Saturday, 20 March 2021

Jake - A Tale of Two Scales ~ Part 3

Continuing the season of IJN floatplanes with a follow up to Part 1 (way back in 2016) which promised a more detailed appraisal of the near 50 year old Hasegawa 1/72 scale kit of the Aichi E13A1 'Jake', also taking the opportunity to note two further releases since then, both in combo form with other kits. In 2018 the Jake was released in combo with the A6M2-N 'Rufe' to represent aircraft of the Kamikawa Maru (shown above), the kit offering optional decals for Z1-23 and ZI-26 based in Indo-China during December 1941, both in overall grey finish. In 2020 there was a second combo release (shown below), this time together with the Hasegawa E7K1 'Alf' of similar vintage and representing aircraft of Ominato Ku. The kit offered optional decals for オミ-4 (Omi-4) and オミ-5 (Omi-5) , again in an overall grey finish.


In both cases the box art presented a rather more agreeable profile of the aircraft than the assembled kit manages to achieve. At the time of writing it remains the only game in town in this scale, somewhat maligned and one of those kits much said to be in need of a better replacement. However from a cursory glance at eBay it seems to more than hold its own in terms of value on the second hand market. It was a Navy workhorse, used from first to last in many diverse roles, including strategic bombing in its long ranged attacks on the Canton-Hankow railway. 

For such a venerable and singular kit of an arguably significant, ubiquitous as well as iconic type the lack of aftermarket improvements and accessories for this kit is mysterious. There is a replacement vacform canopy by Falcon (which corrects the rake of the windscreen and the depth of the canopy), a set of canopy masks for the kit part by Dead Design, and a trio of Rising Decals sets to provide a replacement cowling with individual exhaust stacks, radar antennae and a 20mm cannon, each with relevant decals. There is also a dedicated decal sheet for the type from Print Scale - 72-206 - which offers no less than 13 markings options in both overall grey and green over grey. But there appears to be nothing to improve or replace the kit's sparse interior, not even a basic Airwaves etched sheet. A pity too that a beaching trolley was not included in the kit. At present therefore the modeller of Jake must resort to the time honoured use of plastic card and other improvised methods to enhance the model. 

Without comparing the kit to plans an impression is immediately given of a too short rear fuselage and a too tall canopy which starts the resultant model on an unfortunate journey towards a Nob caricature, detracting from the more svelte appearance of the original. The overall length of the original aircraft is variously given as 11.265 to 11.3 metres, measuring from the front of the floats to the rear of the tail cone, although the Shuppan-Kyodo Encyclopedia gives a curiously variable measurement of 11.49 to 11.30 metres. The only available 1/72 plans for this appraisal were those in Aviation News Vol.21 No.2 of June 1992 but examination revealed those are also slightly underscale, the length calculating to just 11.1 metres. The kit rear fuselage is the problem appearing too short from the rear of the canopy to the tailfin even when offered up to those plans and calculates as short by 6.25 mm in 1/72 scale to the original fuselage length. It should be feasible to cut the rear fuselage (at the rearmost panel line) and either to insert a laminated plastic card plug or 'girders' and filling to correct the length. The canopy is marginally too tall in profile, which emphasises the fuselage length issue, and the windscreen is not quite raked enough. The appearance can be improved either by judicious reduction of the canopy's lower edges or by replacement with the Falcon vacform canopy. 

The kit is flawed, but arguably not fatally, and there are positives, especially making allowance for its vintage.  Before the invention of fatal flaws and trial by online forum Scale Models magazine (August 1973) described the kit as 'charming' - 'well moulded in pale grey and, as usual, the surface detail is confined to panel lines, not an oversized rivet in sight! The model is straightforward to construct and the usual precision of this manufacturer's tooling leaves only a minimum of filling to be necessary.'

The moulding is on the whole delicate, with fine raised panel lines (which to re-engrave would not be too onerous a task) and fabric covered control surfaces perhaps better represented than in more recent kits from this manufacturer. The engine is a separate six part assembly with optional open or closed cowling flaps with commendably fine edges which can be further thinned with judicious use of wet'n'dry. In the original kit four separate open cowling panels were provided in order to display the engine, with the modeller requested to provide supports from wire or heat stretched sprue. That option has been omitted in more recent releases. Alternative early and later form exhausts are provided as well as the option for radar antennae. Additional struts were included to provide for early and late float configurations.

