While earlier texts almost exclusively concentrated on the Samurai, medieval armies in Japan always included an element of common soldiery, and by the late medieval period this was extremely numerous, with huge armies taking the field. These common men were the Ashigaru, and have already appeared in several sets in the usual battle poses. This set follows the recent trend of more completely depicting a period by including various figures that can complement the fighting poses – here we find some command figures plus soldiers engaged in a variety of activities.
The top row begins with a man holding one of the many flags an army would carry, and beside him is what seems to be an officer. To his left is a man blowing on a horagai, or conch shell horn, which was a very common form of signalling device. Finally we find a kneeling man wearing considerable armour. His purpose is not clear, but the set includes the chest beside him which is a box containing drawers with bullets for the arquebusiers, so he could easily be dispensing such ammunition.
Row two begins with a pair of figures that look good together. The scene is simply an archer leaning forward and a kneeling man handing an arrow from a large quiver. Arrow bearers such as this carried large quivers with one hundred arrows, supplying the archers who could loose arrows very rapidly. The third man carries a bow and quiver of arrows which are held in a wooden frame. This suggests the man could be a weapon bearer for a noble lord, which of course was a prestigious job. Finally we have a figure leaning down with left arm extended. What he is doing we cannot guess, but under his right arm he has a long straight and featureless rod which could just be a swagger stick used by teppo ko gashira, a man of roughly lieutenant rank who was in charge of arquebusiers. The stick was his mark of rank, and also contained a spare ramrod.
The final row has an arquebusier, who is unremarkable but may have been included because he has the box cover over his match to protect it from rain. Beside him is a bullet carrier with his box of bullets on his back. Finally we come to two unarmoured men who give every impression of being relaxed and in camp. The first man seems to carry something (noodles?) in his left hand, but the second is definitely occupied with culinary pursuits as he is using his upturned jingasa hat to boil up some rice from the pouches he holds in his right hand.
Having described all the figures it is time to tick the checkboxes and assess the results. In terms of accuracy we have no complaints at all. Ashigaru could be dressed in various ways but all these are authentically done, as is their equipment such as the bullet boxes, bows and quivers. The standard of sculpting is exactly the same as all previous RedBox sets, which is to say far from impressive. The detail is not too bad but it is not particularly sharp and in places such as some faces things get very vague indeed. There is also a noticeable amount of flash, and one figure (the bowman leaning forward and down) refuses to stand up on his very small base (which the others share but are not so overbalanced).
We really liked the good variety of interesting poses this set has to offer, and RedBox are to be applauded for their commitment to depicting their chosen subject with such depth. Having no accuracy flaws is always a cause for celebration, but unfortunately the overall technical quality of these figures lets them down once more, making this a must have for fans of medieval Japan but much less appealing for more general collectors.