Tamiya 1/72 N1K1-Ja Shiden




$15.00 MSRP


Four aircraft


Scott Van Aken




The N1K1-Ja is probably the only successful land based fighter ever developed from a float plane. In 1941, the Kawanishi designers put forth a proposal for a land based fighter based on the then-currently developing N1K1 'Kyofu' floatplane fighter. The initial idea was to just replace the floats with retractable landing gear. Seems simple. But as often happens with simple ideas, things got rather complex. It was decided to replace the Kyofu's 14-cylinder Kasei radial with a new and more powerful 18-cylinder Homare engine, then being developed. This meant a larger prop. This meant longer landing gear to provide clearance for the prop. This meant a rather complicated landing gear that would telescope out when lowered to provide that clearance.

Despite these obstacles, the land fighter flew a mere 7 months after the float plane. However, the land plane version, dubbed Shiden, had a lot more teething troubles. As you can image, most of these troubles concentrated themselves on the landing gear and the new engine. Once in the air, pilots were quite pleased with the handling of the aircraft and with the heavy weapons (of which 2 of the four 20mm cannon were in pods under the wings).

When one of the four prototypes was handed over to the Navy in early 1943, they were rather critical of the lack of speed, which was some 40 mph slower than expected. However, it was quite maneuverable and faster than the current A6M5. It also was better than several other designs under way. Since the plane showed promise, development was halted on several other projects and work was concentrated on the Shiden. Further modification was made on the aircraft and by the end of 1943, 70 aircraft had been completed and production was getting underway at several other factories.

Eventually, over a thousand N1K1-Ja fighters were completed by war's end. However, the complexity of the landing gear often gave troubles in service, especially as spare parts were generally difficult to come by or totally absent. It seems that the Japanese did not have the availability of spares that most other warring nations had and often resorted to cannibalizing airframes to provide even the most mundane of parts. Because of the Shiden's complexity, a new version, the N1K2-J was developed that was much simpler to construct and was a low versus mid-winged aircraft. But that is another story. Regardless of the version of  Shiden that was encountered, may Allied pilots consider it to be the best Japanese Naval fighter of the war.



It was with much surprise that I spotted this kit on the shelves at the local hobby shop. As you all know by now, Tamiya has undertaken a program of 'shrinking down' its superb 1/48 kits into 1/72 and it was only a matter of time before the Shiden joined those ranks. Typical of the other 72nd scale kits, this one has a simplified construction and has eliminated several features found on the 1/48 kits such as an opening canopy and separate flaps. It is too bad, especially the canopy, as the interior of this kit is very nicely detailed. While you could easily cut the canopy, it just wouldn't look as good as a purposely designed on.

There really are no optional parts with the Shiden. All of the bits used on the tree will be put on the kit. The only bit you might think of as an option would be the drop tank, however there are holes already drilled in the fuselage for it and the plane rarely flew without it. Detailing is fully up to the usual Tamiya standards and this kit doesn't seem to have the somewhat heavy-handed detailing (at least in the opinion of this reviewer) that has been seen on previous kits. There is no flash and those few ejector pin marks will be hidden when the kit is complete.

Instructions are superb and continue to offer only Tamiya paint references for the colors. On a Japanese aircraft that isn't a problem as Tamiya offers a wide range of colors and substitutes can be easily found. It is only where FS or German colors are used where the color situation becomes an annoyance. Decals are for four aircraft. All are painted exactly the same and differ only in regards to tail markings. Markings are provided for a Shiden from the Tsukuba fighter group, Yokosuka fighter group, and two planes from the 341st fighter group (one of which is shown on the box art). Decals are typical of Tamiya in that they are a bit thick, but will undoubtedly work well. Also included on the sheet are the yellow wing leading edge IFF stripes, some stencil decals, the instrument panel decal and a seat belt (most non-carrier based Japanese aircraft did not use a shoulder harness).



Like most Tamiya kits, this one should go together very well with minimal fuss. If you can get past the price (which really isn't that terrible anymore if you have been looking at the cost of new 1/72 kits), then this one is for you. The only other decent Shiden in this scale is by Aoshima, but finding it is not that easy.

Review kit courtesy of my kit collection.

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