Wednesday 1 May 2024

Babs Kitography - 1/72 scale Part 1 Mania

The Mania 1/72 kits of 'Kamikaze' and the Ki-15-I were released in the same year, recorded as 1973 by Burns*. The Scalemates website lists the 'Kamikaze' kit as issued in 1974 and the Ki-15-I kit in 1977, with the combo kit containing both 'Kamikaze' and the Ki-15-I also released in 1974. That is surely incorrect as it was the combo kit which was released in 1977, after the two separate kits and in the same year that Mania was reportedly taken over by Hasegawa.

The 'Kamikaze' kit  (AT-NO C-3001) had beautiful artwork on the box top, without any text or logo, as shown in the heading image. The Ki-15-I kit (AT-NO R-2001) was similarly presented, depicting an anonymous Babs in green and brown kumogata camouflage being approached by a Chinese Curtiss Hawk 75 amongst sunlit clouds, shown above. Although the box top artist is not identified both kits contain cards with four-view colour schematics attributed to Rikyû Watanabe as shown below and the style of the box art is certainly similar to his work. The 'Kamikaze' card is entitled Mitsubishi Ki-15-I Asahi Shimbun ‘Kamikaze’. On the Ki-15-I card, entitled Mitsubishi Ki-15-I Army Type 97 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft, the aircraft is speculatively attributed to the 'Aoki Butai' (for its leader Capt Takeo Aoki) operating from central China in 1938. However the camouflage pattern as depicted on the card does not match those shown for 'Kamikaze' or 'Azikaze' in Joe Picarella's first Babs volume and is perhaps meant to represent the early production aircraft c/n 106? Rather plain as a subject without insignia or even the white senchi hiyoshiki war front fuselage band, but undoubtedly historic.

Well known for his aircraft profiles and kit box art Rikyû Watanabe was born in Osaka in 1927. In 1943 at age 16 he enrolled in the Army air 'boy airman' training programme as a technical student, later serving as a signaller and ending the war with an army unit in China. After returning to Japan he majored in painting at the Bunka Gakuin vocational school (文化学院), graduating in 1950. From 1966 he began specialising in aviation art with first hand knowledge of the appearance of wartime Army aircraft.

The 'Kamikaze' kit includes decals for the eponymous subject as well as for 'Asakaze' c/n 1503 J-BAAL, the latter with both delivery and post-military service legends, although there are no indications for placement. The Ki-15-I kit decal sheet includes insignia for the following units, although they are not referred to or shown in the instructions.  

  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai (red fuselage flash)
  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai (kikusui emblem - not usually attributed to the Ki-15-I)
  • Dai 17 Hikodan Shireibu Teisatsu Chutai (Divisional Headquarters Reconnaissance Squadron)
  • Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 18 Chutai (tiger)
  • Hiko Dai 28 Sentai, 1st Chutai
  • Hiko Dai 29 Sentai, 1st Chutai (reportedly representing the characters for a stylised '29')
The 29 Sentai insignia is reported as being painted in 'gold' but that may just mean a golden yellow colour. The Mania decal is printed in yellow. 

The two kits are identical and moulded in a light grey plastic of similar hue to the Army grey-green colour. They feature detailed interiors for the time, with floor, instrument panel, joystick, pilot seat, camera and bulkheads together with some sidewall detail such as the throttle quadrant and an equipment panel. Also included are separate compasses for pilot and observer and spurious RDF loops to be mounted on the coamings under the canopy. There is no provision for the observer operated armament  and no suggestions for interior colour(s).  A shortcoming of the kit is the curious single piece canopy with overly deep lower frames which rather spoil the appearance of the finished model. Some modellers sand out the frames and re-paint them correctly - not always an easy proposition. But not to worry, vacform replacements aside, the LS/Arii Ki-15-I kit, which will be examined later, includes  early and late pattern canopies which both fit the Mania/Hasegawa kit almost perfectly so the spare can be used.  The Mania kit has step by step instructions together with an exploded view where all parts are numbered and named, shown below.

The 1977 combo kit (No. 04-800) shown above repeats the original Ki-15-I box art but with the image re-angled to permit title and logo with the scale shown and a red flash boasting '2 types in one!'. In this kit 'Kamikaze' is moulded in silver plastic. The instruction sheet has the front and back in colour, repeating the box art and with additional profiles for aircraft of Hiko Dai 28 Sentai, Dai 17 Hikodan Shireibu Teisatsu Chutai, and Hiko Dai 29 Sentai, all in overall grey as shown below, but again not all the insignia included on the decal sheet is depicted. Note that whilst the Hiko Dai 28 Sentai insignia on the decal sheet is for the 1st Chutai the insignia depicted on the instruction sheet profile is for the 2nd Chutai!

