Saturday 27 June 2015

Chinese Aircraft ~ Part One

It is always a delight to be able to feature Chinese aircraft here and Woodstock has an excellent blog featuring his superb and inspiring models of historic Chinese aircraft including many rare and unusual types which are seldom seen as models. The heading image is of a mixed media Blackburn Lincock in 1/72nd scale made from the rare New Types Park kit which featured in Aviation of Japan's article on Robert Short. Woody has two of these on display, the second interpreted in an even more colourful scheme.

Breda Ba 27

Boeing 218 (export P-26) in Cantonese Air Force plumage

With special thanks to Woody for facilitating the link and kindly permitting some of his beautiful models to be shown here. More Chinese aircraft models to come. 

Boeing 218 of 17th Group, Republic of China Air Force

Kawasaki Ki-10 in Chinese insignia

Fokker DVII in early Chinese Republican insignia ~ aircraft re-covered and clear doped, easier than lozenge!

Image credits: All © 2015 Woodstock 

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Hasegawa Shiden Kai in 1/72

The Hasegawa Shidenkai dates from 1977 and was a stablemate of their J2M3 Jack to the same scale. It is listed in a Trade Fair report in Scale Models (UK) magazine of April 1977 (p.199) and appeared in the 1978 Hasegawa catalogue as 'N1K2-J George' with an image of a built up model. Until recently it was still listed in the standard range and retailing from HLJ for ¥640 (about £3.48/$US5.21) which makes it 38 years old.

1978 Hasegawa Catalogue Image

The first issue was in the 'red' series box as A29 (heading image) and moulded in dark green plastic. The box ends of this kit include the number JS-125 which Burns* lists as being a separate issue kit from 1980. The 1978 catalogue image (above) includes both numbers so make of that what you will. Early Shikeo Koike box art depicted a pair of aircraft from the 343rd Ku despatching an anonymous Corsair in a sky of orange tinted miasma. From 1982-87 the kit was released in the 'blue' series as B1 with the same box art (below) and still moulded in dark green. The JS-125 number on the box end was replaced with B001 which Burns also lists as a separate issue for 1981. Markings options in both releases remained the same - 'A 343-15' of the 343rd Ku's 301 Hikotai flown by 1Lt Naoshi Kanno, the Hikotai leader and 'C 345-45' of the same unit's 701 Hikotai flown by 1Lt Takashi Oshibuchi, also the Hikotai leader. The tail codes and the twin fuselage bands on both aircraft were presented as white. 

1982 release as B1

Do not adjust your monitor - bold presentation for 1987 release as 506

In 1987 the kit was re-issued moulded in light grey plastic in a larger box as number 506 with colour photos of a made up model on the side and the same box art boldly re-presented to 'zoom in' and depict the Shiden kai in an inverted position. At the same time the image was modified to present the tail code and twin bands in yellow with a large white number '15' added to the fuselage Hinomaru. The kit decal sheet, for the same two options, reflected those changes with 1Lt Oshibuchi's aircraft also given a makeover with yellow tail code and red bands. At one time it was believed that the bands were painted to represent a Hikotai colour sequence but more recent research based on the testimony of veterans suggests that the bands were probably white on Oshibuchi's aircraft and yellow on Kanno's, being the same colour as the tail code. The temporary white number in the Hinomaru is based on a photograph but it has also been shown faded and/or painted over. What didn't change was the suggestion in the kit instructions to paint the under surface light grey using Gunze H61/35 IJN Grey and described in that misleading but persistent cliché of 'light/bright ash white colour' (明灰白色). Burns lists this kit as being issued in 1988 and a further release as AT-06 'announced' in 1992. When it appeared the 1992 release (below) was numbered AT6 and the box art reversed the bold inversion of 506 but with same 'zoom in' presentation.

