by: Jacques Duquette [ ]
I was happy to hear the announcement that Trumpeter was doing a PLA tank crew. I have quite a collection of PLA vehicles, but no actual PLA crew. There are some resin figures, but they are not easy to obtain nor are they inexpensive.
The box art shows 3 figures with infantry helmets/soft cap and only 1 figure with a tank crew helmet. The box contains 2 decal sheets of camouflage, a decal sheet of uniform details (badges etc), one black sprue with 2 rifles, and one tan sprue with 6 figures. That’s right; there are 6 figures in the box. Instructions, painting guide, and decal placement are on the box bottom.
First off, I want to say that while I like the idea of a decal sheet of camo pattern to help those who don’t paint very well (or don’t want to paint camo), this is a concept that currently is better in theory than in practice. Decals used this way are difficult to lay down correctly and require solvents to get them to work at all. Beyond decal application issues, the decal paper should either be cut for specific areas to apply (trousers front and back, torso etc.) or else a pattern for the modeler to cut out the pieces should be printed/provided.
The camo decals provided are thin but the trade-off is they tear easy or are brittle once off the backing paper and they only responded well to Solvaset decal setting solution. The ink did not run and the decals softened up quickly, and with some work using a paintbrush and a Q-tip, settled down very well, almost like they “melted” on. There was very little time to move them in the space between putting them on the place to be applied and the Solvaset working so well that you could not adjust the decal. Using the decals and working to create proper seams or matching up the camo pattern put these in the “not for the beginner and a challenge to the expert” category. They settled down equally well on bare and painted plastic.
The figures are all based on the same general body, with differences relegated only to the heads and arms. All are 54mm tall when fully assembled. Even taking their helmets into account, that makes these PLA crewmen all right at 6ft tall. I am sure it is possible there are 6ft tall tank crewmen in the PLA, but I expect this to be abnormal at best. There is no spacing between the legs (especially noticeable between the boots) and no undercut to the blouse bottom, the sleeves at the wrist, the pockets, or with the belt. The sleeve/wrist portion is easiest to deal with since the hands are separate. The hands are all gloved, making painting easier (they are white). Detail overall is soft, but there is more than might initially seem to appear in the clothing.
The head sculpting is very mediocre and does not really remind me of any particular race other than “Hollywood Blockbuster Action Movie Tough”. Instead of typical Asian characteristics, they look like a generic amalgam face that is squinting.
The helmets and detailing are again, mediocre. The head sculpts for the tanker helmets (not to be confused with the heads for the infantry helmets) do have microphones sculpted on, but they are more of a featureless blob than a microphone. Even making the microphone a separate piece to glue on would have been a better choice.
The Rifle sprue comes with 2 Chinese Type 95-1 rifles, one with bayonet and one without. The rifles come with clips in them but there are two separate clips as well.
My overall problem with the kit sculpting is that while 3 figures are specifically armored crewmen, and thus intended to be mounted in a tank so the legs/feet sculpting doesn’t really matter, 3 of the figures are atypical for being in a tank (infantry helmets, softcap) making me believe their intent is to be outside a tank and that exposes the poor sculpting of the legs/feet. Crewman could be in AFV’s with infantry helmets and/or softcaps, but these figures are intended for a parade from their pose and the boxtop art. Considering those limiting parameters, I have not seen any photos of PLA tank crew on parade in anything BUT tank helmets.
So what can be done? First, it struck me that the 3 non-tank specific figures are also basic PLA figures. Meaning they could be modified for use with armored cars, artillery, trucks, etc…anything that needs a PLA figure, albeit a TALL one. For the 3 figures with the tanker helmets, the helmets can be hollowed out and the heads replaced with better sculpts. Microphones can be trimmed off and better facsimiles created.
Overall on the figures, undercuts can be created and poses changed using basic modeling skills, putty, and desire to do the work. This should not be necessary, but we are looking for a bright side.
Overall, I was disappointed by this set. I don’t expect great figures from Trumpeter and I did not get them. These figures remind me of the level of figure you would get from Tamiya in the 1970’s and I would classify this as a wasted opportunity.