From the Box Review Otaki Ki-61 Model 1 Otsu (Tony)

Kit No. OT2-6

By Michael Hays

Kawasaki’s Ki-61 Type 3 "Hien" (Swallow) became the premiere in-line engine fighter for the Japanese Army Air Force in World War II. Code named Tony by the Allies, this aircraft replaced the Oscar as the principle IJA interceptor when it was introduced in combat in the Southwest Pacific in 1943. A total of 3,078 of the liquid-cooled Ki-61s was manufactured before production switched to the air-cooled Type 5 version of this fighter in 1945.

Note to Modelers making Ki-61 Type 3 Tonys: A problem with building the in-line engine Tonys derives from the fact that several variants of this aircraft were produced, some with minor and others with major detail variations, and the nomenclature used to distinguish them can be quite confusing. Even my references contain drawings which are inconsistent on this matter. If you want to build an aircraft other than the options found in your kit, check your references. Type 3 Tonys could differ in the lengths of the fuselage forward of the wing, size of air scoops, shape and framework of the canopy, shape of the tail, fixed or retractable tail wheel, armament carried, optional wing pylons, and other more subtle differences. These differences were scattered among three major model types produced. Nearly half were short-nosed Ki-61-1b models (represented in this kit) while another 1200+ were of the slightly longer-nosed Type 61-1-KAI . Furthermore, Kawasaki built over 400 Ki-61-II Tonys that were longer yet with a larger vertical tail, not to mention several other differences.

Otaki’s kit represents an earlier variant called the Ki-61 Model 1 Otsu. Apparently, this version was slightly modified from the original Model 1, but retroactive changes were made in the field so that Model 1s may look like Model 1 Otsus. Otaki’s kit has the shorter nose section of the Model 1 but the fixed tail of later versions. Apparently some Model 1 Otsus had fixed tails. If you stick with the box-top aircraft you should be relatively safe (but note a lack of wing pylons and a retractable tail in the painting!). It represents one of the earlier Tony’s shipped to New Guinea in 1943. If you use the other optional decals in the kit for the later 244th Fighter Group, check your references, since the Type 3s used by that group probably differed considerably from the stock Model 1 features evident in this kit. Furthermore, the Otaki/Arii Type 3 shares most of its parts in common with the Otaki/Arii Type 5 Ki-100 air-cooled variant (Otaki kit no. OT2-15). Therefore remarks made here for the Ki-61 kit apply as well to the Ki-100 kits.

You will find 45 light gray injection molded parts attached to three trees in this kit, plus a single-piece canopy that is somewhat thick and flawed with internal distortions. You may wish to substitute a vacuform canopy or dip it in a clear floor wax (like Future brand) to help offset the distortions (more on this below). A passable sitting pilot figure is included (a little better in quality than that included in the Ki-100 kits). No extra parts are left over. The parts are clean and relatively flash free with recessed panel lines that are basically accurate in location. However, Otaki’s attempt to capture the rivet details so obvious on the Tony’s exterior surfaces goes a little overboard. Thousands of recessed but slightly oversized rivets have been pressed into all exterior surfaces of the kit. Although the pattern is tolerably accurate, the heavy recessed work will show more prominently than desired, especially on natural metal finish (NMF) aircraft. However, only a die-hard fanatic would attempt to fill these depressions, and they’re better left alone.

Another alternative would be to lightly sand down the surfaces to help reduce the depth of the impressions. Even so, the pronounced rivet work will not be as noticeable if an aircraft with solid green or mottled green upper surfaces is chosen.

The kit instructions are printed in brown and white on both sides of a single sheet of paper. The text is all in Japanese, but the three steps of construction are represented by easy to follow exploded view drawings. A parts tree map is included along with three line drawing profiles of three aircraft represented in the kit decals. (Profiles in color are printed on the box top/sides.) Color code numbers are geared to what appears to be the Mr. Color number system (but I’m not totally certain about this). Fortunately, a supplementary instruction sheet printed in English is included, but it contains only written instructions. No illustrations, painting guide, or information about the aircraft represented in the kit appear on the English guide.

The decals included represent three Tonys. The fighter on the box top is a mottled IJA green over duralumin from the 3rd Company, 68th Air Combat Regiment based in New Guinea in 1943-1944. The second option represents an IJA green over duralumin plane from the 39th Flight Training Group based in Japan in 1945. The last option is a generic overall duralumin representative from the 244th Fighter Regiment in Japan in 1945. White home defense "bandages" accompany the hinomarus ("meatballs") for this last aircraft. The remaining hinomarus are with and without white edges and all are bright red in appearance. Apart from the tail markings and yellow wing ID panels, no other decals are provided. They’re a little thick by contemporary standards, but they do set well with a softening solution.

Turning to construction; what is said about building the Otaki Ki-100 applies equally to this kit. Construction is simple and straight forward. However, Otaki’s kits have been around for a number of years by now, and so they do not necessarily match the standards of workmanship evident in more recent kits. I recommend you invest in a recent Hasegawa offering of a Ki-61 or Ki-100 (such as kit numbers JT14, JT105, JT38 or JT44) and use its parts as references to build a more accurate model of that older (and less expensive!) Otaki/Arii kit you have around. Fortunately, the parts go together well with few problems. But the cockpit in Step One is going to provide perhaps the biggest challenge. This region is crude by modern standards. Except for the raised dials and gauges on the instrument panel, everything else is inaccurate to say the least. For example, the raised work and sparse details represented on the cockpit sides are both too shallow and fictional. The seat is totally wrong for Tonys. And the floor board with its raised details is a work of fantasy, too. To correct all these problems, I recommend you grind and sand off everything, and scratch build a new interior using the Hasegawa parts as a guide. Even if you use the kit parts as supplied, there is no gun sight, nor are the machine gun stocks represented in the dash.

