The Imperial Japanese Army is one of the most ignored modelling subjects especially when it comes to available figures in plastic, despite the demand for more. With another plastic model manufacturer set to release their 1:35 Japanese SNLF, the first set of Japanese infantry in plastic since the 1990’s, the subject should become somewhat more popular.
The kit is over 30 years old, and it certainly shows. Although I was not around when it was released, I have heard that it was a very detailed and advanced kit for its time.
The kit is divided into two sprue trees, one containing primarily body parts and the other containing weapons and equipment. The kit contains enough parts to build up four complete figures. A majority of the body parts, equipment and weapons are cast separately, meaning that the recommended parts can be interchanged to a degree. The instructions are located on the back of the box, which consists of photographs with parts labelled. There are also some illustrations located on the box flaps. All the detailed instructional text is printed in Japanese, which unfortunately I cannot translate.
There is also a detailed illustration showing how to paint rank badges. For those who don’t speak Japanese, a further understanding of these badges can be gained by looking in a good reference book, such as ‘The Japanese Army 1931-45 (2)’ by Osprey Publishing.
The kit includes: 2 pairs of legs (moulded together)
2 pairs of legs (moulded separate)
3 pairs of arms (short sleeved)
1 pair of arms (long sleeves)
4 torsos (heads moulded on)
The kit contains 3 pairs of legs with puttees, and the forth is cast particularly well with officers high leather boots. The torsos and arms intended for the 3 lower ranks wear the typical summer tropical shirt, with short sleeves. The officer wears a long sleeved tropical shirt with a watch, (three of the arms bear a watch, a nice touch and evidence that the kit was based on early war Japanese infantry, such as those who fought in Malaya). The short sleeved shirts are also suited to the cotton undershirts often worn by the Japanese early war, and they can be painted white instead of khaki to represent these.
Although the mould quality was good for its time, examining the kit nowadays reveals evidence of poor planning in some areas. The sprue attachment points on two of the torsos are badly placed. The belt buckle detail is partially obscured by the attachment point, meaning more clean-up and scratch work is required. Other than this, flash is only moderate but seam lines are present on just about every body part.
Although the sculpting quality of the faces is nothing special, they mostly display Asian features, except the face on part a-1, which resembles more of a European. I recommend a resin replacement headset, but this is not entirely necessary. In my opinion, the best sculpted part of the whole kit is the running legs, kit part b-2. This part has clearly defined puttees, and is in a realistic action pose.
The kit includes:6 frontal ammunition pouches
3 rear ammunition pouches
1 binoculars case
1 map case
1 officers water bottle
3 regular water bottles
2 field service caps
4 steel helmets
2 pouches (for grenade discharger rounds)
Some nice additions to the kit are the officer’s felt-covered water bottle with cup, the binocular case and the map case, all of which are superbly detailed. The 1932 model steel helmets all contain the small frontal star and are hollowed out. On the other hand, the field service caps are the most appallingly sculpted pieces of the entire kit. For a start, they miss the small frontal star and are not hollowed out, and they are also extremely flash-ridden. Terrible flash exists in between each sun flap, and the peak is very poorly sculpted. This is perhaps the worst aspect of the kit.
The kit includes:2 Arisaka 6.5mm Type 38 rifles (with bayonets)
1 Arisaka 6.5mm Type 38 rifle (without bayonet)
2 bayonets in scabbard.
2 bayonet scabbards (empty)
1 grenade discharger
1 officers sword and scabbard
1 Type 94 officers pistol in holster
The kit includes 3 Arisaka 6.5mm Type 38 rifles, but sadly they omit the bolt detail and the sights stop a bit short, sporting an inaccurate notch. Other weapons included are a Type 94 pistol in leather holster and a grenade discharger (a type 89, both the types 10 and 98 were known as a ‘knee mortars’ to Allied troops) which is not very detailed but a nice addition all the same. 'Knee mortars' were widely used in the Malayan campaign (more evidence that the kit is based on early war infantry), and there are many photographs of Japanese soldiers using them especially in the capture of Kuala Lumpar. An officers sword, most probably a Type 94 shin-gunto, is also included (unfortunately this is not as detailed as it should be).
Although very old, this kit is still quite ‘usable’ and a must have for all modellers, like myself, interested in the Imperial Japanese Army. The figures (without conversions) would be most suited to early war Japanese infantry such as those who fought in Malaya/Singapore. In short, the kit is a mixture of some nicely thought of and reasonably sculpted parts, and some terribly planned and badly sculpted parts. The kit is surprisingly cheap and still widely available for purchase either in hobby stores or online. The kit itself appears easy to convert/swap recommended parts around, and some extra equipment (i.e an extra helmet and service cap) and weapons (the kit provides one extra Arisaka rifle) are provided to allow for extra build options. I don’t know if other manufacturers are planning to include knee mortars, binoculars and other additional equipment in their future Japanese infantry releases, so unless they do, don’t rule this kit out for parts at least.
Author's note: I have reviewed this kit from a modern day perspective, so my comments may seem over-critical of a kit which was made with older technology. However, please keep in mind that in order to provide the best possible reference to the present day modeller, this review style seems most appropriate.
Also take a look at other Japanese Infantry reviews by Chas:
Dragon Japanese Army Infantry (Iwo Jima 1945)
Airfix Japanese Army Infantry