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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Vympel - Toy Soldiers

Vympel seems to be a recent entrant into the 1/32 Plastic Toy Soldier space. They are based out of Russia. I first came across them when I saw pictures of their 'Das Reich' set. For a while I was a bit confused because shortly after I saw the same figures being advertised by Hanomak. Later I learned that they made some type of commercial deal with them and Hanomak ended up selling their Das Reich set. See more on that below. Initially I thought that Hanomak had purchased Vympel as a whole, but later it became apparent that they were still operating independently, when they released their next set representing the pre-war German expedition into the Himalayas. I hope to see more production from Vympel going forward as their Das Reich figures in particular were a good addition to the hobby.  

Hanomak Waffen SS - Das Reich Division
Hanomak / Vympel Waffen SS - Das Reich Division

This is an interesting set for a couple of reasons. Originally, when the pre-release pictures came out, they were published by Vympel, but later it seems that Hanomak purchased the rights and began distributing it. This caused a bit of confusion. Also, the original pictures had 6 figures in it, however one of them was of a slightly larger scale, so Hanomak decided to not release it as part of this set. Probably a good decision. These five poses are true 1/32 scale, meaning, smaller than the 'Big 1/32' scale that Hanomak uses for their other figures. In terms of the figures themselves, they are all nicely sculpted, and good action poses. My only criticism is that they also require you to glue some of the hands/weapons to the figures. The molds have pins and holes in them to help with this but the rubbery material makes them useless because the pins bend when you try to put them into the holes. So the only solution is to slice off the pins and glue them as best as you can line up the arms with the hands. The other criticism is that the hands that come wit the weapons are smaller than the hands that come attached to the arms. Not very noticeable, but not great either. What I really like is the cammo foliage on the helmet of the second guy from the left, in addition to his overall stance. A great pose. And the machine gunner is also very nicely done. A unique variation on the pose. The sandbags are a separate piece so you can place your machine gunner behind a wall or any other protection you want. Lastly, the fact that most of them are wearing cammo smocks -even the commander- means that when these guys are painted they will look even more interesting. 


Hanomak / Vympel Flamethrower
Hanomak / Vympel Flamethrower
The sixth figure in the Das Reich set was meant to be the flamethrower guy.  As mentioned before, it was a bit larger than the other figures in the Das Reich set, so it got released along with the Norland set by Hanomak.

Vympel Germans In Search of Shambhala
Vympel Germans In Search of Shambhala
I believe this set represents the German expedition led by Ernst Schaefer in 1938-39 to Tibet. The Nazi regime was interested in all things mystical and Shambhala, located in Tibet, is at the center of such mystical prophecies. I mainly care about this set because it has a few figures which can be used to enhance my unit of German mountain troops, particularly the two German men in the front row. The one figure that I don't have much use for is the one who appears to be a Tibetan holy man. It is nonetheless nicely detailed and interesting. 

 

Ratnik - Toy Soldiers

Ratnik appears to be a Russian manufacturer based out of Ekaterinburg. I believe the name Ratnik means warrior in Russian, which would make this a very appropriate name for this firm. I don't know much about them and this is the first set from them that I have come across. Some internet searches reveal that they also produce tin lead figures in 54mm scale. I only saw them sold individually, but I don't know if they were originally part of a set. I will have to keep an eye out for more info about them and potentially more sets. 

Ratnik Soviet Border Guards
Ratnik 1941 Soviet Border Guards
This is a good set to complement the Hanomak NKVD Soviet Guards. The sculpting is average -a couple of the poses feel a bit stiff, like the man throwing the grenade or the man to his right- but the diversity of poses compensates for that. For example, you get a radio man with it which is something handy in any unit and several of the poses are useful in fighting scenes. As was the case with Hanomak, you also get a guard dog, which seems quite appropriate for this unit. The one pose I don't care much for is the officer walking with the gun in his hand. He seems to be of limited use in the type of scenes I like to setup. Lastly, this set also comes with a border post. I guess to help setup the scene at the border. Given how shortly the war was fought at the border where these posts might have been, I would have preferred if they had given us an extra pose instead. But all in all, a decent set to add to the collection.


