Nichimo 1/48 Ki-45 'Toryu'
KIT #: S-4819
PRICE: 15 euros when new
DECALS:  options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas
NOTES: Some scratch building performed

The Kawasaki Ki-45 Toryu (屠龍, "Dragonslayer") was a two-seat, twin-engine fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II. The army gave it the designation "Type 2 Two-Seat Fighter"; the Allied reporting name was "Nick".
Soon after entering service, the Ki-45 was assigned to home defense, and several were dispatched against the Doolittle raid, though they did not see action. The craft's heavy armament proved to be effective against the B-29 Superfortress raids which started in June 1944. However, its performance was insufficient to counter B-29s flying at 10,000 m (32,800 ft). Modifications such as reduction of fuel and ordnance were attempted to raise performance, to little avail. In the end aircraft were used effectively in aerial ramming attacks. Those aircraft belonged to suicide attack units known as Shinten Seikutai (“the ones who shake the sky”), which in late 1944 were created on orders from Shosho Kihachiro Yoshida (the CO of 10th Hikoshidan) and were tasked with ramming B-29s.The Toryus were also used in kamikaze attacks.
The Shinten Seikutai Toryus carried no rear gunner, had the gunner’s compartment totally stripped of everything and the rear open part of the canopy covered by a custom made thin metal plate. All guns and their mechanisms were removed, with the “schragemusik” armament top holes covered as well. The gunsight was deleted and the antenna mast was greatly shortened. All above weight reduction and aerodynamic sleekening modifications were obviously aiming to improve the Toryu’s performance, in order to have a better chance ramming those fast’n’high flying Superfortresses!

This kit, despite its 80’s origins and Nichimo “toy-like” reputation comes as a surprise, with its nice engraved (mostly rivet looking) details. The specific kit was bought in 2002, together with the 1/48 Nichimos Kate and Jake, sealed and forgotten at shelf of a toy/hobby shop in my hometown. I paid 35 euros for all of them, a bargain, I believe. The molds looked nice and crisp, the decals looked useable. After building the Jake (build review here), I just couldn’t stop myself pulling this out and start it.

I decided from the start to do No 98 aircraft, belonging to 53rd Sentai, 3rd Shinten Seikutai, Matsudo Air Base, 1945. This scheme is covered by the kit supplied decals, but is not referred to the instructions or at least depicted in the boxart. So, was I more or less on my own? Not at all, as the net is here to save the day! I found quite a few nice Ki-45 pics, including “Shinten Seikutai” Toryus, and including the specific machine I was to build! Additionally, since Hasegawa have issued their Toryu with these markings as well, I consulted their instructions, which proved very helpful, not only in painting and marking, but also in performing key scratchbuilt improvements. Isn’t life a miracle?

I started by attaching the cockpit parts on the cockpit floor and walls.
There was some kind of (not represented_ stepped construction behind pilot’s seat, where the “schragemusik” guns were housed. An appropriately cut styrene sheet represented this. Similarly, no rear bulkhead aft of the gunner’s compartment was provided, so I fabricated a rear wall from styrene sheet, scribing some crossed lines to add interest.

Nichimo’s cockpit color suggestion was “bamboo” (???). Studying Hasegawa’s instructions, cockpit pics and, mostly receiving helpful suggestions from a friend in iModeler, I used Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill as a base color, “washed” with a light mixture of Humbrol 116 Dark Green. The result resembled the cockpit pics shade. Instrument panel and “consoles” were painted black, silver-drybrushed, with red, yellow and white knobs done with a 10/0 paintbrush. The good looking seat was had its back drilled, for more interesting looks and was painted Testors steel. Seat belts were added from khaki doped masking tape, the silver “buckles” made with my PILOT fine silver pen. The control stick was painted “bamboo” with black top and a “fire” button depicted in red.

I then attached the fuselage halves, after having trapped the cockpit floor between them. Fit was very good. I glued the wheel well floors at the inside of the top wing parts, then glued the halfwings together, followed by attaching the cowling air intakes and a pair of side bulges bilaterally, immediately aft. I also assembled the rear wings. Fit was good. Then the front and rear wings were attached to the fuselage. Fit was so so here.

As a note, instructions state to attach the landing gear at the well floors and then attach the floors to the wings. I prefer to add landing gear at the final stages, so I left it off, hoping to be able to attach the gear legs at those final stages (with some fiddle around, maybe).

No front and rear walls for the main wheel wells are provided. For the front walls, I cut suitable pieces from my sons’ party plates and attached them with my home made brew of liquefied styrene, which double acted as filler. For the rears, I used leftover styrene sheet, also attached with liquefied styrene. Parallel stretched sprue pieces were attached on the wheel well floors and rear walls, to add some “ribbing” interest.

The nicely molded engines, cowlings, props and main wheels, were also assembled at that time. The MLG doors had their inner part lightly drilled at a few symmetrical places, to add interest. Wheel wells, MLG doors and cowling innards were painted with the same cockpit “bamboo” shade. Props were painted Humbrol 113 Rust (which to my eye, comes close to “propeller color”), with satin white cowling fronts, gun metal cowling tips (where, I believe, the starting device was mounted) and yellow blade warning stripes. The main wheels were filed down to look weighted. They were painted Testors steel with black tires.

It was then engines detailing time: after the cylinder blocks (and the rear firewall) were painted black, they were heavily drybrushed with silver. This brought out the cooling fins and pushrods nicely, I painted the molded in wire harness “copper’ and the cabane a medium gray (also silver drybrushed afterwards).

