Though only a few sets were ever made, the Matchbox range was always top class with plenty of poses, excellent sculpting, good accuracy and lots of action. These Japanese are perhaps the best of the bunch, and were voted one of the best World War II sets ever made in an on-line poll conducted by HaT a few years ago.
The 20 poses in this set are beautifully animated and with plenty of life. The large number of kneeling and prone positions is good to see, and there are a good number of advancing/charging poses. The man with the hand grenade is an exception to the rule, displaying little activity, but is still nicely sculpted. The range also includes an officer with sword, another kneeling firing a pistol and a man displaying his 'Buun-Tchokyu', or good-luck flag that many infantrymen had presented to them by their families. Finally, there is probably the best-animated and most convincing falling-wounded figure ever produced.
All of the figures wear the type 98 uniform with the tropical shirt that was issued in 1938 and worn throughout the rest of the war in the hotter climates such as the South Pacific. The majority also wear their field caps, which in all cases includes the sun curtain which was made of four pieces of cloth hanging down the back of the neck. For the rest, the standard helmet is worn, sometimes with camouflage netting. The standing officer wears boots, which was common, and the kneeling one wears gaiters (also fine) but the rest have puttees with the canvas straps making the 'X' pattern. Equipment varies but all seems plausible, though very few are provided with a bayonet frog. The two front pouches are much in evidence, as is the rear pouch. However, while each of the front pouches held 30 rounds, the rear held 60, and therefore should be larger than the front, rather than of the same size as modelled here.
Most of the men are armed with the Arisaka Type 38 rifle, generally with bayonet attached. One prone figure is firing a 6.5mm Type 96 machine gun, and another man is using the heavy 7.7mm Type 92 machine gun. This latter piece is beautifully detailed, but has no apparent supply of ammunition, which should be fed from the left in 30-round metal strips. Another kneeling man has the famous 50mm Type 89 light mortar, sometimes wrongly referred to as the 'knee mortar', which was produced in very large quantities and provided a useful extension in range from the hand grenade. However this one is being held near the trigger, while most photos show it held by the barrel, for better control.
Detail is superb throughout, but for a long time this old set was out of production and hard to obtain. More recently however this and other Matchbox sets have been re-released in Revell-branded boxes, so it is nice to see this fine set back on the market. Our photographed set had absolutely no flash, but some other pressings do suffer from flash, yet this remains a highly desirable set that is also one of our favourites.