1992 release as AT6

1997 release as SS2 with pre-painted canopy

In 1997 the kit was added to the 'Super Series' with pre-painted canopies as SS-2 with the subsidiary number 03002 (above). It was in an even larger box with a colour photograph of a built and painted model and the original Shigeo Koike art as a small inset. This kit included only markings for 1Lt Kanno's 'A 343-15'. The instruction sheet in this kit is different, Tamiya-like in style and containing snippets of generic modelling advice at each stage, apparently aimed at the younger or less experienced modeller. Unusually for Hasegawa the colour suggestions reference both Gunze and Tamiya paints.

Standard boxing from 2004 as A6

I'm not sure when the current 'standard' boxing (above) first appeared but my example is dated 2004 and numbered A6 with the subsidiary number 00136. The box art and markings options remain unchanged from 1987.

The Kit Itself ~ An Appraisal

Hasegawa's Shiden kai, now approaching its mid-life crisis, was finally upstaged - dare I say it - by the Aoshima kit in 1996 and is further relegated, if still in production, by the revision and improvement of the latest release of that kit. The Hasegawa kit represents the later production Shiden kai with the narrow chord tail fin, equivalent to the Aoshima kit # 6 (017517).  I have always rather liked it, warts and all, and view it in the context of its contemporaries, such as the Airfix FW 190 A/F and Me 163. Compared to its mainstream predecessor, Nitto's 1/75th 'Sidenkai' (sic) from 1964 (of which more anon), and at the time it was released it appeared a masterpiece of engineering and scale fidelity. Nowadays, with the trend in modelling towards an expectation of minute accuracy in every panel line, cockpit interiors of crowded complexity and long hot arguments over shape issues, it is perhaps viewed more critically. 

Hasegawa and Aoshima fuselage halves compared ~ Note different exhaust outlet spacing

The Hasegawa Shidenkai kit is presented on two simple, sharply moulded self-contained sprue frames with a separate clear frame providing a single canopy in the closed position. Panel line detail is crisply engraved with exhaust outlets and cowling flaps moulded integrally with each fuselage half. The lower pair of exhaust outlets are also moulded integrally with the fuselage halves and decidedly fuzzy in comparison to the better defined outlets on the Aoshima kit which are moulded as part of the single piece lower wing. The lower cowling intake ducting in the centre section is moulded as a separate part in the Hasegawa kit whilst it is integral to the lower wing in the Aoshima.

Lower wing pieces compared ~ Hasegawa ailerons and wingtips moulded integrally to upper wing halves 

The wheel wells are devoid of detail but enclosed and whilst too shallow they are not as bad as some. The main undercarriage covers are moulded in one piece, separate from the struts and must be cut for the model to be displayed wheels down.

Simplified cockpit detail in the Hasegawa kit ~ but good for 1977!

Cockpit detail is minimal but was considered good at the time, consisting of a floor with rudimentary rudder pedals, separate stick, seat and rear bulkhead. The separate instrument panel is flat with the instrumentation provided in the form of a decal. Early kit instructions suggest 'blue bamboo colour' (aotake - 青竹色) for the cockpit interior but this was later changed to Gunze (GSI Creos) H340 Field Green (FS 34097). The engine is a relief moulding with the final reduction gear and pitch control unit as a single separate piece. The propeller unit consists of the four-bladed prop, spinner and back plate as three separate parts whilst the cowling is moulded in one piece. There are parts included for the drop tank with separate sway braces.

Aoshima and Hasegawa cowlings compared

The Hasegawa cowling has deeper and more pronounced intakes than the Aoshima cowling, which is slightly more tapered all round, but the revised and updated Aoshima Shidenkai kit recently released (below) has a new cowling as well as a more detailed cockpit interior.

