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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Introducing the Japanese Infantry

The Japanese Imperial Army was one of the toughest in WWII. Not only did they often fight to the last man, but they also showed little mercy towards their adversaries. They also endured terrible conditions in the field, often stranded on isolated islands without food or medicine. It is said that two thirds of their deaths were the result of starvation and disease. Their sense of honor led them to fight with extreme determination and to obey what were often suicide orders, rather than allow themselves to be captured. In terms of availability of figures, this is a country that has received a good amount of attention, as you can see from the pictures below. 

21st Century Toys
This was one of the last figure sets produced by 21st Century Toys. They came already factory-apinted. The sculpting, the poses and the painting are all among their best. The only thing that seems a bit odd to me is that several of them seem to be looking up rather than forwards. But overall, this is a very nice set, ready to be deployed into action.

Airfix Japanese Infantry - Part 1
A typical Airfix set. Well proportioned and well posed figures. The paint job came off a bit lighter than I would have liked. I will probably touch them up when I paint the other sets with a darker and slightly greener color.

Airfix Japanese Infantry - Part 2
The only complaint I have about the Airfix figures is about the kneeling guy. Without a base it is very easy for him to get knocked over. On the other hand I like the prone guy with the MG. The flaps behind his cap give him a nice touch for the tropical settings where he is supposed to be placed.

Atlantic Japanese Infantry - Part 1
As is often the case, Atlantic offers a mixed set of figures. Some of them, like the guy on the left, are in a bit of an awkward pose. The guy feeding the ammunition to the MG is also a bit stiff. Some of the other figures are better thought out and at least they are well proportioned.

Atlantic Japanese Infantry - Part 2
Some of these guys are good to deploy them as part of a raiding party or a Banzai charge.

Atlantic Japanese Infantry - Part 3
The guy with the branches is an interesting idea, but I think the execution fell short of its potential. If the guy is wearing cammouflage, then he probably does not want to be seen. So why is he standing upright?

BMC Japanese Infantry - Part 1
BMC is a producer of relatively inexpensive figures, however I was very pleasantly surprised with their Iwo Jima figures, both the Japanese and the Marines. They are very well made. Superior to their price point.

BMC Japanese Infantry - Part 2
The figures are a bit on the larger side for 54 mm, but still a very good set. Can't wait to see how they look once they are painted.

First Gear Japanese Infantry
Recent recasts of the old Britains Deetail figures. They come with round bases and brown uniforms. I actually like the new color scheme better than the original.

Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry
The original figures. I have a hard time deciding which ones I like better. These or the First Gear recasts. The uniform colors are too light and green compared to the real ones, however their age holds some special appeal.

Britians Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilles Rifle
Part of their special Combat Weapons series. Not sure if the Japanese Army actually had this weapon in the field, but nonetheless it makes a good addition to the army and provides some welcome firepower if you are wargaming with these figures.

CTS Japanese Infantry - Part 1
Classic Toy Soldiers came out with 6 poses of Japanese Infantry. They are slightly on the larger side for 54mm. My favorite poses are the two guys working the machine gun.

CTS Japanse Infantry - Part 2
These other three guys, have very long riflew which are hard to keep straight and they are standing too straight for my taste.

Hing Fat (ESCI Clones) Japanese Infantry - Part 1
These guys came with the 'Big Bucket of Fun' from Hing Fat. It took a bit of research to figure out that they were clones of the original ESCI figures. They are supposed to be 54mm tall, but they are more like 50mm.

Hing Fat (ESCI Clones) Japanese Infantry - Part 2
Some of these poses are not my favorites, like the guy standing in the middle. He would really look out of place in a battlefield. ESCI produced 15 figures, at least that's what I counted on their 1/72 set, but Hing Fat only cloned 9 of them.

Hing Fat (Airfix Clones) Japanese Infantry - Part 3
To complete the set of 15, Hing Fat cloned the 6 Airfix figures which actually resemble very much the 6 poses that they left out from ESCI, but look better than the ESCI equivalents.

