Any army of medieval Japan would have contained large numbers of these ashigaru spearmen. In later years the ashigaru commonly used missile weapons like the bow and arquebus, but the spear required less training or investment and so remained a popular weapon.
The set contains 12 poses, and since all are devoted to just spearmen this means there is considerable variety, so even a simple battle formation like a column can have quite a varied look, which is great. The standing and marching poses certainly add to the whole, and while the kneeling man might have been better with his spear raised a little higher he is still quite usable. These poses cover most of what you are likely to want from such troops and are a good selection.
Ashigaru usually wore no particular uniform, mostly because they had to provide their own equipment, particularly earlier in the period, but these all have a consistent look that might be described as classic. They all have the jingasa hat with the neck curtain and a relatively simple armour, which is fine, and they all appear to have two swords thrust under their belt. One marching figure also has his ration bags of rice slung around his neck. Every figure is similarly armed with a spear of between 40 and 43 mm in length (2.9 to 3.1 metres), which is reasonable, two of which have cross-bladed heads. Some also carry a sashimono (flag) on the back, which would have displayed their master’s mon (badge), although happily none are engraved. While it is true that some ashigaru were provided with similar equipment, and would therefore have been in effect in uniform, we would have liked to have seen more variety of costume here, but there is nothing wrong with these figures as they stand.
The standard of sculpting is much like previous RedBox sets, which is to say not impressive. Detail is fairly vague and some items tend to merge together, while tricky items such as hands are little more than blobs. All the figures are made in one piece, which means there are no separate spears, arms etc., so inevitably the poses are quite flat. Flash on this set is immense – the figures you see above took us a very long time to tidy up into a presentable state. Almost every seam has flash to some degree, and in places this completely closes gaps and threatens to swamp the figure.
While several very nice sets of Samurai have been released, little could really be done with them until someone delivered a set with significant quantities of the ordinary infantry to fill out the armies. With this and the other Japanese releases from RedBox that gap has now been closed, so this is certainly a worthwhile product. Its utility has to be balanced however by the very long time it will take to separate the plastic you do want from that which you do not, at least if our example is anything to go by.