The forgotten army in terms of military modelling availability, there is a chronic shortage of Japanese infantry figures on the market. This Japanese Infantry kit by Airfix has long provided a stop-gap measure for modellers seeking to build the subject.
Although the set is in 1:32 scale, the difference is minimal compared to 1:35, unless both subjects are compared side by side. In my opinion, Airfix made a mistake in doing this, as 1:35 is far more versatile and more popular than 1:32.
Since the original 1970's era release, the kit has been re-boxed a number of times with the number of figures having been reduced from the original 12 to 6.
As the kit is multipose, all body parts, weapons and equipment are molded separately to allow for more options to the modeller. The plastic is soft and is easy to trim, reshape, carve etc, and accepts Milliput and Magic-Sculpt quite well.
The instruction leaflet included with the kit presents the modeller with six possible poses, all of which are very well thought out. Although not the only way to pose the figures, hence the name “Multipose”, the examples illustrated in the leaflet include a crouching, prone, kneeling, standing, charging soldier and a sword-wielding officer. At the back of the leaflet, another illustration shows how varying poses can be modelled by interchanging parts.
The leaflet also includes the typical Airfix painting guide for Humbrol enamels.
The kit includes: 6 sets of legs (with feet)
12 arms (with hands)
The moulding detail is quite acceptable, still a high standard even after 30 odd years. The heads are moulded with the neck which eliminates the need to sculpt one. Flash is minimal and only occurs badly around the head area, while mould lines occur on nearly every part. The details lacking on the head are the ears (which contain a lot of flash and generally resemble blobs), nostrils and eyes (which resemble holes in the face).
The torso is moulded very well with buttons, pockets, collars, belts and appropriate folds. The only problem is the sink mark located on the back, which will need to be filled. The arms are very good, fingers are crisp and only the mould line will need to be removed.
The legs however are very heavy in detail and the folds appear a bit overdone. Some of the legs have terribly moulded puttee lacings which are off centre and blobby. The good point is the leather boots which are quite crisp.
Six display bases are included which, for the serious modeller, are useful for standing the figures only while painting.
Included in the kit are: Three 6.5mm Ariska rifles
One 8mm Type 100 SMG
One 8mm Model 94 pistol
One 6.5mm Type 96 LMG
One Type 95 Officer’s sword
This is a fantastic variety and every weapon can be modelled with any figure. The quality is reasonable, although all the details are heavy, and not as crisp as weapons you would find in more modern kits.
A small strip of Plasticard is included with some of the kits, but not all, for modelling weapon/equipment straps. This can be a mixed blessing as the tedious task of buckles and other metal strap parts need to be scratch made for an authentic finish.
Equipment included in the kit: 6 haversacks
1 holster for Model 94 pistol
3 magazines for Type 100 SMG
1 Officer’s sword in scabbard
5 bayonets in scabbard
1 bipod for Type 96 LMG
6 water bottles
3 field service caps
3 steel helmets
5 groundsheets/ capes
5 entrenching tools
4 field packs
5 respirator bags
6 front ammunition pouches
5 rear ammunition pouches
All of the helmets and caps are hollowed out and are a snug fit on the heads. Flash occurs around the field cap’s four flap sun curtain, but is easy to clean-up.
While I was unable to establish the accuracy of the pistol holster through published sources, this may be an older model, which is ill-suited to the time period nonetheless.
The field packs, haversacks and respirator bags all conform to the body quite well, although putty is best required to fill small gaps. As you can see the kit includes many options and even enough spare parts to include on a diorama base (e.g. an entrenching tool laying on the ground or a water bottle resting on a table). The possibilities are endless.
Included in the kit is a leaflet of decals: rank badges; service insignias; a Japanese flag as well as an MP armband are included. This is a nice touch as most manufacturers do not include decals for their figures. The instructions include a detailed diagram of where to position these decals on the figure.
Apart from the obvious flaws such as inaccurate holsters, lack of head detail, larger scale, and average quality etc, the kit was and still is a huge achievement for Airfix. The kit is outstanding for versatility and the sheer number of parts (which are not provided by any other modelling vendors) which makes the kit very popular for modellers interested in this limited genre.
Airfix should be proud of their achievement: providing an answer to the shortage for so many years.
The following reference was used for this review:“The Japanese Army 1931 – 45 (2): 1942-45”. Men-at-Arms 369. Philip Jowett. Illustrated by Stephen Andrew. Osprey Publishing. 2002.