Here is the tension I always face in contemporary wargaming. Plastic kits are very affordable gateways into a particular army or period, the scope for customisation is nice, but I get dreadfully bored assembling the models.
With limited hobby time I see it as a trade off between painting time and assembly time. This has led me to swing back to metal miniatures because the main prep involved is just shaving the mold lines. This means a shorter road to painting. Boredom is the enemy of progress.
Lately, I've been working on the Japanese jungle fighters from Warlord's Bolt Action line. While their Japanese plastics are pretty decent, there are just too many fiddly bits to assemble for my taste. Also, given their kit and historical colours, it is challenging to paint them in a way that makes them 'pop' on the table without going to a very pale khaki.
The great appeal of the metal jungle fighters is the vegetation camouflage that offer some points of visual interest on the wargames table. These can be painted up pretty bright to stand out from the otherwise plain equipment.
The facial sculpts on the jungle fighters are also far superior to both the rest of plastic and metal Bolt Action Japanese. The latter seem to be directly lifted from the racist anti-Japanese propaganda posters of the period (below). I don't know if the buck teeth and squinty eyes were a deliberate homage, but I note the Japanese don't depict themselves this way.
For the paint job I followed this excellent guide by the chaps over at WWPD.
I did a few things differently:
Base: AP Leather Brown spray
Uniform: Vallejo Japanese WW2 Uniform (instead of Desert Yellow); highlight: Iraqi sand, Pale Sand
Flesh: Foundry North African Flesh, Highlight: Beige Red, 50/50 Beige Red/Pale Flesh
I had bought the Japanese WW2 Uniform at the very beginning of my project, before I had a strong sense of how the uniforms looked in practice. It's a painfully bright yellow, reminiscent of Stabilo Highlighters.
It also looked nothing like any of the variants of Japanese uniforms that I had seen, even those in the China theatre. Luckily, the Strong Tone wash and plenty of highlight layers muted its glare.
Regarding highlights, while the WWPD guide recommends one highlight before the wash, I found that to achieve something close to their result required two highlights, the last one being bright Pale Sand. Putting the wash last does help 'bring' the layers all together, but needs some very bright tones underneath for that tabletop pop.
Because the faces on these figures were appealing, I took the effort to paint and dot the eyes, though the squinting left me nearly cross-eyed. It was well worth the effort though.
The eyes really make the face even though we'd rarely see them on the tabletop.
I also experimented with some aquarium foliage for the bases. The most extreme example was my LMG gunner seemingly bursting out of some big spade leaves. A far-fetched plant set up, but I found that it nicely framed the running pose of the model and it also made him readily identifiable. Otherwise, he could easily be mistaken for a regular rifleman.
I used the same leaves on a few others, taking inspiration from the halos in Japanese Buddhist art.
|Fudo Myo-O, a very popular Buddhist deity in Japan|
Next time around, I plan to try Vallejo Desert Yellow as the main colour and start from a white basecoat. The newer Army Painter sprays don't adhere to metal well at all. I suffered much peeling during the project.
While I have another unit of these Warlord figures unpainted, I decided to opt for some variety by ordering jungle fighters from The Assault Group and Westwind. More on those later.