This is one of many figure sets which Esci produced in both hard and soft plastic, although the poses are not the same. This hard plastic set is labelled as Imperial Guard, but this is no more than a sales gimmick and serves as normal infantry as well. It was withdrawn in 1985 and has not appeared since, making it quite a rare find today.
Compared to most soft plastic sets, this contains very few poses. That one of them is simply a man carrying a banner with the national flag (which is a supplied wet transfer) only adds to the feeling of being short changed. The man standing and firing is doing so into the air, but none of the poses are particularly noteworthy. The officer is waving his sword in the air, and so is much the same as almost every other Japanese officer made before or since. Only the prone machine-gunner requires assembly, and the full sprue can be seen here.
The men wear the type 98 uniform, which is properly done, although most are missing the rear pouch. The kit includes 10 packs, so at least some of the men can be carrying these if required, although of course the straps for these are not present. All but the officer wear puttees, but they lack the characteristic 'X' pattern straps normally seen. However in general they are pretty accurate.
The sculpting is reasonably good, with good detail and proportions. Because most of the figures come complete there are not the vague joins some hard-plastic figures have, and even the arms of the machine gunner fit pretty well. On our example of this set there was a bare minimum of flash, so these are really quite well produced, perhaps benefiting from the experience and mistakes made in earlier sets in this range.
With very little assembly required and fairly accurate uniforms these figures are quite good as far as they go, but that is not very far given the limited number of poses. They don't offer anything not available in soft plastic, so perhaps their long absence is not to be a source of wonder.