Slipping in under the radar for many is this magazine limited edition 1/72 injection moulded plastic kit of the Nakajima Ki-43-I Hayabusa by Fine Molds which comes, at a price, with the March 2019 issue of the Japanese Model Graphix magazine (# 412 03/2019). The kit is presented as a girl-flown 'Kotobuki' squadron Hayabusa tie-in to an 'anime' (animēshon アニメーション- animation film) TV series so the decal sheet has the markings for an aircraft flown by one 'Kilie' (as seen in the heading image) and does not include any historic IJAAF unit markings or even Hinomaru, of which more anon.
The Model Graphix magazine with the Limited Edition kit
The kit itself is an intriguing mixture of simplification and sophistication. The break down of parts is very unusual and innovative with the whole fuselage centre section (complete with rollover pylon/headrest) and rear fuselage (complete with tail wheel) as single pieces joining together very neatly on a panel line. The centre section might need a sprue spacer as shown in the magazine to broaden its lower edges to fit the wing snugly and prevent the thin plastic from pinching in. The fairings over the guns have an odd 'tail' at the rear which does not appear in photographs of the real thing and they are not as prominent or as angular as in the Fujimi kit. So far neither of the 1/72 kits seem to have captured the form of the fairings quite correctly. The tailplanes are also moulded as a single piece which neatly slots into the rear fuselage whilst the separate fin and rudder are in two halves which lock in above and behind the tailplane assembly. The windscreen and canopy frames are moulded separately from the clear parts resulting in a slightly over scale and heavy appearance. The canopy can be displayed open but this will have to be decided on before assembly as a choice of two marked holes must be drilled out from inside the centre section.
An unusual breakdown of parts - note the separate canopy frames
Simplification comes with the engine and annular oil cooler moulded in relief as a single part and the under cowling intake moulded integrally with the cowling. That has near parallel sides rather than the slightly bulged cowling of the Fujimi kit in the same scale, with the gun tubes finely and delicately moulded with recessed muzzles. Separate cheek pieces behind the cowling suggest perhaps some potential for different variants and the separate exhausts are undoubtedly the best representations in this scale. The optical gunsight is quite crude compared to other aspects of the kit, being effectively a length of fine sprue with one supporting leg.
Sprue A Wings - not upper wing moulded in one piece with integral cockpit floor
The prop and spinner are finely moulded in three parts with the prop neatly trapped between the front and rear halves of the spinner which is an improvement on the Fujimi representation. The prop assembly fits without glueing into a polythene cap trapped inside the engine moulding. Interior detail consists of a floor moulded integrally with the upper wings - also a single part - an instrument panel for which a decal is provided, a two part seat and a control stick. The floor has some simplified moulded detail to represent side consoles and rudder pedals, but due to the way the fuselage centre section is moulded there is no sidewall detail. Frankly very little could be seen through the very small cockpit aperture so a few strips of plastic would probably suffice to represent ribs and stringers.
Sprue B - Smaller parts
The engraved surface detail is remarkable with a complete network of recessed rivets and panel lines reminiscent of the 1/48 scale Otaki kits, but rendered much more finely (Airfix take note!). However the ailerons and elevators follow the Hasegawa practice (on some kits) of prominent raised lines to represent ribs. The rudder is more subtly moulded with the characteristic swell of the lower metal part accentuated slightly more than the Fujimi kit.
Pictorial instructions are clear and easy to follow
Provision is made for the model to be assembled with lowered or retracted undercarriage, facilitated by optional parts. For the lowered position the undercarriage covers are correctly moulded, with the hinged lower section flared out, whereas the Fujimi kit has a flat, plain cover. The 'butterfly' flaps are moulded integrally with the upper wing with no provision for open display and appear slightly anaemic, although dimensions have not yet been checked. In terms of shape the line of the upper fuselage breaks at the cockpit but does not seem as pronounced as with the Fujimi kit. Photos of the assembled model in the magazine look ok.
The magazine also includes a step-by-step build in colour with advice and tips
The magazine contains clear assembly instructions as shown plus a complete by stages build with colour photos, but all text is in Japanese. As a magazine issue limited edition the kit is expensive to acquire (¥3,500 about £25 or US$33 from HLJ)* and it remains to be seen whether it eventually appears as a standard Fine Molds kit, although the breakdown and engineering of parts does suggest the possibility of a future Hayabusa family. At this stage it is probably one for the determined Hayabusa enthusiast who prefers to work in this scale and is prepared to spend the money as the advantages over the cheaper Fujimi kit** seem marginal (completed models will be compared in future).
From Modelkasten comes a sheet of decals for the Ki-43-I in 1/72 scale (above) which compliments the Fine Molds kit nicely, but presumably could also be used with the Fujimi kit. Set DC-13 includes tail insignia for all 64th Sentai Chutai and Chutaicho in their various forms together with markings for Sentai leader Kato's aircraft. Also included are 50th Sentai rudder characters for named aircraft for M/Sgt Mitsuo Honma -'Kokorozashi' (志 - intention/resolution), Sgt Isamu Sasaki -'Tobi' (鳶 - black kite), Capt Misao Miyamaru - 'Shou' (翔 - to soar/to fly), 'Ao' or 'So' (蒼 - blue) & 'Miyou' (妙 - This is difficult to translate as it has various meanings, sometimes with a religious connotation or as a part of a female first name - literally exquisite/graceful) and Sgt Satoru Anabuki - 'Fubuki' (吹雪 - snowstorm/blizzard). See also here. In addition there are insignia for a Chutaicho of 1st Chutai, 11th Sentai, 18th Sentai with Home Defence 'bandages', and 2nd Chutai, 24th Sentai. Finally that striking fuselage lightning bolt in red for a 1st Chutai, 59th Sentai Hayabusa. Enough Hinomaru are included for two aircraft with both plain and white bordered fuselage discs. Instructions - at least in the set examined - consist of a two sided monochrome sheet with Japanese text and not all options shown. Other references will need to be consulted to use some of the decals provided. Price is ¥1,800 about £12.45 or US$16.
* It is shown as Out of Stock at HLJ but a back order was fulfilled very quickly. It can also be purchased from Modelkasten and Amazon Japan.
** Currently out of stock at HLJ but intermittently available at ¥960 - about £6.50 or US$8.67
Image credits: Heading picture, magazine cover & instruction pages © 2019 Model Graphix magazine; Fine Molds parts & sprue frames © 2019 Fine Molds Corp; Images of parts & sprue frames © 2019 Aviation of Japan; Modelkasten decal sheet DC-13 © 2019 Modelkasten (Artbox Co. Ltd.)