by: Stefan Halter [ ]
This is to my knowledge the first Japanese Tank crew set in plastic that is up to todayís standards. There are two older Finemolds sets with the quality being more reminiscent of ancient Tamiya or even Italeri figures. So I am very pleased to finally have a decent set to crew all the recent (and not so recent) releases of Japanese Tanks by Finemolds and DML.
On Japanese Tankers Uniforms
Japanese tank crews were issued a one-piece khaki drill overall and a brown leather or dull green canvas padded helmet. The side flaps/chin straps were made of brown leather. As with all headgear of the Japanese Army the helmet had a small five-pointed yellow star on the front.
Webbing was of the standard Imperial Japanese Army type made of dark brown leather. The boots were also made of brown leather. The pants were worn in the standard IJA fashion with khaki puttees criss-crossed around the calves.
Though not confirmed in any reference material available to me, I assume that Japanese tankers were also issued the standard uniform. Though there are few pictures of Japanese tank crews in action, there are some showing the regular uniform in use and especially the well-known cap with detachable neck guard made of four separate parts.
The kit contains two small sprues packaged in a plastic bag and a small piece of paper that shows the parts numbers. Personally I prefer to have the part numbers on the sprue but this really is no big issue. Assembly and painting instructions are on the back of the side-opening box. It would have been good to have a front and back view of each figure to see where the parts actually go.
The molding is very good, no pin marks are evident and the usual mold seam cleans up quickly. Some mold seams are on the verge of flash but there is no evident misalignment of the molds. During transport one torso was broken off the sprue but no damage done.
The set contains 5 figures, four standing and one sitting cross-legged. All figures are broken up in the standard fashion with torso, separate legs, arms, head and headgear as well as separate equipment.
The helmets do not have the yellow star at the front, however this is not a big omission, as the goggles would cover it anyway. According to the instructions, all figures are wearing goggles on their headgear, however there are only 4 on the sprues. Though they are numbered A11 - D11 I would guess that Figure D (with the soft cap) would be the best choice not to have goggles.
Another omission is that the puttees Ė though indicated in the instructions Ė are not crossed at the shin. This is most likely due to molding restraints and could be easily added with some tape or metal foil. In any case, the few photos Iíve seen of Japanese tank crews that show this area clearly do not show any criss-crossing, the puttees just seem to have been wrapped around the calf.
Figure A is of a crewman manning the turret hatch, resting both arms on the hatch. This is the pose most often seen in in-action photos. The figure wears the standard overall and a scabbard or dagger. He is also wearing white gloves, indicating that he is probably participating in a parade rather than combat. The details on the figure are very well done with realistic folds on the clothing. The face is well done though not with a lot of expression. The eyes are a slight depression, which should facilitate painting.
Figure B is very similar to the first one, with practically the same pose. He is also wearing gloves and has a Japanese flag draped around the torso and shoulders. This will be rather hard to paint convincingly but is a nice detail. Facial detail is good, with a grim expression and a moustache.
This was the figure where the torso broke off of the sprue and I chose this one randomly to build for this review. Since I need to adapt these figures to fit the tank they will go on, I prefer not to build them all for a review. Fit of the parts was generally good with a small gap left between legs and torso. Whether this is due to my skills or the molding I will leave open, in any case the gap isnít anything that a little putty canít handle. In comparison to my recently reviewed figure set from Master Box, fit was clearly not as excellent though. A general remark concerns the contact/glue surface of the legs. This is hollowed out which makes it quite difficult to get a good bond and I prefer the full surface.
Figure C is a crewman in the same outfit as figure A but standing outside the tank. In the painting instructions he has his right leg standing on the tank and the left leg on the track skirts. Again he is wearing white gloves. Molding again is excellent and this figure even has some character in his facial expression with the right corner of his mouth slightly raised to a smile.
Figure D is sitting cross-legged and wearing a white shirt with the sleeves pushed up to the elbow. In his left hand he is holding his scabbard. As all the other figures he is wearing gloves. He is also the only figure wearing the soft cap with neck guard. The neck guard is made of one very finely molded piece. The cap has a very finely molded star on the front and therefore I would recommend omitting the goggles on this figure (also, the goggle straps are not present on the cap, therefore I suppose it was intended that this figure wasnít meant to wear the goggles). The face is well molded, however the facial features are more reminiscent of a grim European at a pub.
Figure E is of an officer standing at attention and apparently giving a salute with his right hand. He is also wearing gloves. Contrary to the other figures he is wearing the standard (officerís) uniform with leather riding boots. He is also carrying a sword, which is well represented and conforms to available pictures of WWII Japanese swords (though there are many different types). The face is, in my opinion, the most distinctly Asian of the set and he has a moustache and is shouting something (probably a salute).
All in all this is a very fine set and the first in plastic up to todayís standards. Unfortunately they all seem to be engaged in some parade with white gloves, but this is in most cases easily remedied by replacing the hands. Anyone who wants to populate his Japanese tank will finally have a very good and inexpensive alternative to the thinly strewn resin figures.