|800 yen SRP (about $3) waaaay back when
|Scott Van Aken
The Mitsubishi Ki-51 (Army designation "Type 99 Assault Plane". Allied nickname "Sonia") was a light bomber/dive bomber in service with the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It first flew in mid-1939. Initially deployed against Chinese forces, it proved to be too slow to hold up against the fighter aircraft of the other Allied powers. However, it performed a useful ground-attack role in the China-Burma-India theatre, notably from airfields too rough for many other aircraft. As the war drew to a close, they began to be used in kamikaze attacks. Total production was around 2,385 units.
Charles Lindbergh, flying a P-38 Lightning shot down a Ki-51 after a vigorous dogfight in which the much slower Ki-51 utilized its low speed maneuverability and made a fight of it. The Ki-51 served on all fronts in which the Japanese served. They were used right up to the end of the war. Those left in the Dutch East Indies were used by the nascent Indonesian Air Force and the Communist Chinese used them until about 1953.
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a Japanese kit company named Mania. At the time, their molding was quite advanced. They produced kits that had engraved panel lines, a rather nicely detailed cockpit and a complete engine to name a few pluses. Their kits would look very much in place with today's kits. Apparently the company either ran into money issues or were made an offer they could not refuse and was purchased by Hasegawa. Even today, Hasegawa has no qualms about reissuing most of their kits, especially the 1/72 ones.
This is apparently an initial issue of the kit. The parts are completely flash free and are also without any inappropriate ejector pin marks or sink areas. There is a full cockpit that includes a floor with a number of boxes molded on it as well as the seat bottoms for the pilot and radio operator/gunner. There is an instrument panel with raised dial detail and a bulkhead that fits between the two seat positions. What looks like a camera is provided as well as replacement rear machine gun drums to fit on the interior wall. Depending on which plane you are doing, there are flashed over openings for lower fuselage side windows as well as one in the wing center section.
The kit provides the two row radial engine along with a three piece cowling. This has a single forward section and two side panels. A two piece prop fits on the front. The wing is a single lower section with two upper pieces. Tail planes are single mold items. The undercarriage has the wheel/tire molded on one half. There are bomb racks with small bombs provided. The holes for these racks have already been opened up in the lower wing. The kit includes a single piece canopy that has well defined frame lines, which should ease masking.
Instructions are completely in Japanese with well drawn construction steps. There is a complete set of full color painting and markings guides. While four options are provided, there seem to be more unit badges on the sheets than are shown in the instruction. Sure enough, when one looks on the side panels of the box, one sees two more.
Now Mania has provided two complete kits. Each kit came with its own set of decals and each sheet is different. Not only that, but each kit is molded from a different color plastic. One is in silver plastic while the other is in a light grey. My kit was one bought quite some time back for a pittance (I forget how much), because it had become waterlogged. This pretty well trashed the decals. I attempted to float one and it was impossible. Fortunately, there are aftermarket decals that have been done, and if one has one of the recent Hasegawa reboxings, there will be spares provided there.
Another note is that apparently the assault version did not have all the lower and side windows opened up. The recce birds, however, did as the lower window was for the camera. It does seem, however, that even the recce birds had the lower wing bomb racks.
I have to say that comparing this kit with later Hasegawa repops shows just how much the molds have been used over the years. This one is far crisper in its detailing and though the decals are junk, the kits themselves should make into very nice models. I highly recommend seeking the Mania boxing to those who want to build a 1/72 Ki-51.
Thanks to me for sharing this one with you.
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