by: Russ Amott [ ]
Dragon models have recently begun releasing Japanese Armor kits in 1/35 and 1/72 scales. The type 2 and type 95 tanks I have reviewed are among the best designed and detailed kits ever offered. Now Dragon models has offered a new set of Japanese army infantry figures as an expansion of the line, either to stand alone or mixed in a diorama setting with the light tanks.
This set, numbered 6555 as part of the '39-'45 series, which also follows closely on the heels of the US Marines Peleliu set, comes in the now standard end opening box with artwork depicting a group of four Japanese soldiers in action. On the reverse instructions are provided in the form of pictures of completed figures (not the same as in the box, but larger scale production prototypes, unfortunately showing much better detail that you will find in the box) with parts numbers and arrows indicating their positioning. At the bottom is a basic painting guide, again with lines going to the designated area and showing paints called out by number for GSI Creos Mr Color and Aqueous Hobby Color lines, and Model Master enamel paints. This paint guide is unfortunately not complete.
Inside the box, the single parts sprue is wrapped in a plastic cover. All four figures are contained on the sprue, numbered A, B, C and D. Various equipment is also included, numbered but without specific lettering. Each of the figures is molded in the now standard 6 part assembly of upper torso, two leg/lower torso parts, two arms and head.
Figure A is the commander, holding a type 94 Nambu pistol in one hand and a sword in the other (necessary backup as the type 94 had a reputation for failing to function). His cloth covered Model 92 helmet includes the 4 piece neck cover. He has a water bottle, generic pistol case map case, small ammo pouch for the pistol and binocular case. He is wearing boots with leather shin guards and appears to be wearing the tropical tunic with undershirt and half drawers.
Figure B is the assistant machine gunner. He is lying prone, holding a type 99 rifle with bayonet attached, and his gear consists of a bread bag, water bottle, bayonet frog, spare ammo pouch for the machine gun and a small case on his back, possibly a mess kit. His type 92 helmet has a net cover and neck guard panels. His uniform (and the others) appears to be the tropical 2/3 sleeve tunic. He is holding a spare magazine in his hand, ready to hand it to the machine gunner.
Figure C is the machine gunner. He is dressed identically to his assistant but carries additional magazine pouches on his belt. His type 99 machine gun has a bayonet fixed for close action.
Figure D is a kneeling infantryman, type 99 rifle raised in firing position. He carries a pair of type 38 spare ammunition pouches on his belt, along with his bread bag and water bottle, plus a spare pouch (possibly intended to be the gas mask pouch). His rifle also has the bayonet fixed. His position is somewhat awkward. He does not have a balanced stance, instead leaning forward and holding is rifle below the line of sight. I couldn't hold a rifle in that position and aim effectively.
Figures B, C and D are wearing the unique "Tabi" shoes, a rubber soled soft shoe with the big toe separated from the rest. Tread pattern is present on the sole.
All four heads have oriental looking features, but detail is fair at best.
Examination of the kit parts shows heavy seam lines, unexpectedly soft molding on many parts and sink marks on the legs of the machine gunner that will be visible. I was very surprised at some of the softness present. At the same time, the figures hands are very well detailed and the netting on the helmets was a very nice attempt. Much of the gear was disappointing, especially after having handled the recent FineMolds IJA infantry set. This design crew is certainly not the same as the team that did the tanks.
I did basic assembly of the figures, putting the legs and torso together to test for fit. There was significant clean-up of the parts, and the plastic itself felt different, not like the styrene I am used to from Dragon. It was softer and didn't scrape off as easily. In particular, clean-up of the puttees on the legs was a challenge. At the seam lines, much of the detail suffered badly also, with folds not lining up. There was some flash on the connecting surfaces of the legs, but this was easily trimmed away.
When I attached the legs the joint was fairly good, but attaching the torsos left gaps, even after some clean-up. Both joining surfaces were rounded off, and filler will be required.
The two prone figures looked a little awkward as the legs seemed somewhat unnaturally flattened on the top. I thought I had the machine gunner's legs backwards, but they are positioned correctly. There is a large sink mark on the top portion of his leg which has affected the surrounding detail and will require repair.
No decals or markings are included in the kit, but this is generally standard. Again, FineMolds spares will be able to fill in.
Overall, my impression of this kit is that it is somewhat of a let-down, especially compared with other Dragon models figure sets I have reviewed, and recent improvements by their competition. It has many nice features in terms of the accessories present, cloth neck covers, helmets and the type 99 machine gun, and the bread bags are even molded to conform to the figure surface, but the seemingly half-hearted effort put into the molding is disappointing. With work, the figures can be cleaned up, but considering how limited the options are for Japanese figures from WWII what could have been a tremendous release is now just below average.