For many years the Japanese Army enjoyed great success with their invasions of China and various Asian states, and so were mostly doing the attacking. From the middle of 1942 however, as the Western Allies began to recover from their early losses and counterattack, the IJA was almost always on the defensive, attempting to hold the limits of their new empire. Their long supply lines were very vulnerable to Western naval action, and many remote Japanese garrisons had to defend their position with scant resources. The only answer the Japanese command had to their plight was to claim that Japanese fighting spirit and tenacity would see them through – history would prove them wrong.
As with most sets of Japanese infantry made in this hobby, the figures here are aimed primarily at the war in the Pacific as they wear tropical uniform dating from the late 1930s and 1940s. One man and the officer wear the field cap with sun shield, but the rest wear either a helmet or a sun hat – it is hard to tell which in some cases. Many also have the field cap underneath this, as was common. The majority are in shirt sleeve order, wearing the tropical uniform without the tunic, though a few do wear this item too. Apart from the officer's long boots, everyone wears puttees and short boots, and so represent a common look for these troops, though sometimes such men could be much more ragged after a lengthy spell in the field.
Equipment is minimal, with most only having the usual three ammunition pouches on the belt, a haversack and a bayonet. We were surprised that only three poses have a water bottle here, and there are no other items of kit. Seven of the poses carry a rifle – probably the Arisaka 38, and one man is particularly fortunate to have acquired a rare Japanese Type 100 model submachine gun (bottom row). He holds it by the ammunition magazine, which is inevitably a poor model since it was actually curved and a lot larger than this. Much more common was the 50mm Japanese Type 89 mortar (or grenade-launcher to be precise), known by some as the knee mortar. This adaptable weapon was widely used and well worth including here, particularly in environments where the Japanese could not use tanks or artillery for fire support, although we thought the model is rather smaller than it should be. The officer has a tiny pistol which he is firing (but probably to no good effect unless at almost point-blank range), but much more effective would be the tripod-mounted Type 92 machine gun next to him. Here the man and barrel are a single piece and the tripod is separate, an arrangement that works really well. That leaves two figures (end of rows one and two) who appear to be using small machine guns. Detail is very poor, but it would seem that these are both Type 11 light machine guns with the hopper on the left side.
The Japanese became expert at defence, often allowing the enemy to land on the beach and only put up a strong defence from strongpoints along suitable features of the terrain inland, making assault difficult and very costly. None of these figures particularly suggest this activity, but nonetheless we really appreciated many of these poses, which are exactly what you would expect of 20th century soldiers. Many are on the ground or hunched low, sheltering while they await the enemy or fire on him from cover. The second figure in row two is a weak element as his legs are sort of hanging in the air, but otherwise these are terrific poses with plenty of life and far from stiff.
The sculpting is pretty good, so the detail is reasonable and the general look of the figures pleasing. The only assembly is the machine gun barrel into the tripod, and this is a good fit. The Type 11 is a poor model lacking most detail, but otherwise there is not much to criticise here. Unfortunately all the seams have flash with a rough finish – the samples we photographed for this page are actually cleaner than all the others we have seen of this set.
Apart from the one pose that we felt did not work, the poses here are great, the sculpting mostly good and there are no accuracy problems. There are now many sets of Japanese infantry for the Pacific War, and this one does not particularly bring anything new to the range, just some nicely done reinforcements to swell the ranks.