Tamiya 1/72 N1K1-Ja Shiden




$15.00 MSRP


Four aircraft


Scott Van Aken




For a look at what's in the box and a brief history of the type, visit the preview.



As with most kits, this one starts with the interior. All of the parts that are to be painted the same color were glued together, though I did keep the instrument panel piece separate to make it easier to apply the decal. The interior parts and the inner fuselage walls were painted in a green color. I initially used RAF interior green, but it looked too light so I misted over some USMC dark green to the shade I liked. With the Shiden having been built by several companies, there was no set standard interior color on this aircraft. With no extant relics of the early George available (at least that I know of), whatever you feel is the best color will do.

With the cockpit painted, some of the smaller items were picked out in black, and a couple of shades of dark brown as recommended in the instructions. The instrument panel was painted a dark grey instead of black so that the black decals would show up. The fuselage halves were then glued together while the rest of the paint dried. Upon completion of that, the interior was slotted in from the underside and the lower wing was attached. It is imperative that you get this part to line up well, and the use of a 'hot' liquid cement will assure you of this.

Now that the wings were attached, I could install the horizontal stabilizers. These fit quite well. So far, this has been a nearly filler free kit with only a tiny bit used on the fuselage. While all of that was drying, the drop tanks was glued together and sanded smooth. Then the gun gondolas were glued onto the lower wing. The barrels will be added after decaling is complete to prevent any accidental breakage. The tail wheel was slotted in place and the canopy attached after the DF loop antenna was painted and glued in place. The canopy was masked in preparation for painting.

Turning to the front of the aircraft, the cowl flaps were glued to the cowling and the inside painted flat black as recommended by the instructions. Then the exhaust stack panel was press fit. These exhaust bits are very thin and quite fragile so be careful. With the exhaust panel in place, the cowling was tacked on  and stuffed with tissue. Finally, the fuselage antenna was glued in place and it was time to start adding paint.


Georges were all painted dark green upper surfaces with light grey lower surfaces. That being the case, I hunted up some IJN light grey (actually Nakajima light grey, but who can tell), and sprayed that on. It is part of the Aeromaster line, but unlike many other colors, the Japanese colors seemed to only be in acrylics. Once the lower light grey had dried, much masking was done and the upper surface of Kawanishi Navy Green was sprayed on. Unlike the box art, I masked the colors. In 1/72, this tends to look better (at least to me) than free-hand painting. Much to my dismay, a bit of the upper green came away on the tape during the second go around. I left it alone for the time being. An idea was forming in my head regarding that section for later.


With a painted airframe, it was time to look at adding more parts. First off, the oil cooler was glued onto the lower fuselage. I left this off for the initial painting as it just got in the way. I also drilled out the openings as it just didn't look right otherwise. The wheel wells were brush painted aluminum  and this turned up one area of the kit that really doesn't sit well with me. Ejector pin marks. Not only do the wheel wells have rather prominent ones that are near impossible to remove, but they are also present on the insides of the landing gear doors and on the main landing gear themselves. It is completely at odds with the super engineering of the rest of the kit. Sure, the gear doors and the landing gear can be filled and sanded, but they shouldn't have to be. There is no real cure for the roof of the wheel well other than an insert of some sort.

The landing gear and inside of the doors was painted aluminum with the lower section of the landing gear painted black. The gear was then assembled. Including the wheels and gear doors, there are 7 parts to each side; easily the most fiddly construct of the kit. The engine was then painted flat black with a blue-grey crankcase. The instructions state the crankcase should be light blue, but it just didn't look right, hence the blue grey. This area was then drybrushed with aluminum. The prop assembly is three parts; a prop, the backing and the spinner. The prop was painted  a brown primer color with an aluminum hub while the backing and spinner were done in Kawanishi Navy Green. The prop was then glued to the backing and the spinner pressed on. It is a very tight fit. These last two sub assemblies along with the gun barrels and pitot tube were set aside until the very end.


Aftermarket decals for the 1/72 N1K1-Ja are basically non-existent. This means Tamiya decals or nothing. I was rather hesitant about using them as my track record with Tamiya decals is spotty to say the least. With no real choice, I started with the yellow wing leading edge bands. This area is pretty straight and I'd thought about painting them on, but figured the decals may actually work. Well, much to my delight, I had little trouble with the decals. The ones on the tail and the wing walk area ones silvered rather badly, but once fully dry, a touch of Champ setting solution took care of it. I was pretty psyched about not having a decaling disaster after using the Champ. Not sure why it worked this time, but I won't complain. I used the markings for the box art plane from the Tsukuba fighter group. With the decals on and completely dry, the model was wiped with a moist rag to remove any decal glue residue.


Now that the decals were on nice and tight, I decided to try some rather unusual weathering. Most of these late war aircraft seemed to get rather ratty-looking in a big hurry. What I did was to take some SnJ buffing compound and apply it to various areas of the plane. I used Microbrushes and toothpicks to apply the powder. I'm not really sure if I like the effect or not. Perhaps it would have been better to paint the plane aluminum and then pick off the paint. In order to salvage something from it, I used a silver pencil to give some of the edges more definition. It seemed to help, but I obviously need to do more work in this area. Anyway, it is done and there is no turning back.

The aircraft was then sprayed with a clear matte to seal it all in.  A bit more painting was done in terms of formation lights, the masking taken off the canopy, the guns installed and some pastel exhaust stains added. I didn't rig the radio antenna as I wasn't sure if it was a long wire or not. VHF sets usually don't need the long wire and are just run up inside the antenna mast.


Despite the ejector pin deal, this is a very nice kit. It surely beats the Aoshima and the MPM versions though it more expensive than either. For me, this was a pretty quick build, taking about a week and a week in which I was unable to work on the kit for several days. It is one that I can recommend to just about all skill levels.

March 2002

Review kit courtesy of my kit collection.

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