 


Introducing the Japanese Infantry

Latest edit: Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry Heavy Weapons Set
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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 Japanese Infantry
21st Century Toys Japanese Infantry
This was one of the last figure sets produced by 21st Century Toys. They came already factory-painted. 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
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
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
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
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
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 camouflage, then he probably does not want to be seen. So why is he standing upright?

BMC Japanese Infantry
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
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
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
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.

Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilless Rifle
Britains Deetail Japanese Infantry - Recoilless 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
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 Japanese Infantry
CTS Japanese Infantry - Part 2
These other three guys, have very long rifles which are hard to keep straight and they are standing too straight for my taste.

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

Glencoe (Marx Recasts) Japanese Infantry
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.

Recasts of Marx 6"" figures Japanese Infantry
SWTS (Recasts of Marx 6"" figures) Japanese 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 addition to my Japanese army since I do not have any so far. 

DGN Japanese Infantry
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
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
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 sculpting and the detail are OK. Not the best, but decent enough. I am debating whether to paint them or not...

Lido Japanese Infantry
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
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 happy 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
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
Unknown Japanese Infantry
This is a 60 mm figure. It came with a lot that I bought 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
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.

Mars Imperial Japanese Infantry
Mars Imperial Japanese Infantry
This is a a set that has been made before plenty of times. But at least you can tell that the Mars sculpting team is getting more adventurous in terms of adding dynamism to its poses, and they have given us two charging men. That is offset however, by the man who is throwing (or holding?) a grenade. If he is meant to throw it, I hope his squad has time to hit the ground because that's going to land a bit short! Other than that, this set is not that remarkable, considering that there's already a good variety of Japanese Infantry poses in the market from prior manufacturers. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part I
A nice set from Expeditionary Force in what nowadays is being referred to as Big 1/32 scale. Meaning, more compatible with TSSD than Airfix. As is EF style, their figures are produced as a set of bodies to which you can attach different heads and arms/weapons. Each set comes with 9 figures and 6 base body types. In this post, I have created 18 different figures from 2 sets, but you can certainly create more/different poses. The level of detail is very nice, and the quality of the plastic is also good. Robust so that you don't have a lot of bent tips, but not hard. And it is also easy to glue. In this first picture I have 3 different bodies. Unfortunately, some of the bodies have very similar stances, you have to watch the feet very carefully to tell them apart, which makes me wish they had made them more different so that we could see the variety more easily.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part II
The next body type is a man advancing with his right foot forward. Note that by giving them different weapons they already look quite different. On top of that you can attach a head with or without the flaps hanging on the back of the helmet, and you can also tilt them slightly to give the body language a different expression.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part III
This next base body is stepping forward with the left foot, and leaning forward slightly more than the men in the next picture. And not seen here, there's also some differences in the pouches attached to the back of the belt. One thing to note about the figure with the flag is that the flag does not come attached to the rifle. Therefore, you need to attach the flag to a man who is holding the rifle horizontally. I almost glued it to a man who was carrying the rifle across his chest, but then realized that gravity would make the flag hang differently. Same thing with the tassel on the officer's sword from the first picture. You need to watch how it hangs, or else be ready to cut it off and reattach it at the right angle. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Part IV
Another base body stepping forward with the left foot, but these guys also have the back foot pointed forward, more than the men in the previous picture. So as you can see, some of these base bodies are pretty hard to tell apart. It would have been better to make one less base body stepping forward with the left foot, and add a crouching or kneeling pose. But even with so many similar base bodies, the variety of arms and weapons, makes it possible to avoid having two figures turn out exactly the same. You just have to plan things out well before you start gluing them so that you don't end up making a clone by mistake. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Machine Gun section
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Machine Gun section - Part I
This MG set can be purchased with one or two MGs. You still get 9 figures, which means that if you only ask for 1 MG, then you will get 7 additional infantry men. Since I already had 2 sets of regular infantry, I opted for the two MGs. What's interesting in this set, aside from the obvious nice addition of the MG teams, is that the officer comes with the option of looking through binoculars. You also get a new head type, wearing a bandana around the head with the rising sun design on it, like the one that the kamikaze pilots used to wear. I gave it to one of the MG men who is likely making a final stand at his position. And you also get a couple of ammo boxes to round up the scene. 

