by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
I must admit that I'd never even heard of the Japanese Yukikaze anime series, based upon a science fiction novel of the same name, until I chanced upon a section of Platz's website that I'd not previously visited. Tracking down some clips on You-Tube, it's easy to see why the animation has won a number of international awards - the aerial sequences are really superb - and although it's never been aired on TV in the UK (as far as I know), I'm pleased to see that English language DVD imports are available, so I'm very tempted to get them.
BackgroundFor more than thirty years, a secret war has exploded at an inter-dimensional portal in Antarctica. Alien troops created the portal in an attempt to invade Earth, but Earth unified and developed a secret, elite, military force to stop the invasion. The highly advanced fighter Yukikaze contains a sentient computer system that, along with Rei Fukai, member of the Special Air Force and pilot of the Yukikaze, provides the best hope of winning the war. (source: Amazon)
The kitPlatz have produced a range of 1:72 mixed media kits of some of the futuristic aircraft featured in the series, officially licenced from Bandai Visual, including the FRX-00 Mave reviewed here.
The first surprise is the box! The brown corrugated cardboard package is large and built like a battleship! A clear window gives a glimpse of the kit lurking inside, and it's apparent from the start that this is something rather special. Lifting the lid reveals another cardboard tray with shaped recesses to protect the main castings, and below that is a further layer with bags of the smaller resin parts and white metal accessories. Finally, underneath that tray, at the bottom of the box are the instructions and decals. For anyone used to the flimsy boxes that resin kits all too often arrive in, Platz's approach is a dream come true, although environmentalists might not appreciate it. However, the box is too good to throw away - it's so tough, I'll use it for storage, so it certainly won't be wasted.
The kit is basically a very simple one thanks to some clever casting, consisting of:
25 x dark grey resin parts
1 x mixed solid/clear cockpit module
9 x white metal parts
Decals for one colour scheme
Almost all the parts are ready-separated from their casting blocks and need little preparation before assembly, with just small stubs here and there to clean off. Underwing racks etc. are supplied on a thin wafer of resin. The casting is exceptionally good throughout - just about as good as I've come across from any of the "big name" producers whose more conventional aircraft kits I have.
There are no bubbles in the sample kit and surface flaws seem to be virtually non-existent. The parts have a satin finish with finely engraved panel details.
The body of the FRX-00 is a very impressive casting, produced in a multi-section mould. Just one piece combines the nose, "cockpit cradle", engines and wing stubs. There are two areas where light mould-lines need to be cleaned up, but it's basically ready to use straight from the box.
"Cockpit cradle"? Yes, one of the strangest things about the design is the separate crew pod that slides back for access. In flight it snuggles down in a shaped cavity in the fuselage. The kit's cockpit pod is unlike anything I've ever seen in a model, cast in two different resins. A conventional dark grey "tub" is embedded in clear dark-tinted resin for the canopy, rather like an insect trapped in amber. It works well, and is certainly eye-catching - the only downside is that you obviously can't paint or detail the cockpit.
The model can be assembled in flight-mode or with its wheels down, and backing up the resin parts is a small set of high quality white metal components for the landing gear. This is probably just as well because, despite being 1:72, the fuselage is fairly heavy and will benefit from the extra strength of the metal gear legs to support it. The casting is again excellent and the parts will need little clean-up prior to use.
A test fit of the main parts is simplicity itself. The cockpit pod pops into the cradle neatly, the engine petals fit their recesses perfectly, and optional parts are provided to allow the wings to be folded The latter mode entails a small amount of trimming to fit them.
Instructions and decalsThe assembly guide covers four pages and is entirely in Japanese. Apart from not being able to read the description of the "real life" FRX-00, in terms of actually building the kit this doesn't present a problem even if you can't understand the text. A minute or two spent studying the diagrams makes it perfectly clear which parts are optional and where parts need modifying for use. Construction covers just 3 stages and with so few parts, each clearly numbered, you can't go too far wrong.
The painting guide quotes Mr Color acrylics, but you should be able to find suitable alternatives easily enough if you can't obtain them locally. There's only one scheme but, nevertheless, quite a large decal sheet is absolutely jam-packed with items. For once, Platz haven't followed their habit of providing multiple markings on a large area of carrier film, and there's well over a hundred servicing stencils alone, so this really will be a case of applying the decals over several sessions and ticking off each item as you go.
The decals themselves are beautifully custom-printed by Cartograf, and are thin and glossy, with perfect registration. What minimal carrier film there is looks crystal clear.
ConclusionPlatz's FRX-00 is a quite exceptional resin kit, from the packaging, through to the design and superb casting. It promises to be simple enough to be suitable for modellers with little or no previous experience of resin kits, but hand-cast models of this quality never come cheap, so it's definitely not something to be thrown together casually! It's likely to become a collector's item among sci-fi and anime aficionados that will change hands for much more than its m.r.p. in years to come, but I hope that doesn't mean the majority of the kits stay wrapped in their boxes - above all, it's a superb model that just begs to be built. If ever there was a kit that would tempt me away from my usual diet of real-world aircraft, this is it! Highly recommended.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.