Forty-one years ago last Wednesday (March 1st), I completed my first Fujimi 1/48 Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Type 0 "Zero-Sen"
. This review will explore whether it is as fine a model as I recall it to be. I haven't consulted my old early-1970s Squardron Signal
magazines to see when the model was first released, although I suspect it closely preceded or followed Tamiya's 1/48 A6M2. I'll compare them in this review.
The Zero is an icon of fighter aviation with thorough histories available, so I will not recount it here. However, if you would like a refresher, I posted a Zero history at the end of this review.
In The BoxFujimi
released this kit at least thrice and you can see two earlier box arts, courtesy of Old Model Kits.com
. Fujimi's art was very good and exciting. I don't know the kit numbers except for mine, item P2
The model was molded with 59 parts including a one-piece clear canopy. (Tamiya's Zero offered the choice of a one-piece clear canopy or a three-piece positionable set.) Curiously, the drop tank was molded as two halves with the same part number (as are the exhaust stacks and wheels).
This kit may have been molded in the 1980s. (The instructions were printed in 1987.) It has a small amount of light flash on some parts but no noticeable ejector circles nor sink holes. Some seam lines are noticeable.
Fujimi molded their models with incredibly fine surface detail: recessed panel lines and raised rivets; fabric texture on the control surfaces. (Tamiya used a mix of recessed and fine raised panel lines for their A6M2.) Fujimi also molded slightly raised access panels. The prop blades looks a bit to broad. Some of Fujimi's parts are a bit thicker than Tamiya's. The canopy is thick and shows some distortion.
I measured the wingspan at 39-feet 2-inches, a hair over the prototype. Until I assemble the fuselage I can't accurately measure it, although I do show a photo of the fuselage length from the tip of the tail cone to the firewall: 25 feet.
Right or wrong when I judge airplane kits, I put a lot of emphasis on the cockpit. Fujimi's cockpit consists of 14 parts. Tamiya used a floor with molded side consoles and side inserts. Fujimi molded structural members on the cockpit interior and four individual parts for various control boxes. The seat is attached to the bulkhead with separate frame parts. Both model companies included the seat adjustment lever. I recall that Tamiya molded the rudder pedals to the floor while Fujimi molded them separately. They did not mold seatbelts into the seat like Tamiya did; this seat is chunky and angular. The instrument panel has raised dials with crude raised markings.
Up front the Nakajima Sakae 12 engine is assembled with five parts, excluding the prop shaft. (Tamiya molded theirs in two pieces. Cooling vane detail is subdued, as is all the detail of the engine. That Sakae 12 is contained in a one-piece cowl with separate cowl flap strips and exhaust outlets, and the rear portion of the carburetor duct.
Assembly of the airframe is conventional. Surface detail is a mix of very fine recessed lines and zillions of raised rivets - Jiro Horikoshi designed it with flush riveted skin. Unlike the Tamiya Model 21, the arresting hook can be raised or lowered. Like Tamiya's, the model has two sets of landing gear covers so the modeler can build it on the ground or "slipping the surlies". Fujimi landing gear struts are not quite as fine as the Tamiya parts. This model has deeper wheel wells than the competitor. Finally, they also neglected to include the mass balances for the ailerons.
A seated pilot is provided. It is not a refined in detail and scale as Tamiya's and yet, unlike Tamiya's, both arms are separate parts.
Overall, this model is on par with the Tamiya Type 0. Both have their pluses and minuses. When I build it, I just may put some spare Tamiya landing gear on it.
Assembly and Painting Instructions, and Decals
I always liked Fujimi instructions. They included interesting histories and commentary. This model features a detailed technical table inside the back page. A mini catalogue of their models is printed on the back page.
The sheet is a four-fold banner. It includes a parts breakdown with sprues, each part being numbered and identified. Well illustrated line art with some text guides assembly through nine steps. Fujimi also includes a detailed illustration of the pilot seat and frame, a reference diagram of the landing gear to the wing dihedral and a photograph inset of the extended gear.
Like Tamiya's kit, this kit has a fine selection of decals. Decals for eight particular reisen
1. X-183, Petty Officer 2nd Class Yoshiro Hashiguchi, 3rd Kokutai, Kendari, Celebes, March 1942.
2. V-110, Tainan Kokutai, Lae, New Guinea, 1942.
3. EI-181, Shokaku, Pearl Harbor.
4. U-164, 6th Kokutai, New Guinea, April-October 1942.
5. Ohita Kokutai, March 1944.
6. AI-111, Zuiho, Ro-Go Operation.
7. BI-112, Soryu.
8. AI-101, Akagi.
Further decals include the gear compression bars, prop tip warnings, data plate stencil and common stencils in Kanji, i.e., "No Step". Two sets of hinomaru are provided - with and without the white border.
The decals have accurate colors and are opaque. They are sharply printed and in register. They are not overly thick and do not have excessive carrier film borders. Two pages detail markings placement. Fujimi also included a table of 20 carrier and 34 land-based Kokutai markings and codes.
Fujimi's color reference is unique. For the Zero they used a sheet of full-color profiles and a planform to show the aircraft you can build with this kit. While no paint brands are referenced, they do include the colors of components.
