Saturday 8 September 2012

Mania (Hasegawa) 1/48th Nakajima Type 97 Fighter "Nate" (Ki-27)

Blogging the photos of Mark's excellent model yesterday brought to mind the original Mania Ki-27. It was their only 1/48th scale kit, although intriguingly the side of the box promised a Mitsubishi A5M2a "Claude" in the same scale and reportedly a Kawanishi N1K2 "George" was ready to be issued when Hasegawa took Mania over in 1977 and was later released by them. The Ki-27 kit was first issued in 1975 and was presented in the typical quality of all Mania kits although the box title managed a rather glaring spelling error with "Tipe" instead of "Type". The Japanese characters gave the full designation of Kyu-Nana Shiki Sento-ki (九七式戦闘機) followed by the suffixes Ko (甲) and Otsu () for the two sub-variants offered in the kit. The box art by Rikyu Watanabe showed one of the five decal options, a Ki-27 Ko of the 64th Sentai flown by 1Lt Iwori Sakai of the 2nd Chutai. The aircraft was anachronistically depicted in combat with Soviet I-15 and I-16 aircraft, presumably meant to represent Nomonhan, but there is no evidence the distinctive cowling arrow markings were still being worn during that campaign. The colour profile provided with the kit correctly identifies the location of this aircraft as being in Central China in November 1938, the unit being based at Ertaokou and Changte at that time.

The other four decal options offered in the kit were first a Ko of the 1st Sentai at Kagamigahara in June 1939. Second an Otsu of the 2nd Chutai, 24th Sentai at Nomonhan in August 1939. This particular aircraft 'mi' (ミ) held the record in the Sentai for shooting down the most Soviet aircraft during the campaign and was flown variously by aces 1Lt Hyoe Yonaga, Sgt Maj Chiyoji Saito and Sgt Maj Goro Nishihara. It was also an Aikoku aircraft with the presentation number 318 on the fuselage although this marking is not included in the kit. The third option was the well known Otsu aircraft of Capt Shigetoshi Inoue, the leader of the 1st Chutai, 1st Sentai - also the subject of the box art on the Hasegawa re-issue of the Mania 1/72 Ki-27 kit. My belief from examining the original photo print is that the cowling chevron on this aircraft was probably yellow rather than the white usually depicted and it should also have the elevators painted in the Chutai colour of yellow. The fourth option is another Otsu flown by Capt Kenji Shimada the 1st Chutai leader of the 11th Sentai and a famous Nomonhan ace with 27 claimed victories. The eight Soviet stars were painted on this aircraft during the lull in the Nomonhan fighting in June 1939 and symbolise his claims made in two days of air combat during May 1939.

Hasegawa re-issued the kit from 1981 to 1987 as U001 and as U1 in the short-lived black bordered box design, introducing the designation Nakajima Ki-27 Nate. The two different box arts by Shigeo Koike (and here) both depict a Ki-27 Ko of the 84th Dokuritsu Hiko Chutai (DHC - Independent Air Squadron) but that for U1 was again shown anachronistically in combat with a Soviet I-15. The main belligerence of the Ki-27s of this unit was directed towards Vichy French aircraft over Indo-China. Only one other decal option was offered in this issue - a Homeland Defence aircraft of the 3rd Chutai of the 13th Sentai, but in the U1 box both aircraft were depicted as colour profiles on a fold-out sheet.

The kit has since been re-issued fairly regularly in various special edition boxings, including at least two Manchukuo releases, but as far as I know no other mainstream Ki-27 kits have been produced to this scale. Mania also produced a Ki-27 in their 1/72nd range which has also been regularly re-released by Hasegawa over the years and of which more anon.

Here is a listing of the Ko, Otsu Hei, etc., sequential suffixes as the characters are often rendered in English but seldom shown as kanji:-

Ko 甲
Otsu 乙
Tei 丁
Bo 戊
Ki 己
Ko 庚
Shin 辛
Jin 壬
Ki 癸

These characters can be useful to the study of aircraft plans and variant profiles in Japanese books. They originated from a calendar system in use during the Chinese Shang Dynasty and are known as the Ten (Celestial or Heavenly) Stems. The usual rendering in English as a, b, c etc., is not a direct translation of their meaning but just a convenient equivalence.

Image credits: © 1975 Mania Hobby Co., Ltd.; © 1981-1987 Hasegawa Seisakusho Co., Ltd.


Derek Cooper said...

Being in the fortunate position of having both Mania & Hasegawa kits in my collection, it is interesting to compare the two and note some of the other changes that Hasegawa made in their own boxings. Firstly, Hasegawa introduced some location pins, particularly on the fuselage, whereas in the Mania kit these were simple butt joints. Secondly, in the Mania kit the part comprising the engine push rods was located outside the main sprue frame and was therefore prone to damage - in my own kit several of these rods had broken off. Hasegawa have evidently carved an additional sprue cage (if that's the right expression) into the mould so that the push rod component is now fully protected.

Hoping that this might be of interest.

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi Derek

Yes indeed, thanks.

I have both kits too but had not noticed those changes!


Anonymous said...


Thank you for the convenient explanation of the sequential suffixes used by Japanese aircraft manufacturers. I knew about ko, otsu, hei, and tei being roughly equivalent to a, b, c and d but didn't know about anything after that. I would like to point out that ko is sometimes rendered as kho or khou in some western publications. The Kanji will be very helpful in deciphering Japanese labels.


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Windswords. I'm aware of kho, khou and chuutai (for example, spellings gaining popularity with some to supposedly better imitate the pronunciation of Japanese words. In this case my decision to use the "archaic" spellings is deliberate.

I find the "new" spellings clumsy and awkward in appearance - why not chootai or choootai instead of chuutai? Urgh! And if we want to get really pedantic the actual reading of hei, for example, is "hinoe" with readings ヘイ hei and ひのえ hinoe!

Others can tap additional letters into their renderings as they wish but this blog aims to keep a complex subject as straightforward as possible!

Ko, otsu, hei, tei!


Ken Glass said...

Hello Nick,

Thanks for the mini histories of the various decal options in the Mania boxed kits. I have not seen that much detail about them before now. Also the news to me the old Hasegawa 48th scale N1K kit was tooled by Mania. I will have to haul it out of the stash for a fresh look see.

Ken Glass