In terms of shape pinning things down is only marginally easier than knitting fog. The Aoshima fuselage ahead of the windscreen is shallower than the Hasegawa but deeper and more boxy to the rear. It has been asserted that the Hasegawa kit is too shallow but the tapering up of the lower rear fuselage line and the shape of its tail fin and rudder assembly appear to have the slight edge - depending on which plans are consulted. The tail fins and rudders of both kits are slightly too short in height. It is always fascinating how minor shape issues are glossed over in the clamour over newly released kits, but quickly seem to become 'fatal flaws' and ultimately, and often in a surprisingly short space of time, the kit is dismissed as a serious contender.

A neat little kit seems to sum up the Hasegawa Shidenkai, asserted shape issues and alleged inaccuracies notwithstanding. It is a simple, rapid and enjoyable build, recommended as such even today. My own biggest disappointment with it was melting the prop with a hair dryer when once attempting to photograph it with the prop turning (doh!). There is an enthusiastic build review of the kit at Modelling Madness, here and it is certainly a pleasant and undemanding weekend project out of the box.

Image credit: All box art and images © Hasegawa Corporation as dated; AT6 box image via eBay; kit part comparisons © author.

Friday 12 June 2015

Shiden Addendum

I don't have the Tamiya 1/48th Type 11 Shiden kit but a communiqué from Aviation of Japan's Texas correspondent Mark Smith suggests that it suffers from the same cowling scoop issues as the 1/72nd scale kit. Mark kindly sent these images of his own Shiden model with a modified cowling, using the front half of the Otaki Shiden kit cowling grafted to the rear of the Tamiya cowl. Mark writes that considering how very nice the Tamiya kit is in about every other respect, it is puzzling how badly they missed the cowling and how well Otaki managed to capture it considering the age of those moulds - mid 1960s.  Mark remembers modifying the cowling before any other construction to see if it would work - it did - using superglue as a filler, which has not shrunk as putty can do after many years. The current price of the Otaki kit, now available under the Arii brand, makes this a practical consideration for a Shiden model, although Hasegawa also have a range of Shiden kits available (not seen) and the Arii/Otaki kit is a pleasant antidote to AMS in its own right.         

The frontal view of Mark's model makes an interesting comparison with my image of the original 1/72nd kit part.

The IJN designation of the N1K1/2 is usually rendered in English as 'Interceptor Fighter' but the Japanese characters used - 局地 - mean 'local area' which implies a short range capability in contrast to long range - 長距離 - and thus an aircraft designed for a local, short range interception role. Shiden was first designated the Experimental No.1 Local Area Fighter.

Shiden was developed from the Kyofu floatplane fighter, Kawanishi's engineers wishing to exploit that design's performance features. At first the IJN were not interested, being focussed on development of Mitsubishi's Raiden, and Kawanishi pursued the project as a private venture. By the time the Navy were able to evaluate one of three less than perfect additional prototypes constructed by Kawanishi delays and concerns over the Raiden project had changed their tune. Kawanishi were instructed to continue improving the Shiden design and to suspend further work on another concurrent IJN fighter project - the J3K1/J6K1 Jinpu. A complicated undercarriage system in the N1K1-J, necessitated by the inherited mid-wing configuration of the floatplane and a 10 foot propeller, proved problematic and prone to failure. Shiden had an alarming stall characteristic that tested pilot reaction and skill, the combination of both issues impacting ease of landing. The ultimate resolution of these issues was the modification to low-wing configuration of Shiden Kai and the rest, as they say, is history.

Otaki/Arii Box Art

Mid 1960s issue Otaki Shiden box art by Tatsuji Kajita~ kit moulded in dark green

1972 release of Otaki's Shiden ~ Splendid box art by Rikyu Watanabe

Current Arii Shiden box art 

Image credit: All model photos © 2015 Mark Smith; Box art © Tamiya Inc., and Arii; special thanks to Keishiro re the characters 局地

