Reviewing Esci sets is something of a challenge as almost all are of exactly the same quality and with the same characteristics, so it is not easy to say anything different about them. The style and quality of the sculpting was remarkably consistent, and many of the same poses kept appearing. The first few released sets, including this one, covered the basic participants of the Second World War, which followed their earlier hard plastic kit figures series.
The men wear type 98 uniform with tropical shirt open at the neck instead of a tunic, which pretty much makes them appropriate for much of the Pacific War and some of the war in China. They have breeches, boots and puttees - the latter being held by straps in the classic cross pattern. A little surprisingly all wear the helmet except one that wears the field cap with sun curtain, and two are bareheaded. Kit is mixed, but most have the characteristic ammunition pouches on the front of their belts, although few have the larger pouch on the back of the belt. The bayonet scabbard, haversacks and canteens all look OK, but having five of the poses carrying the full pack seems a bit excessive as this was left in the rear when possible.
Apart from the rifles, which look good, several other weapons are provided. First there is the 50mm Type 89 grenade launcher/light mortar which gave the infantryman a grenade launcher that exceeded the range of hand grenades. Then there is the 7.7mm Type 99 machine gun, which is being reloaded with a new clip by the prone operator (usually a second gunner would do this). Lastly the Model 92 heavy machine gun is being fired, though there is no ammunition being fed into it and the whole gun is rather too small. This gun is moulded together with the operator, which requires an odd arrangement of its legs, and leaves the gunner himself in an awkward pose too.
As with nearly all of the other World War II sets in this series, this one boasts a very respectable 15 different poses, including a lot of familiar choices and some that are particularly appropriate to the Japanese. The usual firing and advancing poses are joined by a not very energetic hand grenade thrower, some nice but quite static standing figures and one of the Esci favourites - a man using his rifle as a club. Unfortunately he holds the rifle half way along the barrel, making it very difficult to swing and greatly reducing both the reach and the force of the blow, so while the idea is nice the actual figure is not convincing. The man with the 'knee mortar' (the 50mm Type 89) has placed his weapon on his foot as he reaches for another grenade. The weapon would not be fired like this, so why did Esci mould it on his foot in the first place? The officer is in a typical pose of brandishing his sword aloft (though of course typical of earlier period sets - not World War II), but it is the second figure in the middle row that warrants particular attention. The question is, what is he doing? The answer, of course, is whatever you want him to do, and he could be doing several things like performing the Banzai or wading through a river, but he could also be surrendering (though he would normally have thrown away his rife first) which would be extremely rare for Japanese infantry.
The usual Esci sculpting is very crisp and beautifully detailed. The proportions are pretty good and there is no excess plastic, though as we have said some of the poses are fairly awkward to achieve this. The finer details such as the weapons are really nicely done, and the faces are quite good too. Since this set has been produced many times the amount of flash varies, and can sometimes be quite noticeable, but good clean copies are out there and worth obtaining.
This is a workmanlike and very worthwhile set. If some of the poses are a bit bland then all are still usable if not always the most natural. The sculpting is very good and there are no accuracy issues, so doubtless this set will continue to provide many troops for the war in the Pacific despite there now being several rivals sets on the market.