You can hide a lot of inaccuracies by simply installing the pilot in his seat. And it will help to drill out the lightning holes in the decking behind him. Good reference drawings of a Tony cockpit are extremely helpful here. If you have a recent Hasegawa kit of the Ki-61, you will notice as well that the fuselage behind the cockpit is too fat. Worse yet, the canopy is too squat, forcing the pilot to sit too low in the cockpit. If you can, vacuform the canopy. A better solution, but one which demands extensive work, is to use a spare Hasegawa canopy (you’ll find one in Hasegawa’s Ki-100 kits) or its aftermarket vacuformed copy. But you have to extensively sand down the back hump of the fuselage and cut out some of the forward portions of the cockpit sills to fit. The new canopy will sit a little high in front, demanding some putty fill in this area, but the final appearance will be superior to the original kit parts.

The wings for this kit are the typical two-part top halves that join with a single bottom piece. The wheel wells are represented, but they are extremely shallow. So if you wish to build a wheels up version, the gear doors will not close flush with the wing. The wells will need to be ground out before the doors can be closed. The main landing gear legs are quite simple and the supplied wheels are not bulged. You may wish to add brake lines and make corrections to the interior panels of the main gear doors. You will also discover that all the flying surfaces are molded integrally to their respective wing and tail surfaces. Furthermore, the actuator covers on the lower ailerons are placed too far inboard. You may wish to cut them off and make replacements further outboard. Also, the actuating rods for the tail and rudder are only represented by engraved lines. Sand these off and make new ones from stretched sprue or fine wire.

Two pylons are supplied for the two fuel tanks included, but both the pylons and tanks lack the detail evident in the Hasegawa parts. However, many early Tonys of the type represented by this kit did not have fixed pylons, so you may wish to discard them altogether. A landing light is only represented in the port wing by engraved lines. You can cut this area out and insert a clear plastic plug fashioned to represent the light. The same can be said as well for the wing tip formation lights. Also, both the wing and tail tips are slightly out of shape. They need to be a little more pointed, so use references or the Hasegawa parts as a guide to correct the shapes. The wing and tail trailing edges are a little thicker than those of the Hasegawa kit, but this can be improved considerably with a little sanding.

This kit supplies a facsimile Ha 40 in-line engine, but it serves primarily to contain the propeller shaft and as a mounting surface for the fuselage machine gun barrels. However, the engine will not be seen on the finished kit, so it need not be painted. (But the holes for the machine gun barrels will need to be drilled "rounder," and then a thin backing plate supplied to block an unwanted gaping hole peering into the engine.) The engine is also a little tricky to mount. The separate sets of exhaust stacks can be enhanced by slightly drilling out their openings with a fine cutting bit. A comparison of Otaki’s radiator with that of the Hasegawa kit will show the former to be quite crude. The forward doors mount too deep inside (they should be nearly flush with the opening), and the radiator itself is represented by just a thin smooth panel (part C-8). It should be much thicker with a grid work pattern on it. You can scratch build a new one, but you’ll have to experiment with it in Step 2 to ensure the fuselage halves will fit properly around it when they are glued together.

Fortunately, most parts go together with little problem, and the Otaki kit is quite simple to build straight out of the box. Some putty will be needed to fill gaps left when wings and tail are glued to the fuselage. In fact, the tail halves leave a pronounced mismatched area that will demand a little filing down. Also the covering panel for the fuselage machine guns does not fit flush, so some filler will be needed here as well. It’s probably a good idea to thin the prop blades a little bit, too. But when all the parts are in place and the gaps filled, the Otaki Type 3 Tony still turns out quite nicely.

By modern standards this old kit shows its age. Although crude and inaccurate in places--especially the cockpit and canopy--, it is simple to build and can be handled by the novice modeler with no problem if no scratch building is desired. (In such cases, I recommend the pilot be placed in the cockpit to hide some of the more glaring faults located there.) When put together, the Otaki Ki-61's lines are basically accurate and all the major features required are there. Of course, with some extra effort, the more skilled modeler can correct the shortcomings, and the final product can still compare quite favorably with its newer Hasegawa competitors. It measures right on in scale, and when built and painted well, it will represent a good model of one of the most important aircraft flown by the Imperial Japanese Army from 1943 to 1945. Just make sure to check those references, however, if you want to make a Type 3 Tony not represented in the kit. If you’re willing to put in a little extra work, the basic kit is even flexible enough to permit a variety of optional variants of this sleek in-line fighter so often encountered by Allied pilots throughout the second half of World War II.


Rene J. Francillon, JAPANESE AIRCRAFT OF THE PACIFIC WAR, Putnam & Co.,1979 ed.


Edited, KAWASAKI Ki-61 (TONY), Paul Gaudette, Publisher, c. 1967.


Edited, KAWASAKI TYPE 3 "HIEN" & TYPE 5 ARMY FIGHTER (Ki-61 & Ki-100), The Maru Mechanic # 37, November, 1982.