Although not mentioned on the box, the Shiden-Kai was known by the Allies as "GEORGE". The SHIDEN (Violet Lightning) - KAI (Variant or Improvement) was essentially a redesign/conversion to a land-based fighter from the floatplane N1K Kyōfū, codename "REX". The Shiden-Kai entered service in early 1944 and, in the hands of an able pilot, could easily compete with the Corsair or Hellcat. The Shiden-Kai was extremely rugged and carried four 20mm cannon but, to its detriment, was plagued by mechanical problems.
My jumping on this review was primarily for one reason; I had not had a chance to build a 1/144 scale aircraft and this looked like a good model to start with. I can honestly say that in no way, shape, or form was I disappointed with the kit. Building 1/144 scale fighters from this era without a doubt forces the builder to tackle the project with a slightly different mindset than your typically larger scale kit.
Platz includes two complete kits in this boxing of the Shiden-Kai. Each kit comes on its own sprue of 29 nicely detailed, light grey parts needed to complete the airframe. Two small clear sprue trees each contain what has to be one of the nicest canopy moldings I have had a chance to work with. The canopy is very thin, on par with an average vacuform canopy, and very well detailed to fit this scale. The flash-free airframe parts are very well detailed, with finely molded panel lines to rival what the "big companies" are capable of doing with their larger kits. The decal sheet printed by Cartograf included markings for four aircraft from the "343rd" along with a plethora of extra numbers and letters to do an aircraft of your own choosing. Most of the smaller decals include an "extra" for unforeseen decal mishaps. Instructions are on a small folded sheet and are entirely in Japanese. This does not present a problem, since the construction drawings (all five of them) are VERY clear and should easily lead you down the right path. Two decal placement guides are included in the plans and a wonderful color painting guide is printed on the back of the box. Although an explanation is not printed in English, the color codes printed alongside the color legend correspond to the Mr. Color line of paints. I wish I had figured that out before painting the kit. Oh, well, on to the build.
I should begin with a word of caution. The four 20mm cannon and pitot tube are molded in place on the leading edge of the wing. For some unknown reason I attempted to make the build and paint the kit leaving them in place. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have cut them off cleanly from the leading edge after joining the wing halves, then reattached the tiny bits at the end of the build. Don't ask me how many times I bent or broke off one of the aforementioned details because I honestly lost count.
Following the assembly diagrams, construction began with the external drop tank and then the main landing gear. I chose to paint most of the small parts with a brush and the legs and wheels were no exception. The third assembly diagram basically shows the bulk of the airframe going together. Cockpit detail is minimal but adequate. The cockpit tub is molded into the fuselage halves so it was very easy to add seat, stick, and instrument panel after the two fuselage halves are joined. That seemed to make sense to me, so that is how I tackled the build. With the fuselage halves joined and cockpit finished, I moved on to the wings.
The wings were dry-fitted to the fuselage and they fit just fine. Typically, with my larger scale builds, I refrain from gluing the top and bottom wing halves together until after the bottom half is attached to the fuselage. That way I have a little wiggle room to adjust the wing root to fairing seam on the top surface, if necessary. It wasn't. With the wing in place, I turned my attention to the stabs. They, too, fit very well and I had no trouble getting them aligned with the rest of the airframe.
Like my other radial builds, I painted the engine in gun metal and dry brushed silver to bring back the detail in the cooling fins. The engine detail is quite good for this tiny scale. A little paint was added to the inside of the cowling and I continued construction by attaching the engine and prop shaft to the front of the fuselage. The cowling fit like a glove to the fuselage and I stepped back to admire my handiwork. I have to say the only fault I can find with this kit is right here at the front of the fuselage. I'm fortunate to live close to the museum here in Dayton, and since they have an example of a GEORGE on display, I ran out with my 10 year old son to take a close look at the 1/1 scale example. Although it was very difficult to find anything in the under-lit hangers at the museum, we successfully tracked the GEORGE down and made closer inspection of how the engine sits in the cowling on the full sized example. In my unscientific comparison, it appears to me the engine on the Platz model sits just a tad too far back in the cowling. With the spinner on the aircraft as large as it is, and by throwing in the four propeller blades, not much is visible in the opening.
With the airframe pretty much complete, it was time to mask and paint this little gem. Using what paints I had on hand, I primed and painted the airframe and followed it with a gloss coat in preparation for decaling. This was my first time to work with Cartograf decals and their reputation is well deserved. They went on like a dream. With the obligatory application of Micro-Set, the decals set down with no fuss at all. I did add a tiny dab of Micro-Sol to set them firmly down in the panel lines. The decals were then sealed in another clear coat and a wash was applied to the model.
At this time, the main landing gear and doors, drop tank, tail wheel, propeller, spinner, and canopy were added to complete the model. Although working with this small scale is a bit of a challenge at times, I found this a very nice model and look forward to tackling the second kit included in the box.
Thanks to Platz for the sample kit. Please keep up the good work on these very fine 1/144 scale kits. I look forward to building one of your other offerings. Also, thanks to IPMS for the opportunity to review it.