Tuesday 9 June 2015

More Thoughts on Shiden in 1/72

Prior to the appearance of the Aoshima Shiden the only realistic game in town had been the limited run MPM kit (above) released a mere couple of years beforehand. It was typical of MPM's early efforts consisting of basic if not crude short run plastic mouldings with plenty of flash but it did benefit from a crisp vacform canopy (still crystal clear in my example), a photo-etch sheet and photo-film instrument panel. The decal sheet, by Propagteam, offered markings for four subjects - 'ケ-1174' of the Genzan Ku, '341S-12' and '341-16 over S' of the 341st Ku's 402nd Hikotai and '201-53' of the 201st Hikotai. Whilst the Aoshima Shiden trumped the MPM kit, making it effectively redundant, it was in turn upstaged by Tamiya's release of its own N1K1-Ja in 2001. Tamiya have a deserved reputation for detail and fit and their Shiden kit surpassed the Aoshima kit in a number of features. 

New kit in town; the Tamiya Shiden pushed aside the batwing doors of the modelling saloon in 2001

Panel line detail on the Tamiya kit includes rivets around the cowling panels and wing root fairings not represented by Aoshima. The Aoshima kit omits the lowest of the three cooling slots behind the exhausts - probably because it is concealed by the pitot and wing in most plan profiles. The retractable access steps in the wing root fairings are represented by indented slots in the Tamiya kit but not at all in the Aoshima kit.  These were not toe holds but rather 'L' shaped  stirrups that dropped down on each side and were often seen deployed when the aircraft was on the ground. Above and to the front of these is a square panel that hinged inwards to provide a second step and this is shown in both kits. In addition there were two further retractable handles/steps on each side of the fuselage that operated with the stirrup and which are also seen deployed when the aircraft is on the ground. Sometimes only one of them is shown on drawings and plans. Both kits represent the handles/steps in the retracted position but the Aoshima kit represents the rearmost one as a hinged panel rather than as a spring loaded protruding handgrip. The painted areas around these handles/steps were often worn away.

Comparison of Shiden kit fuselage halves

Instead of a relief moulded engine Tamiya provides a fully formed two part twin row radial. Exhaust outlets and cowl flaps are separate parts whereas Aoshima has them moulded integrally with the fuselage halves. Perhaps because of this I found the three way join of the fuselage halves with their tapered fronts and the single piece lower wing less precise than in the Aoshima kit. In fact I would go so far as to say the Aoshima kit provides for a slightly more straightforward construction all round. Tamiya has the underwing cannon gondola as separate parts whereas apart from the rear fairings the Aoshima gondola are moulded integrally with the single piece lower wing. 

Comparison of Shiden kit lower wings

The Aoshima wheel wells are shallower than Tamiya, again moulded integrally with the wing, whereas the Tamiya wells are open with their detail moulded into the upper wing halves. The complex Shiden undercarriage could never retract into those Aoshima wells so some cunning trompe-l'œil painting is required. The Aoshima undercarriage struts and retraction arms are moulded as one piece together with their doors whereas those are all separate parts in the Tamiya kit. The Tamiya flying controls, ailerons, elevators and rudder, have their fabric surfaces more subtly represented than Aoshima. 

Aoshima cockpit interior parts ~ simple but easily enhanced

As far as interiors go the Tamiya kit has rudimentary sidewall detail and the Aoshima kit none. The Aoshima cockpit is a simplified five-part affair of floor, seat, stick, instrument panel with integral gunsight and rear bulkhead. The Tamiya kit doesn't have many more parts but they are designed for a more detailed appearance. Not much will be seen when the models are completed, especially if the Aoshima pilot figure is used. Kora have released a resin and photo-etch enhancement set for the Aoshima and Kopro kits. Rob Taurus make replacement vacform canopies for both the Aoshima and Tamiya kits.

Tamiya kit cockpit interior assembly ~ note clear gunsight piece

In terms of overall shape there is not much to choose between the two kits. There are subtle differences in the shape of wing tips and tail fins. I have seen comments that the Aoshima kit is under scale but both kits have similar dimensions and both appear under scale when compared to the plan profile drawings by Rikyu Watanabe in FAOW # 124. However those drawings are not marked as to their scale.

