Following Jim’s excellent un-boxing video
of Tamiya’s exciting new Ki-61, I was keen to take a look for myself. As usual with Tamiya kits, it took a little while longer to reach UK stockists – and, unfortunately, the current low value of the pound sterling make it rather pricey for a kit of its size - but my soft spot for Japanese aircraft meant that temptation inevitably got the better of me!
Tamiy'a Hien is beautifully presented in a classy top-opening box, with each sprue bagged separately for protection in transit.
The kit comprises:
113 x clear parts
6 x clear parts
1 x frosted part
A couple of poly-caps
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
Kabuki tape painting masks
The moulding is exceptionally good, without a hint of flash or any sink marks. Because we get so used to coping with such minor problems in other manufacturers’ releases, it’s easy to forget just how
good Tamiya’s production quality is. That said, while ejector pin marks are very light, I was disappointed to find some in the cockpit.
The surface finish comprises precise and delicate engraved panel lines with a few raised details like hinges and appliqué
panels. Fabric surfaces are reasonably restrained, but I’ll probably still knock the ribs back a bit to represent a well-maintained airframe. There are a few areas of neatly embossed rivets and fasteners, but the rivets are quite prominent in period photos of n/m Hiens, so there’s plenty of scope to add more if you desire and have drawings showing riveting patterns.
The basic airframe goes together like a dream! Sprue attachments are small, but some are on the glueing surfaces and you need to take a little extra care removing them so that you don’t accidentally trim or sand away too much. With that small chore safely out of the way, this is without doubt one of the best-fitting kits I’ve ever bought.
The fuselage features alternative drop-in sections for the rear part of the canopy to allow it to be modelled open or closed, plus a separate strip for the spine to avoid a seam. Both follow full-size panel lines and fit excellently. The top of the engine cowling is removable and, again, the fit is absolutely precise.
The wing features a full-span lower section to set the dihedral correctly, with left and right top panels that line up snugly at the roots. Underneath, a long part doubles as the centre panel of the wings and the roof of the radiator housing, trapping the wings in place seamlessly.
The tailplanes attach simply and without fuss. The only separate control surface is the rudder which is designed to be fitted in the neutral position, but which you could offset easily enough with minor modification.
A Few Details
The cockpit is well detailed with 25 parts creating a nicely busy “office”. Tamiya provide decals for the instrument faces, and either side of that are the fuselage guns. Underneath are the ammunition boxes, moulded integrally with the cockpit floor, plus the oil tank tank. The kit includes a cleanly sculpted pilot with a separate head. Sadly you can’t get the figure to hold the control column and the pose is rather static, but turning the head might add a bit of “life”. If you don’t use the figure, the decals include lap belts which, while they obviously can’t compare with an aftermarket harness, should look OK, especially if you build the kit with the canopy closed.
Next up is the engine, which is included in this first boxing but clearly won’t feature in all releases because tucked away on the sprues is a simple alternative propeller mount (not mentioned in the instructions).
For anyone expecting a complete engine, I’ve got to say it is a disappointment because it’s really only the engine top
that is detailed. The bulk of the crankcase is little more than a place-holder to allow the upper details to be seen with the top cowling removed. Admittedly, the gear reduction cover and supercharger intake are OK, but what will stop you ever wanting to display the engine in its own right is the way Tamiya have chosen to install it; rather than provide engine bearers, they’ve cut huge chunks out of the rocker covers each side for clumsy locating lugs behind the exhausts.
But even if only you take the top cowling off, you’ve got still problems because, weirdly, Tamiya haven’t included the full barrels for the cowl guns. Instead, the instructions show them attached to the cowl; so, take the cowl off and you have a case of mysterious vanishing barrels. Overall, when compared with, say, Zvezda’s approach to the DB601 (on which the Hien’s engine was based) in their Bf 109Fs, or Dragon’s bonus engines in their Bf 110s, Tamiya’s attempt at the engine is pretty lame.
Conversely, the radiator bath is nicely detailed, with crisply moulded cores and quite a complex system of vanes ahead of them. With 8 parts - it’s one of these sub-assemblies you find every so often where you scratch your head and think “There must have been an easier way...”, but I do think Tamiya’s designers have tackled it the most logical way.