Painting of the pilot is illustrated with line art and lists over a dozen colors.
I recall across 40 years that my Fujimi A6M2 Model 21 was a good model. I did not try test-fitting and yet from what I see, I concur that it is a good model. Certainly it is not a modern kit featuring high-tech molds and yet Fujimi's tooling cutters of the time created fine models.
Highs: quality molding with sharp fine surface detail. A multi-part engine and cockpit. Good looking decals.
Lows: raised rivets for a flush-riveted airframe? Some parts are heftier than they should be. The canopy is thick and shows some distortion.
As fine as the rivets are it should be easy to knock them down with a light pass of fine sandpaper. I recall this model was a good model but will not be able to verify that until I build it. That said, I think that if you want a good looking Model 21 Type 0 and don't want to pay the price of the latest-greatest, Fujimi's old reisen
is a good model competitive with its rivals of the day. If you find this kit, I recommend it.
Iconic of World War Two’s Pacific War and one of the best known fighter planes in history, Imperial Japan’s Mitsubishi A6M Zero earned such a reputation that the moniker Zero became synonymous with Japanese WW2 warplanes. As aesthetically captivating as martially effective, confidence in the Zero’s performance was a factor in Imperial Japan’s decision to expanded its war of conquest.
Contrasting the global air war in 1942 with an astronomical euphemism, the air war over the Pacific in 1942 was more like a shooting star than a European comet. Small numbers of aircraft predominately fought on-again off-again yet extremely intense clashes until the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal. It was over that island that the United States Navy (USN) and Marine Corps (USMC) met the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Force (IJNAF) in the type of fight the Japanese planned for, trained for, and eagerly sought: a campaign to slaughter the Allies into exhaustion.
Japan planned to exhaust the West with a grueling campaign featuring a cadre of superbly trained warriors equipped with world-class weapons. Fighter pilots in the IJN Kōkū Kantai (Air Fleet) and Kōkū Sentais (Air Flotillas) vanguard were equipped with a secret super fighter, the Mitsubishi A6M Type 0 reisen
, the Zero-sen. Those fighter pilots probably were the most thoroughly screened and tested pilots in history, assigned to an air unit only after a viciously rigorous training regiment unconscionable to Western societies. The survivors then learned on-the-job against the Chinese. Some IJNAF aviators arrived over Pearl Harbor with hundreds of hours of combat flying behind them. Many historians agree that the IJNAF Zero pilots of 1942 were the most formidable air superiority force in the world.
Against them flew Allied air forces with a polyglot of experience, tactics, training, and airplanes. Despite receiving some bloody noses, IJNAF Zero pilots swept the skies of opposition and established a legend (and myth) that reigns today. However, a few USN aviators took heed of an intelligence report sent to America by retired and discounted Army Air Corps (USAAC) fighter pilot Claire Chennault, commander of the Chinese Air Force. Chennault observed and accurately reported IJNAF activity, and even examined a captured Zero. While his warnings about the incredible A6M were met with dismissive disdain by most American air commanders, USN fighter pilot Lt Cdr John Thach took it to heart and, with great concern, began cogitating how to counter the A6M Zero (reisen
, or carrier fighter). His weapon was the Grumman F4F Wildcat, a competent fighter, although it lacked the performance of the A6M.
While USAAF (United States Army Air Force) fighter pilots suffered against the reisen
in a protracted campaign from the Philippines to New Guinea, USN VF (fighters) first met the dreaded Zero-sen over the Coral Seas in May, 1942. There the legendary VF leader Lt Cdr James Flatley came away with lessons-learned and confidence in the F4F. A month later near Midway Lt Cdr Thach successfully demonstrated his Beam Defense Position - "The Thach Weave", although Thach lost confidence in the F4F. Yet in just two battles the F4F was shown that it could, properly employed by trained pilots, handle the A6M. Those lessons and tactics would mean life or death for hundreds of carrier and land based USMC and USN Wildcat squadrons in the sustained battle for Guadalcanal.
Japan never managed to plan for nor produce a realistic replacement for the Zero-sen before Allied resources destroyed Japan. Zeros faced increasing numbers of superior Allied fighters that killed veteran pilots able to employ the Zero. USN's F6F Hellcat was described by Zero designer Jiro Hiroshito as being able to take on the Zero "face-to-face". Even when potentially better fighters were fielded, because they were rife with problems, Zeros continued to be the most important fighter IJNAF had. Yet even in late 1943, Zeros were still besting the vaunted Spitfire over Darwin, and were respected by Hellcat pilots like ace Eugene Valencia, who told war correspondents, "When people here [At NAS Pasco in the USA.] say the Japanese fighters are inferior, we get mad. People can say what they want, but we know the Jap Zero is still the best and the fastest aeroplane in the air." Still A6M showed its age and fell further behind Allied fighters, eventually facing fighters with almost a 100 mph speed advantage! The brilliant A6M was expended as a kamikaze or in desperate near-suicidal dogfights against superior planes.
Still, the great fighter is an icon in Japan today. So much so that the JSDF F-2A version of the F-16 has the name Viper-Zero.