Comparison of kit cowlings to original

Neither kit has captured the shape of the lower cowling scoop quite correctly. Overall the Aoshima cowling is slightly more tapered in plan and profile whist the Tamiya cowling is slightly more bulbous. A judgement as to which looks better seems to be subjective.

The Tamiya model provides markings for four aircraft - 'ツ-7' of the Tsukuba Ku,ヨ-110' of the Yokosuka Ku, '341S-23' of the 341st Ku's 402nd Hikotai and '341-16 over S' also of the 341st's 402nd Hikotai. The sheet includes a decal for the seat belt - waist belt and single shoulder strap on IJN aircraft - plus yellow wing leading edge IFF strips and instrument panel dials.

The overall impression is that the Aoshima is a simpler kit which has compromised on the level of detail in some areas. That is not to suggest the kit is flawed in any way - it still builds nicely into a good looking model. Price wise the Tamiya kit retails in Japan for less than the Aoshima, about £4.75 (¥900) vs £6.31 (¥1,200) - if you can find one. The 1/48th scale Arii (ex-Otaki) kit of the N1K1-J is being sold for the same price as the Tamiya kit.

More 1/72nd scale Shiden Kai thoughts and comparisons to follow and a mighty wind will blow in too - with apologies to 1/48th and up modellers! Are these blogs useful/interesting or have all the Shiden itches and axes already been scratched and ground?

Image credit: All box art, kit parts and instructions © MPM, Tamiya Inc., and Aoshima Bunka Kyozai Co., Ltd

Monday 8 June 2015

Aoshima Shiden and Shiden Kai Family

The arrival of Aoshima's 1/72nd scale Shiden Type 11 (Kawanishi N1K1-Ja) their 'New WWII Fighter Series' in 1995 came as a complete surprise to many, more familiar with that company's pioneering but rather crude and clunky output of Japanese aircraft kits in the 1960s and 70s, remembered here, here and here. Here was a sharply moulded, well fitting and fine scale kit of comparable quality to Hasegawa.

Kit # 1 (01585) represented the first operational version of Shiden (紫電 - Violet or Purple Lightning), developed from the Kawanishi company's Kyofu (強風 - Strong Wind) floatplane fighter (of which more anon). This version of the rotund and pugnacious fighter is distinguished by a mid-wing configuration having the second pair of its quartet of wing mounted 20mm cannon in underslung gondola. The Aoshima Shiden kits tend to have sparse colour and markings instructions, usually not covering all the options provided on the decal sheet, and this one was no exception. The box art depicts an aircraft of the 341st Kokutai (Ku) - '341S-12' whilst the instructions show an aircraft of the 201st Ku- '201-53', but in addition to both the decal sheet provides a tail code for another 341st bird - '341-16 over S' - of the 341st's 402nd Hikotai. The decal sheet includes the chalked on 'Off-Limits'/'Keep Off' graffiti in English and Filipino for 201-53 as captured in the Philippines. 

The 341st first took its Shiden into action over Formosa (Taiwan) in the early autumn of 1944, operating from Takao in the intercept role with A6M2 Zeros augmenting the new fighter in two of its three Hikotai. Towards the end of October the 341st staged into the Philippines in preparation for its invasion by US forces. The 201st is better known as a predominantly Zero unit with little information about its deployment of the Shiden.

In 2002 the N1K1-Ja kit was re-issued with new box art (above) and new decals for three aircraft in the 'WWII Ace Pilot' series, although only two of the options were shown in the instructions. They include  ヨ-117 of the Yokosuka Ku, 'C/343-36' of the 343rd Ku flown by Lt. Ryoichi Yamada, the leader of that unit's 3rd Hikotai 701 and 'H/341-152' of the 341st Ku flown by Takeo Yamada. The kit sheet also includes the tail code 'ヨ-801' applied to a captured F6F Hellcat which was tested at Yokosuka.

