Images of Taiwanese soldiers decked out in black body armour and ballistic masks have gone viral thanks to exposure on Japanese news sites, where viewers compared the look of the officers to something out of a video game or comic book.
The photographs, originally part of a series taken during a 2011 ceremonial parade in Taipei, depict Taiwan’s Armed Forces, including both male and female special operations soldiers and military frogmen.
All of the soldiers in the photos wield heavy weaponry including assault rifles, bulletproof shields and submachine guns, but the images that especially captivated netizens were those that showed the elite forces wearing ballistic face masks.
“They look like the cavalry from hell,” wrote a blogger on Japanese news portal DDN Japan , where the images went viral after they were posted on 19 October, attracting over 500 shares on Twitter and nearly 700 Facebook likes.
Other internet users compared the intimidating masks to the headgear worn by Japanese kendo fighters, while some said that they were reminded of characters in the video game franchise Army of Two, which features two armed mercenaries fighting in locations like Somalia and Shanghai.
The photos were later picked up by Western sites like Kotaku , which said that the soldiers were reminiscent of “comic book villains.”
In reality, ballistic face masks are usually made of bullet resistant synthetic materials like Kevlar and are meant to protect soldiers from head wounds. The masks are padded for shock absorption and are built to absorb close-range shots of anything up to a .44 Magnum. Wearing a mask does not render a soldier completely bulletproof, however, as the force of a bullet’s impact can still fracture a person’s skull, depending on the proximity of the blast and the firearm used.