Airfix Jungle Outpost
|REVIEWER:||Dimitri J. Kremmydas|
As a kid I spent countless hours re-fighting major battles (or making up new ones) with my plastic toy soldiers. Back in the day, the only options you had were Airfix, Matchbox and a bit later on Esci. You could find mostly WWII, some Napoleonic Wars and WWI, and a few random sets (Zulu Africa, Romans and Gauls, etc.). Scenery was whatever was available, or one of the (excellent) play sets issued by Airfix and Matchbox and later again, Esci. In the recent years, a bevy of new figure manufacturers and sets have appeared, satisfying the needs of even the most demanding wargamer or figure painter. However not all of the “oldies” from the 70s and 80s should be discarded. Indeed, some are invaluable even today.
The Airfix Jungle Outpost belongs to that era, the date on the moulds being 1977. According to the box, it is “a typical example of a Japanese outpost and communications center based somewhere in South-East Asia during WWII”. So what do you get in the box? Quite a bit of stuff actually. Approximately 70 pieces of light tan plastic that will assemble to create one bamboo hut on poles, two Imperial Japanese Army figures, two pack animals with their loads, one shed, bicycles, tools, barrels and crates. The most pleasant surprise is that the molds for the kit (as well as the molds for most of the recently re-issued Airfix figures) are either in excellent shape or have been refurbished.
The plastic is crisply molded with minimal ejector pin marks, all of which are limited to the inner surfaces of the hut walls. Flash is limited to a thin ridge around some parts, such as the hut floor. Sculpting is indeed excellent. The Japanese Army figures and pack animals are very well realized, with good proportional anatomy and deep (perhaps too deep) folds in their clothing. The hut itself is a small gem. The walls and roof are engraved with the motif of woven bamboo or other leaves interlaced with wood poles to create a very convincing representation of a grass hut. The windows have woven shutters that can be used to cover them. The small storage shed has wooden poles supporting a woven roof. Added to all that is the number of sundry items listed above. Instructions are typical Airfix, and probably are the same since the kit was first issued. There is no painting information included, but I think most of us will manage.
The set is not without its problems mind you. The walls, roof and floor are only sculpted on one side, the outer one. The inside of the hut is as smooth as glass. After some preliminary trials, I can tell you that assembly will be finicky as the walls also include the poles on which the hut is perched. There are no positive butt joints for walls either. The floor is slightly warped. Once you have finished assembling the hut, you have to make your own base for it. None of these are insurmountable or even serious handicaps, with the exception perhaps of the bare, smooth inner walls. The accessories supplied (mainly the crates and barrels) should be sufficient for the wargamer but not for the modeler.
So why should you spend you money on what is essentially a grass hut? If you are a wargamer, there are not a lot of easily accessible 1/72 (or 1/76) buildings that can be used in the Pacific theater. There is probably some resin stuff out there, but that’s it. If you are interested in making a diorama in the region you can also use it (as in a forward Japanese airfield for instance). And with the use of a saw you can actually make two kinds of building from this kit; one sitting on stilts, and one without them.
All in all, for the money paid, the Airfix Jungle Outpost is a useful, well-realized kit. It’s not for the serious modeler, but then again it was never aimed at that segment of the market.
Dimitri J. Kremmydas
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