1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part I

I generally build models in groups to exploit commonalities, increase efficiencies, and compare kits.  I feel this results in higher quality builds as well as reducing construction times.  It certainly helps increase production.  For this build I will be working on the Kawanishi N1K Kyofu / Shiden (Rex / George) family with kits selected to trace the evolution of the design.

ShidenBatch_01
Here are the boxes on the bench, representing a nice cross section of manufacturers and vintages.  It is interesting to see where the engineering approaches differ and where mold making technology has evolved.  All the kits were new and unopened when purchased with the exception of one of the Hasegawa Shiden Kai.  This one was obtained from a vender at a model show for only a few Dollars.  It had been started but contained a surprise.
ShidenBatch_02
This is a sprue shot of Hasegawa’s Kyofu (Rex).  Nine sprues, which seems like quite a lot!  The high sprue count is a result of Hasagawa’s practice of maximizing mold utilization by providing parts for multiple versions.  These were first released in 1995.  I will be modeling two of these, one as the prototype with counter-rotating propeller blades and the second as an operational version with a more conventional propeller arrangement.  The kits are nicely molded with fine details and panel lines.  The beaching dolly is very welcome and one of the best ways to display any floatplane.
ShidenBatch_03
Tamiya’s N1K1 Shiden is on a single sprue, issued in 2001.  While this one doesn’t generate the same buzz among modelers as some of their other releases, it is every bit as good and enjoys the same level of detail and finesse which made Tamiya famous.  I’m really looking forward to this one.
ShidenBatch_04
Aoshima’s N1K1 represents a further refinement of the Shiden, this version saw the wing re-designed to incorporate four Type 99 cannon internally and eliminated the need for the cannon gondolas under the wings.  Aoshima has taken a few shortcuts with this tool, the wheelwells are too shallow, molded into the lower wing.  Also the landing gear bay covers are molded onto the legs.  A little extra work but not a major problem, although surprising for a 1994 vintage kit.
ShidenBatch_05
This is Hasegawa’s Shiden Kai, first issued way back in 1977.  I still have one in my display case built back when it was new and Thorpe was the only real modeling reference available in the U.S. on Japanese aircraft.  This mold is very much a product of its time, with a simplified cockpit, scant engine detail, and comically shallow wheelwells.  One error which most modelers miss is the cord of the vertical tail is wrong – Hasegawa compromised between the two actual sizes, so the kit’s vertical is either too big or too small depending on which type the modeler wants to depict.   I will be modeling both versions so more on this later.
ShidenBatch_06
Surprise!  This is the MPM limited run kit from 1992, found in the box as an extra with the model show purchase.  This is injection molded with a lot of flash, the line between injection molding and vacuform begins to blur at some point.  Between the flash, large sprue attachments, and the soft molding most of the smaller parts will be of little use.  I consider this addition an “extra” to the batch, and will build it up as a modeling challenge and because I really couldn’t see when I would ever take the time to build it otherwise.

ShidenBatch_07

Here is a comparison of the detail parts from each kit, setting the MPM bits aside.  At the top are the Hasegawa Kyofu cockpit and engine, nicely molded.  The cockpit is perfectly adequate for a closed canopy build, and the engine is crisply molded and deeply recessed into the fuselage in any case.  I will leave it to the reader to explain the lack of wheels in this comparison.
In the lighter tan plastic are the Tamiya components, not surprisingly the best of the lot.  The cockpit and engine are good to go right out of the box, or could really be made to stand out with just a little extra detailing.
While not quite as good as the new Tamiya kit, Aoshima’s interior is not all that bad either with the exception of the rather basic seat.
Hasegawa’s Shiden Kai parts are on the bottom.  These are rather crude by today’s standards, but one must remember the kit dates back to 1977 so they were better than many at the time.  By 1945 the IJN was recruiting Sumo wrestlers as the seat shows.  The wheels are pretty basic and the centers have shrunk.

ShidenBatch_08
Here is a illustration of one of the advantages of building in batches.  Where one kit’s parts are markedly superior or another kit’s parts unusable, a replacement can be cast in resin and substituted.  Here the mold walls are constructed from Lego blocks and the bottom is sealed with masking tape.  The tape not only seals the mold floor but also keeps the parts in place while the RTV rubber is being poured.