by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
For the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the most modern and detailled kit in 1/48 scale is available from Hasegawa. But there is an almost equal alternative with the "good old" Tamiya kits that covers the A6M2, A6M3 and A6M5c versions for a much lower price (at least in France).
HistoryEverybody knows the "Zero" and I don't think it is necessary to tell the story of that plane one more time. I will just say that the A6M3 version was an improvement of the A6M2 version (better Sakae 21 engine and shorter wings) and that the A6M5 version was the last attempt to push the original concept to its limits. The A6M5c was the last version produced that saw combat.
The kitsThe kits are packed in the usual top-opening Tamiya boxes. The various sprues are separately bagged and you have two versions for the instructions (all Japanese and English/German) in each box (picture 1).
Two sprues are almost identical in both kits as you can see in picture 2. The light grey one is from the A6M3 version and the dark green one from the A6M5c version. In fact, they're not exactly identical as the engine cowling parts (picture 3) are slightly different. The remaining sprues are different between each kit (picture 4) and you can notice the small bombs provided for the A6M5c.
The quality of the moulding is very good despite the kit's ages and the overall detail level is excellent on the external surfaces (picture 5 and 6). The wheel bays are not deep enough in my opinion but there is plenty of detail in them that will look great with a little drybrushing.
Now to the only real "negative" aspect of these Tamiya kits. When produced in the early 80', engraved panel lines weren't that common. These Zero kits have engraved details (green lines in picture 7) but also some (the red ones) in relief! Why Tamiya decided to do a mix of both is a mystery to me but it's a fact, they did! Now you have two options: live with it or rescribe some panel lines. As you can see, there are not that many on the wings but there are more on the fuselage. Personally I prefer my kits to have engraved panel lines so I would do the extra work... but it's a matter of taste.
Another "weak" point of the kits is the interior detail on the cockpit sides (picture 8). They are not as crisply done as in more modern kits. But again, with a good paint job and drybrushing, it should look acceptable. The other detail parts of the cockpit (floor, bulkhead, seat, instrument panel etc...) are more convincing (picture 9).
The engine is quite basic but you can add some details if you want (picture 10). In the A6M5c kit, the engine cowling flaps are nicely done (in the open position) and the exhausts are also very well rendered (picture 11).
The canopy's clear parts are excellent and you have the choice between open or closed position (picture 12)
The decals were still in good shape in my kits but appear to be quite thick (picture 13 and 14). In all you have 4 options for the A6M3 version (two overall grey planes, one camouflaged green/grey and one with green blotches over grey) and 7 options (!?) for the A6M5c (all green/grey). The instructions are very detailed - in fact more so than in modern Tamiya kits! You have the usual drawings plus written instructions and B&W pictures (picture 15). Precise painting and decal guides are also provided (picture 16).
ConclusionIf you want a cheap, accurate and reasonably detailed model of the A6M "Zero", go for the Tamiya one! In France the kit is half the price of his Hasegawa counterpart. Only real negative point are those panel lines moulded in relief that you will have to rescribe. But on the plus side, apart from the price, you also have 6 additional figures in each kits! These figures (picture 9) are nicely done and will make a great addition to a diorama. Knowing the price of 1/48 resin or white metal figures, these kits are a real bargain!
Addendum: the figures are not provided in the similar A6M2 Tamiya kit. There are only 2 pilots in this one (one seated and a nice standing one).