Fine Molds 1/72 Ki-61 'Hein'

KIT #: FP 25
PRICE: €22,95 but it was marked 50% off at
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Jeroen Koen


The Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (飛燕, roughly "flying swallow") was a Japanese World War II fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. The first encounter reports claimed Ki-61s were Messerschmitt Bf 109s: further reports claimed that the new aircraft was an Italian design, which led to the Allied reporting name of "Tony", assigned by the United States War Department. The Japanese Army designation was "Army Type 3 Fighter" (三式戦闘機). It was the only mass-produced Japanese fighter of the war to use a liquid-cooled inline V engine. Over 2.500 Ki-61s were produced, first seeing action around New Guinea in 1943, and continuing to fly combat missions throughout the war.


Everyone must have had this once in a while... a webshop is having a 50% off sale, and you need just a few small things to get the most out of your shipping costs. I'd already browsed through most of the site without finding something nice enough to order along, until I looked at FineMolds, whose name I'd heard, but had never built a kit from. So I ordered not only the Ki-61, but also an Bf109F-4, it along the rest. 

When the lot arrived, I opened up the Ki-61 last. What greeted me wasn't bad, not bad at all! Three sprues, one of which is clear, a nicely printed sheet of decals for 2 versions, one from the 39th Training Wing in green over natural metal, the other is from the 18th Sentai and this is in overall natural metal -both have the black anti-glare panel and yellowish ID-marks on the wings. A nice touch is the inclusion of a pair of nice brass barrels for the MG151/20's that the “Hei” carried.

It has recessed panel lines, and the overall appearance is quite similar to Hasegawa, though it's an entirely different kit. Both engraving and raised ridges to represent overlapping panels are a bit more heavy handed than one would get on a modern Hasegawa kit, though. Other than 2 sink holes opposite to the raised detailing in the cockpit, the molding looks good. The cockpit is nicely detailed for 1/72, lacking only seatbelts. It's all the more unfortunate that the canopy can't be posed open.  The only options you get are the drop tanks and their pylons, and a part to show off an representation of the engine and cowl guns. Phosphorous anti-bomber bomb dispensers are also included, but marked not for use in this version.

The decals are those typical Japanese ones that look well-printed, but have a thick carrier film, and somewhat ivory whites, though not as bad as on some Hasegawa sheets. The decals include the tail band for the 18th Sentai option and yellow wing leading edge ID marks for both, as well as a whole lot of stencils.

Instructions are pictorial, thankfully, as, except for the colour call-outs, everything else is in Japanese!


 When building my usual ready-to-be-hacked-away-at kits I start with the most difficult part first. As this was to be an out of the box build, including decals, I started by airbrushing the interior parts, gear wells, and gear door insides in Xtracolor RLM79 as indicated by the instructions and a few reviews I could find on the web. The interior was assembled as indicated without problems; after trimming the clear film edges off the instrument panel decal that fitted well, too. I made some tape seatbelts, gave it a dark brown wash, light brown dry-brush and dinged it here and there.

Then I glued the fuselage halves together. Fit was generally quite good, though there was a small step at the bottom seam, a bit of sanding and filling took care of that.. I then glued the gunsight in and put the canopy on -I had to sand a bit off the bottom of the clear part as it would sit too high. Then the vertical tails were installed and left to dry. In the meanwhile I cleaned up the remaining small parts and glued the wings together -a dryfit indicated there would  be a gap at the wing root. I also had to sand the mating surfaces down on all sides to make both the upper wing root, and the lower insert sit flush with the fuselage. This was then glued in place and the gap on the top stuffed with Evergreen and a touch of filler made sure nothing would be seen later.

When that had all dried I added the top cowl part; there is a choice for an insert so you can leave it off and see an sort-of engine and cowl guns. Even before assembly started I decided it would spoil the lines of this sleek fighter, so I closed it up. This also required some sanding to blend it in. I then masked the wheel wells and cockpit (fun!), primed the airframe, did a bit of sanding here and there, and re-scribed all lost panel lines. I also bought a Verlinden scribing template and used  that for the first time to re-scribe the fuel and oil filler hatches aft of the cockpit.


