by Mike Driskill

IPMS #7409

Fujimi seems to have obtained a copy of a list that I secretly compiled a couple of years ago: "Important WW2 Japanese Fighters That They Ain't No Kit Of Yet." The Ki-43-I was the version that participated in the early Japanese conquests in the South Pacific, and its longer wing, squared canopy and cowl, and two-bladed prop make it much different from the later Ki-43-II of Hasegawa's current kit. There are a lot of interesting camo and markings possibilities for this variant, too. The best kits of this significant warrior have for decades been the raggedy old LS and Revell efforts from the'60's, but Fujimi has efficiently filled this long-standing gap at last.

Fujimi's Oscar is molded on four small trees of the requisite pale gray plastic, and one of clear. The kit is quite simple with relatively few parts, as perhaps befits such a clean little airplane. Accuracy is quite good when comparing to the latest drawings from Koku-Fan and Model Art. A couple of minor wingtip panel lines are missing, and the rear fuselage might be a hair too shallow, but after studying a selection of photos I give the benefit of the doubt to Fujimi on the latter point. The only other minor complaint has to do with the upper nose area, where the distinctive bulges over the gun breeches need to have their edges blended into the overall contours a little better. This is not really a flaw, their location just does not work well with the mold draft angles. Otherwise the model looks great, with very fine panel lines, good fabric areas, acceptably thin trailing edges, and reasonable fit.

The real machine had contoured sheet metal inserts in the wheel wells. These are done very well and convincingly deeply-- rare to see a kit needing no work
in this area. The strut covers are rather plain, but the struts themselves are beautifully detailed. The wheels have the proper style of hub cover, which is different from later variants, and are flattened for that trendy "weighted" look. Cockpit detail is limited to petitely done seat, stick, telescopic gunsight, and instrument panel moldings. The floor was actually the top of the wing and the distinctive contours of this part are correctly done. The engine insert is somewhat simplified but is mostly covered by the oil cooler and big two-bladed prop anyway. The separate gun blast tubes are a nice if fiddly touch.

The one-piece canopy is clear but a little thick.Only one color scheme is available, the decals representing the plain green-over-silver machine of Major Kato. If this one doesn't turn you on, Fujimi has made the kit available in a bewildering array of box art/decal versions, six at last count, which explore the range of markings used on this aircraft.Overall this is an excellent and long overdue kit, and in my opinion much better than some of Fujimi's other recent work. And if you haven't heard, they have lately been at work on a similar gap-filling task for the Japanese Navy: new 1/72 kits of the Mitsubishi A5M "Claude." Way to go, guys!

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