Mania 1/48 Ki-27 'Nate'
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The IJAAF's first monoplane fighter was the Ki-27. Developed in the mid 1930s at the same time when Supermarine was developing the Spitfire and Messerschmitt the 109, Nakajima's design was a bit less advanced than its European equivalents. This was due to a differing philosophy that was held by the Japanese that the ability to dogfight was of paramount importance. While this held them in good stead during the early days of WWII, it was one that doomed thousands of Japan's pilots.
The main reason was that to get the sort of handling that the pilots demanded, certain things like armor plating and fuel protection were eliminated to reduce weight. This even resulted in the Ki-27 having fixed landing gear as high speed was not considered important enough. However, moving from the biplane Ki-10 to the monoplane Ki-27 did provide a considerable increase in velocity from what has been the norm.
The Ki-27 saw a great deal of action in Japan's wars prior to the Pacific War. In both China and against the Soviets in Manchuria, the Ki-27 bore the brunt of the action in the air. Many Japanese pilots were able to score impressive numbers of victories and soon became household names in the homeland. It was towards the end of the Manchurian war, when the Russian I-16 was introduced that the Japanese had trouble. The I-16 was faster and some had better armament than the Ki-27s rifle calibre machine guns. This was brought even closer to home when the Pacific War started and they were up against more heavily armed British and US aircraft in China and Southeast Asia.
Eventually the aircraft were replaced by the Ki-43 (which still carried over several of the Ki-27s faults in terms of light construction and weak armament). The Ki-27 was then relegated to homeland defense, areas like Formosa and Manchuria which had become 'backwaters', and to advanced fighter training schools. Only one airframe is known to exist and it was pulled out of the Inland Sea back in the late 1990s.
Between 1970 and 1977, Mania produced about a half dozen or so kits in both 1/72 and 1/48 scale. When the company went out of business, Hasegawa picked up the tooling and has been reissuing the kits ever since. Like Otaki's kits of the time, the detailing is surprisingly good, with engraved surface detailing and a fairly good interior in terms of detailing.
The kit itself is molded in somewhat hard light grey plastic. Since this is basically a pretty simple kit, there are not a ton of parts. You do get a complete cockpit with control stick, seat, rudder pedals, fire bottle and there is sidewall detail. The four part engine looks quite nice and some painting will enhance the detail given there. Every one of the Ki-27 kits I've built from this tooling have had issues when it comes to removing the pushrod section and I've broken some of these in the process. As for options, one is a bit limited. Basically, the only options are the use of the two fuel tanks under the wing and whether to use the early or the later canopy. While the canopy is a single piece, many pilots chose to fly without the sliding portion attached so to be properly accurate with some schemes, the canopy will need to be cut.
I should also mention that the mounting holes for the fuel tanks are already made so eliminating those will require the holes to be filled. One other thing is that when the Ki-27 was on the ground, the upper portion of the struts popped up through the upper wing. This has been shown properly on the kit so don't go cutting away the nubs that you see! Another interesting addition are two small exhaust-looking things that are shown extending from the starboard flap. I believe these are smoke generators. The reference shows them in the drawings and they could also be under the port side. The vast majority of the photographs in the reference do not show these so it may be a good idea to leave them off and fill in the holes.
One nice thing about getting an original Mania boxing is that the kit is still nice and crisp without the inevitable flash and such that tends to creep into a molding when it has been used a lot. Instructions are superb consisting of a folded sheet with all the markings options on one side and the seven step construction sequence on the other. All color information is generic, but these were overall green-grey. The decals are probably unusable, but you did get five options. One is the box art plane from the 64th Sentai in China during 1938. Next, with the yellow cowling is a 1st Sentai plane based in Japan in June 1939. With the tail stripes is a 24th sentai plane in Nomohan during 1939. The yellow rudder belongs to a 1st Sentai plane also in Nomohan during 1939, and finally an 11th Sentai plane from the same place and time as the previous two. None of these have fuselage insignia and none have yellow wing leading edges as they are all pre-Pacific war.
This is really a nice kit and while it probably could use a replacement in this scale, you don't really need one as there is sufficient aftermarket to spruce it up should you wish.
Nakajima Ki-27 'Nate', by Wieliczko & Szeremeta, Kagero, 2004.
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