Tristar 001 German Panzer Crew (Normandy 1944)
A new name and player on the injection plastic model scene worth keeping an eye out for is this Hong Kong-based Chinese company who has recently entered the market on very high note. Their first effort is a sure fire seller of a 5 figure SS tank crew set. The first thing you notice on the box is the name of the very talented Japanese designer Yoshitaka Hirano (of CD Yoshi fame), who has previously sculpted some outstanding resin figures released under that label and others (Blue Max etc.) in the past, and who's work has been featured in many of the Japanese Model Graphix and Model Art Specials. So with his involvement, straight away expectations are high.
An inevitable comparison will naturally be made with Dragon and Tamiya figures to see how this new brand stacks up against the established main players, and on close inspection the comparison is very favourable indeed. Similar in concept to Dragon's Tiger Aces set with a relaxed crew lounging on an AFV, Tristar's first effort fits very comfortably in alongside them, and as a set combines the best of both worlds - Dragon's finesse of sculpting and natural posing, and Tamiya's razor sharp crispness of moulding.
4 full and 1 half figure are supplied, along with a comprehensive painting guide on the rear of the box. Parts breakdown is very well thought out, and sprue joins seem intelligently placed on the faces of least detail and thankfully without any extra annoying ejector pegs attached. Flash is non-existent and seam lines very light. The uniforms themselves are very nicely sculpted down to the most minute detail such as the ankle gather loops on trouser legs. Boot detail, a common weakpoint of some injection figures, is also sharp and the clothing has very realistic looking creasing and folds in the cloth. The poses are all very natural and the scale size of the figures looks to be just right too. Undercuts under pocket flaps and lapels are a little chunky perhaps, but probably as good as current injection moulding techniques allow, and will only take a few flicks of a knife blade to open up. Faces though - often the critical area for achieving a quality look, are very sharply done and honestly not far off some of the top resin heads for detail and expression. In fact they are probably better than many so can certainly be used OOB with no problem or even in combination with resin heads, and it would be very tough to pick which was which once painted.
A nice touch too is the inclusion of 7 handy fill colour scale maps on the 4 box end flaps, which just need the top layer of cardboard to be pared away with a razor blade for scale thinness, and once in position, given a mist of dull coat to take the boxtop sheen away.
But all in all, if this is the standard of release we can come to expect from Tristar in the coming years, then their future looks assured and healthy (rumour has it they have up to 10 releases scheduled up to Xmas 2003 including a new Pz.Ia amongst others which augurs very well for the hobby indeed...).
Highly recommended to anyone wishing to crew up a mid to late war AFV with 5 high quality figures without wanting to pay exorbitant resin prices.