Monday, 25 February 2019

Ah, Fine Molds Limited Edition 1/72 Ki-43-I Hayabusa!

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 markings for named aircraft for Mitsuo Honma -'Tadashi' (loyalty), Isamu Sasaki -'Tobi' (black kite), Misao Miyamaru -  'Shou' (soaring), 'Ao' (blue) & 'Miyou' (marvellous?) and Satoru Anabuki - 'Fubuki' (snowstorm). 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.)



Aleksandar said...

Oooh, wow, what a surprise - can't wait for Ki-43-II to hit the market eventually.
Weird way to tool the fuselage, though...

Mark Smith said...

Nice post, thanks Nick, and I know many will appreciate the careful look at this kit, because they are not easily procured, nor inexpensive. Perhaps the finished model shown was not well built or photographed, but the parts generally look better than the finished model looks, and not just those silly markings – the shape (or sit, maybe) looked off – stalky. Is that a word? The simplicity and angle of the Hayabusa landing gear have always meant that if everything is not scale thickness, or if the strut length or its angle is off at all, it looks merely clumsy. Maybe that’s it.

At least, by *my* traditional standards and hopes for any new kit - and I realize FM is not catering to that taste with this one - it's a strange combination of 'wow, how did they do that?!' and 'hmmm - why did they do *that?*' The fuselage breakdown is novel, but why? Great for an Eagle Farms ATAIU diorama. Otherwise, is it perhaps to eliminate seam-work for the modeler? As to the canopy, it combines remarkable sophistication in molding with...looking wrong unless those frames fit absolutely flush, and it doesn't sound like that's the case. Again, why? Were they just bored? New Fine Molds kits are right up there with anyone's now (1/48 Claude, Babs) for accuracy and tolerances. But I hope this is not the new FM paradigm, at least for aircraft.

If its engineering was traditional, they could have made the best Hayabusa kit going in 1/72, hands down. This way, it may still be the best; but there's a trade-off to my mind: they will require some extra trouble, be hard to get from the start, and be pretty expensive. It may be that they are simply trying something different to see how it flies (and sells). In a way, Eduard did this when they released a series of FW 190 kits that many considered needlessly complex and over-engineered. Amazingly, Eduard recanted, and completely retooled these - and I hear collectors are already searching out the older ones now that they are withdrawn! In any case, it will be interesting to see the future of these kits and this paradigm for plastic model aircraft kits. Thanks again for the review.

Bill Gilman said...

Thanks for the kit review, Nick. This new Fine Molds Ki-43 reminds me of the way that the Hobby Boss easy assembly kits are engineered and moulded. That, and the relatively low number of parts. I wonder if that is the segment of the market that Fine Molds is aiming for with this kit?

Keep up the great work!


Michael Thurow said...

There is a lot of truth in Mark's comment.

1) I was very impressed by Fine Molds until I built my first model (see
The fit was only half as good as the parts suggested, to express it politely.

2) The Hayabusa appears to be a terribly difficult plane to reproduce - not only in 1/72, also in 1/48. Why? It has a simple straightforward shape. Hasegawa obviously missed the chance to make theirs a winner. I'm still impressed by the old Nichimo 1/48 and have an Arii kit in the stash for the -II version. I hope it will come out as good as Chad Atkins's.

Steve Blankenship said...

