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KIT REVIEW


Zoukei Mura Super Wings Series # 13
Kawasaki Ki-45 Kai Tei Toryu (Nick) -- 1:32 Scale

 

The Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu, or "Dragon Slayer," was a two-seat, twin-engine heavy fighter flown by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.  This distinctive aircraft was used extensively for the defense of the Japanese Home Islands for most of the war.  Hasegawa has some good 1:48 and 1:72 scale Toryus, but if 1:32 is your preference, there’s an old ID Models vacuform kit that leaves a lot to be desired.  The latest addition to Zoukei-mura’s 1:32 scale Super Wings series is the first injection-molded kit of the Toryu in this scale.  This is one of the most highly anticipated kits of the past 18 months or so, and a review sample just arrived on our bench from Kyoto.  

The Ki-45’s origins draw on similar sources of inspiration as the German Bf 110 and the need for a fast, powerful, and heavily armed twin-engine fighter.  With the idea of producing a similar aircraft for Japan, the Japanese army ordered development of such a platform from Kawasaki Shipbuilding.  The prototype Ki-45 first flew in January 1939.  The prototype was underpowered, but new Mitsubishi Ha-102 powerplants solved many of its performance issues.  The Ki-45 Kai reached operational status with the Japanese Army in February 1942 as the "Type 2 Two-Seat Fighter."  Its Allied reporting name was “Nick.”

The Ki-45 was initially used as a long-range bomber escort, but the Flying Tigers were able to demonstrate the Kai was unable to cope against single-engine fighters.  It was thus shifted to roles involving interception, attack, and fleet defense.  It was an effective attack aircraft, but its greatest strength was that of an interceptor.  Several Ki-45s were dispatched against the Doolittle raiders but did not find any of the B-25s.  The airplane’s heavy armament proved to be effective against the B-29 Superfortress raids beginning in mid-1944.  Yet, any B-29 cruising above 34,000 feet was above the standard Ki-45’s service celling.  The solution was to strip down the airframe (including removing its armament) and use it in Kamikaze-style ramming attacks against the bombers.  A Ki-45 was also used in a suicide attack against the fast transport USS DICKERSON off Okinawa, killing her skipper and 54 crewmen, and the resulting fires rendered the ship a total loss and it was scuttled at sea.

A total of 1,675 Ki-45s were produced during the war.  The name Toryu, or "Dragon Slayer" was given to those with the Ho-203 37mm cannon mounted in the nose.  The cannon carried 16 rounds and just one hit could down a B-29.  Its twin upward firing 20mm cannons was also quite lethal.  By the spring of 1945, fighter escorts from carriers and island-based P-51s signaled the end of the Ki-45’s combat effectiveness.  Only one Ki-45 survives today.  Captured and test flown at both Wright Field in Ohio and at NAS Anacostia in Washington, D.C., the USAAF eventually donated their Toryu to the Smithsonian Institution in 1946.  Its fuselage is currently on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Zoukei-mura’s 1:32 scale Ki-45 Toyru comes in a fairly hefty box, measuring 21”x13”x6”.  It’s not small!  Upon opening the box, the builder will find it contains a total of 545 injection molded parts on 19 medium gray and six clear sprues.  A pre-cut self-adhesive masking set is also included.  The full-color instruction booklet organizes the build over 53 pages.  One decal sheet provides markings for two aircraft:

Strengths:  Zoukei-mura is well known for producing exceptional scale model kits in terms of detail, fit, engineering, and overall appeal.  This is particularly true for those in their 1:32 scale SWS product line that have historically set a very high bar.  The Ki-45 may be the best kit so far produced in this illustrious series.  This kit is extraordinary.  It is also the first kit we’ve reviewed here at Detail & Scale in 2019, and already we have an outstanding front-runner for our annual “Kit of the Year” award.    

It is hard to figure out exactly where to start with the accolades.  Zoukei-mura’s 1:32 scale Ki-45 features an exceptionally detailed cockpit interior, two complete Ha-102 engines, a complete set of armament (both the 37mm and 20 mm cannons) drop tanks, and very detailed landing gear.  The kit is also based upon the thorough research performed by the Zoukei-mura team when they visited the Smithsonian to study the sole surviving airframe.

This offering also includes optional parts to build a clear version of the Ki-45 as the kit provides full interior structures for the wings, engine nacelles, and fuselage (more on that later).  The quality of the parts design is outstanding and the fidelity of the injection molding rivals the best cast resin.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all delicately represented by engraved, recessed details.  The parts breakdown is quite logical (though complex) and I am a big fan of the single-piece nose.  

Construction options include parts for either the Ki-45 Kai Tei or the Ki-45 Kai Hei/Tei (Tai-Atari Special Attack Aircraft).  Other options include an open or closed canopy, and separate ailerons, flaps, rudder, and elevators that can be positioned as desired.  The clear parts for the windscreen and canopy are gorgeous – to the point that any treatment in Future/Johnson’s Pledge floor wax, I fear, could somehow alter the pristine optical quality of these parts.  The pre-cut self-adhesive masking set for the windscreen and canopy is also a thoughtful touch and will save a lot of time. 

