Hasegawa 1/48 Ki-61-I Hei Hien (Tony)

KIT #:

9087 (Jt87)




Two options


Andrew Garcia


Eduard Zoom FE315



 The Ki-61 Hien “Tony” was the only mass produced fighter used by the Japanese during WWII which used an inline engine. For more a more detailed history of the Ki-61 series, see previous build articles in the Modeling Madness Review Archives.


 Hasegawa’s announcement of a new mold 1/48 Ki-61 Hien (Tony) in late 2004 was eagerly anticipated by Hasegawa WWII Japanese aircraft subject Fans.  Many folks wondered if it would improve much over the nice Otaki/Arii kit. Yes, it is a clearly better kit and the cockpit for example is the major improvement. Also, Hasegawa has correctly addressed the two different Ki-61 fuselage lengths with dedicated moulds which Otaki/Arii did not.

 There are about fourteen (14) Ki-61 releases from Hasegawa since the initial January 2005 release. I had thought the releases were just minor decal changes since the Ki-61, with my limited knowledge, looked the same in all the photo references I had. I wish for example Squadron Books In Action and other English language modelers books would come out with some reference books on Japanese aviation subjects. How about a Koku-Fan Famous Airplanes of the World No. 17 (7-1989) Army Type 3 Fighter Hien English translation at a minimum?  While reading and browsing the web trying to understand the Ki-61 variants and their Hasegawa re-boxing I noticed Hasegawa released the two different fuselage versions - a long fuselage version (8.94 meters long) and a short fuselage (8.74 meters) version. Based on my limited knowledge, and since it is not easy to read the Hasegawa box art description and confirm which fuselage version I am getting in the box I stalled my building effort in order to sort this one out. When you buy aftermarket decals they are not clear (to me) which fuselage is appropriate. Sometimes the more you know the harder it is to model.

However, the Modeling Madness, Tony Hodun Hasegawa kit tables, cracked the code. Look at the fuselage parts table and you will see the two sizes using separately coded sprues called out as the “longer” or “shorter” fuselage. This is a big problem for builders who care about accuracy because I have not found aftermarket decal makers explaining or mapping into this difference. For example, I have a nice Superscale decal sheet, 48-511 which has a marking that I am not sure which fuselage should be used to get the correct end result. The drawings are not accurate; they are just for decal placement purposes. One of the versions is found in the Hasegawa Kit # 9112 release, so maybe all three on 48-511 are for the long fuselage version (?). You are now back to finding a picture of the aircraft, hoping it is from the correct angle to permit a guess as to which fuselage to use.

 I had also read a web thread about a 9.16 meter length for the Ki-61-I with its Ha-140 engine which also had some outline changes to the canopy, tail, rudder, etc but it is usually called out in references as the Ki-61-II and it is not part of the Hasegawa releases so far – I think! Sometimes more knowledge is not better and can lead to avoiding building something until you have better information.

 There are wing armament variations as well within the fuselage lengths so be careful when you build matching your decals to the correct fuselage. A few German MG-151 (20mm cannons) were imported from Germany via U-boat for testing in several Japanese airplanes. They were evaluated and used after a brief study of its technical details. The German-Italian-Japanese technology transfer contract was called "Achse-Vertrag" in Germany. The armament changes can be seen in Japanese magazines such as Model Art, and in Polish magazines (such as Miniature Lotniczy) and on the box covers of Japanese short run resin kits in 1/48 scale from "The Right Stuff" aka the "TC-Berg or Toy Craft Berg" company. They have produced a resin Ki-61 HIEN in the "-Hei " and in the (lengthened nosed) "-Tei" model which have been long out of production.

 The Ho-5 engine was installed in the "Tei" nose! The "-Tei" version (i.e. long fuselage) only and always had the cannons in its fuselage. This is the reason why its overall length was increased.

 One surprising flaw in the Hasegawa Ki-61 kit is the lack of intake grills for the air intake. You need to add a scratch made grill which can be worked up from  stretched-sprue or Evergreen plastic strips to the engine air intakes – Part A4. The intake is just an open square box whereas the actual aircraft has four blades (see Model Art # 263 page 31 and Model Art Profile Kawasaki Ki61 Hien No. 733 page 80). The same part number is used for the short and long fuselage versions in all the Hasegawa kits. Some texts indicate a difference in size of the intakes such as one stating, “The air intake was modified in outline and position because of the new engine design. The engine cowl or cover has a rounder outline for better streamlining.” I have not been able to conclusively affirm this is reflected in the two fuselage variations moulded by Hasegawa. I always defer to Hasegawa because their research is usually very reliable. Surprisingly, the easy fix for the missing intake grill could have been found on the Eduard etched sets for the Ki-61 – but so far Eduard missed this correction. I hope they address this in the future.

