The rise of the knight in Europe was to some degree echoed in Japan during the early medieval period by the rise of the samurai class. Here too warfare was meant to be a chivalrous affair with Samurai dueling with an opponent of similar social class, and contemporary accounts tend to focus on this, with little or no mention of other types of troops. Yet other types there were, and as time went on they became more numerous and more directly involved in the battles. The 15th century saw massive changes in Japanese warfare, with the rise of the trained ashigaru soldier, but even beforehand commanders had recognised the importance of massed ranks of troops, even if poorly trained and armed. Add to that the many peasant uprisings during Japan’s turbulent history, and there is plenty of justification for a set of figures such as this, the first to depict the lowest classes of Japanese society in battle.
The figures in this set are shown with a variety of weapons. It goes without saying that peasants had little money for weapons, so they might be furnished by a lord or, if the peasant was in revolt, simply acquired by theft or looting after a battle. Some have swords and knives and one has a two metre long hammer. We could find no particular information of the validity of the hammer, but it does not seem like a particularly useful weapon since there was not the solid plate armour that made them useful in Europe. Several are firing an arquebus, which was much easier to use than a bow and appeared from the mid 16th century. The rest have naginata, yari, mace and bow.
In most cases the costume is made up of short trousers with a short kimono tied at the waist by a belt, which is typical peasant apparel. No one has any sort of armour, which is fine, although a few have straw hats and two are stripped to the waist. The hairstyles are difficult to make out but seem OK too. Weaponry is not well detailed but looks fairly accurate as far as it goes.
These are not particularly good adverts for the craft of model figure making. This subject is quite undemanding in terms of detail so these are adequate in that department although areas like firearms are not well defined. The postures of some are rather awkward and the general impression is fairly basic. However the most obvious problem is plain to see in our photographs – flash is rampant throughout the set. It is present to some degree along virtually all the split lines and in places it is very considerable and seriously disfigures the model. There is no assembly here which is just as well, and of course patient trimming will rescue the figure from all the excess plastic, but anyone considering using many such figures will need to devote much time and effort to tidying these up.
With the fairly unimpressive standard of sculpting we get from RedBox and the poor moulding these figures are at the lower end of the quality we expect to be released these days, although Redbox deserve credit for delivering an increasingly comprehensive range of figures on their chosen subject of medieval Asia.