The Virtual Armchair General's 54mm/1:32 Resin Cast War Game & Collectible Figures First Range: Imperial Japanese Army & Navy, 1886-1911
I supposed we all must be aware of the excellent work that The Virtual Armchair General (TVAG) company does for the hobby, from the FLW Manual itself to paper props and other useful accessories. Well, they also make a line of 54mm plastic soldiers to accompany the Funny Little Wars hobby and they look so darn cute I have been tempted to get some for a while. Well...
As the cost of these unique little figures were so reasonable (especially when you compare them to some of the white metal equivalents available here in the UK) I couldn't resist ordering some samples just so I could evaluate them and write up a little review.
|A hotch-potch of Japanese soldiers (and a sailor).|
These charming characters are not kept in large volume by TVAG but are, to some extent, 'made to order'. I mention this because if you are in a hurry for a complete "Army Cerise" then I strongly advise you to check with TVAG about stocks first - patience is definitely a virtue, but as I go on to explain your perseverance will be well rewarded!
My order was a little random, I didn't really plan to make an Imperial Japanese army or unit (the only nation available at the moment) and so I simply chose whatever poses looked particularly interesting.
The material is a harder plastic (closer to scale model plastic than the traditional toy soldier soft plastic) which is rather nice. This makes the figures lighter and crisper in their moulding than white metal toy soldiers, but not as apt to warp or suffer from flash or 'bent gun syndrome' that is the bane of soft plastic figures.
|Very impressed with the horses, looking forward to painting these.|
The look of the figures and scale
These little chaps (and chapesses as it turns out) are very quaintly sculpted in a style that aficionados of H.G. Well's 'Funny Little Wars' will greatly appreciate. There is a smidgen of tongue in cheek about some of the poses and choice of characters, yet the Imperial Japanese uniforms are perfectly authentic - historically - but sculpted in a delightfully evocative Edwardian style. These are clearly toy soldiers and not miniature scale model soldiers (a fine distinction I know, but important).
|The sculpting is full of character and while some may find them 'cartoonish'|
I find them charming and well suited to the FLW philosophy.
One is immediately transported to the imaginary 'Funny Little Wars' world of Mr. Wells and I can imagine how splendid these sturdy little chaps look in formation on a carpet 'parade ground' or on a lawn 'battlefield'!
As to scale, the TVAG figures are on the shorter side of the 54mm-1/32 scale figure spectrum. I would say that they would fit in wonderfully well with the white metal figures of traditional 54mm figures of Dorset Soldiers or Irregular Miniatures, for example, but would be somewhat dwarfed by the modern 1/32 scale toy solders of Black Hat or Armies in Plastic.
[Note: I regularly use the terms '54mm' and '1/32' to differentiate the difference between the smaller slighter traditional figures and more sturdy and tall modern ones. As in real life toys soldiers seem to have grown slightly in height and girth over the years!]
In short, when one picks up a TVAG figure one immediately finds a smile adorning one's face. They are cheeky little chaps!
Range and use
As I already mentioned, TVAG only really do one comprehensive army range at the moment - Imperial Japanese Army & Navy, 1886-1911. Which is nice as not many toy soldier makers cover this theme (AiP do make some Japanese infantry for the Boxer Rebellion and Russo-Japanese War campaigns, but they do not make auxiliary or support personnel).
|An interesting contemporary illustration of Chinese generals in Pyongyang|
surrendering to the Japanese, October 1894. As you can see the Japanese of
this period of military modernisation were greatly influenced by the uniforms
of France and the United States. Source: Wikipedia.
However, in supplying my order TVAG very kindly provided me with something of a teaser of things to come with the inclusion of a few 'bonus' figures (for which I am very, very grateful). Just take a look at these and I will be very surprised if you do not share my excitement over the possibilities of 'things to come'!
|My bonus models (thank you TVAG) are absolutely delightful!|
In use I can see these figures at the heart of some very economically priced FLW armies. The basic figure price is just $4.50 (£2.89) and TVAG do a four for three figure discount. This - of course - is no where as economical as making a regiment from soft plastic box sets by the likes of Armies in Plastic but you have to remember that you can chose the composition of your TVAG regiment so you can have a nice uniformly posed unit. (I have found that I have to buy at least two boxes of AiP sets - and sometimes even three - to get a regiment which is vaguely 'a set'.)
By comparison, Irregular Miniatures white metal 'Empire multi-part figures' can cost £4 each, while figures from their 'one-piece' ranges can cost £3.75.
|The army's 'saw-bones'! Ready to give medical assistance (and|
probably a stiff Sake) to any casualties!
Conclusion and assessment
Well, it's perhaps redundant to sum up my thoughts regarding these TVAG figures after my somewhat gushing description above! But just in case I was overly subtle - ! - I just wanted to conclude with a thoroughly positive recommendation.
Another aspect I really want to highlight about dealing with TVAG is the absolutely wonderful personal service which one receives from them. They exchanged several emails with me to appraise me of how long my figures would take and to ensure my order was correct. And so I'd like to thank them for their very friendly service.
Just remember to be a little patient (and do check about stock availability, especially if you want your soldiers in a particular base colour) and you will not - I assure you - be disappointed with these terrific little warriors.
Link: The Virtual Armchair General (USA) - 'Little Warriors'