Sunday, February 9

Thomas reviews the 1/48th scale from Zoukei Mura - enter the "Shin Den"

To the surprise and delight of many the Japanese manufacturer Zoukei Mura released a smaller 48th scale version of their popular Shinden fighter. We got this review submitted from our good friend Thomas from Scale Plastic Aircraft Modeller and we thought in the tradition of sharing is caring thought we should bring it to you in today’s news...

J7W1 Imperial Japanese Navy fighter aircraft SHINDEN
Manufacturer: Zoukei-mura
Kit No: SWS 1/48 No. 01
Scale: 1/48
Sprues: 5 in grey styrene + 1 in clear styrene
Parts count: 123
Decals: 1 set of generic decals
Available directly from
Zoukei-mura or overseas stores

Introduction (taken from the kit´s assembly manual):

In May of 1944, as the enemy’s long-distance bomber attacks grew more intense by the day, the Imperial Japanese Navy felt the need increasing for the development of a new, stronger short range fighter craft. And so there at least was an official declaration to Kyushu Aircraft from the Japanese Navy for the development of a prototype craft for just that purpose.
It was in that instant that the legend of the “Shinden” was born, whose uniqueness would surpass all else in the history of Japanese aircraft from then on.
At the top of that request the following was inscribed: “A superior high-speed land-based fighter aircraft capable of mastering the shooting down of the enemy´s bombers”.
It was the full scope lingering in this brief sentence that caused such great pressure and distress for Kyushu Aircraft´s development team.
And then, a young Navy Engineering Officer offered a novel idea in response to that request: “A single-engine monoplane with canard design airfoils”. This was not just new or novel – it was an aircraft shape that had never been seen before.
It was an unprecedented creation, with the main wings at the rear of the body, equipped with a 6 blades propeller for the propulsion engine, and with a maximum speed of 400kt (750 km/h) at an attitude of 8700 metres.

It boasted a climbing power capable of reaching an attitude of 8000 metres in less than 10 minutes 30 seconds, and a service ceiling of over 12000 metres. For its firepower 30mm machine guns were concentrated in a 4-way configuration in the nose, allowing maximum destructive force. In short, it was a plan to recover from the current state of the war in one breath, using the superior speed for a attack-and-retreat tactic against the enemy´s impregnable large-scale bombers.

At that time it surely was a craft that rose above even the most ambitious of ideas.
But the moment was already too late and its development was unable to proceed without delays. It became more and more difficult to source materials and components. Add that to the shortage of skilled workmen and the resultant succession of failures in the development of the engine, the time and labour involved with the equipping and maintenance of the machine guns, and faced with the continuing pressure of heavy bombing by formations of B-29s, at least the end of the war came about.

If only the Shinden had been able to fight…
As the last and strongest fighter craft that the Imperial Japanese Navy thought to deliver to the world as its final trump card the Shinden continues to give us such imaginings and suppositions."

Having been sent over directly from Zoukei-mura end of September 2013 this kit was a quite a surprise for me. Already in passion of the 1/32 scale edition of this kit I was very curious to see this very first 1/48 scale kit from Zoukei-mura.

The kit is delivered in a sturdy top-opening board card box. The box art shows a dramatic full colour depiction of a B-29 Superfortress going down with one engine burning after having been attacked by a Shinden watching the bombers nemesis.
The box´s sides show some small pictures of a completed and painted model as well as two pictures of the build-up and painted skeleton and of the engine with the extension shaft added. The box itself is about 300 x 215 x 75 millimetres in size.

Upon opening the box we see it is filled up to the top, there is no space wasted: 5 sprues of grey plastic, one clear sprue being foam-padded to protect the parts, a decal sheet and the assembly manual. Unlike their 1/32 scale kit no pre-cut masks are given in this 1/48 scale kit.
Let´s start having a look at the sprues and the parts given here:

Sprue A:
The most obvious part here is the large main structure part 16. This is the base frame the aircraft will be assembled around. Designing this as one single part will give the whole kit strength without having to deal with a complicated frame assembly.
While the front part serves a base to build the weapons bay and the cockpit on the rear part depicts the wing spars / main landing gear area. This is a clever moulded part with some delicate detail moulded on. There are some visible knock-out marks on the lower side but these will all disappear when the front landing gear bay is glued on and the two fuselage halves added. So, no worries here.
The firewall / rear cockpit wall shows some really nice detail on it. The two engine bearers will be glued to this part. Compare the detail on this part to the real aircraft part as shown in the Concept Note book on page 26!
The cockpit sidewalls.
The 30mm machine guns. It won´t be complicated to drill the muzzles open with some care to add some detail here.
Good attention of detail even on the back of the pilot´s seat!
The instrument panel showing some fine traces of flash. If you don´t like to paint the instruments they are also given as a decal.
Some closer shots of cockpit parts and the larger fuselage frame. The mould ejection marks will be hidden later, so no need to fill them.

