by: Rick Cooper [ ]
Somewhere back in the Stone Ages of modelling Tamiya released their first 1/35th scale German Army Infantry figure set, reference #35002. Just now becoming available Tamiya has released their latest 1/35th scale German Army figure set; Wehrmacht Tank Crew Set, reference #35354. A quick peek at the new set, while keeping the old in mind, tells you just how many light years we have come.
The new set (#35354) is an 8 figure set of German Army tank crewmen. The kit comes in a slip top cover box of the usual size for larger Tamiya figure sets. Inside you will find a pair of poly bags with the 8 figures, instructions, a decal sheet for insignia, and a full color two-sided piece of slick paper for decal placement as well as a thumbnail bit of history behind some of the included insignia.
The eight figures are evenly divided between four full figures and four half figures as well as four officers and four NCOs. Two of the full figures make up a small vignette of an officer and a crewman studying a map, which Tamiya of course includes but will need to be cut out from the instructions. The four half figures are obviously to fill open hatches and include the adjustable perch for each to rest at the proper height on.
The breakdown of the figures varies; the two-man map reading vignette has the standard two legs, two arms, torso and head arrangement. One of the other full figures has the legs and torso all attached and only needs two arms and a head, the other full figure has a torso and one leg already attached with the other pieces in the standard breakdown. The half figures are torso and legs (what there are of them) and need heads and arms. Five of the figures have either the entire collar or a portion of it molded as separate pieces to add the extra undercut detail that normal plastic canít replicate.
Each of the figures is wearing the standard Wehrmacht double breasted black Panzer Field Jacket with the black trousers. The set includes four sets of headphones, six holstered pistols and three sets of binoculars. The four officer figures have the crusher cap for head gear while the NCOs all wear the side cap. Two of the officer figures come with a choice of heads, one with the side cap and one with the crusher cap.
The decals are plentiful and very well printed. They include shoulder tabs for all figures, rank insignia for three of the NCOs, cockade and piping for the side caps, cockades for the officerís caps, belt buckles and collar tabs. Besides those insignia the decals also include the Crimea and Kuban Shields which are a nice touch.
The above is just the nuts and bolts of what you get in the box, I suspect that what most people who will read this want to know is what do the figures look like? I can tell you that these are some of the finest figures I have ever seen in plastic. They appear to be molded from 3-D scans of real people, including the heads which are first rate. Unfortunately, the head sculpts all have neutral expressions on them, if Tamiya ever starts taking scans from yelling, laughing, frowning, smiling soldiers then someoneís head sculpting business we are all familiar with may take a major hit. I believe the head sculpts are strong enough that they will not need resin replacements unless you are looking for some extra character. Besides the heads, the hands are generally very well done also with more finger and metacarpal definition then you find in older plastic figures. The folds and draping of the uniforms are also well done, particularly around the figures jackets.
There were two drawbacks that I noted with the figures. The first was that the boots seem to be a bit under detailed. The two standing figures have no discernible heels to their boots at all. The other thing that looked a bit off to my eye was the area around the knees of the two standing figures, usually when someone is standing versus walking there is some bunching of the material around the knee, these figures donít feature that.
Now the building and painting. I wanted to build up at least one of the figures to have a more well-rounded opinion one way or the other. I chose the kneeling full figure, thought about the pointing fellow but just couldnít see adding another on the shelf of pointing fame. This figure has a very standard parts breakdown, pair of arms and legs, torso and head with an extra lapel piece for better definition. The two legs are keyed so that you donít get any Ďslideí after you have glued them together which was a nice touch. The torso and arms all have the shallow key added to keep everything lined up and fitting perfectly. I particularly liked the resting arm and hand on his two legs, it was a nice firm fit without any floating areas that would need later correction. All in all excellent fit and easy cleanup.
On to the Painting
I used the newish AK primer and micro filler for a good strong primer coat. After that dried up nice a firm I used the AK figure paint set for panzer black uniforms. There are few pictures of each additional layer of lights and darks, shadows and highlights. For the face and hands I use the Doug Cohen method as outlined here on Armorama http://www.armorama.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=SquawkBox&file=index&req=viewtopic&topic_id=255237#2165111
After the painting was done to my level of satisfaction ( a pretty low bar!) I added the decals. They came off the backing easy enough but were a bit stiff on the figure before I hit them with a few drops of Solvaset after which they snuggled down nicely. The cap, shoulder and collar tabs really made the figure come to life in a way that would easily elude my skills with a paint brush. A quick shot of AK Ultra Matt varnish and he was ready to take his place on the shelf awaiting that day when he might be called up to diorama or vignette duty.
There is much to like about this set of figures. Some modelers will miss the officer pointing into the distance but this set does have one pointing at a map on the ground! There is one figure using a hand and arm signal with a raised clenched fist, I canít really tell if it is stationary for halt or pumping for hurry up, but is nevertheless a nice change of pace from the standard. With this release, along with several other of their more recent figure offerings, Tamiya has really raised the bar on their figure sets. I would highly recommend this set for anyone that needs to crew a German AFV.