Continuing something of a Reisen-fest, Rising Decals new 1/72nd sheet for the Zero Fighter contains a selection of 10 interesting schemes, including two which are suitable for the new Airfix kit, three if you don't mind a bit of modification. One is a battered, veteran A6M2 with interesting tail markings from the Phillipines in 1945, there is a Houkoku marked A6M2 from the carrier Shokaku in 1942 and a bomb carrier with wing tanks from the carrier Zuiho in 1944.
What I like about this sheet is that the markings cover the A6M3 and A6M5 as well, so there is something for everyone who wants a representative collection of Zero marks. Whether we will ever see the A6M3 and A6M5 from Airfix is an interesting ponderable but there are now good kits available, from the Fine Molds megastars to the Hasegawa classics and even the Hobby Boss A6M5 is a reasonable kit - certainly good enough for a bit of painting practice or experimentation.
There are no less than five A6M3 Model 32 in the amber grey scheme, including an aircraft captured, repaired and test flown; the classic Tainan Ku V-187 (with a correctly coloured fuselage band) and three other Houkoku adorned aircraft, one with double red chevrons on the fuselage. The two A6M5 subjects include the Saipan '8-13' and, most interestingly, a very early machine '9-109' from 204 Ku at Rabaul in 1943-44. This one requires a bit of kitbashing, basically adding A6M5 wings to an A6M3 for a very interesting new look, and until Airfix pander to my daydreams Hasegawa is the way to go. Whilst there are ten markings options on the sheet the number of Hinomaru is limited. Included are some Hinomaru with the painted over white borders (see pic). This is another comprehensive and well thought out Japanese subject sheet from Rising that further narrows the gap for Zero markings. Special thanks to Mirik of Rising Decals for the sample sheet.
Hot on the heels of their new mold A6M2 Airfix have also released a Pearl Harbor 'Dogfight Double' containing kits of the new P-40B and Zero together with paints, brush and glue. Obviously aimed at the 70th anniversary of the attack this set seems pricey at £18.99. The single Zero option is for the lead aircraft from Akagi but it would have been good to see a more representative selection of alternative markings for PH Zeros in this special set. The box art invokes the classic "whitish grey" Zero which will just not go away. Airfix again recommend 90 Beige Green to approximate "IJN Light Grey Green" (whatever that is) but (on soapbox) it baffles me why their researchers go with information which is out there but has little evidential merit and ignore scholarly data which has been around since 1996. I think it comes down to a basic determination for Zero colours to be what many people want them to be rather than what they actually were. Would you use 90 to represent even a faded and scale colour RLM 02? Of course not (off soapbox).
There is also a starter set featuring the Zero kit alone with paint, brush and glue for £7.99. The markings option seems to be the same as in the 'Dogfight Double' but the box art image on the Airfix website appears to be of an unfinished version (see below). The art on both sets is excellent but would have looked even better with better visualised colour on the Zero.
Image credits: Decal sheets © 2011 Rising Decals; Box art and schematics © 2011 Hornby Hobbies Ltd