J2M3 Raiden, 352 Flying Group
Among the most un-Japanese looking fighters of WWII were the rather chubby J2M Raidens that were designed and built as bomber interceptors for the Imperial Japanese Navy. They were reasonably successful in defending the homeland against U.S. high-level bombers in the final year of the war. And, over the years, many kits have been offered by Hasegawa, Tamiya, and Oataki (later marketed under a number of other brand names) to build various versions of these interesting interceptors. They are appealing subjects and many of us probably have a few of these kits salted away for a rainy day.
Hasegawa has released a new boxing of their 1/48 J2M3 Type 21 in a limited edition kit. The parts will look familiar to anyone who has looked at the contents of previous releases of this model because, with the possible exception of the canopy and forward fuselage top panel, the plastic is the same. Hasegawa’s Raiden kits have been released a number of times in different versions with other markings…and a version with the markings provided in this kit was available a few years ago, also. Age of molds is not of concern…the plastic in this release is as good as it has been in previous ones.
On opening the box, the builder will find ten sprues of 76 injection-molded parts molded in typical Hasegawa gray plastic (64 of these parts will be needed to build this version because the small wing-mounted bombs are not required), two sprues of six crisply molded clear parts, and a sprue of poly caps. This release includes one of Hasegawa’s new well-printed decal sheets that provides markings for two aircraft serving with the IJN’s 352nd Naval flying Group in 1945. One of them, the one that is featured on the box art, is the colorful one flown by Lt. Yoshihiro Aoki. It is one of the most striking schemes applied to any J2M, and many photos of this aircraft can be found in books and online to assist builders who can’t resist it.
It’s worth noting that these new decals do not need a setting solution. They will release nicely from their backing after immersion in warm water, and will adhere well to a painted surface. Use caution when moving them from the backing sheet into position because the film is very thin and it will grip any surface it is placed on…so, use plenty of water to ‘float’ the decals into position. After they set up, they can be treated with a mild solution like Gunze’s Mr. Mark Softer if they don’t fully conform to panel lines or other recesses. A topcoat of Future or a matt finish should then be applied to fix them firmly in position.
Assembly is a breeze. I really don’t need to dwell on the experience because everything fits well and there are no unique steps in the sequence…it’s typical Hasegawa. The black and white foldout instruction sheet provides a logical assembly sequence for most components. However, experienced builders will likely alter some steps when it comes to attaching the small bits to avoid the likelihood of damaging them when finishing the model.
As is usual with most kits, construction begins with the cockpit, and this kit includes 18 nicely detailed parts to build a busy looking one right out of the box. Decals are provided with instrument faces and dials to enhance the instrument panel and the sidewall panels. After I pre-painting the parts, with a little dry brushing applied to highlight details, the cockpit decals were added (cutting the one for the large instrument panel into clusters of two or three instrument faces and applying them to their appropriate positions to make alignment easier). Everything went together with little effort. The instructions are very clear and molded pins, tabs, and slots aided parts placement. The end product is a very nicely detailed replica of the real aircraft’s cockpit.
Once assembled, the cockpit tub was captured between the fuselage sides with equal ease and the radio box was painted and added to the rear deck, along with the canopy support brace that also includes the radio antenna. Although the mounting lugs on the sidewalls could be modified to permit loading the tub from the opening at the bottom, it is advisable to follow the kit’s instructions and trap it between the sidewalls to assure proper alignment. Following that, the wings were assembled (with perfect fit) and offered up to the fuselage. I did add a small piece of Evergreen styrene along the spot where the rear of the wing fits the fuselage to avoid a step that appeared likely at the seam. Clear wingtip navigation lights (and one for the tail cone) are included on one of the clear sprues. They were attached and they fit the notches in the wingtips and the flat spot on the tail cone nicely. Then, the tail planes were attached. No filler was needed. Everything in this kit fits well.
At this point, the fuselage top panel ahead of the cockpit was fitted, the gun site was painted and added, and the bulletproof glass windscreen panel and its mounting bracket were attached. Since the canopy is molded as a one-piece affair, it made sense to fit it at this point and check everything out for any seam problems that needed attention before painting. As with everything else, the canopy fit nicely.
I like to tack my canopies in place with dabs of white glue and then run a little of the stuff (diluted with a drop of water) around the seam. Then, I reinforce the join with a bit of superglue applied along the seam with a needle. After that, the clear parts can be masked and the airframe can be prepared for painting.
My intention was to build this review model as an OOB model, but Hasegawa left off one detail that must be added. The J2M had an antenna post on the top of the tail fin and none was molded on the kit fuselage parts. I added the little post so I had something to attach the antenna wire to. Otherwise, the model is Out of the Box.
I painted the review sample with the Mr. Color paint called out on the color chart on the instruction sheet...slightly lightening the black on the anti-glare panel with a drop of gray. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy working with these paints. Although a bit pricey, they spray well, cover nicely, and produce an excellent finish that can be wet sanded if necessary and then blended with a second coat. After checking the published photos of J2Ms in service, I added the appearance of a few paint chips and scratches here and there with a silver Prismacolor pencil to give the model a bit of character.
The pre-painted exhaust pipes, undercarrage parts, tail wheel assembly, and centerline drop tank (two options are included) were then painted and attached, followed by the wing cannon and pitot tube. Two propeller options are included – a standard and a high-performance version. So, it’s up to the modeler to paint and decal the preferred one and attach it.
As I mentioned above, Hasegawa’s new decals are very nice and I found after immersion in warm water they will snuggle down well on their own if carefully pressed into position with a Q-tip. They do need to be floated into position with enough water to avoid damage. And, I did find it necessary to apply a little Gunze Mr. Mark softer along some seam lines and again press the decals into them with a Q-tip. After they dried, a light application of Future was sprayed on, followed a few hours later with a mix of W/N Paynes Grey and Raw Umber oil washes along panel lines. The panel lines were buffed with a paper towel, and after clear parts were masked off, everything received a final coat of Testors Dullcoat.
Sounds like a breeze, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. This kit goes together with little fanfare, and no moans or groans that I can recall. I took a little extra time finishing the review sample because I really enjoyed the build. For me, it was a welcomed treat after struggling with a recent 1/72 scale Cyber Hobby kit of another Japanese a/c.
If you don’t have a Hasegawa J2M Jack kit in the stash, this is a good one to add to your inventory. As a matter of fact, if I had to pick a kit to offset the effects of the dreaded AMS syndrome, this one would rank near the top of my list. And the finished model is most pleasing to look at.
This kit is highly recommended. I appreciate IPMS/USA and Hasegawa (Hobbico) giving me the opportunity to build and review it.