Engraving defines the centre section bomb-bay doors with their distinctive blisters but there is no provision to model them open and no ordnance is included. Jake could carry two 60kg bombs inclined in the bomb bay (hence the blisters) and a further two 60kg bombs on external racks outboard of the centre section. Alternatively a single 250kg bomb could be carried externally under the centre section on a rack offset to port. All of this lethality can be added by the intrepid modeller and excellent 3D moulded IJN ordnance sets are now available from Ushi (blissfully without the need to bend and fiddle photo-etched fins onto resin bomb casings).

The under fuselage windows are included as transparencies. Maru Mechanic identifies the starboard window for bomb aiming and the port window for photo-reconnaissance. The central navigator/bomb-aimer was equipped with a tubular bombsight which was stored on the port cockpit wall and could be inserted into a gimbal in the bomb-aiming window when required. Cockpit detail in the kit consists of a crude floor tray with three seats and three identical crewmen. In the earlier kits a single instrument panel for the pilot was included but in later kits a second panel for the navigator/bomb-aimer has been added. Further detail is limited to the A-frame behind the pilot's head and an RDF loop, both to be added to the fuselage decking beneath the canopy. Although not much is to be seen there is plenty of scope for improving the cockpit by building on the kit floor, whilst the kit supplied seats are not bad and a definite improvement on the 'armchairs' in the Betty kit. For the more intrepid modeller a folded wing presentation is always possible. So far then, all is not lost and for adding more detail Maru Mechanic is your friend. As Bill Bailey might say:- "Not too bad - all circumstances considered"

Cockpit colour is a grey-green, similar to FS 24226, with a darker green for various components such as radio sets. For the overall grey versions a choice between the greenish grey of J3 (approx FS 16307) or the amber grey (approx FS 16350) of the Aichi D3A1 'Val' is a matter for the modeller. The Hasegawa combo box art chanels Maru Mechanic's unconvincing light grey white but the instructions suggest Mr Color 35 IJN Gray Mitsubishi which is a blueish grey as measured (H61 IJN Gray is closer to J3 and was suggested in some earlier releases).  For the upper surface dark green the slightly more greenish D2 (approx FS 14056) is probably a better bet. The wing walkway lines, often depicted as yellow, should be silver. The diagonal stripes often applied to the tailplanes, and sometimes the inboard wing leading edge, were not as often suggested guidance for the gunner but rather for the navigator to calculate wind drift with the use of smoke floats or dye markers. Some kit releases suggest Gunze H339 for the underside of floats on all grey examples without listing that in the paint colours table. It is Engine Gray FS 16081. 

Image credit: Box art and catalogue image © 1978, 2018 & 2020 Hasegawa Corp.; Review kit photo © 1973 P Kirby via Scale Models magazine (Model & Allied Publications Ltd.); Kit part schematics © 2021 Aviation of Japan

8 comments:

Mark Smith said...

Nick,
A superb post, and thank you for it! I know it’s not your style to nitpick a kit; and I don’t think this article has that spirit at all. By providing the necessary for any builder wishing to tackle it with corrections in mind, you show it can be made a much more accurate replica by stuff we used to call modeling.

Hasegawa’s kit has the feel of a ‘friendly’ caricature as much as a model, but maybe an article like this will either solicit some photos of a build where these things have been addressed, or inspire one to start on the project. I’ve really enjoyed the Jake series. I think it deserves more ‘press’ and hope there is a Part 4 in mind. By the way, one of the finest of F-Toys' 1/144 pre-finished kits was their Jake, now very difficult to find. It looks great in any of its liveries, and is far more accurate than the ancient Crown mold Minicraft has been selling forever…but it can be broken down and rebuilt as a kit as well for those wishing to address those seams.

