Saturday, 2 June 2012

Whiffery Over 1946 Japan

Those AZ Models alternative Kikka boxings got me thinking about "What-if" Japanese aircraft modelling. I do get that, even indulge in it, but I think the most interesting explorations are those rooted in plausible but alternative developments. At the risk of sounding like the Bald Eagle from the Muppet Show I just don't get the fantastic 1946 creations that sport 1942 colours and markings - or the Navy jets that whizz around in Army markings applied to another aircraft type in another era. That seems illogical even for a Whif. The Army re-introduced factory painting in the second half of 1944 with a standard paint colour of drab olive brown - a historical fact that precedes any subsequent whiffery. Any projected development really ought to represent that. So I'm afraid AZ Models Kikka dressed up as one of Major Kobayashi's Hiens just looks silly to me, especially since the later Ki-100 were factory painted in the olive drab.

Ok, so the Kikka might have ended up in Army use, the Karyu not proceeded with, and it might have been delivered hastily in natural metal finish, perhaps with a few pre-painted panels like a late-war Focke-Wulf 190 Dora, and it might have then been painted in a mottle or blotch scheme - but might it really have ended up looking exactly like one of Kobayashi's Ki-61s? I suppose the answer, hypothetical as this is, must be yes. But does it really convince as a hypothetical possibility? - probably not. But for me, because of all this - and it is just a personal observation rather than a whine, Mr B - it just looks odd as a modelling subject. And for me it detracts both from the image of an original Kobayashi Hien in all its splendour and the image of a hypothetical IJAAF use of Kikka in 1946.

But further I think that if you are going to go full-tilt at such whiffery then displaying a hypothetical type in anachronistic colours and markings is just unimaginative. Why not, instead, envisage an entirely new makeshift scheme for that Army Kikka? And display it as if assigned to a newly formed unit with a wholly imagined emblem? If I were Mr AZ my What-if Kikka presentation might have encompassed the 620th Special Interception Unit, whose hastily painted nibi iro (鈍色) machines carry a striking unit emblem conveying the digits '6', '2' and '0' and whose fuselages show a variety of patriotic and inspiring personal markings. I have shown the spectacular Ronnie Olsthoorn Ki-98 cover art here before - it is a perfect example of combining whiffery in camouflage and markings with both logic and a plausible continuity. Meng Model (of China) have announced a new 1/72nd kit of the Mansyu Ki-98 to follow on from their diminutive Kayaba Type 4 "Katsuodori" ram-jet fighter, (reviewed nicely here and also strikingly imagined by Ronnie here). Comparing the box art to Ronnie's images I think they might just have missed a few tricks! There is a brief article on Japanese Flying Wings by E T Wooldridge here.

Pegasus, who made short run injection moulded kits with some cast pewter detail parts, had announced a kit of the Mansyu Ki-98 shortly before their demise. After the company's stock was bought by Freightdog Models the new owner could not confirm whether the Ki-98 project had progressed beyond research. Personally I'd rather see a mainstream injection molded kit of the Mansyu Ki-79 with options for single and two-seater versions and a multi-option decal sheet!

Image credits: Cover art © Ronnie Olsthoorn/skyraider3D; Box art © AZ Models & Meng Model; Karyu 3-view author collection


Anonymous said...

Very interesting analysis, Nick! And thank you for making me smile with the Muppet Show eagle comment and pic :)

fugaku said...

Fascinating as always. I'd just like to say how much I enjoy your blog, how extremely well done it is. I see on j-aircraft where the future of the blog is in some doubt...I'd miss it a lot. The few times recently it's been inaccessible have been so disappointing, wondering if all this amazing information was suddenly out of reach. Here's hoping you'll decide it's worth all the work to keep it going!! Thank you

Unknown said...

Japan 46 is an extremely interesting subject for modeling, but I totally agree that it needs to be approached with the full understanding of the history of IJAAf and IJNAF camouflage evolution up to 1945. We don't see many Me-509 or Ta-183 models from Luft'46 finished in RLM70/71/65 for instance.

Also it would be very interesting to read your comments on the camo schemes in Fine Molds' A7M2 and Ki-61-II "Flying over Tokyo 1946" combo kit release.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Nick, I had no idea your blog might cease to continue. I hope this doesn't happen as it's my favourite blog being both educational and inspirational. Warm regards, AJay

Skyraider3D said...

Nick, I'm honoured you bring up my Ki-98 again. Glad you like it!

I must say I quite like Meng's Katuodori. The angle is very attractive for this machine. But what confuses me is the cone in the air intake, á la Jume 004! Firstly it was a ramjet and secondly and more importantly: what happened to the pilot's legs?

I found this a particularly tricky issue to solve when I modelled my Katsuodori in 3D

A prone position seemed most probable to me, but unlikely historically perhaps (were there any Japanese prone pilot planes?). In the end I went for a split air intake, a bit like a MiG-15. There is no evidence for this from any drawings and this arrangement doesn't leave an awful lot of space for rudder pedals, but at least it will just about fit a pilot... as long as he's not much taller than 1m70!

To be honest I am still not entirely sure how a pilot would fit in this plane. But it's an attractive little design for sure!

Anonymous said...

These 'Kikka' kits are available at my local store, but I haven't seen any reviews regarding the quality of the kits themselves. Has anyone else?

Iskender said...

Hi AJay,

I've received mine recently. Mixed feelings, I should say. Thin and uniform engraved lines, passable surface detail, little flash (for a short run), injected and rather thin canopy are all on a plus side. Lack of cockpit and wheel well detail (especially the front one), injection stubs on the wings' insides (and other parts) and badly cast and deformed main wheels are on a downside. Overall quality is inferior to other recent AZ Models kits, such as Spit Mk.VIII/IX and it seems that their Kikka is based on the reworked molds of the older Pavla kit. But hey, there is no other readily available alternative in the divine scale, and even this one is short run...

Best regards,


P.S. I haven't checked the accuracy of the kit yet. The best available scale plans are those of Matsuba Minoru, but I have to downscale them to 72.

Skyraider3D said...

Comparing a model kit against scale drawings makes very little sense, unless you can confirm the drawings are accurate to start with. Sadly the vast majority of "scale" drawings isn't accurate at all. Matsuba Minoru's drawings usually look very impressive, but he too makes mistakes and some of his work is really poor (I-16 Type 10 drawing, for instance). But in terms of accuracy I'd choose his drawings any day over those by Shigeru Nohara!

Iskender said...


You are right, any scale drawing is only as good as:

1. the quality of reference material available and;
2. professionalism of a draftsman

Living in Japan, I guess Mr. Minoru had much better chance of access to original reference material on Japanese types than, say, Paul Matt would've had. Draftsmanship of Mr. Matsuba IMHO is also out of question.

For me that makes his scale drawings of Japanese aircraft the first (and sometimes the only) source to check the accuracy of model kits. The second are photos, of course.

Best regards,


P.S. For I-16 and other VVS types I would refer to Soviet and contemporary Russian authors like Gordyukov, Maslov or Jurgenson.