The sixteenth century is seen by many as a Golden Age for the Samurai, and this set depicts mounted samurai from that period, matching the previous Zvezda Samurai Infantry set. Right from their earliest origins the samurai were horsemen, and as in Europe the mounted knight was the most important element of any army for much of the medieval era.
As can be seen from the pictures, there are a generous 17 mounted figures in this set, and seven different poses is not a bad effort. Two of the figures have ring hands to take the main samurai weapon of the time, the spear (yari), of which there are several different types included - more than are needed for all the figures. The spear is a very tight fit, but that is greatly preferable to a loose one, so no problem there. Incidentally samurai never threw their spears, so the man with arm raised is simply bearing down on his opponent. Those men with swords are more likely to be engaged in close-quarter combat, where the spear was difficult to use, and one man has a naginata, which was like a sword blade on a long handle.
Samurai competed with each other for the most extravagant armour, so variety was the main feature of their appearance. All these figures exhibit all the basics of armour and costume of the period, and all are correctly done - the large horns on one helmet are a typical flourish. Detail is excellent and is also correctly observed. The men have the long and short swords thrust into their belts with the long one thrust up to avoid interfering with the horse, and they all have the distinctive large stirrups. Finally most have a sashimono, the tall banner that was attached to their backs to show which army they were fighting for. This is done separately and fits well into two holes in the back of the figure, and thankfully the banner itself is not engraved with any design.
The horses are not large, which is correct, but they were strong (they had to be to carry a man in full armour). The harness and saddles are authentic, although the saddle is rather simplified. However this is completely obscured by the rider, so again no problem. The horses are correctly done with no armour but with plenty of decorative fringes, tassels and so on.
The bows were a concern to us, as Japanese bows were enormous at over 2 metres in length, and were usually held with the grip noticeably below the midpoint, so these bows look more European than Japanese. Apart from that we had no complaints, and these are certainly good looking figures. Nice and chunky, as even slightly built Japanese were once they donned all that armour. Not a trace of flash and perfect engineering of parts that fit together - no more than we have come to expect from Zvezda of late. All the riders sit on any horse well enough, and the appearance of these figures placed together in a charge is very good. Zvezda are to be commended for making separate infantry and cavalry sets rather than compromising on one mixed set, and the result is another splendid product from one of the top manufacturers in the hobby.