Initially I'd wanted to do the box-art aircraft as that had a nice looking bird-like design on the tail. However, I tried one of the red decals I would not use on an old  dark green model and found them really translucent. So I went with the other, overall NMF, option. After re-priming the sanded areas I painted the fabric rudder, elevators and ailerons Tamiya JAAF grey and faded that with some base colour lightened with flesh. I masked those off and used the lightened mixture to undercoat the yellow ID edges. After these dried I added some red to my Humbrol Signal Yellow and painted these -2 times, because the leading edge seam wasn't really properly sanded.

I then painted the whole airframe Humbrol Panzergrau and masked off the anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit. I then shot the entire airframe in Humbrol Silver #11. Note to self: do not use a flat undercoat for these kind of finishes... Though it wasn't entirely the way I liked, I deemed it good enough to continue. After a few weeks of modelling inactivity I brush painted the Dutch equivalent of Future on, only to discover it would actually “streak” the underlying paint -curiously this did not happen on my test model. (I always spray an old test model with the paints I use on the final product to test things like this) What to do now... I didn't really feel like stripping it, so I continued with the decals. Another small disaster... the tail band didn't fit, and the rest are really thick, prone to silvering despite the gloss-coat, and don't respond to any setting solution at all. To prevent the silvering I first put a dab of Future on, and place the decal on that, and firmly press them on. The Future shrinks a  bit when it dries so pulls the decal into most recesses -this even works on Roden decals, but the FineMold decals wrinkled and would only stay that way....

 I carefully sliced and pried the wrinkles and added more Future, this somewhat solved the problem, but the wrinkles are still there on a few of them... Not wanting to try to match a decal colour for the tail band, I used that, too, only to find it doesn't fit at all and I was left with bare patches everywhere and eventually ended up mixing paint anyway to touch the roundels and band up...

 As the 18th Sentai was based in Japan at this time I didn't really bang-up the aircraft, other then a few dings on the cowling anti-glare panel, wing roots and leading edges, and walkways.

 Future was brushed overall again and I added a light wash of black and brown to the panel lines. After everything was dry I flat-coated the model with Xtracolor flat with a bit of Sand mixed in for some fading. I think that looked pretty good and also had the fortunate effect of reducing the streaks caused by the Future!


 As I had cleaned up and pre-painted most of the small parts, it was just a matter of assembling them. The fit of the landing gear is not entirely positive, but with a ruler and the small diagram included in the instructions it's perfectly do-able. After it could stand on it's own I added the gear doors, accidentally putting the large gear doors on tape to give them a wash -then tearing off the large number decal... I simply could not be bothered anymore after the decal disasters that lay behind me, so I left that as is. A few small parts like the radiator flap, gear doors, landing light (curiously, there are no clear parts for the wing tip lights), 20mm guns, and antennae were added. Finally I made some exhaust stains using pastel dust.

I took a beer, still quite enjoyed it despite all the setbacks and imperfections, took some pictures, and I called her done!

 Unfortunately, when looking at the pictures, I noticed the walkway decals on the gun access panels and flaps have silvered badly... this only showed after the flat-coat!


 While the kit itself is not entirely shake and bake, with a bit of dry-fitting and sanding it's a very nice and relaxing build. It's also quite nicely detailed, and certainly one that deserves better decals than those included!

Most of the goofs in this build were mine, and had I stripped the model, re-applied the paint and used aftermarket decals the result could have been a lot better. For a 23€ model, some better decals should have been included -even an 8€ Revell or Italeri Corsair has proper decals?

 I look forward to building the FineMolds Bf109, but have already gotten some nice aftermarket decals for that kit!


Jeroen Koen

April 2011

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