by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
Kawanishi N1K2-J Shidenkai
Mfg. ID: 8883
IntroductionThis review examines the big Hasegawa 1/32 Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden (Violet Lightning) fighter, code-named "George" by the Allies. Long has this fighter fascinated fans of Imperial Japanese aviation and long have modelers dreamt of a modern kit to replace the 1/32 N1K1-J and N1K2-J of the 1970s.
Kawanishi N1K-J ShidenGraceful as a sumo wrestler, the N1K1-J Shiden was a private development by Kawanishi of their air superiority floatplane fighter, the N1K Kyofu (Strong Wind) "Rex", into a land-based interceptor (hence the "-J" suffix). A unique feature was the aircraft's automatic combat flaps that adjusted automatically. Shiden is widely considered the best Imperial Navy fighter of the war. Built around the powerful 1,990 hp (1,480 kW) Nakajima Homare NK9H 21 eighteen-cylinder radial engine, extremely maneuverable, packing devastating firepower ( up to two Type 97 7.7mm machine guns and four Type 99 20mm cannons), and able to withstand heavy damage, Shiden was as threatening as its thunderstorm allegory...
...when it could fly. Shiden’s Homare NK9H was unreliable. The aircraft retained the mid-mounted wing of the floatplane and the large propeller necessitated long, stalky landing gear. The gear was complex and prone to failure – both before flight and, particularly distressing, upon landing!
Just four days after the Shiden's first test flight a redesign was begun to remedy defects, primarily repositioning the wings to the bottom of the fuselage to solve the long, complex landing gear issue; the fuselage was lengthened, the tail redesigned, and the whole airframe was made much simpler to produce, eliminating some 18,000 (!) parts. The troublesome Homare engine was retained because there was no real alternative. Thus came to being the redesignated N1K2-J Shiden kai, ‘kai’ being short for kaizou 改造 meaning 'modified'.
Shiden entered combat for first time in spring 1944. They proved to be excellent dogfighters at low to medium altitudes. N1K-J fighters were mainly used by few units including the elite IJN 343rd Air Group (343 Kokutai), Japan’s "Squadron of Experts" similar to Germany’s JV-44, commanded by Genda Minoru. 343rd Kokutai pilot Muto Kaneyoshi reputedly shot down, by himself, four Hellcats in one dogfight. Had reliable Shidens been available, the Allies would have had a tougher time over the Pacific. However, the powerful Homare rapidly lost performance in the rarefied air of the B-29's domain, thus "George" was not useful at the high altitudes the war had moved up into.
Like lightning, Shiden was a beautifully dangerous flash, then gone. Production problems slowed production and air raids ended it with only 1,435 built. Unknown numbers failed to get airborne. Impressive as Shiden was, those that got into action only brought obsolescent pre-1942 low to medium altitude performance into an arena moving higher and faster and only eclipsed by the dawning jet age. Shidens that did engage the enemy eventually ended in the shattering boom of thunder that follows all lightning.
Opening the hangerI have both the 1/32 Revell N1K1-J and the 1/32 Doyusha N1K2-J models to compare this kit to, along with various 'modern' 1/32 kits. Like lightning, this new Shiden is a dazzling flash of brilliance! Read on to find why it electrifies me.
Shiden was a big airframe and this is a hefty model. All of this styrene is heavy and Hasegawa packs it in a big and sturdy conventional lid/tray box. Box art is a beautiful study of "white 15" of the 343rd NAG. (I wish Hasegawa would offer their artwork for sale.) Inside are several sealed clear bags holding 13 sprues of gray, clear, and vinyl parts (Hasegawa advertises 148 parts so I didn't count them.), a colorful decal sheet, and impressive instructions.
Several sprues are molded together. The sprues are:
A: N1K2-J forward fuselage halves, flaps, horizontal stabilizers, wheel well inserts.
B: N1K2-J wings.
C: N1K2-J cockpit box.
E: N1K2-J rear fuselage and vertical stabilizer.
G: N1K2-J shell ejection panels.
J: Cowl flaps.
L: (two) propellers, wheel hubs.
N: Homare NK9H radial engine.
P: Vinyl caps.
Q: Homare detail; landing gear and doors; cockpit instrument panels.
R: Canopy parts; nav lights; reflector gun sight parts. Two rear canopy styles are included.
S: Fuselage bulkheads; main spar; cockpit controls; pilots; drop tank.
T: N1K2-J cowling.
Attached to particular sprues are many ancillary parts: pitot; antennas; struts and braces; plumbing; cannon barrels; actuators.