Sprue B:
Given here are the propeller and parts to assemble the two-row radial engine, drive shaft extension, exhaust pipes, two chargers and other auxiliary parts.
The 6 blade pusher propeller of the Shinden having a diameter of 71mm in this scale. The propeller blades are finely moulded and very thin!
The two-row radial engine moulded with the push rods already in place. The cooling fins are delicately executed and will look great after painting and having a wash applied.
The forced-cooling wheel with very thin almost airfoil shaped blades. This was fixed to the propeller shaft in front of the propeller to draw air through the engine cooler immediately in front of it. 

Sprue C:
This sprue comprises most fuselage exterior parts. Recessed panel lines and some very delicate recessed rivets are among the best to be seen on a modern kit.

Sprue D:
Fine hydraulic lines moulded to the inside of the wing to the main landing gear well.
The rearmost part of the engine cowling with the two exhaust outlets on each side.
Here we have the upper wing parts, again showing finely recessed panel lines and rivets. Each one shows a ribbed reinforcing strip on the first third of the wingspan.

Both upper and lower wing halves have reinforcing strips moulded onto their inside to assure straight wings. 

One of the two vertical tails of the Shinden with a castor wheel attached to the lower end. These wheels are to protect the tail fin and the large pusher propeller from touching the ground on take-off and landing. A lesson learned after the first test flight…
The landing gear legs. The front landing gear and its wheel are moulded separately from each other for better detail. All wheels are one piece items with some nice detail on their hubs. The mail landing gear legs have brake lines already moulded on.

Sprue E: 
A single piece lower wing, flaps, wheel bay covers and parts of the gear retracting mechanism are given here.
Some careful filling and sanding will be needed here if you like to have the flaps deployed. I wished Zoukei-mura would have attached ejection pins on the outside of these parts to prevent those ejection marks on the part itself.
Again some nicely executed panel detail on the lower wing. I like the tiny bomb racks for 30 kg or 60 kg bombs. Before having got this kit I didn´t know the Shinden was to carry bombs, too. Build a model and learn!

Sprue F:
The clear parts sprue with the transparent parts looking very clear and showing almost no distortion. It´s up to the modeller to decide if a coat of Future will be needed here.
The optional part for a fully closed canopy is given, too. Please see the instructions here on removing part of the canopy sill if this closed option is chosen.
Visible here is the separate bullet proof glass to be applied to the fuselage before adding the front canopy part F4.
Zoukei-mura provides some rather tiny clear parts to depict the navigation lights here!

A single decal sheet is provided with this kit here. The decals look sharp with good colour saturation and only a small amount of carrier film visible. They look glossy and not as thin as the likes of Cartograf.
When building this kit here I would make a photocopy of the decals as a reference when positioning those tiny Japanese characters. The ones in between the wing walk lines are fully enclosed by clear decal carrier film, so I would trim the lines and the characters as close as possible. The characters will easily placed in position with the copy made before as a guide.

The assembly manual
The assembly manual is 181 x 256 millimetres in size, being printed in b/w on twenty pages on matte paper. The text is given in Japanese and English language. The colour call-outs are given from Vallejo´s range of Model Air, Model Color, Panzer Aces and Game Color, with corresponding colours given from Gunze´s Mr Color range.

This sometimes makes it hard to get all the needed colours if you, as me, are no fan of Vallejo colours.

Some of the line drawings in the assembly manual are pixillated with others being of fine resolution. Here and there the line drawings are supplemented by written comments for clarification. Colour callouts are given in the individual assembly steps. Positioning of some parts is not too clear so some dry fitting first might be necessary.
I would recommend adding some weight up front to prevent the finished model being a tail sitter. I could not find any suggestions of doing so in the instructions but I would like to be safe here.
No colour printed sheet on the camouflage scheme is given which is a pity and not up-to-date. I hope Zoukei-mura will give such a full colour camouflage scheme with their next kit in 1/48 scale: the Ta 152H.

Zoukei-mura´s 1/32 scale kit of the Shinden was the first kit from this manufacturer. And it was an amazing kit full of detail inside and out never seen before. When they announced this kit to appear in 1/48 scale, too, some people may have wondered about if it would be possible to transfer the detail given in the large scale kit into this smaller one.
Well, in my opinion they succeeded. See their picture of the engine in both scales here to prove this:
Sure, some simplifications had to be made in respect of the smaller scale. But still the detail shown is amazing and light-years ahead of still available older kit of the Shinden.
My only minor complains are that the camouflage scheme is given in b/w only, no indication if some weight is needed to prevent a tail sitter and that no pre-cut masks for the clear parts are given here.

Thomas Mayer

Many thanks to Thomas Mayer for submitting this review – you can join the discussion about this kit on Scale Plastic aircraft Modeller - thanks to Zoukei-mura for sending this kit to review.

But all in all this is a very appealing kit. For more pictures of a build-up example please see Zoukei-mura´s product page here at this link.