Glencoe (Marx Recasts) Japanese Infantry - Part 1
Now, here are some of the most dynamic poses in the WWII plasticd figure world. A bit on the slim side, but fully action-packed. Definitely Banzai material!

Glencoe (Marx Recasts) Japanese Infantry - Part 2
Other than the prisoner guy, who would be a very rare case, these are also a very dynamic bunch.

SWTS (Recasts of Marx 6"" figures) Japanse Infantry
These are supposed to be reproductions of the 6" Marx figures in 54mm. I bought them advertised as SWTS (Steve Weston Toy Soldiers) but I have never been able to verify if that is the real vendor who made them. In any case, you can see that they have a very close resemblance to the Glencoe/Marx figures, which makes sense given their common origin.

MPC Japanese Infantry - Part 1
MPC figures tend to be tall and slim, and their poses a bit stiff, however I have a soft spot for old figures like these, and I trust that once they are painted, their appearance will improve.

MPC Japanese Infantry - Part 2
The guy without a base tends to fall over, and the rifle strap belonging to the second guy from the left is often broken when you find these figures. The same goes for the tripod on the machine gun. So if you find these guys without broken weapons grab them!

TSSD Japanese Infantry - Part 1
Toy Soldiers of San Diego came out with these figures relatively recently -a couple of years ago- and they did a very nice job with the sculpting and the poses. They actually have 8 poses only, but the guy with the flag can also hold a rifle instead - see below. 

TSSD Japanese Infantry - Part 2
The rest of the pack. As you can see, they also project a good dose of action and energy. The fixed bayonets very much in line with their tendency to engage in close quarters combat.

Oliver 60mm Japanese Infantry - Part 1
I had never heard about these figures until one day that I was browsing through eBay. They offer 11 good poses to complement your Imperial Army. Certainly they are a bit larger, but they should still fit in. I also saw them listed in a brown color.

Oliver 60mm Japanese Infantry - Part 2
The only thing I did not like about them is that they seem to be unofficial recasts (i.e. clones). If you pay attention to the base of some of the figures you will see how the base of the original figure is contained within a larger base which indicates that a second mold was made using an original cast. If the molds are lost, I suppose that is a good solution. What I didn't quite like was that the eBay listing did not point that out, and on close inspection, the figures have other imperfections typical of clones.

DGN Japanese Infantry - Part I
This set seems to be a fairly unique set in the sense that only a few of the figures seem to be influenced by prior sets -Airfix in this case. A few of the other poses have a very vague resemblance to the ESCI guys, but it is questionable. The rest of the poses seem to be originals. The man on the right for instance is a sniper which will be a good addtion to my Japanese army since I do not have any so far. 

DGN Japanese Infantry - Part II
The size of the figures is also a bit on the shorter side, but considering that the Japanese were also smaller, this does not seem to be an issue. Here we have a couple of Airfix look-alikes. 

DGN Japanese Infantry - Part III
Another two more Airfix-like figures, and two originals. I just wish these guys were displaying a bit more action. I am not a big fan of guy who are just standing around.

Lido Japanese Infantry - Part I
Here are 4 of the six poses that I am aware of. These guys are really hard to find and if you do find them, they can be quite expensive. I got lucky with them, but I only found 4 of the poses. The scultpting and the detail are OK. Not the best, but decent enough. I am debating whether to paint them or not...

Lido Japanese Infantry - Part II
Here is one more pose. It is interesting that the shape of his helmet resembles that of a German soldier. Not sure what to make of that. He might be better suited to serve as a Chinese officer. The only one missing at this point is a man firing his rifle while advancing.

Lido Japanese Infantry - Part III
I think these are the last two poses. Unfortunately both of them are a bit broken. The man on the left is just missing the tip of the rifle. The officer on the right is missing a hand in which he was holding his binoculars. I'll probably end up painting them in which case I will try to repair them as the fix will be less noticeable. Even in this state, I was hapy to run into them, as they are very hard to find and also got them at a great price compared to what they regularly sell for in better condition. 

