Being currently in the middle of building Tamiya's beautiful features-heavy Spitfire Mk. IX, it's fascinating to contrast Hasegawa's approach to their latest large-scale aircraft kit - the 40mm cannon version of the Ki-44. They've gone for a diametrically opposed approach; this is a simple, affordable, no frills kit, that should be ideal for modellers of all abilities, while still displaying the company's well deserved reputation for excellent moulding.
The kit comes in a large box featuring a very attractive cover painting of a Ki-44 hunting a formation of B-29s and all the main sprues are bagged separately. Clear parts are sealed in with a sprue of soft poly caps that can't harm them and, unlike many Hasegawa kits, the decals are packed with the instructions (perhaps on account of the sheer size of the sheet).
The kit comprises:
150 x grey styrene parts (plus 9 spare)
13 x clear styrene parts (plus 2 extra)
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
As you'd hope for with a new Hasegawa kit, the moulding is excellent, with no more than the occasional whisper of flash here and there on the crisply detailed parts. The styrene is quite hard and very good quality, and some of the sprue attachments on the major airframe parts are fairly chunky, but the result is that I couldn't find a single sink mark anywhere in the kit. There are a few light ejector pin marks, but the designers seem to have been able to keep them mostly out of harm's way.
The surface finish is highly polished, with delicate and precise panel lines, some embossed rivets and fasteners, and a few raised panels. Fabric control surfaces feature rib stitching, but no ribs or tapes, which seems a little strange, but if you knock them back a little with gentle sanding and mask around them to spray on a layer of paint to represent the tapes, the result should actually give a truer scale impression of well-maintained fabric surfaces than most other mainstream kits.
Overall, construction is surprisingly simple (almost like a scale-up of Hasegawa's excellent 1:48 Ki-44) and a test fit is extremely encouraging. The fuselage halves clip together perfectly and the fit at the wing roots is excellent. There's a very substantial "spar" frame to maintain the wing's dihedral and interlock with the fuselage (although it almost seems unnecessary) and the tailplanes fit precisely and have locating tabs that dovetail together and keep everything square. By the looks of it, if you're careful, you should be able to build the kit without resorting to filler at all - which will be a huge advantage for the n/m finish of both colour schemes featured.
A few details
The cockpit is quite straightforward but adequately detailed. The 25 parts include nicely moulded instrument panels and consoles with raised bevels and instrument faces. Decals are also included, with sharply printed dials on a clear carrier film which is designed to cover the entire panel. A better result will be achieved if you punch out the instrument faces and apply them individually, glazing them with a drop of varnish.
The pilot's seat is a bit of a disappointment, as it's moulded rather on the heavy side and the lightening holes are only depicted as shallow dents. This won't be a problem if you fit the beautifully detailed pilot figure (one of the best I've seen in a mainstream kit), but otherwise the seat could definitely benefit from refining or replacing. No harness is provided.
The wings are a good solid assembly with thin trailing edges and the wheel wells are nice and deep with separate inserts for the rear faces. The control surfaces are all moulded in place, but Hasegawa provide separate "butterfly" flaps that can be set in the lowered position. If you do this it's worth drilling out the lightening holes on the interior.
The engine is made up of just 5 parts, but shows some good detail and the cylinder vanes are very finely depicted, so a wash should really work nicely and all the engine needs is some ignition wiring to look very good. The basic cowling is an impressive one-piece moulding that captures the bulbous look of the original well, and into this slot intakes and a choice of open or closed cooling gills. The latter can be improved by thinning the rear edges a bit.
The undercarriage legs are well moulded and the wheel hubs are separate to make painting easier. The tyres are unweighted. The wheel doors are quite thin, with good detail on the inner surfaces. The tailwheel is a two-piece affair with the wheel moulded integrally, but the detail is very crisp and will repay careful painting.
A pair of optional drop tanks are provided, with sway braces and filler caps and the new 40mm cannon barrels have two-piece fairings. Underwing racks are also included, but no stores are provided for them.
The propeller is made up of separate blades, but the solid locating tabs should give a foolproof way of setting the pitch and keeping everything lined up.
Lastly, there's a two part canopy which is beautifully moulded - thin, crystal clear and with crisply defined frames. The clear parts also include individual navigation and formation lamp covers. To use these, you must trim off the solid-moulded versions from the wings and tail.
Instructions and decals
The instructions take the form of an 12-page A-4 pamphlet. To be honest, it could quite comfortably have been printed smaller - there's a lot of empty space and this isn't a complicated kit. Maybe there's some sort of reasoning that a large-scale kit needs correspondingly large instructions (although, to be fair, Hasegawa haven't gone for the ridiculously unmanageable newspaper-sized instructions that accompany a certain brand new Mossie!).
As usual with Hasegawa, the assembly diagrams are clear and easy to follow, and the sequence promises a very trouble-free build. Gunze Sangyo paint matches are included.
A pair of colour schemes are featured, both primarily natural-metal, but adorned with spectacular home-defence markings:
1. Ki-44 Otsu, 2nd Chutai, 47th Hikõ Sentai, Narimasu airfield.
2. Ki-44 Otsu, 1st Chutai, 47th Hikõ Sentai, Narimasu airfield.
The decal sheet is quite colossal and includes white background bands for the separate hinomarus, fuselage striping and fin emblems, anti-glare panels and a limited number of servicing stencils. The decals themselves look excellent quality - quite thin, with a silk finish and precise registration. Hasegawa's intention is clearly to let you paint little more than the overall aluminum finish and doped control surfaces, and apply everything else as decals. Quite how successfully the decals will follow some of the contours remains to be seen, and of course experienced modellers will prefer to paint the markings anyway, not least for the possibilities of a weathered finish.
Hasegawa's latest release in their 1:32 Ki-44 series is a very attractive kit. They've aimed at the middle ground - it's detailed enough to please experienced modellers, while being simple enough to be suitable for anyone with a few kits under their belt. By keeping things straightforward, they've kept the cost down to a reasonable level, especially if you buy direct from Japan.
Hasegawa's Ki-44-II Otsu was kindly provided for review by HobbyLink Japan
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