 As Scott and others have pointed out in the past the kit has a one piece cockpit canopy. If you want to look inside, it is easier with an opened three piece cockpit. Although I have the True Details vac-form which was originally issued for the Otaki/Arii kit, it is easier to affix the plastic kit canopy, so I cut it open the clear kit parts with a thin razor saw. It looks OK but not perfect. The sit of the open canopy is not perfect for the sliding canopy portion, but it works for me for this build. I don’t think it would pass muster with the contest cops. The vac-form could help if this is a concern for you and you wish an open canopy that properly sits on its canopy rail.

 Part A13, which is a small flap at the top of the landing gear, is very hard to install since there is insufficient room at the top of the landing gear cover (part C2/C3). This part comes on the Eduard etched set so you do have a nice but hard to glue alternative with better scale thickness permitting a better look than the plastic.

 While the kit instrument panel with the kit supplied decal looks nice, the Eduard Zoom pre-painted etched panel looks much better. I was especially pleased with this after the kit was completed. I built two Hasegawa Ki-61’s at the same time one with Eduard and one without. Overall I feel it is one of the best components and really enhanced the kit. I sparingly used gorilla glue to attach all the Eduard instrument parts. Gorilla glue does expand and bubble up but it is very strong improving on the occasional strength failure and tendency to wander and leave vapor burns that plague using cyano glues. I am a big fan of using the Hasegawa decal instrument panel with some setting solution like Microscale Sol but the Eduard etched was definitely an improvement. The only trouble I usually have with Eduard sets is attaching the small “T” handles.

 There is a very bad transition from the fuselage parts to the lower wing parts which is very visible at the trailing edge, of the bottom wing section. I thought this was my failure to properly align the part on the first one I built. The same thing occurred on the second build and since I was looking out for this in the second build I think it is a mould or pattern maker mistake. Obviously the bottom wing to fuselage join should not have the big step. The connection should be aerodynamically smooth and it is not. I tried to smooth this out with putty on the first build but it is a very large step and the end result was not good. It should be part of the plastic. I love Hasegawa kits but this omission appears in many of their kits – that is, the lower wing to fuselage join “just doesn’t” on an otherwise flawless moulding.

 I found the kit rear landing wheel part to be very delicate. It broke on both my builds (and on my Ki-44 too). I am a generally careful modeler so I would say it takes some special care in handling so be forewarned.

 The small secondary landing gear doors (parts B2/B3) that have a brace (parts A15/A16) which I found difficult to assemble. I can only say be careful with this part of your assembly. I think the fit and contact of the parts could have been better engineered for ease of assembly.

 The kit decals are nice but too glossy. However, I used Future Floor Wax as the softening agent because they were the older, thicker Hasegawa decals. Although I prefer to use the Microscale Sol/Set approach, I have found Future to work well with older thick Hasegawa and Tamiya kit decals. I also use very hot water when working with Hasegawa decals and they release faster and conform better with this modeling tip. Future seems to help the decals adhere and snuggle down into panel lines. This approach also introduces the potential for glossy decals when you need flat coats. For aftermarket decals that are thin, the Microscale decal setting agents work better permitting ease of placement. Since Future floor wax is sticky and you may not be able to move decals after you apply them using Future.

 I can’t say enough about the need to be sure of the model (variant) of the Ki-61  you are building because of the two different fuselage lengths. They are not clearly called out by Hasegawa in the box art or kit name. Possibly this is not a problem if you can read Japanese. The changes are always noted in the aircraft assembly instructions introduction, which is in the initial part of the kit assembly instructions, because the length is given (8.94 meters “long” or 8.74 meters  “short”) but not really explained or included in the box art name.

  Another easy way to see which version you have is to check the location of the exhaust to the leading edge of the wing. You will notice the short version lining up with the wing leading edge and the long version having a slight distance from the end of the exhausts to the leading edge of the wing.

