The N1K2-J Shiden-Kai (translates as 'violet lightning, modified'), Allied reporting name 'George', was derived from a mid-wing floatplane design. Just over 400 Shiden-Kai were produced, but reliability and complicated maintenance limited their impact on the war. They were excellent dog-fighters, being fast compared to the Zero (N1K2-J top speed was listed as 369 mph), while retaining agility (82 degrees per second roll rate at 240 mph). They had an effective armament of four 20mm cannon. They were issued to elite squadrons so that they could have the most impact. 343 Kokutai (Naval Flying Group) was one such exceptional unit.
On 18 March 1945, a reconnaissance C6N Saiun of 343 Koutai spotted U.S. carriers en route to Japan. The following morning, the unit's Shidens intercepted 300 US aircraft, and were able to gain an advantage over the VBF-17 Hellcats they encountered. Japanese losses were six aircraft in exchange for eight Hellcats in this initial engagement. The 343rd faired less well on the same day when confronted with VBF-10 Corsairs, when two of these aircraft were separated from the main US formation and engaged 343 Shidens. Four N1K2s were shot down and the Corsairs managed to return to their carrier, USS Bunker Hill. Later, with an initial advantage of surprise— they were mistaken for Hellcats— the 343rd were involved in a sustained 30-minute aerial combat. At the end of the day, the Japanese claimed 52 victories, and the US fighters 63. The actual Japanese losses were fifteen Shidens, a Saiun with its three man crew, and nine other fighters. The US also suffered a loss of 25— fourteen fighters, and eleven attack aircraft.
(adapted from Wikipedia.)
This kit supplies two complete aircraft, with four marking options:
1. "17", 301st Fighter Sqn., 343rd Naval Flying Group, February 1945, Matsuyama Air Base
2. "37", 301st Fighter Sqn., 343rd Naval Flying Group, February 1945, Matsuyama Air Base
3. "38", 301st Fighter Sqn., 343rd Naval Flying Group, February 1945, Matsuyama Air Base
4. "20", 407th Fighter Sqn., 343rd Naval Flying Group, March 1945, Matsuyama Air Base
These are printed by Cartograph, and include enough of the smaller markings (propeller markings, stencils, etc.) to cover 3 aircraft (they are so small, losing some of them is not unlikely). Also included are spare hinomaru markings, and also spare grey versions of the fuselage numbers- maybe there has been dispute over the colour of these? As these are sparatate from the spare fuselage hinomaru markings, you could mix and match digits to make other aircraft, e.g. 10 or 27. There are additional tail markings that would allow for more aircraft options, if you had references for the markings they carried.
The stencils labelled '10' seem to have been overlooked, and are not show in any of the positioning instructions.
There are no instructions in English, which was slightly disappointing, but the kit is simple enough that following the diagrams is sufficient for correct assembly.
Starting with the cockpit, and one mistake I made with both kits was to glue the seat to one side of the fuselage- when I joined the fuselage halves, the seats were offset to the side that they had been glued to. There is room to glue them in through the cockpit opening, which is how I would do it if I was repeating the build.
I painted the cockpit in RAF Sky, not having a better match, and with a heavy wash of Citadel Devlan Mud, it looks suitably well lived-in. The instrument panel cannot be seen in the completed model, but I painted a few instrument faces (without using any references), just for my own satisfaction.
The fit of all parts was excellent. I was building one aircraft with wheels up, so the fit of the undercarriage doors was important. I had to use a bit of filler here, but this was due to my impatience while fitting the doors, and also to fill the hole where the leg slots into the lower wing.
Getting the external fuel tank to sit on the bottom of the fuselage was a challenge— the extremely delicate sway braces seem a little bit too long to allow the two pegs to reach the bottoms of the corresponding holes on the underside of the plane.
Some parts, such as the inner undercarriage doors, and the tailwheel, are extremely small and care has to be taken not to lose them once removed from the sprue. I lost a tailwheel soon after cutting it free, as the tweezers I was using pinged it across the room- I later used the vacant hole for the flight stand.
The main components (fuselage halves, wing uppers and lower) are moulded at a thickness in proportion to the model's size— like a scaled-down 1/72 kit. This resulted in a few problems with application of too much liquid solvent glue, as I didn't take this into account. The areas where I had issues (and made sink marks in the model where there were none in the moulding) were the upper wing leading edges closest to the fuselage, and the part of the lower wing that meets the fuselage underside at the back. These are areas where excess solvent glue built up inside the kit when assembled, softening the plastic and causing it to sag inwards. So I would warn other modellers talking this kit to be careful with the amount of glue they use in these areas. I had to use a little filler to resolve this.
I attached the very small canopies, with their crisp framing, to the closed fuselage with Revell's Contacta Clear, an acryllic-based glue that in my experience shrinks more than PVA-based glues like Micro Kristal Klear- ideal for these small scale models where I didn't want a visible line of glue. Kristal Klear has its place for less-well-fitting canopies, where its lower shrinkage has the benefit of filling the gaps. I didn't intend masking the individual panels in the canopies- a frustrating experience in any scale. Instead I masked the glass and framework above the lower frame line with Humbrol Maskol (a latex-based masking liquid), and painted the frames in by hand with a fine brush towards the end of the build.
The aircraft received an all-over coat of Citadel Mithril Silver, that appeared to cover well despite my not using a primer (I was afraid of filling in the lightly engraved panels with too many layers of paint). I followed this with salt masking to achieve the appearance of flaking paintwork. I have only used this technique once before, and I previously used normal table salt, which had quite round crystals. I wanted sharp edges to the flakes, so I used sea salt that I ground in a pestle and mortar. I applied this with a wet brush to the aircraft. I then waited about an hour for this to dry, then airbrushed the green (which was a mix of 20 year old Citadel acrylic Woodland Green and a drop of Chaos Black). Other than being very matt, the ancient paint when on fine. Before the paint was full hard, I removed the salt mask using a clean paint brush (or my finger for the tougher bits). I then masked off the leading edges and painted them white followed by yellow. The rest of the detail painting was done by brush (tyres, pitot tube, cannon barrels). I then brushed on some Johnson Klear where the markings would be applied, to give a gloss finish to avoid silvering.
The decals when on really well, and probably didn't need settling solutions, but I used Micro Set and Sol just in case (I managed to knock over my bottle of Micro Set, and the modelling table still smells of acetic acid). One area of frustration was with the very small decals for the yellow bands on the tips of the props (front and back) and the maker's label on the propellors- making a total of 24 tiny yellow decals for the two propellors alone!
I followed the well-worn paint-work with washes (Citadel), pigments (Mig) and chalk pastel dust. The pigments were applied to the panel lines and movable surface joints as a sludge with a brush, then polished off with a clean cotton rag once dry.
To display the two models, I made a simple base from a square of foam board,covered in a printed Imperial Japanese Navy ensign with the aircraft's name in Japanese script. I stretched some clear sprue to make the flight stand.
An in-box review
of this kit was done previously.