Kit # 2 (016275) also released in 1995 represented the N1K1-Jb or Otsu, distinguished from the 'a' or Ko by having the quartet of 20mm guns installed in the wings, like the later Shiden Kai, but retaining the mid-wing configuration. Curious box art for this one that appears to show a Shiden taking off from the side of a glacier! The decal sheet includes options for two aircraft of the Genzan Ku - ケ-1172 and ケ-1174 but also includes two sets of 1-0 digits in yellow to allow other codes to be made up and an image of the Japanese schoolboy cartoon character 'Fuku-chan' associated with captured Allied aircraft assembled at Bandoeng in Java. 'Fuku-chan' was the creation of cartoonist Ryuichi Yokoyama (1909-2001) who visited Bandoeng as a correspondent and painted the character on several aircraft there including a Douglas Boston and B-17E. Shiden usually had unpainted, natural metal under surfaces but some Japanese sources depict the Shiden of the Genzan Ku with the under surfaces painted grey.

This kit was also re-released with new box art and new decals in the 'WWII Ace Pilot' series with markings for five aircraft: 'ヤ-1163' and 'ヤ-1164' of the Yatabe Ku, 'ツ-183' and 'ツ-185' of the Tsukuba Ku and '210-149'. The sheet also includes the nose art for B-29 42-93852 "Tokyo Rose" (T Square 12 (4) - an aircraft of the 498th BG which survived until 1949).

Kit # 3 and 4 in the Aoshima 'New WWII Fighter Series' are the Focke-Wulf Ta 152 so don't search for them as 'missing' Shiden kits! In 1996 Aoshima released Kit # 5 (016947 above) representing the first production version of the Model 21 N1K2-J Shiden Kai with broad chord tail fin and a major modification to a low-wing configuration. This kit's decal sheet provides markings for 'B/343-03' of the 343rd Ku's (2nd) Hikotai 407 flown by WO Hiroshi Ohara and curiously the Model 32 prototype '517' - a N1K4-J - discussed in yesterday's blog. Also included is the tail number '91' for the Shiden Kai prototype in orange yellow.

Kit # 6 (017517 above) released the same year represents the N1K2-Ja or Ko, with the narrower chord tail fin introduced with the 101st production aircraft (c/n 5101). Markings are included for 'A/343-11' of the 343rd Ku's (1st) Hikotai 301, with additional tail codes 'ヨ-103' of the Yokosuka Ku, コ-K2J-6 for the sixth supplementary prototype Shiden Kai in overall orange yellow and an anonymous aircraft with the tail number '5423', an identifying production number applied to a Shiden Kai rolled out at the Kawanishi Naruo factory before gunsight and armament had been fitted.

In 2011 the two Shiden Kai kits were re-released with new box art in the 'Ace Fighters Story' series (above). In addition to the kits covered here there have also been limited edition re-issues of the Shiden Kai under the C.G. logo in rather unattractive boxes with cgi illustrations of aircraft (below). At the end of 2011 Kopro of the Czech Republic also announced the release of the Aoshima kits under their own label with new box art.

The latest and most recent re-release of Aoshima's Shiden Kai includes not just the parts for four air-to-air rocket bombs and their racks but also a new, improved cowling and cockpit interior (below).

At the time of their release the Aoshima Shiden and Shiden Kai filled an important gap in the availability of 1/72nd scale mainstream kits of the Kawanishi fighter, a gap further closed by the release of the Kyofu floatplane fighter in various guises by Hasegawa in 1996. It is probable that a good proportion of modellers have just bought the kits haphazardly to put a "George" in their collection rather than to build examples of each variant but the development from floatplane fighter to Shiden Kai is interesting enough to justify a line up. It is also possible to produce a line-up which displays a different scheme for each variant and the various units operating them.

Colours for Shiden and Shiden Kai were explored here, here and here, now warranting an update and completion. Further thoughts on Shiden and Shiden Kai kits to follow.

