For China World War II has a rather different significance to that in the rest of the world. China had been more or less at war for many years, with revolutions and fighting between parties and warlords taking their toll, while the 1931 Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria led to a kind of low-level war with her aggressive neighbour that suddenly became full-scale when Japanese forces invaded and conquered large parts of China from 1937. When Japan attacked the USA and the British Empire in 1941 China became one of the allied powers, but in large measure left the final defeat of Japan to the westerners. The years 1941 to 1945 were mainly ones of stalemate, when large Japanese resources that could have been useful elsewhere were tied down in China, but the Chinese also husbanded their strength for what most expected to be a renewed civil war between nationalist and communist once the Japanese menace was removed.
When you look at any set of figures you soon establish what you do and don't like, so we will begin with what we do like.
The sculpting is great, with all the usual natural proportions and good detail that we have come to expect from Caesar and no suggestion of flash anywhere. Several figures benefit from the usual multi-part mould which gives them an added three-dimensional look without any loss of detail (the prone machine gunner is a perfect example as there is no loss of detail on any surface), although a couple of poses do have small areas of excess plastic where arms are near to weapons.
We also liked the accuracy - in fact in our view great sculpting is wasted if the figures are inaccurate so accuracy is probably the most important aspect. In this case the subject is a quite tricky one as the Chinese made great use of local manufacturing for uniforms, which meant that there were often variations in style. Supply was usually a problem too, so improvisation was common, leading to a wide mixture of clothing. However these figures have captured that look very well, with the standard uniform and variants being well done (even the soft shoes are good). Most wear peaked caps of various kinds (all correct) while only the officer wears a helmet - German in style (as indeed is his whole appearance) which reflects that country's support for China's army in the early 1930s. None of the figures wear a pack, which is fine, but they have an assortment of belts and ammunition pouches which again reflect the reality well. Cloth bandoliers are much in evidence, and the first figure in row two wears stick grenade pouches.
With an army that ran into millions China bought weapons from all parts of the world, and often reproduced them locally too. All the weapons in this set are good, with the rifles probably being based on the German Mauser. Two men have Thompson-like submachine guns, although one is curiously steadying his weapon by holding the ammunition magazine rather than the forward grip. The prone machine gunner is perhaps using a Czech ZB26, although again this could be one of several similar and appropriate weapons, while the first figure in the last row carries something similar.
Still discussing what we liked about this set, it has some nice touches that help to set it apart from other World War II products. The third figure in the top row has a broad-brimmed straw sun hat on his back - not a uniform item but practical and common in much of China. More eye-catching yet are the swords held by two of the poses and carried on the back of a third. These are da-dao broadswords which were traditional weapons still seen in the late thirties.
That ends what we liked about this set. Now we will discuss what we did not like. Well, while the da-dao is accurate and was certainly carried, it clearly has no relevance in an era of machine guns and bombs, and in time the Chinese recognised this. As a result it quickly disappeared, so we felt that giving it to three poses was excessive, particularly for the period after 1940.
That ends what we did not like about this set. As you can see, there is not much to dislike. Of course there could always have been more in the box. Many Chinese wore items supplied by the US and Britain, so some looked like a cross between the two, or else closely resembled the troops of those nations (in which case other sets can provide such figures), but we felt Caesar were right to concentrate on the ethnic Chinese look.
As expected the civil war resumed after Japan's surrender, and many soldiers on both sides in that conflict looked no different to those found in this box, so that expands the use of these figures. Although swords are over-represented this is otherwise a great set that finally depicts millions of World War II fighters not previously recognised in this hobby.