Molding is top-notch! I have not spotted a hint of flash. Nor have I found mold seam lines of consequence. There are no sink marks. A few minor ejector circles are on the visible side of wheel doors. Parts are sharp and detail is crisp. Fine recessed panel lines and fastener detail demarcates the main external components. Some of the larger fasteners around the cowl even have slots molded across them. A few rivets that were not flush are molded appropriately raised; they and other small items are impressively thin. Hasegawa did not attempt to simulate fabric texture nor sag on the control surfaces, although the reinforcing tapes are molded in relief with simulated stitching.
“George’s” greenhouse canopy clear parts are without blemish. The framing is very fine, perhaps to the point of making masking difficult.
Hasegawa released this Shiden as a Model 21, one of the initial 100 built. It is molded with a separate aft fuselage and tail. This is curious as the N1K1-J and the N1K2-J fuselage and empennage were completely different; that and the modular underwing armament panels leads me to believe that a Shiden ko fighter-bomber model is in the future.
The model wings are conventional with a one-piece bottom and separate top halves. Deep wells are molded for the struts while separate well inserts are molded for the wheels. While all control surfaces are molded on, the flaps are provided separate with two options: retracted and extended.
Two pilot heads are provided. One represents Lt. Naoshi Kanno and the other resembles W.O. Kourji Ohara. The flying uniform and kit look very good and the parachute is molded separately.
While it can not be held against them, Hasegawa did not make this model friendly for modelers who intend to superdetail it with aftermarket goodies like cannon. (The 1/32 Ki-44 has separate access doors between the cowl and cockpit.) We will have to carefully cut out any access panels to expose weapon bays and engine accessories.
DetailI already mentioned the panel lines, fasteners and rivets. It also has hinge detail molded into the control surfaces. This model is a good case of letting the photos speaks their 1,000 words. Just look at the cooling gills and spark plug detail on the radial-engine! Further, Hasegawa engineered the ganglion of exhaust stacks as a single piece. Ultimately the engine is built with a dozen pieces. The propeller is assembled with individual blades. The cowl flaps are separate. Unfortunately, they are molded closed.
The main gear legs have brake lines molded into the top with air between them and the strut. Separate plumbing and torque arms finish the assembly. Some of the most detailed parts are the landing gear doors, festooned with rivet and hinge detail! Including the doors and tire halves, each main gear assembly has 12 parts!
Into the cockpit we find a four-piece Type 98 gun sight with three clear panes. Including that assembly, there are over 40 pieces to build the cockpit! These include three bulkheads, two sides, the floor, oxygen bottles, map light, radio, and many levers and sticks. The sharply molded instrument panel and accessory consoles have enough detail to make painting easy, or you can use the supplied decals. I have done both with Hasegawa’s 1/32 Ki-61 and Ki-84 and both have been satisfying. There is even pair of minuscule handles to attach inside the canopy hood! As exceptional as the cockpit is, cockpit photographs of one of the three surviving “George” fighters shows far more plumbing and wiring across the cockpit floor and behind the side consoles than are molded onto the parts. Perhaps those omissions will not be noticeable once the many separately applied sidewall parts are attached.
instructions, decals, paintingThis big bird comes with two decal and painting options:
1. 343A-15, I.J.N. 343rd Naval Flying Group 301st F.SQ., SQ. Leader Lt. Naoshi Kanno, Matsuyama A.B. April 1945
2. 343B-03 , I.J.N. 343rd Naval Flying Group 407th F.SQ., W.O. Kourji Ohara, Matsuyama A.B. April 1945
Decals are thin, opaque, sharply printed and precisely registered. A great many servicing and data stencilings are included. This model is wonderfully unusual in that uniform insignia decals are provided for the pilots!
Camouflage is "S3": dark green over natural metal. GSI Creos Aqueous and Mr. Color are the only two paint brands listed.
Hasegawa’s instruction sheet is a multipage brochure printed and illustrated in shaded black-and-white line art, plus black-and-white photographs of the assembled and painted (and decaled!) pilot.
Seventeen steps and many sub-steps guide the modeler through assembly. Two pages illustrate the painting and two decal options. It is well illustrated and sensibly laid out. A good history of Shiden kai is presented.
conclusionNow you understand why Hasegawa’s 1/32 Violet Lightning electrifies me! It is a very detailed model with exceptional molding. Decals are equally impressive. As best as I can tell, shape and outlines are accurate.
That it seems wiring and plumbing was omitted on the cockpit sidewalls does not really bother me as it can be easily added with sprue and wire; it probably can’t be seen once the fuselage halves are closed. More disappointing are a few slight ejection circles on a visible surface of the gear doors.
Yes, I am very enthusiastic about this model and am charged to build it. Shiden fans have waited a long time for a modern model of "George" in 1/32. I believe the wait has been worth it! Enthusiastically recommended!
Please tell retailers and vendors that you saw this model here - on Aeroscale.