The cockpit consists of some 100 parts.  The cockpit floor attaches to the center of the single-piece main wing spar.  Detailed parts are sequentially added for the bulkheads, armor plates, the internal No. 4 fuel cell, sidewalls, rudder pedals, hydraulic pressure lever, oil pump lever, the fuel cock, fuel flow levers, oxygen bottle, radios, linkage rods, and many more detail parts, which build up into a rather remarkable cockpit.  The pilot’s lap belts are molded onto the seat.  Usually, I can’t stand that approach (I’m a strict PE belts type of builder) but here it really works.  The gunner’s seatbelts are molded as a separate part, and that works just fine, too.

There are three instrument panels in the kit that each provide a different approach to making this important part.  You can choose to use a full panel decal placed behind the clear instrument panel off of the clear version of Sprue C.  You can also use decals to simulate the instrument dial faces on the solid gray version of Sprue C, or on Sprue I, you’ll find an instrument panel with a beautiful range of raised details for the detail painter.  At the end of the day, the cockpit is an amazing example of the quality and scope of detail that can be designed into a plastic model kit.  In a word, it is exquisite.      

As much as I might gush about the cockpit, the engines are equally impressive, with 66 parts between them.  The detail on the cylinders (split into front and back halves) is exceptional.  You won’t be able to see it in the completed engine, but Zoukei-mura includes even the actual interior cylinders attaching to the interior of the central crankcase.  It’s a lovely little touch.  The pushrods are highly detailed as are the air intake pipes, and the exhaust stacks have nicely recessed faces (no need for aftermarket details here).  Other details include the engine mounts, carburetors, magnetos, alternator, the turbine housing, and more.  There’s even a generalized engine maintenance stand that can be used to display the engine removed from the airplane.      

As with their other 1:32 scale SWS kits, structural elements are provided for the interior of the fuselage fore and aft of the cockpit along with the stringers, longerons, and fuel tanks inside the wings.  The optional clear parts, of course, allow the builder to do a see-through version to show those parts off should they wish.  The main gear and tail wheel are also multi-part assemblies and are practically models in and of themselves.  Included are separate parts for the brake hydraulic lines.   

The gorgeous instruction booklet is trademark Zoukei-mura with its cover appearing as a replica of the front-page of the Ki-45 flight manual.  It contains lots of interesting information about the Ki-45, its history, and part-by-part breakdowns of the specific items that you are assembling, sequentially organized by the engine followed by the cockpit, fuselage, wings and landing gear, final outfitting, and markings guide.  Their beautifully rendered, step-by-step approach to assembly breaks down a very complicated build into quite manageable steps.  As noted, the builder has the option of doing either the late production Ki-45 Kai Tei (armed) or the KI-45 Kai Hei/Tei (unarmed aerial ramming versions).  The instructions clearly delineate between the parts needed to build both versions, including some impressively subtle minutia that distinguish between the two variants.     

The decals were printed by Cartograf and are perfectly designed and printed.  Everything is in register, colors are vibrant and solid, and carrier film is thin and quite restrained.  Markings for both airplanes include maintenance stencils.  The white wing and fuselage bands are provided as decals, but I would certainly opt to mask and paint my own.      

Weaknesses:  There are very few shortcomings that can be identified in this kit.  Of course, this is a complex kit and it’s not for beginners.  Ejection pin marks can be seen on the inside of the clear fuselage and wing parts.  If you’re going for the see-though look and that kind of thing bothers you, you will have plenty of work ahead of you to remove them and polish the plastic out.  If you are building a non-visible (normally painted) version, you have nothing to worry about.  There are other ejection pin marks on the inside of fuselage structures, but if you’re again using the gray injection molded parts, you won’t be able to see them.  However, if you drop the flaps, be aware that there are very shallow ejection pin marks on the inside of the flaps and also in the ceiling of the main gear well.  These are not positioned so that they are easy to remove, but they are quite shallow so eliminating them should not be too hard.


Zoukei-mura strikes gold once again with their Ki-45 Toryu.  It is sincerely one of the best kits I’ve seen in a long time regarding precision, detail, and thoughtful engineering.  It is certainly the best Ki-45 in any scale.  This kit receives my highest praise.  For me, I would say that kits such as this are why we build – it taps into our varied sources of inspiration, imagination, and passion for this hobby.  Zoukei-mura has a way of doing that quite often, at least for me. The Ki-45 has now been released in Japan, and in the United States and elsewhere, it should hit the street in late January 2019.

Sincere thanks are owed to Mr. Hideyuki Shigeta, the president of Zoukei-mura, and the entire SWS Development Team for their generosity in providing this sample.  You can find out more about them at http://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/ and follow Mr. Shigeta’s latest blog at http://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/sentiment/oyajiblog_102.htmlwhich is a good way to follow development of their kits and other activities of interest which currently include a 1:32 scale Fw 190 and a 1:48 scale F-4E Phantom II.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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