 92 helmet with net cover, and the brim of a cloth cap visible underneath. The four piece sun cloth to protect the neck is thinly molded. He is dressed in the type 98 uniform and carries two type 38 frontal and one rear ammunition pouches, a model 94 water bottle, and a bread bag.
Figure B is a standing officer. He has a cloth cap on his head, carries a map case, water bottle, holster for what I guess is an 8mm Nambu pistol and a magazine pouch on his belt. The figure is depicted holding a sword in scabbard, tip resting on the ground. Unlike the other two figures who sport the leg wrappings around the calf, this figure has leather leggings. His shirt is tucked in and appears to be a tropical shirt, possibly the 2/3 pattern. He wears breeches.
Figure C is seated and depicted on the box art as the motorcycle rider but he could be placed on any applicable vehicle. He wears the same type uniform as the standing officer, but has goggles on his head over the cloth cap, and has the same neck protective cloth as the first figure. The figure also carries a holster and what I believe is a small compass pouch in addition to his magazine pouch. The figure is depicted wearing gloves.
I assembled all three figures, in reverse order, to test fit and check appearance. In general I had no fit issues, needing only to lightly file mating surfaces to get a good fit. Surface details, such as collars and straps, are molded close to the surface but are well detailed. I was thrown off a bit by the plastic, which seemed to have a slight rubbery or gummy feel to it. Cleaning seam lines and attachment points was a little tricky as I normally can scrape or gently turn the blade over the surface and clean out the details, but in this case the blade tended to skip, even when new out of the package. I had no trouble using files, but there was a slight bit to clean up on the edge afterwards.
On figure C, I had to cut the sections for the neck cover to get them to fit properly around the head, which wasn't difficult. On figure B, I could not get a clean join between the front and rear of the map case, and had to work the edge a bit. On figure A, the type 99 rifle suffers from lack of detail, and the type 30 bayonet broke off. The bolt handle is a separate part but not mentioned in the instructions. Miscellaneous Japanese equipment isn't readily available, but I do have the Fine Molds IJA infantry set on hand, and will use one of the extra rifles from that set to arm this figure.
The figure poses are quite good, in my opinion, and tie in well with each other. Even the pointing guy has some interest in him, mainly because of the nature of the poses as sculpted, and the detail in the faces. The officer appears a little tense as his free hand is clenched in a fist, as if the news he is getting may not be good.
I picked this set up as I thought it would go well with the Dragon Type 95 Ha-Go I recently reviewed and I think the figures will look good. The set is pricey, costing $25.00 from Japan to my front door, which is more than I am used to for styrene, and some small details. as the mentioned above the rifle, netting on the helmet, and the ammunition pouches are poor, but the creases in the clothing, buckles, and straps are quite distinct. The modeler can add straps and a rifle sling to further enhance the set. Considering how many options there are for Japanese figures, I think this set will do nicely. I don't know how long it will remain in production, and it wasn't the easiest to find online, but it is out there, at least for now.