by: Matthew Robeson [ ]
The Japanese Zero is one of the best known planes in history, so I won't delve too far into the long history of the aircraft. What I will cover is what makes the A6M3 different from the others. The A6M3 was the first aircraft to debut the new Sakae 21 engine with the twin-stage supercharger for better performance at altitude and increased power. The airframe was also made longer behind the cockpit, and the engine was shifted back in order to maintain the centre of gravity.
The biggest and most apparent change was the deletion of the Type 21s folding wingtips, and squaring off the wingtips. The handling changes were very quickly apparent, as the roll rate instantly went up, and the planes became more capable in combat. The subtly redesigned wing also made it so that the plane could carry 100 rounds of 20mm ammo in each wing. The Model 32 was not in service very long, serving from mid-1942 until being replaced in 1943 by the Model 22, which was a transitional model between the 32 and the A6M5 Model 52.
Any time that Tamiya introduces a new kit; it's always a cause for celebration in the model community. It's always just known that it will be a jewel of model-making, and this one is no exception. The box-art on the cover isn't going to blow anyone away, but it is good and sets the stage for the quality underneath.
Cracking open the box, you're presented with just a few sprues of mid-grey plastic, one clear sprue, and a one piece cowling. Since I'm usually a large scale builder, the small size of the plane was instantly apparent, but the molding is all great. The large sprue in the bag is completely new, since it carries the new fuselage and wing sprues specific to the Model 32. The smaller sprue containing the cockpit and landing gear parts remain the same, as they are carried over from the A6M2 kit.
Looking at the detail, the cockpit is very well appointed, and comes with decal seatbelts which should look fine in this scale. There is also a decal applied to the instrument panel, which should fit in nicely when sunk down with setting solutions. The seat has lightening holes molded in, but can be drilled out to a more convincing look. There are some interesting inserts on both the wings and fuselage that I'm not 100% sure about, but should fit in fine given Tamiya's engineering. The wing panels that are glued in are just simple flat panels, seems like they could have just been molded in place.
Working through the other sprue, the cockpit and engine detail really is top-notch. The engine should pop out well with some very careful painting and washing, same with the cockpit. Break out the tiny brushes for this cockpit.
The one-piece engine cowling is a very nice touch in this kit, so that there are no seam lines to deal with. There is an attachment point on the bottom which will need to be removed and cleaned up before being painted, should be easy with no loss of detail.
Paint instructions are all given with Tamiya call-outs, which is pretty standard fare. The kit decal sheet includes three options, two in overall grey, and one in green and grey paint schemes. I'm drawn to the box-top scheme, but luckily there should be enough options to keep everyone happy. There is also a small correction sheet at the bottom of the box since a few parts are mislabelled in the instructions. Make sure to check that out before applying glue, so as to not put the wrong parts on your kit.
Overall, this is a great new kit from Tamiya, as all of their kits are should also be a very simple build. If you've been going through a drought of modellerís block, these Tamiya Zero kits seem like they'd be great ones to get something completed well.
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