The ninja are one of the most widely recognised elements of medieval Japan, although the popular image is often far from the truth. Although often despised for their underhand and dishonourable methods, ninja were widely used by many for intelligence gathering and disruption of enemy forces, as well as assassination. Like the rest of the Art of Tactic range, these figures are part of a game piece, and a large base is included to group them together. However this seems entirely contrary to the modus operandi of the ninja, who certainly did work in teams on occasion but would also often work as individuals.
The figures in this set are more diverse than most, and do a pretty good job of illustrating the main tasks of such men. Collecting intelligence, for which they went behind enemy lines disguised as soldiers or peasants, was a major role, and each of the first three figures pictured above are dressed as humble peasants. They wear peasant costume including a straw cloak and straw hat - both common apparel for protection from the rain, but in the case of the cloak a useful aid to concealing a weapon. The first two are both in very dramatic poses. The first is using a blowpipe (fukiya), which had the advantage of being silent, while the second looks to be wielding a kurorolagi, a device used to assist in climbing stone or wooden walls, although his costume does not match this sort of activity, so perhaps it is simply being used as a weapon in an emergency. The third man is simply walking along. Strolling around enemy territory dressed as a peasant was a perfectly good way of assessing the terrain and the enemy’s movements and strengths, so perhaps this man is not expecting any action at all.
The last two figures more closely match the popular view of the ninja, dressed in clothing well tucked in to avoid snagging and using or drawing their sword. Both have grappling hooks on their waist and are clearly intending to infiltrate an enemy position unseen and perhaps assassinate a target. Both are beautifully poised action figures.
All the costume is correct, and the poses are fantastic. This is helped by the multi-part construction we are now familiar with from Zvezda, but everything goes together really well yet grips so firmly that the glue tube will not need to be disturbed. Sculpting is exceptional as usual, so these are wonderful little pieces which are a bit too tall for medieval Japanese but otherwise are extraordinary examples of the art of the plastic figure maker.