When Japan attacked the Western powers in December 1941 it was gambling on a quick war, as it knew that it could not maintain a lengthy struggle against the industrial might of the Allies. That gamble failed, and as the months dragged on Japanese defeats and losses mounted, with battles such as Midway alone destroying months of military output and thousands of trained military personnel that Japan would not be able to replace. It became apparent that some desperate action was required to change the course of the war, and so the Kamikaze strategy was born, whereby men in planes packed with explosives dived onto an enemy target. As the man was at the controls right to the point of impact the chances of hitting the target were much higher, and a heavier payload could be delivered, but of course each mission, successful or not, cost the loss of a plane and the life of a pilot. Such attacks began around October 1944, and in the end thousands of such attacks were launched, yet while they achieved some successes they did nothing to alter the final outcome of the war.
A kamikaze in battle would simply be a figure sitting in a cockpit, so naturally RedBox have chosen to model figures on the build up to a mission, and the support services that went with it. One figure has no base and is perhaps boarding his plane, waving goodbye as he goes, but otherwise everyone is clearly on terra firma. There are many highlights for us in the poses, starting with the pilot in the top row adding the hachimaki headband that bears the red hinomaru (sun) and lettering that says kamikaze, or divine wind. Prior to a mission there was a good deal of ceremony, which often included sharing a final drink with one's friends etc., the reading of poetry and the presentation of good luck talismans. A figure in the second row seems to be raising a bottle in a toast, while one in the top row is holding both his sword and a bouquet of flowers in the air as in a farewell. The middle figure in the top row is simply shaking someone’s hand, while the others are perhaps holding bowls of sake as part of their preparations. We found these figures to be quite touching, and we were also pleased that they didn’t all suggest that every man went willingly to his death, as this was not the case.
What appears to be an officer in the middle row looks to be explaining some mission with the aid of notes or a map, and the rest of the set is mostly made up of ground crew. As with the other sets of Japanese aviation from RedBox, these are engaged in generic maintenance poses, although here one carries a starting handle and another holds a fire extinguisher. We particularly liked the man running and waving his cap, again perhaps waving off another pilot on a mission, in part because this kind of twisted body pose has been tried before by various manufacturers but almost never done really well, as it is here. The last figure is of a lady waving a sprig of cherry blossom in farewell, this plant being much associated with the kamikaze. In a word, all the poses in this set are terrific.
Kamikaze were volunteers from both the army and navy air services, and their clothing and equipment was of course no different for their non-kamikaze comrades. The pilots here have the correct flight suits, boots and helmets, and those with a harness look fine too. The uniform of the figures in the middle row is also accurate, as is the ordinary working clothes of the ground crew figures.
The sculpting is very good indeed, with good proportions and excellent detail, although unfortunately our sample was made in a dirty white plastic, so it is not easy to see (other colours are available). The poses are extremely natural and in no way flat, and on our examples we found no flash or excess plastic anywhere.
Although the term 'kamikaze' covered more than just airborne attacks, these are much the most famous and in our view have been really well depicted here. Although none of the figures are actually in battle they do a good job of catching the flavour of the last few hours before embarking on a mission, and when you consider what must be going through the minds of many of those brave young men and the futility of their sacrifice, the figures are not only well designed and produced but also quite moving.