Wednesday 7 February 2024

LS and Judy Part 2

By 1968 LS were presenting in Japanese as エルエス (Eruesu - LS) and in English as the more conservative L. & S. Co., Ltd. In 1966 they had released their 'Twin-Engine Series 1/72-1/75' with models of the Mitsubishi G3M 'Nell' and Ki-67 Hiryu. In an ambitious marketing decision each type was released in three separate kits with different parts and decals to suit.  

  • G3M1 Model 11/21 with parts for either early or late versions with flat-topped or domed turrets
  • G3M2 Model 23 with 'turtle shell' dorsal turret
  • L3M1 Type Nippon-Go which could be completed as the civilian trail-blazing and world circumnavigating pioneer J-BACI with alternative decals for J-BEDA Soyokaze-go, J-BEOC Yamato-go, J-BEOG Matsukaze-go, or IJN transports from 1 and 1001 Ku
  • Type 4 Ki-67 bomber
  • 'Yasukuni' Ki-67 torpedo bomber
  • Ki-109 Interceptor
The first kit boxes displayed the scale as 1/75 with '1/72-1/75' presented in the 1968 catalogue, but subsequent boxes displayed 1/72. Special 'chrome-plated' versions of both types were also released. More about these appealing kits and their wonderful presentation in due course but suffice to say that they became popular and essential models for collections of Japanese aircraft. Even into the 1990s they held their appeal and two kind souls once generously gifted their very well-made silver and red G3M1 to the author after he had admired it, and it is still treasured and admired (thank you both). Arii re-released all the G3M and Ki-67 kits in the 1990s with revised and re-printed decal sheets and on opening the boxes they still cry out 'Build me!' whereas the Hasegawa versions from 1997 and 1999 look daunting. But there was more. The LS Ki-109 faithfully reproduced the modified cockpit configuration of the interceptor complete with ammunition rack and cannon whereas the limited edition Hasegawa kit of the same variant retained the standard bomber cockpit and just provided a new resin nose to wrestle with. 

By 1971 the LS catalogue was presenting the kits as 1/72 scale and the mystery of the strange base in the 1968 Judy kit was solved - it was indeed intended for motorisation.      

In 1972 LS released a completely revised 'Judy' kit, moulded in pale grey plastic and with the nose halves separate from the fuselage halves in order to facilitate release of a companion D3Y3 Model 33 variant with radial engine. The original kit was enhanced with boxed in wheel wells and a rudimentary cockpit interior consisting of floor, seats, instrument panel, compass, joystick and machine gun. Two crewmen apparently closely modelled on the aliens from Invaders from Mars (1953) could be sat somewhat awkwardly on those seats but were a poor replacement for the original seat bound pair who were actually not that bad.  Unfortunately the kit retained the engraved Hinomaru positions and the decal sheet was reduced to providing just eight Hinomaru. Although the new box art by one Ikematsu (shown above) depicted Yo-201 (without the tail stripes) no tail code decal was included. Other improvements were a complete optical sight very finely moulded to the fuselage halves, a separate intake with splitter plate and more finely moulded undercarriage legs with commendably thin wheel covers. The working bomb bay doors and bomb were gone with the doors now moulded integrally with the fuselage halves and closed. There was no stand included.

Still designated as No.3 in the 1/72 Series the box was also marked as Kit No. A103:100. The instructions were on two sides of a single sheet, in English, shown above. There was a schematic and list of the kit parts with an exploded view on one side prominently marked with 'Super Scale Aeroplane No.3', and on the other side excellent step by step assembly instructions with text and pictures culminating in an illustration of the completed model and a painting guide. 

A smaller sheet of Japanese instructions was included with some kits, as shown above. So far the kit boxes had been the same size - approximately 20 cm x 12 cm - but a later second release was presented in a smaller box - 17.5 cm x 11.5 cm - with an area of white cutting across the box art diagonally (shown below). The kit itself, instructions and decal sheet were otherwise unchanged.

The D4Y3 Model 33 was released the same year as the revised kit, but moulded in dark green plastic and in a box marked both No.7 and A107:100, It was identical to the earlier kit except for the provision of new cowling parts, consisting of two halves and front with a two-part twin row radial engine. Box art was again by Ikematsu, shown above. The 'fatal flaw' of both kits was the too narrow fuselage in plan view. That slim fuselage could be fattened with plastic shims but that spoilt the fit of the canopy. In 1983 the Fujimi release of the D4Y2 and D4Y3 in 1/72 scale effectively supplanted the LS kits and in 2012 AZ Model also released a family of 1/72 Suisei kits. Both the Fujimi and AZ Model Suisei families included the night fighting D4Y2-S variant with oblique armament.

The original 'six' and the D4Y3 in the 1983 L & S 'Pla-Model' Catalogue

To be continued . . .

Image credit: All © 1966-1983 L & S Co., Ltd.


Mark Smith said...

Thanks Nick,

Another nice presentation with info 'new' to me at least, as to how this company developed and grew. Must have been a big leap from single-engine projects to the Nell and Peggy variants, which were admirably managed in ways that, as you mentioned, were less daunting for all their detail, and friendlier to the modeler because the maker met the builder without any sawing of plastic or compromise of variant differences tht were fudged through omission. Clicking upon the group picture of finished models included shows some fine work and good looking builds, even if certain shapes are understandably rendered better by later molds from others.

The name Ikematsu rang a bell. I pulled out some of my earliest Maru Mechanics and that single name, though discreet, is signed in English on the cover art of #4 (Zero) and #5 (Sam). Another great post for A of J 'kitology.'

Baronvonrob said...

Fascinating indeed!

The L3M1 Type Nippon-Go with the captivating orange-colored sky remains one of my all-time favorite box art depictions!

Gratitude Nick

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks for your comments Mark and Rob. Those early LS G3M and Ki-67 box arts have tremendous nostalgic appeal.


Alex said...

Thank you very much, Nick.
It's very interesting to bild the "Oldtimers". There are rather many modellers who build "As is". All D4Y of various production for example.

Alex said...

Another splendid review. I think, early G3M and L3M are rather popular kits now. No choice.