by: Dade W. Bell [ ]
The A6M2 Type 21 Zero was the point of the IJN's sword at the beginning of the Pacific War with the Allies. With an unbelievable range of 1,600 miles, high speed, amazing maneuverability, and the punch of two 7.7 mm machine guns and two 20 mm cannons, it was at the time considered the premiere killing machine of the Pacific. While the A6M5 Model 52 is considered the best of the breed, the A6M2 Type 21 got the ball rolling with its performance at Pearl harbor, Coral Sea, and Midway.
Introduction To The Model:
Over the years, Fine Molds has established itself as one of the premiere injection plastic manufacturers. So when the rumblings were heard of a Fine Molds 1/72 A6M2 Zero that would embarrass many 1/48 scale offerings, Japanese aircraft fans waited with baited breath. Then the pictures taken at shows started to leak out of the jewel-like cockpit and hearts beat a little faster.
How much would this kit cost? When was it coming? All was revealed when it was announced that Fine Molds had created an alliance with Model Graphix to release the kit in two "sections" corresponding to the November and December 2007 issues of Model Graphix. All of this combined would cost a mere 2,600 yen! The quintessential 1/72 Zero and two issues of Model Graphix for 2,600 yen? Incredible!
The drawback to this is that when copies of those two Model Graphix issues run out, so do the models. Of course, the limited nature of this means that your Zero won't be caught in a sea of similar builds...
All of the parts in this kit are sharply molded, with almost no flash to be seen. Mold lines are microscopic and attachment points are small and generally logical.
The section of the model that came with the November 2007 issue of Model Graphix contains the engine, propeller, cowl, landing gear, cockpit, fuselage, and decals. Detailing is on both sides of pieces where needed (the fuselage/ cockpit walls for example).
Fine Molds is justly proud of the cowl. The one-part piece's shape is spot on and captures the slight curve of the Zero's cowl perfectly. This has always stymied manufacturers and in his autobiography, even Mr. Tamiya sighed with relief when told by Hidemasa Kimura (Japan's leading aircraft researcher and friend of Zero designer Jiro Horikoshi) that the proportions were perfect. Adding to the quality of the cowl is the fact that the cowl flaps can be posed open or closed.
The cowl has a slight seam that has to be removed the runs parallel to the gun troughs and some flash near the bottom of those same troughs (see pictures). But these issues are very minor and should be no problem to clean.
The engine consists of both banks, exhaust headers, tips, rods. The propeller sprue includes the separate spinner (two options) and hub. The landing gear sprue also includes separate arresting hook and the 7.7 mm machine gun bodies complete with charging handles.
And as for the cockpit, it's all there. Stick, foot pedals, throttle, radio, landing gear control... I've seen fairly recent 1/32 kits with less parts and detail. If ever there was a time when covering up a detailed cockpit was a shame (it always is), this is it.
The decals are some of the best I've seen, after market included. They're in perfect registry, have very little carrier and seem to be of the right thickness. Markings included are for Saburo Sakai's V-103 aircraft (of course!), Tetsuzo Iwamoto's EII-I02 based on the Zuikaku, and a plane from the 263rd Squadron
December 2007 brings us the lifting body and control assemblies along with the canopy and fuel tank. The wings are beautifully done with separate flaps and ailerons (!), wing cannon ports (two kinds) and under wing cannon access panels (two kinds). Once again, two sided detail is the order of the day. The A6M2 Type 21's most distinguishing feature, folding wing tips are also here. The flaps and ailerons are so delicate and thin, that light shines through them.
The canopy is offered with a choice of one piece closed or three piece open. With the level of detail in the cockpit, the three piece option is most welcome. The canopy sprue also includes wing tip lights and the targeting sight.
The stabilizers are thankfully one piece with no worries of sandwiching two halves together. The landing gear doors are on the same sprue, and like the flaps and ailerons are thin enough to see light through.
The instructions come in two parts split between the Model Graphix magazines. This pays off in the fact that with the extra room and color the magazines afford, not only do you get assembly instructions, you also get tips on detailing, painting, and even decal placement (in fact an entire page alone on decals). There are also color photos of the finished model and black and white and color reference photos of the real plane. Rarely have "instructions" been so robust! Flipping through the pages is very exciting when you see just what can be done with this kit!
Fine Molds markets this kit as the "Ultimate Zero" in 1/72 and based on first impressions, they're not making that boast idly. The level of detail, amount of parts, quality of molding, and excellent decals make this kit not only one of the best (if not THE best) 1/72 kits around, but even superior to many 1/48 and 1/32 kits.
Still, this kit is only available as long as copies of the pertinent Model Graphix issues last, so if you want one, get cracking! As always, Scott Hards' Hobby Link Japan is the place to go for great things. They offer a combo set that contains both issues and model for 2,600 yen (plus shipping). The set can be found here:
While the limited nature of this kit doesn't mean everyone will get a copy, that's also a good thing as ownership gives you some exclusive bragging rights in 1/72 aircraft! Good luck!