Friday 17 May 2024

Babs Kitography - 1/72 scale Part 2 Hasegawa

Hasegawa re-released the Mania Ki-15-I kit as A31 in the 'red flash' box shown above, titled in English 'Mitsubishi BABS Ki-15-I Japanese Reconnaissance Plane'. There is a block of small Japanese text  about the aircraft which mentions the counter sunk rivets followed by a Japanese title 'Type 97 Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft Type 1 - Japanese Army Headquarters Reconnaissance Aircraft'.

Scalemates gives the year as 1977 whilst Burns* lists 1978 to 1980 which seems more probable. The box does not display a copyright date. The Mania box art was reprised by Shigeo Koike for the Hasegawa release with a closer look at the anonymous kumogata camouflaged Babs, this time being chased by sharkmouth P-40Es in Chinese markings. An anachronism as the aircraft is again identified as being from the Aoki Butai in 1938. Two other options are provided on the decal sheet, both overall light grey, an aircraft of Hiko Dai 28 Sentai's 1st Chutai and an aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 17 Chutai, illustrated on the side of the box with a colour profile. The instruction sheet shows a photograph of the model (below) with the red fuselage flash of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai, but this is not presented as a markings option. It also reveals the curious canopy framing of the Mania kit.

The green and brown kumogata camouflage is referenced to Gunze Mr Color # 16 IJA Green described as 'dark green' and the brown a mixture of # 7 Brown and # 33 Flat Black but no proportions are given.  Under surface, described as 'light grey', is referenced to # 56 IJA Gray - # 56 is now IJN Grey Green (Nakajima)! Colour call outs for the interior were given in the instructions, also referenced to Gunze Sangyo paint numbers of the time. Note that the colours of joystick and bulkheads are not cited but the fuselage half interior is cited as 'blue bamboo colour' - aotake. More about Babs colours in due course.

The Ki-15-I kit was re-released from 1982 to 1988 in a new box as B3 with blue flash, shown above, but the box art and contents were unchanged.

In 1989 the kit was re-issued in a plain box of flecked pale green card with inset monochrome box art and numbers 51511 and SP11:600, shown above. The reasoning behind this style of box, also used for other kits such as the Ki-48 'Lily', is uncertain but might have been inspired by the plainer brown 'cardboard' boxes in which Nitto and others were marketing the Maschinen Krieger SF3D armoured fighting suit kits in the mid-1980s. For the first time the box displayed prominent Japanese script for 97 Shi-tei (九七司偵). The instructions and decal options were unchanged from A31 and B3.

In 1995 the kit box reverted to colour with new art by Shigeo Koike, shown above, reflecting the development of his artistic style since 1978. This edition boasted the inclusion of a sheet of Aeromaster decals for a camouflaged  Ki-15-I of 'Flight Company 18th Squadron, 1939-41' with tiger motif as depicted on the box art, and an overall gray aircraft of 'Flight Company 50th Squadron, 1941-42'. The kit itself was unchanged and a photograph of a completed model on the side of the box again showed the strange canopy framing. There were revised suggestions for interior painting with Gunze 126 Cockpit Color (Mitsubishi) for the sidewalls and bulkheads, but continuing with 43 Wood Brown for the cockpit floor and 41Red Brown for the pilot's seat.

The 18th's distinctive tiger insignia was first adopted by Captain Yoshitsugu Aramaki in April 1939, painted in the Chinese style on the rear fuselage. In 1942 a member of the ground staff Mamoru Tanaka painted an enlarged version of the tiger on the tail of the aircraft as a 'tiger running in the skies', alluding to a Chinese myth where the tiger could roam 1,000 miles in a day and return home. Later the tigers were painted by artist Hidekuni Takagi, who was living in Hankow at the time and was the son of Major General Shigeru Takagi.  Each tiger was slightly different and although usually associated with the Ki-46 aircraft operated by the unit a photograph (below) shows Takagi painting the tiger on the tail of an elaborately camouflaged Ki-15 - a dark painted aircraft with darker 'rings' of mottle similar to the 'smoke rings' of Italian camouflage and possibly with a lighter colour in the centre of each ring.

Following that release another 12 years passed before the kit was again issued by Hasegawa in 2007, this time in a two kit combo as Mitsubishi Karigane Type 1 Communication-Plane 'Kamikaze & Asakaze' to commemorate the 1937 flight of 'Kamikaze' from Tokyo to London, as shown above. Two versions of markings for J-BAAI were included plus markings for 'Asakaze' J-BAAL at Nanyûan airfield, Peking in August 1937. Suggested interior colours were unchanged from the previous release.

The most recent re-release of the kit from Hasegawa in 2017 was another two kit combo boxed together with a Ki-46-II/III  and featuring aircraft of Dokuritsu Hiko Dai 16 Chutai, reprising the red flashed 'first generation' Ki-15-I shown on the original instruction sheet. An alternative Ki-15 subject  from the Kumagaya Army Flying School was also provided on the decal sheet, both aircraft depicted in overall grey green with black cowlings. Will we see it again? If we do let's hope, probably vainly, that Hasegawa will rectify that canopy!

With special thanks to Keishiro Nagao of Lifelike Decals for his kind assistance in interpreting old Japanese script characters.

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

Image credit: All box art, instructions sheet images, etc., © 1978-2017 Hasegawa Corporation; Photograph via net 


Sergio L. de H. Teixeira said...

Great article, Nick! I once had the one with blue flash and the one with Aeromaster decals. After taking the LS ones I got rid of the former, I only kept the Aeromaster decals.

Alex said...

Great thanks.Very useful anf interesting. As usual.
I didn't think the real artist was an author of "tigers".

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thank you Sergio and Alex for your comments.

Baronvonrob said...

Fascinating!...I appreciate Hidekuni Takagi's story and his inspiration for the Tiger artwork..Amazing!

Thanks Nick,

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks Rob!

WD said...

Thanks for this Nick! I obtained one of the 2007 releases a little while back for the stash. I guess now I need to look for replacement canopies.