  Also, you do have to look at the related selection and position of the armament (both wing and fuselage!!!) before you model one of them. But, until you have the exposed plastic part in hand how do you know what’s in the box? Find out the fuselage tree codes using the Modeling Madness charts! Now, if only the aftermarket decal types would improve their recommendations with explicit Ki-61 fuselage type information, but for now let’s get back to the build.

 Overall fit is very good, with a low parts count making for a simple assembly process. Like all the new Hasegawa kits released in the past 15 years, surface detail is refined and panel lines are perfectly scribed in a petit to scale manner giving a terrific impression in the box and after the kit has been assembled.

 The cockpit plastic is very nice and there is no obvious need for a resin replacement – especially when you use the kit supplied one-piece closed canopy. If you do want to improve the cockpit area the first alternative I suggest is an Eduard color etched Zoom (FE315) which does a lot and is a very nice addition. I have the Aires resin cockpit (Aires #4017) and it looks very nice. I am saving it for a future build once I get a definitive handle on the areas requiring care during construction so I don’t waste my time and money by “putting lipstick on the pig”. Not that this kit without aftermarket is a pig in any way, it is just an endearing term used to describe enhancements to a kit build which has assembly errors or faults that cannot not be overcome with some fancy aftermarket add-on. 


 Because I intend to build several examples of the Ki-61 I decided to build a set of reference models with minimal aftermarket and enhancements. I built two kits, one with the long fuselage and one short fuselage version and did not worry about some mistakes hoping to avoid them on future builds. I was looking for some discount priced kits so I kept an eye on eBay for some Ki-61’s. I had the misfortune of dealing with an eBay seller who sells kits along with buyer beware notices in the kit listing. After reading his explanation I went ahead and won the auction (due to a lack of other bidders?!) only to find some major components missing and some parts glued together that I wished he had not done so poorly.

 Yes, it was a bad buy but the hassle and cost of a return prevented me from sending it back. He won’t ever see any more business from me. After initially blasting him on the seller evaluation, I spoke with him and took pity on his circumstances since he claimed he was a disabled retiree in Florida. At that time I was only aware and disappointed with the decals. They were useless because he obviously stored them in a very hot and humid location ruining the decals (they were glued to the box) and not disclosing this. After a chat he gave me a small shipment credit. That was before I found there were missing plastic parts, like one of the cockpit sidewalls, and I just wrote the guy off any future eBay buys. I then put some scratch building to work to remediate the loss. Caveat emptor.

Back to the build - with the small parts count it is a fast build. Just follow the instructions. I did not add the intake grill to this kit (i.e. to part A4) but did to the Hasegawa # 9112 version using stretched sprue. I was building kit # 9112 simultaneously and wanted to see if it was a notable change worth doing. Again, I wish this grill was part of the Eduard etched parts instead of some other etched components that I elected not to use. The Eduard instrument panel was attached to the plastic kit panel after its plastic surface detail was removed. I glued the Eduard parts using gorilla glue which requires a very small quantity to be effective. This glues bubbles up so use it sparingly.

I found the wing tanks to be a difficult attachment process unless done before painting the wing. My recommended solution after building two of the Hasegawa Ki-61’s is if you are going to attach the wing tanks to attach the rack using plastic glue without the tank. I suggest painting the drop tank and attaching the tanks after all other painting and finishing is complete.


 The cockpit of the Ki-61 is an unusual color. When I see one painted in zinc chromate green or Japanese blue-green I now know it looks wrong. The perfect cockpit color match is Gunze Aqueous H79 RLM Sandy Yellow/Dark Yellow semi-gloss which I used. Although the new Mr. Color replacement paints, available in the U.S. are solvent based, and are very nice, I really miss the aqueous line. I found I could get perfect results with Aqueous, and using Simple Green (SG) cleaner I could restore the airbrush parts to like new condition with water & SG. I found Simple Green when used on Gunze Aqueous was a miracle cleaner removing all pigment from air brushes, etc. Also, the thinner I used with Gunze Aqueous, a hardware store Shellac thinner, which is essentially high-grade wood alcohol, worked perfectly. This gave me a low cost and effective thinner for Gunze Aqueous to provide more money for buying kits!