The undercarriage is very straightforward, but should still look good thanks to the quality of the moulding. The tailwheel is just one piece with the wheel integral with the leg, while the main gear legs have the oleo scissors moulded in situ
. The mainwheels have separate outer hubs, and a notch in the inner face ensures the wheels line up with the legs at the correct angle. The tyres are un-weighted.
The undercarriage doors are nice and thin with detail on the inner surfaces, and the mainwheel wells are quite deep and have a bit of interior detailing.
Underwing stores comprise a pair of simple drop tanks with their sway braces moulded on, and a nice touch is that the decals include stencil markings for both the tanks themselves and their racks.
The canopy can be modelled open or closed and is crystal clear with precisely depicted framing. Tamiya include kabuki tape masks which you need to cut out to use. So, not quite as convenient as die-cut masks, but still a great time saver and their inclusion is a real plus.
The propeller is moulded as one piece and held in place with a poly cap, so there’s no worry about getting the angle of the blades right.
Final details include the landing lamp cover, venturi, pitot tube and wing guns. Tamiya haven’t gone to town and produced a “detail up” set as they did with their superb A6M5 Zero, but the kit parts look good straight from the box.
So far so good – barring the engine, Tamiya’s Hien is pretty much my perfect kit in so many respects. But then I come to a couple of points that leave me cold.
The first is the “clear” fuselage half. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the world’s greatest fan of transparent kits. I’ve built a few on commission over the years, but they’re not my personal cup of tea. But whole the point is, to have any raison d’être
and show off the interior, they must be clear
- and Tamiya’s alternative fuselage half simply isn’t; it’s frosted, so you can’t actually see any of the internal detail through it. Maybe you could polish it sufficiently to make it truly transparent, but I think it would be a laborious task and probably not totally successful. It also suffers from noticeable flow marks which mar its appearance.
So, why have a “clear” fuselage which you can’t really see through, and an engine that isn’t detailed (or even complete) enough to want to display, even if you could see it properly? I don’t get it. It’s almost as though Tamiya’s designers lost track of their original intention partway through developing the kit, by which point it was too late to change tack.
What I find concerning is that the illustration of the built-up model on the side of the box shows a fuselage half that is much clearer than that included with my kit. Of course there is the disclaimer “Model may vary from image on box” but, unless the “frosted” fuselage I got is a one-off, the photo risks misleading potential purchasers.
Instructions & Decals
The instructions are produced to Tamiya’s usual high standard, with a comprehensive background information sheet translated from Japanese into English, German and French, the assembly guide itself, and full-size painting and decal diagrams.
The assembly guide folds out over 10 pages; arguably not as convenient as a booklet, but the diagrams are beautifully drawn and easy to follow, breaking construction down into 21 straightforward stages. Colour matches are provided throughout for Tamiya’s own range of paints.
Two decal options are given for the 244th Air Group at Chofu Airbase:
A. 2nd Lietenant Shunzo Takashima, May 1945
B. Captain Teruhiko Kobayashi, February 1945
Scheme A sports a distinctive field-applied “mottle” that will be quite challenging to replicate, while Scheme B is n/m. It’s worth noting that Aviation Of Japan
states that Takashima’s mount was photographed with its armament removed prior to his final ramming mission.
The semi-matt decals are supplied on two sheets and look good quality, with pin-sharp registration, although thicker than some aftermarket sets. Tamiya provide the yellow i/d markings as decals complete with red the stars around the wing guns in situ
, but a nice touch is the inclusion of separate stars if you prefer to paint the yellow.
the kit represents excellent value for money, and even if the half-hearted engine and frosted fuselage half are more novelties than a great deal of use, you’ll hardly begrudge their inclusion. But at nearly £40 in the UK, it’s hard to see the additional parts as anything more than pointless extras that only increase the cost of an expensive kit. Even if you buy direct from Japan, it crosses the threshold for import VAT and will also incur an additional handling charge – all of which nudges it close to the price you can find it in the UK if you shop around.
That said, it’s definitely an improvement over Hasegawa’s Hiens in both detail and ease of construction. I wouldn’t race to get rid of the older kits though, as they are still very enjoyable builds - and, of course, Tamiya haven’t covered other Hien variants (yet).
So, the acid test; would I buy another one? Well, no - not of this particular boxing. But when Tamiya re-release it without the pointless extras… definitely!
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