I do despair of model companies and their choices sometimes. We’ve got a Seamew, a Norm, a Laura, etc. (‘not that there’s anything wrong with that’)…but no Jake since this one. As Wallace Shawn opined in The Princess Bride: “Inconceivable!” And none in 1/48 since Marusan’s? “Inconceivable!” But as Andre the Giant would remind me, I keep using that word; I must not know what it means.

Potential popularity among modelers must not even enter the equation when choices for new kits are made. It was great news to see this week that Dora Wings had released a Caudron C.630 Simoun, which will make a wonderfully appealing J-Bird. But such exotic choices only underline the absence of Aichi's workhorse that was never absent from any of Japan's operations during WWII. A new mold in each scale would not only be welcomed in Japan but internationally. As in *bought*. A handsome and intriguing aircraft of such historical significance should not be so ignored, especially in its homeland. Rant off.

Baronvonrob said...

Inconceivable indeed! ...Mr.Smith is dead-on correct in his assessment of the Mr.Jake" situation as a new tool model is much needed

While we are at it how about a new mold 1/72 version of the venerable Aichi D3A Type 99 "Val"?... Yet another IJN workhorse that was used throughout the Pacific conflict...even Andre the Giant would undoubtedly add a few to his stash :)

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks for your kind comment Mark. Far from being a nit pick the article was written to accentuate the positive in the absence of any alternative. Whilst a new tool would always be welcome the Hasegawa kit is by no means irredeemable. As John Haas so ably demonstrates - modelling comes into it!

Regards
Nick

Jim Anderson said...

Nice article Nick and well said Mark. I built three of the appealing 1/72 Jakes over the years and each time it was an enjoyable kit to put together. Thanks for including the workings of the internal bomb bay layout!

Jim

Alex Rodionov said...

Thanks for the article. Very useful.
I knew Hasegawa's Jake is a difficult kit but I didn't think it was that much.

WD said...

Please let me echo what many here have said. I well remember finding, buying, and building this kit in 1973 or so as a kid. That, combined with my interest then and since of SWPA ops in WWII have made this a/c and this kit hold a special place for me. I bought one and put it in the stash a few years back thinking I'd revisit it for old time's sake. I'm not sure I have the required skill set to alter the length, and I'm just enough of a coward to not attempt the correct the canopy and opt for a Falcon replacement, assuming one can even be found. (Falcon canopies seem to be a rare bird these days.)

Kevin Bade said...

Fantastic blog post Nick. I have been modelling Japanese a/c for 45 years and I have never built the Hasegawa Jake. In my eatly years I wouldn't have kmown but as I got older I realized that the kit is a caricature of the real a/c in many respects. I agree with Mark it is sad that we've had 3 different kits(at least) of the Curtiss Seamew but not one major or minor or even resin manufacturer has seen fit to reproduce this probably most important Japanese seaplane of WW2. Sad. And I concur with you Nick that the aftermarket has also nearly totally ignored the honorable Jake. Up on my soapbox...by comparison I can think of 5 1/72 kits of the Ki-32 of which 850 examples were built or say a Ki-115 that I can count 4 or 5 kits of yet they only made a 100 of them.Poor Jake was produced to 1400 examples and we have one ruddy half century old kit. Much like the Ki-21 the E13A is a type sorely unrepresented in the modelling world. If anybody at Hasegawa/Fujimi/Tamiya is reading this blog get with it. You'll sell boatloads of both types if you make the effort. And now I will step down from my soapbox...

Mike Driskill said...

Nick, an excellent post on one of my favorite aircraft...and yes, a much-needed new kit!

Several years ago I carefully reduced the excellent 1/50 scale "Maru Mechanic" drawings to 1/72 and mounted them to a board. Besides the flaws you note, to my eye the fuselage is much too small in cross-sectional area, and the float struts are too long, both contributing further to the "caricature" feel.

As an aside...I've noticed some of the classic Hasegawa 1/72 kits tended to appear in pairs that have very similar detailing and engineering: Tojo and Tony (1972/73); George and Jack (1977), Oscar and Frank (1982 and 87). Same for Jake and Alf (1970/71), which also seem to share decently accurate flying surfaces and floats...but undersized fuselages.