Image credit: All box art © Aoshima Bunka Kyozai Co., Ltd

Saturday 6 June 2015

Aoshima's New Shiden Kai

With the boxes marked predominantly 'Shidenkai' it is easy to presume that Aoshima's latest pair of 1/72nd scale releases are just re-issues from their much hailed 1996 Shiden Kai kits. But in small lettering on the boxes are the designations 'Kawanishi N1K3-J' and 'N1K3-Ja' revealing that these kits are supposed to represent the Model 31 with its boosted armament of two synchronised Model 3 13mm machine guns in the cowling position to augment the four wing mounted 20mm cannon and the engine mount extended by 15 cm to accommodate them.  In fact despite these designations the box art and markings options of the first kit (above), moulded in grey, represent the two prototypes (# 517 and # 520) of the Model 32 - N1K4-J - a Model 31 with a Homare 23 engine equipped with a low pressure fuel injection system replacing the Homare 21 of earlier models.

The second kit (above) also conceals a secret because, despite the box art showing Shiden Kai on a carrier deck with a carefully concealed unit tail code, it offers only the tail code for the prototype of the Model 41 N1K4-A - a carrier capable Model 32 with an arrestor hook -  コ-K2J-5 (in black or white) of the Koku Gijitsu Sho (Naval Air Technical Arsenal) at Yokosuka in an overall yellow scheme. And just so you get the idea the kit is moulded in vibrant orange yellow too! The prototype was reported to have conducted carrier landing trials on Shinano although none were produced, so the finished model could be legitimately displayed on a carrier deck base.

Kit # 11 contains only one markings option for an experimental prototype in yellow but a white tailcode is also included to facilitate camouflage painting

Both kits contain new longer fuselage halves with the double row of cooling slots and provision for the arrestor hook, filled by an insert in the first kit and a hook in the second. There is a new cowling with the machine gun troughs although sprue frame B from the previous kits which has the older cowling, marked 'not for use', is still included.

The longer fuselage of the Model 31/41~  note the distinctive twin row of cooling slots

New cowling with 13mm machine gun troughs

Sprue frame C from the older kits also has several other parts marked 'not for use' because there is an entirely new frame G which includes improved engine and cockpit interior parts as well as an under cowling insert to facilitate use of the original kit wings.

New sprue frame G

The old relief moulded engine is redundant and replaced by a two part radial - although the moulding is a little flabby. The final reduction gear and pitch control unit is now made up of five separate parts and somewhat inexplicably the spinner is in two halves. The interior parts now include extra seat mounting parts, control levers, separate rudder pedals, gunsight frame, separate sidewall frames and a nicely engraved instrument panel. As with previous kits there are optional parts to display the canopy in the open position but no separate flaps. 

All new cockpit and engine - just add seatbelts

An improvement on this 'old' cockpit - although not much will be seen with the canopy closed

Some might look askance at the Hinomaru on the modest kit decal sheets but they are printed in the correct to standard very bright red colour, although the wing leading edge IFF strips look too lemon. 

Decal Sheet for kit # 10 Model 32

Decal sheet for kit # 11 Model 41

So there is much more to these kits than just longer fuselages and a new cowling and they provide the potential for cross kitting to improve the older kits if prototypes and what-ifs are not your thing (we'll explore the previous kits in the Aoshima Shiden and Shiden Kai family tomorrow). But in addition to enhancing a Kawanishi fighter line-up (only the Model 25 N1K5-J with Ha43-1-1 engine and two seat N1K2-K are now missing) they do inspire some speculative modelling, with a Model 41 perhaps displayed on a carrier deck with suitable Kokutai tail codes, a Japanese Bearcat, positing a Midway disaster that wasn't so disastrous. 

Image credit: All box art, side panels, instructions and decal sheets © 2015 Aoshima Bunka Kyozai Co., Ltd.; fuselage comparison author using Aoshima kit parts.