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Machine Gun section
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Machine Gun section - Part II
What was a pleasant surprise with this set is that it also comes with a couple of extra options for the arms/weapons. Apparently these had been intended for the original set, but ended up being a bit late and got released with this set instead. So with this set you can look forward to being able to assemble a grenade thrower, and also a man firing a submachine gun. As you can see I opted to 'sacrifice' the second MG ammo handler and instead armed him with the submachine gun, which turned out nicely. Lastly, note that in this set, we also got a new body type: the kneeling guy on the background. I chose to arm him with a rifle in the aiming position. All in all a nice add on to the original set.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Mortar Team
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry Mortar Team
This set forces you to make some interesting choices. You have the option of assembling 3 mortar teams. 2 of the figures -the kneeling ammo handler, and the standing ammo handler- could be assembled in the same position, but that would make the set a bit dull. In order to introduce some variety I assembled one set the intended way. For the second team, I gave the standing ammo handler, the arms of the kneeling ammo handler, which requires him to stand on the opposite side of the mortar, and I also turned the kneeling handler into a sub machine gunner. For the third team, I gave the kneeling handler the arms of the standing handler, and also turned the standing ammo handler into a grenade thrower. On top of that you get a commander, and two other standing figures that you can give a variety of weapons, from the ones included in the set, or from any extras that you might have from the previous sets. You also get a few options of headgear in the set which provide some additional variety. This set also came with a wall section, but I used it for the picture below.

Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Jungle Defense Set
Expeditionary Force Japanese Infantry - Jungle Defense Set
What makes this a jungle set is the helmets and cammo worn by the sniper figure, all covered in leaves. I am pretty sure the sniper is going to look really cool once it is painted. The highlight of this set is the 20mm anti-tank rifle team -note that there's also an ammo handler/loader. This 2-man team can be nicely emplaced behind the wall, which BTW is made of dirt on the outside, and lined with wooden planks on the inside. There is also a light mortar in the set, which offer a good contrast with the heavier mortars in the previous set. The rest of the figures are average poses. You will need to get a bit creative to find ways of making them look sufficiently different, given the similarity in the base bodies -I wasn't too thrilled that all of them are kneeling, but I guess that's why they are a 'defense' set. Once they are mixed together with the figures from the previous sets, this will all be less noticeable. 

Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry
Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry
This is Plastic Platoon's first set (along with the US Marines) outside of the Eastern Front, and even though we already have a nice range of Japanese Infantry released by previous manufacturers, it is definitely a welcome set, given the exquisite level of detail and sculpting typically delivered by their figures. Take for instance, the writing on the flag attached to one of the rifles. I can't read Japanese, but it feels like it's real! But even beyond the little details and the action-packed sculpting, these poses are also nicely diverse, covering a good range of weapons, headgear, and equipment. The only thing that I noticed which seemed a bit odd to me is that the flag that we just mentioned would be 'floating' upwards. As fast as that man is running, I have a hard time imagining that the flag would defy gravity that much. But let's not get picky. It is still an amazing set that should be charging at the US forces trying to take their island!

Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry Heavy Weapons
Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry Heavy Weapons - Part I
This is an exciting set for a couple reasons. The first one is simply that there are not that many Japanese artillery crews or artillery pieces out there. The Deetail recoilless rifle comes to mind, but that's it as far as I remember. And then there's the fact that the figures and the gun are so well sculpted and detailed. I believe this gun is a Type 92, 70 mm howitzer. The gun comes in several pieces which can be easily attached together. Glue seems to be optional. In terms of the figures, my favorite one is the man operating the sight and elevation lever.  The fact that he is straddling the gun gives it a nice touch. The officer and the loader complement the crew very nicely. 

Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry Heavy Weapons
Plastic Platoon Japanese Infantry Heavy Weapons - Part II
This MG crew is part of the same heavy weapons set. The MG is a separate sculpture itself and the man firing it can be seated on the base separately. The ammo feeder lines up just right to be able to feed the belt into the MG. This is thanks to a notch in the bases. As you can see, the whole set is rich in detail. From the bullet holes in the sandbags to the Japanese writing on the side of the ammo box. or the hobnails on the boots. The facial features on the men are also extremely well done. The only thing that is less than ideal on this set is the amount of flash on the figures. It is quite a bit and it is also hard to remove. You can still see some left on the leg of the ammo handler. Other than that. this set is a great addition to my Japanese troops.

Click here to see a very cool post of 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