Back in April 2008, the year this blog began, Kit Trivia articles on three vintage Zero kits in 1/72 scale were published. Subsequent blogs covered the Matchbox Zero and the old tool Hasegawa A6M2. Omitted so far are the LS kits of the A6M2, A6M2-N and A6M5, originally released as 1/75 scale (and still available from Arii), and the Jo-Han A6M2/A6M2-N kit, as well as several of odd-scale Japanese kits, some of which have been mentioned but not examined in detail. Unfortunately the Jo-Han kit was also neglected in the summary of 1/72 'Rufe' kits included in the recent blog of Rob Ronconi's excellent Hasegawa Rufe model. To make amends the Jo-Han kit is presented here as an appropriate link from the IJN floatplanes theme to some Zero models forthcoming.
There is a fascinating exposition of the Jo-Han story on You Tube by Max's Models and I'm grateful to reader Warren for that discovery. Jo-Han released five 1/72 aircraft models in 1973 including the A6M2/A6M2-N as kit A-105 featuring their 'Frame-Pak' sprue frames, fairly innovative at the time because most kits contained loose parts cut from the sprues or partial sprues for small parts (although the Hasegawa old tool Zero of 1972 also had the parts on sprue frames). The Zero kit was moulded in white and uniquely offered the option of building the carrier fighter 'Zeke' or floatplane fighter 'Rufe'. That choice of model was facilitated by the provision of alternative lower fuselage centre sections and tail cones, with no concession to the more recent controversy over the size of the float fighter's tail feathers.
There are evident similarities between the Jo-Han and LS kits but they are not absolutely identical. The Jo-Han kit features similarly neatly engraved panel lines and fabric flying surfaces with boldly represented but not unattractive rib detail. The wings are slightly shorter in span than the 1972 Hasegawa kit with less taper on the outer trailing edge and shorter span ailerons but the fuselage halves are more or less the same in dimension. There is no interior or wheel well detail and the pilot sits on two pegs common to many kits of the time. The interior colour call-out is 'metallic blue' - aotake. The engine is a separate two-row construction but only the forward cowling is a separate part, the cowling sides being moulded integrally with the fuselage halves. Blind holes have to be opened in the lower wings for the attachment of the outer floats for Rufe. The undercarriage is conventional with separate legs, doors and wheels and can be assembled down or retracted. A two-part drop tank is also included. The clear sprue consists of a three-part canopy with windscreen, centre section and rear section, together with a rather nicely designed two-part stand. There is no mention of displaying the canopy open.
The instruction sheet combines sharply drawn exploded views with explanatory text and there is a simple colour chart for each option, the Rufe depicted as 'violet' over 'blue gray' and the Zeke as overall 'light gray'. No suggestions for hobby paints are made. An equally simple decal sheet is included but a curiosity is that the Rufe tail code on the sheet is O-105 in white, but depicted as black on the box art and shown as '52-102' in the instruction sheet schematic. The 'O' code is representative of the float fighter hikotai of Tokoh Ku which operated a detachment in the Aleutians campaign. The Zeke is presented as V-103 of Tainan Ku as flown by famous ace Saburo Sakai, but the blue fuselage band and white tail stripes are not included on the decal sheet and have to be painted on by the modeller. The single set of hinomaru have white borders on the upper wing and fuselage discs, out of register in the kit examined.The attractive box art shows both Zeke and Rufe but the artist is unidentified, although the style looks familiar.
This was undoubtedly an attractively presented kit for its time but I have no idea how it compared price-wise to its contemporaries - anyone remember?
Image credit: All © 1973 Jo-Han Models Inc.