Hi Nick,

I rushed out and bought a couple of the Fine Molds Ki-43 kits when I read about it on another website. As magazine kits they are expensive, but I am very impressed. Detail and part fit, of major components anyway, is excellent. The negatives are what you have already covered: the simplified interior detail, the rudimentary gun sight (the one in the old Fujimi kit is a bit better), and the simplified 1 piece engine and oil cooler. I don't know how much of that will be visible once it's inside the cowl.
The fuselage design is unique, and the fit of the parts is excellent. The one piece central fuselage includes the wing fillets, and it fits perfectly with the upper wing (although I added a bit of sprue inside the fuselage as a shim to ensure a tight fit with the edges of the upper wing.
Compared against drawings, the cowling of the Fujimi kit is a bit too long front to back. The Fine Molds cowling appears to be more accurate, and I like the 2 little 'pins' on the rear edge that represent the gun barrels that bridge the slight gap between the fuselage and cowling.
The separate framing for the canopy is very delicate, and I haven't tied it out for fit yet. The framing in the photos of the assembled kit in the magazine seems much heavier than the actual parts - perhaps it was a prototype.
The Fine Mods Ki-43 I is an expensive kit, but I think it's a great improvement over the old Fujimi kit, and at this time, the best Ki-43 in 1/72 scale.

All the best,


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks all for the comments.

Mark, thanks. I think the heading photo accentuates a 'stalky' appearance whereas the kit's undercart is actually reproduced more correctly than the Fujimi kit. Other photos in the magazine look ok and examination of the kit parts confirms that the legs are weighted and not at full extension as per the retracted pieces. I 'think' that the unusual fuselage breakdown was conceived to recreate the subtle shapes of the Hayabusa fuselage and wingroots which it achieves beautifully, but how much moe so than the Fujimi kit is open to question. There is undoubtedly an ease of assembly aspect to this kit as suggested by Bill above.

Steve, thanks. The most unfortunate aspect of the Fujimi kit is that it shares the same 'broken back' upper fuselage line from the Matsuba Minoru plans as the Hasegawa 1/48 kit, albeit slightly less glaring in the smaller scale. I haven't noted the Fujimi cowling as being too long but I guess it depends on which plans are referenced. It looks ok on the built model. The side panels of the cowling are slightly bulged compared to the Fine Molds kit, the side panels of which are quite flat and more like the old LS (now Arii) kit. It's hard to gauge the actual degree of swell from photographs but from the extant example I tentaively venture that Fujimi is closer in shape to the real thing. There are two viewpoints regarding the simplification of some aspects of this kit: either the 'everything should be included even if it can't be seen' mantra or the 'it doesn't matter because it can't be seen' mantra. But for the price of this kit the interior and engine detail seems disappointing. My concluding (and personal) assessment was that any improvement in the FM kit over the Fujimi is somewhat outweighed by the alarming price difference. But then prices have altered significantly in recent years with mainstream 1/72 fighter kits now approaching the cost of a high end 1/48 kit of a few years ago.


Chad Akins said...

Thanks for this first look Nick.
The break-down of parts is interesting and looks like it will make construction pretty easy with little fuss as there are no seams to deal with on the top and bottom centerline one usually has to deal with. After studying the sprue for a bit though I am not sure I really like this idea, especially the front half of the fuselage. For someone like me who really enjoys super detailing, even if it is such a small area in 1/72, I thing it would be quite difficult to get into the cockpit area to add plumbing, wiring etc. The canopy doesn't bother me so much since I would use a vac canopy anyways but the pre-enclosed cockpit is a little off-putting. I am really glad none-the-less that we at least have a new tool Oscar from Fine Molds and will probably get one in the future anyways. Just my thoughts.

Chad A.

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Chad

The centre section interior is actually more accessible than it looks in the photographs because it is quite broad at the wing root and adding sidewall detail using tweezers and painting would be quite feasible. The cockpit floor could also be further detailed beyond the 'boxes' provided by Fine Molds. The question of what could be seen and appreciated afterwards is another matter!

The moulding of the rear fuselage as one whole single piece is extraordinary and triggers a "How did they do that?" response. All the subtle contours have been captured. But the moulded on tail wheel looks vulnerable to construction handling.


Chad Akins said...

Good to know about interior accessibility, thanks Nick! The more I look at it the more tempted I am to build one. I'd need to scratch build another tail wheel as I'd surely knock it off. Also, Murphy's law and such, if I scratch build one in anticipation nothing will happen to the original. If, however, I do not plan ahead, well..... :P