Academy 1/48 A6M2b Zero Model 21
KIT #: 12352
PRICE: $27.95
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2022 tooling


The A6M2 was the best naval fighter in the world during 1941/42. It had good speed, spectacular maneuverability, was fairly heavily armed, and had incredible range. This was due to its light-weight construction as much as anything else. This worked very well, at least for a while. But to get that incredible performance, something had to be sacrificed. That was armor protection for the pilot and for the fuel tanks. Those deficiencies were eventually cured, but far too late in the war to be truly meaningful. Still, the Zero was the scourge of the skies for the first portion of the war.


Many will say 'why do we need another Zero'. Well, of course we don't 'need' one, however, Academy has decided that they want one in their catalog. The aircraft sells quite well, especially in South Korea/Japan, so it would make sense from that standpoint as well.

The kit is quite well detailed and has several options and features that make it desirable. The cockpit is very well done with lots of small bits and pieces to provide detail that is lacking in earlier kits. There are also quite a few bits that fit on the sidewalls and Academy has provided a pilot figure. I would have liked to have seen a decal for the seat belt, but there is aftermarket to deal with that. There are also decals for the various instruments in the cockpit.

Once the cockpit and sidewalls have been built up, the fuselage halves are closed and construction moves to the engine and cowling. Unlike many other Zero kits, the exhaust is attached to the engine and extends through openings in the cowling. There are also optional open or closed cowl flaps. The prop is held in place by a polycap so you can leave it off until after painting. Academy provides masks for the black on the back of the props, something I've not seen before.

When building the wings, one must install the landing gear. I've been told that these cannot be properly installed once the wing halves have been joined. Again, there are masks for the wheels. When joining the wings, a polycap fits in the lower wing for the drop tank. Note that Academy wants you to paint the gear wells in Aotake. This is not correct as the wells were painted the underside color.

After attaching the wings, one then installs gear doors and wing flight control surfaces. On the early Zeros, the ailerons drooped with the flaps when those were extended. That option is provided by giving you two sets of tabs. You remove the set you won't use. While on the subject of the ailerons, the kit provides mass balances. I recently read that these items are only appropriate on early A6M2s, so it may be worthwhile to do a bit of research to see if your choice uses these. I also find the framework detailing on all the flight control surfaces to be a bit heavy-handed, but it can be sanded down somewhat. You are also provided two different flap pieces; one for raised and one for lowered. Then the horizontal stabs, tail cone and tail hook are installed. Academy does provide an in flight option for the main gear and the tail wheel. The tail hook can also be modeled lowered.

Other options are an open or closed canopy. Both of these use the same windscreen, but the closed option has the canopy molded in with the rear transparencies. Again, Academy has provided masks. Finally, the kit has the ability to have folded wing tips with a small insert that you use for whichever option you choose.

Instructions are well done and with a ton of different paint options. Five markings options are given, all of the planes in overall ame-iro (called 'grey' in the paint chart) with black cowlings. Five markings options are provided, all from carriers sunk at Midway. While the color placement guide only shows four of the five options, the fifth is shown on the box top. Decals are superbly printed and should work well. A full stencil guide is also provided.  


Despite the usual nay-saying from the fringe (part xxx is .4mm too wide), this one looks to be an excellent kit. It offers a lot of useful options and the price is decent as well. I like that Academy has included masks as this kit really benefits from having them. It is as good as the Eduard kit? I've not built that one so cannot say, but it is $25 less expensive and has a respectable amount of detail. I do plan on building this one so stay tuned.

February 2023

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