The combo kit decals sheets shown above are identical to those in the earlier separate kits

Mania was a relatively short lived company, in business in Tokyo from circa 1970 to 1977, which is a pity as their six 1/72 kits and single 1/48 kit were of exceptional quality for their time. There is a suspicion that the Hasegawa 1/72 Ki-44 and Ki-61 kits may have somehow benefited from Mania expertise, perhaps planned and even produced from moulds begun before Hasegawa took over. The better detailed Ki-61 interior is not typical of the contemporary and crude Hasegawa-type 'bathtub' in the Ki-44 kit but both have delicate surface detail similar to the Mania type. However those kits were released by Hasegawa in 1972 and 1973 respectively, years before their takeover of Mania. Mania's planned but not produced 1/48 Kawanishi N1K2 Shiden-kai 'George' kit was released by Hasegawa in 1981 as kit no. U002 from the unused Mania mould, but their planned Mitsubishi A5M4 'Claude' in the same scale was never produced  It is fortunate that Hasegawa have continued to re-release the complete range of Mania 1/72 kits, together with the 1/48 Ki-27 'Nate'. That kit and the 1/72 Ki-48 'Lily' light bomber kit are still not surpassed. 

Part 2 will examine the Hasegawa re-releases of the Mania Babs kit from 1977 to 2007 together with exploring interior colours.

* In Plastic WW2 Aircraft Kits by John W Burns (Kit Collector's Clearinghouse, 1993)

Image credit: All © 1973-1977 Mania Co.Ltd. All scans from kits in author's collection.


WK said...

Fascinating history Nick. I startd out building 1/48 kits, so these were never on my radar to build, but I do recall the lovely boxart of 1970s kits

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Woody! I appreciate your comment. Regards Nick

Baronvonrob said...

Thanks for such a detailed and interesting explanation of the kit history of the 1/72 Mania/Hasegawa Ki15 series

I think Mr. Watanabe created some of the most evocative and brilliant "box-art" ever produced !

Gratitude to Nick for the "BabsMania"

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Rob, glad you enjoyed it. More on Babs kits to follow with, I hope, some surprises. Regards, Nick

Mark Smith said...

Thanks for this Nick. Fun to read, and thinking about it, your revised chronology for the kit matches my memory of things. It’s useful to find out after all these years that the LS canopy fits the Mania / Hasegawa model. Doh! When I built the LS kit, I found that while the raised fashion of the frames bugged me a bit initially, it made painting easier by the way the frames could be cleaned up afterward neatly with a sharp toothpick, and they looked better on the model than on the sprue. So for those who like the Hasegawa kit better, that change would really make a difference. I hate filing and sanding canopies. The time I tried it I kept polishing, but the original clarity never returned.

Also interesting to read about the Watanabe connection re the artwork. I’ve always wondered. I'm with Rob - the Kamikaze box art is an enduring masterpiece for me, not only in its execution but its conception. For a gift, I once had a framing shop do a piece that featured both the box art and the card from the Kamikaze kit, with matte borders of the same blue. When I picked up the finished product, I *almost* kept it!

Thanks again for this fine post. Along with Monogram, Mania and LS are the departed model outfits I miss most!

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Mark. To many this is probably old hat but the 'archeology of old kits' is an abiding interest and i like to record such stuff here! That gift of that box art and card was a great idea, especially matched with a blue border.

Bill Gilman said...

Hi Nick,

I've updated the Scalemates timeline for these kits. Thanks for the heads up!


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi Bill


Another one for you which will feature in Part 2 - the Hasegawa Ki-15 kit no. 51511 SP11:600 in the strange box with the inset monochrome box art was released in 1989.


Bill Gilman said...

Hi Nick,

I updated the Hasegawa kit 51511 to 1989. The box art photo in Scalemates is not very good. Hopefully you'll post a better one in Part 2 of your series. If so, then I can update the photo too.


PS. I was told by a Japanese colleague that the "600" in SP11:600 is the price at the time of the first release of that specific box. He said that Hasegawa did that for all kits. Can you verify that?