Wednesday 31 January 2024

Lifelike Decals 48-061 Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighters Part 1

Lifelike Decals Set 48-061 Part 1 is the first of two recently released sets of beautifully printed decals for Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters in 1/48 scale. This set contains markings for no less than 14 subjects of different fighter variants, including an A6M2-N 'Rufe'. But the package is not just limited to decals as included is a thick wad of seven A4 sized pages of comprehensive data which, in addition to the usual detailed descriptions and discussions for each subject with biographies and anecdotes of the notable pilots, also includes detailed notes on Zero camouflage colours, with Lifelike's own take on the still contentious subject of the early Zero colour, various markings data, an explanation of Hinomaru sizes and of IJN pilot ranks (which have been variously translated and compared in the past). The amount of data incorporated into this set makes it a reference source in its own right in addition to providing the decals. 

The subjects in this first set, shown above, are as follows:-

  • A6M2 Type 21 'AI-159' as flown by Lt Cdr Shigeru Itaya of the Akagi Fighter Group on 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor; in overall grey-green with red fuselage band and yellow stripes above and below tail code in red.
  • A6M5 Type 52 Hei '03-09' as flown by CPO Takeo Tanimizu of 203 Ku's 303 Hikotai from Kagoshima in June 1945; in dark green over grey. This is a well known Zero due to widely circulated photographs of its rear fuselage.
  • A6M3 Type 22 '53-102' as flown by WO Tetsuzo Iwamoto of 253 Ku from Tobera, Rabaul at the end of January 1944; in dark green over grey with 60 cherry blossom kill marks. There are no known photographs of this aircraft and the depiction is based on Iwamoto's diary with an interesting discussion of the kill marks on the rear fuselage.
  • A6M3 Type 32 '2181'/Houkoku-877 of 582 Ku flown from Lae in the Spring of 1943; in overall grey-green.
  • A6M2 Type 21 'K-108'/Houkoku-556 of Kanoya/751 Ku flown from Kavieng in November, 1942; in overall grey-green. An interesting subject offering a change from some of the more well-known Zero units with presentation legend and a red diagonal band on tail fin and rudder.
  • A6M2 Type 21 'オタ-1182 of Oita Ku flown from Oita, Japan in April 1943. A fighter trainer depicted in overall dark green with white tipped spinner, cowling face and tailplanes. In addition. there are broad white bands above and below the tail code, depicted in yellow. 
  • A6M3 Type 32 'V-190'/Houkoku-874 as flown by Lt Kikuichi Inano of Tainan Ku from Buna in January 1943; in overall grey-green, depicted with a blue fuselage chevron and white tail stripes above and below tail code. 
  • A6M3 Type 32 'Q-102'/Houkoku-872 as flown by WO Kazuo Tsunoda of 2 Ku from Buna on 26 August 1942; in overall grey-green. 
  • A6M5 Type 52 early '53-104' as flown by WO Tetsuzo Iwamoto of 253Ku from Tobera, Rabaul at the end of February, 1944; in dark green over grey. Another Zero flown by Iwamoto for which no photographs exist and the early Type 52 variant is deduced rather than confirmed. This one is depicted with 70 cheery blossom kill marks on the rear fuselage. 
  • A6M3 Type 32 タイ-180 as flown by CPO Takeo Tanimizu of Tainan Ku (2nd generation training group) from Tainan on 3 September 1943; in dark green over grey with yellow inscription on rear fuselage. 
  • A6M2 Type 21 'BI-151' as flown by Lt Fusata Iida of the Soryu Fighter Group on 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor; in overall grey-green with blue fuselage and tail bands above and below tail code in red. 
  • A6M3 Type 22 '6-171' of 201 Ku flown from Rabaul East in August1943; weathered dark green over grey. This aircraft with its unusual patchy appearance has been interpreted in model form  at AoJ twice, by Mark Smith in September 2021 here,  and by Artur Domanski in April 2018 here.
  • A6M2 Type 21 'EII-102' as flown by PO 1/c Tetsuzo Iwamoto of the Zuikaku Fighter Group on 7 December 1941 during the attack on Pearl Harbor; in overall grey-green with two white fuselage bands and a single white tail stripe above the tail code in red. 
  • A6M2-N 'NI-118' as flown by Lt jg Keizo Yamasaki of 802 Ku from Shortland Island on 11 February 1943; in overall grey-green. The single 'Rufe' on this sheet, featuring two blue fuselage bands and red tail stripe with 'battleaxe' kill markings. 

This decal set 48-061 (and set 48-062) also includes a sheet of Hinomaru as 48-SP-01 (shown below). During  the preparation of the 48-061/062 sheets, Lifelike noticed that many Zero kits and aftermarket decals do not always include the correct sized Hinomaru, so they decided to also release 48-SP-01 as a separate set. Unfortunately Hinomaru I and K were missed from this sheet and a corrected replacement sheet should be available around late March this year. This set is also a useful reference source with detailed notes on positions and dimensions of the Hinomaru on Zero fighters. 

A correction sheet for the kill marks on the second subject of the 48-061 sheet, Tanimizu's A6M5, will also be available at that time as the two different blue colours on the US insignia on the original sheet were not as discernable as planned. When the replacement and correction sheets are available Lifelike will send them to all parties who purchased the 48-061, 48-062 or 48-SP-01 sheets. But as they cannot guarantee that retailers will retain these sheets for customers they will also announce on their website when the replacement and correction sets are available, advising modellers to contact their retailers first.  However if the retailer does not retain them then modellers can contact Lifelike to request them directly.

The chosen subjects in the 48-061 set are excellent, presenting a variety of colourful schemes and markings with the usual Lifelike attention to detail. The comprehensive notes included are an added bonus. The decals, printed for Lifelike by Microscale Industries in the USA, are sharply printed to a gloss finish with bright colours and strong saturation.  Recommended kits are Eduard, Hasegawa or Tamiya for the A6M2 and A6M2-N, Eduard or Tamiya for the A6M3 Type 22 and 32, and Hasegawa or Tamiya for the Type 52, so this is an excellent set for finishing any older kits in the stash. Highly recommended.

With special thanks to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for the review samples and the work put into presenting this set.

Image credit: All © 20243 Lifelike Decals


WK said...

Looks like another excellent decal sheet from Lifelike, hopefully they will inspire modellers to build Zeros with a wider variety of markings. Thanks Keishiro and Nick.

Woody K.

Mark Smith said...

Thanks Nick, for such a thorough review. My copies were beautifully printed.
Lifelike sheets are always good value for money, and in this case the many choices provided make them a must-have for Zero modelers.

Alex said...

Sorry. But is there a chance that Iwamoto's kill-marked Zeros aren't some kind of fantasy?

Straggler 脱走兵 said...


They were described by Iwamoto in his post-war diary and also described by CPO Mamoru Tsunezumi and PO 1/c Seiji Endo in post-war interviews. No known photographs but there is a sketch of one in the diary


Alex said...

Thank you very much!