The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force was of course created to support the Navy in its operations, and as Japan enthusiastically built aircraft carriers in the 1920s and 30s, so many such pilots were based on those carriers for operations at sea. However, the service also had much wider duties such as national defence and strategic bombing, and as a result was frequently employed on raids on large cities like Shanghai and Wuhan. It conducted around 5,000 such raids between 1938 and 1943, but with the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941 it found itself having to cover a vast area with rapidly diminishing resources, and facing an enemy who’s industrial might would ultimately doom the short-lived empire of Japan.
The seven figures in this set are made in a hard plastic. The first three poses are provided as single pieces, but the rest have some separate arms, legs and/or heads, which offers some limited scope for altering the figure. In our photograph we have followed the manufacturer’s recommendations, and the resulting poses are really good in our view. As is suggested by the photo on the box, the poses work well as a group of men posing for a photo, although more generally they are perfectly good as relaxed, standing figures for any airfield scene. The last two figures are sitting as if in a cockpit, and are basically the same as each other except for the head, so clearly they have more specific uses, but the rest look very natural and very pleasing.
There is a nice mix of clothing and kit on display here. All wear a flight suit apart from the third man, who is in shirt-sleeve order although he does wear a flying helmet, as do all the others. The first man wears the kapok-filled life jacket, and has tucked a pistol into its straps. The second is the same but without the life jacket, allowing us to see his flight suit in better detail. Figures four to seven are either in the air or ready to go as they all wear the parachute harness, including quilted back panel, and no life jacket (which was common even when flying over water). Everyone wears goggles, but none are over the eyes. Again the photo on the box shows off the uniform and kit very nicely, and one man even has the navy round rating badge on his sleeve.
The sculpting is beautiful, quite simply. Lots of natural folds in the clothing and great faces, while finer detail like the parachute harness is very well done too. The assembly helps to make the more complicated poses work well of course, but the assembly is really well done, and everything fits together perfectly with no problems or gaps at joints. There is no flash, so you couldn’t ask for more from a set of sculpts. These figures are also available in larger scales, but it is impressive that despite the small size, quality has not been lost at all.
At the time of writing there are more sets of Japanese air crew in 1/72 plastic than for any other nation of the period (from RedBox and Hasegawa), so this is quite a crowded market. Nevertheless this small set is at least as good as any of its rivals, and the only element which we find slightly annoying is that there are no bases for anyone. This is the only set of 1/72 figures currently made by this company, which is a pity as with this quality there would surely be considerable interest in further production.