I then had a look at the Hasegawa instructions and found out that the engines sport very prominent circular oil coolers. Those are not provided in my Nichimo kit…What to do? Oh, of course, modify leftover F-104 styrene main tires from a Hasegawa 1/48 kit I built wheels up 15 years ago, what else? (!)
Since those “tires” had the correct outer diameter, I increased their inner diameter by filing, thinned them allover, and finally cut a part of them, to the point that they started top resemble the Hasegawa ones. They were painted copper, with “silver” bracing straps and attached in front of each engine. They looked quite good, but, sadly, with cowlings attached, they hide those beautiful engine details, as is the case in the real plane…

Then I turned my attention to the assembled plane and gave it an initial coarse sanding, followed by two rounds of filling/sanding with my beloved Squadron Green Stuff at quite a few places (I just love seeing it covering all those nooks after sanding…). I deemed the end result acceptable, attached the nice but fragile fuel coolers underneath the wings (having deepened them beforehand with my microdrills, and painted their innards black, for realistic looks), covered the crew compartments and wheel wells with wet tissue, temporarily secured the cowlings at their respective positions, and headed to the paint shop.

With my Revell Vario, I applied my usual Humbrol 196 allover (including the MLG doors) for the “IJN Gray”, followed by a protective coat of Future. My chosen scheme seemed to sport a quite extensive top green coverage, unevenly “disrupted” by IJN gray lines. To achieve this effect, I applied unevenly thin strips of Patafix tac all over the top area, including the front sides of the cowlings, trying to replicate the camo patterns I saw at both Nichimo and Hasegawa instructions. Feeling confident about it, I applied a dark green (Humbrol 116) all over the top and side areas. Upon Patafix removal, after some overspray cleanup, a nice disrupted green emerged, with the borders looking good, neither too hard, nor too soft (let’s call them “hardsoft”!). A coat of Future sealed that nice camo and gloss-prepared the model for decaling.

Since Nichimo provided the decals for the Shinten Seikutai bird, but no instructions for placement, I consulted the Hasegawa instructions. I was expecting tranluscency with the decals, especially through the white and yellow. Sadly, I was not disappointed, as the camo lines can be seen underneath, especially under strong light….
Also, the yellow ID bands were stiff and started to tear apart upon applying. This was the time that I understood (and appreciated) the fact that many modelers paint all these markings.

Anyways, I decided to leave everything “as is”, supposing that the applied markings on the field were translucent anyway (!!!!). For the yellow bands, I used leftover decal pieces.  Mr Mark Softer did his best in order those stiff decals to conform, with Future sealing them after the inevitable touchups (mainly at the white and yellow areas).

The unassembled main landing gear had brake lines added (from stretched sprue) to the main struts. They were painted Testors Steel, with black brake lines, oleo rubber covers and upper retraction struts. In order to make them fit in the well, I first attached the upper retraction struts, followed by the main strut and wheels. After some fiddling I managed to glue them altogether, align them and left them to dry. The rear wheel (painted steel, with black oleo cover and tire) and the rudder mass balances were also added at that time. The engine exhausts were painted Testors Burned metal. The pitot was also attached at the port side, its body painted IJN gray and its tip burned metal.

I then gave the model a thin black wash, which brought up the (mostly riveted) engraved detail really nicely. I continued weathering with a bit heavier blackwash in the wheel wells and engines area, followed by dark brown and black dry pastels application to represent engine stains, mud and dirt. Light chipping was applied at wing, cowling and prop blade edges and at personnel frequent walk/step areas. The result was an adequately weathered Toryu, attuned to those intensive desperate last days of the war…

The propellers were attached and final satin coat sealed everything.

Approaching the finish line, it was transparencies time. First, the two aft cockpit windows were attached from inside. Then the already hand painted canopies (with really nice molded in frames) were attached. They proved to be narrower than the fuselage, which was odd (might have possibly been removed from their molds still “hot”).

In order to represent the rear canopy thin metal cover, I used wine bottle lead foil, cut it in shape (with some trial and error), and affixed it with cyano. Upon glue drying, I lightly and unevenly pressed it, in order to make it look wrinkled as depicted in reference pics. After achieving adequate looks, I painted it the same shade as the plane’s top green. All transparencies joints, as well as the two “schragemusik” guns top fuselage holes were then feathered with white glue and touched up. To my (partial) satisfaction, the above noted width difference was not that pronounced as initially feared.

The Nichimo provided antenna mast was shortened to 3mm and attached. My specific plane’s reference pic shows a two piece aerial wire attached (a long wire and a small one, just aft of the mast), so I replicated them at my model, with two-piece stretched sprue, tightened with my wife’s hairdryer and carefully painted gun metal. My Shinten Seikutai Toryu was then called done!

The Nichimo kit is an old but good kit of this important plane, with accurate overall shape, adequate fit, average cockpit, wheel wells and landing gear details and surprisingly good looking external engraved riveting.

Definitely a classic, it can be built quite easily OOB and produce a fine result to the hands of the average modeler, especially if some effort is put to quality painting. Since the decals proved quite stiff, I would wholeheartedly recommend painting those white/red Hinomarus, as well as the yellow ID stripes. An experienced modeler can superdetail the simplistic areas and produce a very good model..

It looks like this kit has been reissued a couple of times in the far past and a few examples appear on ebay from time to time at quite low prices. It is unknown if (and by whom) it will ever be reissued.

Of course, since 2007, the Nichimo kit has been superseded by the amazing Hasegawa offering, which is excellent by any standard, let alone the fact that it is frequently reissued, having covered most (if not all) of Ki45 variants and schemes, with many of them really exciting! Marketed at very reasonable prices, it is definitely the way to go, if you want an excellent quarter scale Toryu.

Still, the Nichimo is a sweet kit and can definitely hold its own. If you own or come across one, grab it and build it. With a little effort, you will have a nice Toryu in your shelves!

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

19 July 2021

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