 Getting the cockpit color right was another learning experience. There are some color drawings of Ki-61 cockpits which appear to use zinc chromate green, such as page 48 in the Osprey Duel # 26 book. Based on Hasegawa’s instructions, Scott Van Aken’s previous Hasegawa Ki-61 build article, and Japanese language references confirming Kawasaki’s paint colors the sandy yellow was used. 

 For the overall fuselage finish I used Alclad Duraluminum and Polished Aluminum. It was easy to use and the results good with a fast drying time and no masking pull-up losses. I think with more NMF practice I can improve my use of Alclad. I normally don’t prime my models, but I will in a future build to see first-hand the changed metallic finish obtained when you use Alclad over an enamel base. As Scott has indicated, a gloss black primer, is usually used with Alclad when you want a high shine surface. I used Aves Apoxie sculpt to fill in any gaps such as the wing to fuselage join but I try to use water and my wet finger tip for most of the gap repairs when I use Apoxie to avoid sanding away surface details. It is also faster and easier to dip your finger or a metal sculpting tool in water and avoid sanding.

I used a brush and two step process for painting the exhaust pipes. I brushed on Metalizer Dark Iron non-buffing. When it was dry I used some thinned Pactra IP96 Rust enamel as a wash.

Tamiya acrylics in a yellow with a few drops of red added to the mixture were used for the IFF yellow-orange wing edges. Tamiya flat black for the engine cowl and XF-14 J.A. Grey for the movable wing and tail surfaces finished the other parts colors.

Some clear sewing thread was used for the antenna wires which were then painted flat black and attached using gorilla glue.

The stencils came from the kit decals as well. My Japanese friends might find some placed upside down so if you find any like this sorry about that oversight.

Weathering and Final Coat – none due to the NMF finish. I have tried using Future on some NMF “coats” and the loss of NMF luster is not what I wanted. I have stopped this practice on natural metal finishes for the most part unless I want or need a flat aluminum finish. Although it helps hiding decal clear coats unless I want a very flat finish I usually don’t apply any top coat to a NMF paint.

Aside from the engine area, I did minimal weathering of the airframe keeping it to using Tamiya chalk and weathering sets. I did not spray on a gloss coat to seal in all the decals instead using the Future coat used during the initial application to seal all of the decals.


I try to set the kit aside for a day or two then come back with a critical “contest eye”. This is a fast part for me. I always write up a “finishing steps notes” which is a written document to help complete the final construction. I also keep this handy since while fishing the kit I sometimes see or notice something overlooked during the final steps. After making some mistakes in the past I now keep this document handy for some handwritten additions that I spot while working the final steps. I list the final detail colors and under each color linked to the specific part with its painting and assembly step. For example, under “silver” I noted “add a landing light using a round bead and paint the bead silver. After gluing, paint on its tip a small gloss white dot.” For Flat Black the final steps are touch ups to: Tires – main and rear, gunsight, landing gear oleo rubber boots, antennae wire, anti-glare panel, and drop tank plumbing pipes.

 Final construction is usually paint touch-up oriented so I get the flat black items all at one stroke rather than doing it in multiple steps. Although I did not do it here I will in future builds of the Ki-61 Hien kit attach the drop tanks in the final steps. The clear parts including the landing gear light cover on the wing were added using Testors 8876C white glue. I use this because of its long, tapered black plastic applicator that allows small amounts of glue to be carefully placed. The radio mast and antennae wire was attached and painted as the last step.


I really enjoyed building the Hasegawa Tony. It is definitely better than the older alternatives. By coming up with the thought that this was a “reference build”, I could overlook some flaws and keep pushing to completion and avoid another almost finished shelf of doom kit. I found I enjoyed the kit much more and obtained more relaxation and enjoyment avoiding the shelf of doom status for the kit as some errors like breaking off the fuselage antenna, drop tanks, rear landing gear (a very delicate and weak part by the way) could have stopped final completion of a most enjoyable kit.


Model Art No. 263 Ki-61 Hien Army Type 3 Fighter

Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien by Richard M. Bueschel, Schiffer Books 1996

P-38 Lightning vs Ki-61 Tony New Guinea 1943-44 by Donald Nijboer, Osprey Duel Series # 26

The Maru Mechanic No. 45 1984/3 Ki-43 and Ki-61

Model Art Profile Kawasaki Ki61 Hien No. 733

Andrew Garcia

November 2012

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