Trojan Japanese Infantry
You don't often see this set and when you see it, it is often quite pricey, so I felt lucky when I was able to score one recently. I should say that I had only seen them in pictures, so it was a bit of a shock when I got them and realized that they are actually quite undersized for 1/32. At best they are 1/35, but they really feel small compared to the rest of my collection. The poses are decent and I suspect that I am missing a couple more. Unfortunately, the man on the left has the rifle tip broken off. I am sure that helped bring down the price. I'll see if I can repair it. The factory paint is still in fairly good condition. All in all, I see them more as a rare collectible worth having for the sake of completeness, than as figures I would want to mix in with the rest of my troops.

Unknown Japanese Infantry
This is a 60 mm figure. It came with a lot that I bouth from the UK, so I suspect the manufacturer might be British. I can't recognize the base and sculpting, and I have not found it in my reference book or online. If you happen to know who made him, please leave a comment. I only got this pose, so it would also be good to know how many and what other poses exist. Overall, it is a decent figure in terms of detail, even if it is not the most exciting pose. As far as I can tell, that is the original paint still on it. 

Starlux 60mm Swiss Officer - painted as Japanese
This is a figure I ran into by chance, but picked up without hesitation. It was advertised as a Japanese officer, but one of our fellow collectors confirmed that it is a Swiss officer. I suspected that might be the case based on the shape of the helmet. In any case, it will be placed at the front of the column of Japanese troops which I am in the process of painting. The uniform is a bit darker than I'd like so I might need to give him a bit of a touch up. It looks like the prior owner already did touched up the paint a bit, so I am not too bothered by the thought of modifying the original. Anyhow, as you can see, it is a nicely made figure. The rider can be removed from the horse. The pose could have used a bit more action, but even like this, I find it a nice addition to the collection. The reality most likely is that officers did not ride their horses into battle, but rather used them for transportation, as shown in the picture.

Click here to see some Japanese troops in action against US Marines.
Here you can see a more detailed description of the Atlantic Japanese guy with the cammo
Click here to see a post about the Marines


  1. You are missing one of the poses of the Marx Japanese. There is one running with a Type 100 smg, which is a good action pose. The one guy you have with a Type 100 is getting shot, you should look into it, I bought recasts of them in pea green. Your blog is awesome, you point into the right collection of what I buy next!

  2. A comment on the BMC set which no one else seems to have made - they are 'copies' of the King & Country painted metal figures, hence their larger size (K&C are 1/30th 60mm) and high quality. Cleaned up they paint very nicely as one would expect from such a pedigree.

    And as the previous comment says - 'Awesome Blog!' I always come here to check on the number of makers of WWII figures and what was in them. Would you be prepared to let me use your photos to illustrate magazine articles on my conversions, to show the original figures? They would be credited to your blog, of course, and might bring you a few more hits.

    1. Hey Mike, sorry for the slow response. I have been away from the blog for a while. Thanks for the input on the BMC figs and the positive feedback. I'll be happy to contribute to your magazine, and will appreciate the photo credits.

  3. Han't ticked 'notify me' on my comment. I now know someone else did tell you about the K&C connection - just looked at the Japanese fighting photos - sorry to post redundant info.

  4. Whilst I am label a set as 'First Gear', which was the company which owned Britains at the time. They are the Britains 'Super Deetail', as they were re-branded, and the new paint job was a conscious attempt by the company (then run by Richard Walker) to make the painting of the Deetail figures more accurate (eg the cowboys lost their purple pants!)

    1. Yes, I think the new color schemes were a good improvement over the original Deetail colors!

  5. The last horseman is a swiss soldier. Your blog is very interesting.
    Michel from France

    1. Thank you! The wide helmet shape was a strong clue of that. Appreciate the confirmation. I think I night still keep him as a Japanese officer as I don't have any mounted Japanese, but I will fix the caption in this blog, to avoid spreading misinformation.