... Mattemashite (lit. "We have been waiting!"), Baby
Late 16th Century Japan went through a particularly bloody period of internecine fighting. The Azuchi-Momoyama period (also known as Sengoku), provides an appreciation of why samurai compared the shortness of their lives to the bloom of cherry blossom petals. Constant battles, an invasion of Korea, court intrigues, treachery on the battlefield, the great siege of Osaka Castle... never a dull moment for the wargamer. And the size of these engagements could be in the 100,000's, or very small.
Until recently, I had no interest in delving into another period. The $$$ signs multiply when you add on the necessary research materials (Ospreys don't cut it) and acquire the necessary lead. However, after purchasing American Revolutionary Scots from the Perry Miniatures (see earlier review), I started browsing their site and found these impressive figures. I had studied traditional Japanese theater and kendo in Tokyo, living more in the 17th Century than the 20th. I have only cursory knowledge of Japan's military history, however, so this review won't address armour minutia, etc., as I'm coming up to speed on the subject myself.
I received my samurai order in wonderfully packed, black jewelry boxes. I'd selected two packs of samples, SAM14 and 25, "Mounted Samurai with Yari charging" and "Samurai with swords charging". (There are presently 25 different packs to choose from.)
It is difficult to measure the height of the figures as the charging samurai are all leaning forward. In a side-by-side with the Perry's AWI Scots, however, they're dead-on 28's. And as with the Scots, anatomically they're more diminutive and natural looking than the Foundry offerings. As most of you know, I have never been a fan of Foundry figs. But the releases by this new company have me whistling a different tune.
The positions of the infantry figures are very 'fluid', as in, there's a nice sense of motion vs. static stances. The selected packs offered good variety, while keeping things harmonious... the figures can fight right next to each other in any order... or against each other, for that matter. The forward motion of their body exposes more of the backside (ornate) than the front. (An easy way to get a better view of a few faces is to bend back the figures, who have their feet positioned together. Voila, even more variation!) All come with individual clan banners that need to be attached to their backs, and the pics above look a little naked without them. For those interested in some ideas for banners, visit http://www.samurai-archives.com/mon.html .
The range is fairly comprehensive at this stage, offering commanders, banner men, musicians, foot soldiers with short spears (mochi-yari), archers, etc. Longer pikes can be purchased separately. I think casualty figures are needed pronto and poorer samurai (ex. ronin recruited for a given campaign).
The yoroi (body armour) offers a decent amount of detail, but to turn out figures truly representative of the period, the painter needs to familiarize himself with traditional motifs found on the undergarments, and complex patterns woven into portions of the armour. It requires patient research and a steady hand. I plan to use the figures in skirmishing actions, or siege warfare of castle portions, as the painting will involve a lot of time.
A word of warning
In the past thirty years, more crap has been written about Japanese, Korean and Chinese history, in no small part, because of the martial arts explosion. Some may assume you can just go creative with these miniatures as "Who knows exactly what they looked like?". Well, wrong. You can produce something like these extraterrestrial, techno bubble gum silks...
... or paint period armour looking similar to this extant Takeda yoroi....
Of the 25/28 mm figures I've seen in the past few years, Perry's samurai warriors are the best. The infantry receive a rating of "10".
I was a tad less impressed with the mounted figure poses. The three were fairly similar in body position, all with squared shoulders, facing forward. But it's a quibble and there are several sets to choose from. Once armed with yari, they will look rather intimidating. The horses are first-rate. Gone are the steroid beef cakes that Foundry figures mounted. Homework was definitely applied to these. I'd rate the cavalry figs "9's".
This is a tough call, as I know the weapons are sculpted intentionally "thick" to avoid breakage. However, I believe both the swords and scabbards could be thinned out and still retain sufficient integrity (unless you're gaming with a drunken cowboy). The beautiful line of a Japanese katana is well known to most eyes and immediately scores a "Too thick; a little short".
I'm ready to declare the new Perry Miniatures the best 28's on the market. The increased level of anatomical "realism" in the hands of talented sculptors is a great sign. And when coupled with the fact the twin brothers have years of experience to draw on, both artistically and business-wise, the fact they're in the early stages of project development doesn't concern me.
Ordering from them takes a little longer. Turnaround time isn't quick... on the order of three weeks. But they're worth the wait. Of particular interest to us in the colonies is the fact they charge 15% for postage and packing! For once, we're not gouged for being outside the EU. Infantry packs are £5.00 and cavalry £6.00. Check out their web site at www.perry-miniatures.com for more pictures and information.
A large thumbs up!