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


Anonymous said...

I like this series on the Shinden and if you have more, yes please



fugaku said...

Always very interested to read this sort of compare and contrast kit review and general elucidation. From the modeller's perspective this is great research and I'm sure that for years to come many will arrive here via google or whatever and find exactly what they're looking for, as I've done many times. It's an invaluable resource.

Young Ian said...

I, for one, am grateful for your comprehensive overview. I have, over the years, picked up one of each of these three manufacturer's N1K1 Shidens, and casually compared them (haven't done anything so rash as remove parts from the sprues, let alone build 'em). I think the MPM kit is actually buildable, though I wouldn't put extra effort or money into the project. I have a weak spot for Aoshima kits, with their colorful box art--I'd buy more of their Shidens if I snagged a deal. You're right to praise the Tamiya kit, which eclipses the others in detail and sharpness--but I think Aoshima nailed the shape better. Their engine cowling is more accurate than Tamiya's, for sure.

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks for the comments chaps. Ian, thanks for mentioning the cowlings. I haven't looked at overall shapes although several observations have been made elsewhere. I'll add something to the blog on that before going on to Shiden Kai!


Ronnie Olsthoorn said...

Although I don't build kits at the moment, it's an interesting review all the same. I always find it curious how poorly model companies manage to reproduce things like air intakes. With the Shiden-Kai being very well documented (I believe all relevant engineering plans survived plus we have an actual restored example as well) it's amazing they still can't seem to get it right. A mm difference in 1/72nd scale can be unforgivable for appearances (being almost 3 inch in real life).

Jacob Terlouw. said...

Thanks for your elaborate evaluation of those Shiden kits!!
Personally I like the Aoshima the 'best' in the 1/72 range.
However, I started in 1964 with the Marusan 1/100 kit, at the time the only Shiden-(kai) in
the hobby shop. Followed up by the Otaki 1/48 Shiden and the Hasegawa 1/72 Shiden Kai.
I regret having the Marusan kit anymore, just because they were fun!

Jacob Terlouw

R. Vieira said...

This series of articles on Shiden kits is absolutely fantastic! Thank you very much for putting together such an useful online resource on this (somehow neglected) subject, Nick. As Jacob said above, personally I also prefer the Aoshima kits over other available options in 1/72 (I do have the MPM and Tamiya kits and Hasegawa Shiden Kai too, the later being quite a decent kit for its age).

I never made a close analysis of the relative merits of the recent Tamiya kit vis-a-vis its Aoshima competitor, but seeing the photo of three fuselage halves of each kit (MPM, Aoshima and Tamiya) of the Type 11 N1K1-J, I noticed something that might warrant some further discussion: is it just me or the chord of the fin and rudder area on the Tamiya kit is a bit narrower than on the other two? The resulting visual effect is more pointier/triangular overall look of the tail, which (at least to my eyes) feels "less" so on the other two models. Being out of home, I can't compare the kits right now, but maybe someone can confirm this (or just that I need new lenses).
Thanks in advance!