Hardly the new kid on the block anymore, Zoukei-Mura (makers of the Super Wing Series) brought us the Ki-45 Nick in early 2019. This beauty follows on from their line of gorgeous 32nd scale WW2 kits. This one is the first conventional twin (the German ‘Anteater’ is technically a twin as well, but…you know what I mean).
The Ki-45 or “Nick” as the Allies called it, was designed under a similar philosophy that lead to the development of the Me-110. That being the supposed “need” for a twin-engine bomber escort. Much like the Me-110 over Britain, the Nick was not successful as a long-range fighter escort. When it ran into P-40s over China and other capable single seat fighters over Vietnam, it was mauled. It was then re-branded as a bomber interceptor. And again, like the interceptor Me-110 (and its derivatives), it found relative success in a new role.
Hey, that’s a Big Box
Over the years we modelers have been given a lot of choice when it comes to the Nick. Not the least of which have been the excellent Hasegawa examples in 1/48 and 1/72. With their white bands and varied camouflage patterns, these make for some very attractive models and are a popular subject. However, I believe this is the first injection molded Nick on the market in 32nd scale.
I am a big fan of colourful Japanese planes and I had already had a great experience building and painting a Hasegawa 1/72 Nick in 2018. Therefore, I was immediately taken in by the detail displayed in the pre-release photos and ZM’s multi-page adverts in numerous scale model magazines.
I first saw the mock ups of this model at the Zoukei-Mura display in the 2018 Nationals vendor room. Theirs was one of the first vendors I visited and I stayed a long time admiring all of the built models, model bases, accessories and after-market parts on display. They are famous for their show raffles as well as how ridiculously nice the reps are.
It was at least 6 months later that the kit was available at my Local Hobby Store. I was happy to pay the asking price knowing what I had seen in person months before. The box size was a bit of a surprise: It is just as big as the box for my HK B-17. But once I opened the crate I realized why: there were practically enough parts for 2 planes. ZM has provided the entire fuselage, wings and cowlings in both regular and transparent plastic.
Here is what is packed in this big box:
- A pile of sprues of incredibly well rendered detail – even the “transparent” ones
- An excellent instruction manual (probably one of the best I have ever seen)
- A full sheet of decals and the decals work pretty well
- A small sheet of paint masks
In fact, the only thing that the kit doesn’t have is a photo etch fret; but as you will see below, this kit really doesn’t need one.
A Gorgeous Manual
Before going into the build, I just want to point out a few things about this manual. First of all, this is not a folded sheet of paper with line drawings. As instruction manuals go, this is a work of art and I really appreciate how much work went into it. It provides photographs, diagrams as well as written instructions on how to make every sub component. It also shows the same construction step from various angles so you can be extra, extra sure you are gluing the right components together. In one of my recent builds, I had to rely on photographs from the internet to understand both where a component went and how it was to be aligned. A lot of care was put into this manual and I really appreciate the effort. This manual is the best I have used.
Two Very Detailed Engines
Construction begins with the… engines? Yes! Well, these are the first steps but they are also sub-assemblies that you mate to the wings later in construction. If you feel more comfortable starting with the cockpit, you can turn to the cockpit section of the manual and start there. But since I really like building airplane engines, I don’t mind starting with them.
These engines have wonderful detail and build up quickly without any fuss. I found out the ignition wires for these engines come from the back of the engine. Initially I was going to add these but since the engines are somewhat blocked out by the big oil coolers (the bronze painted ring) and the props have large spinners, I didn’t think it would be worth the effort. However, as with most ZM kits, there is an option to keep the engine cowl open, removable, or use transparent parts – so you might want add these wires for detail.
ZM also included a temporary engine holder that you construct out of square parts from the sprue. A very clever feature and they have a practical purpose: keeping the engines upright and undamaged as you move on with the build.
One Amazing Cockpit
Next up is the cockpit and this is where this model truly shines. As you will see in the pictures, I took advantage of all of the detail and used various mixes of the Khaki colour (actually ModelAir 71.116 by Vallejo). I really enjoyed this process and given the amount of glass and the open canopy options; it was worth the effort.
ZM gives you a couple of options to finish the instrument panel. I chose the transparent panel. I painted it, dry brushed it and then applied the kit decal to the back. If you go this route don’t forget to paint the back white as well. That way the instruments pop out very nicely.
You will notice that I painted the fuel tanks. However, if you are not intending on using the transparent parts, you might not bother – or just give them a quick once over in case a small bit is visible from the gear bays.
I love the Japanese “home defence” white bands and I like interesting camouflage schemes. I chose to go with that option for this model. As I usually do, I avoided using decals wherever I could. I started the process using measurements and an Olfa cutter:
I use a simple method here: just get the diameter of the Hinomaru and divide it in half. Then measure that distance on the Olfa cutter. I used kabuki sheet to cut the circles.
Then it was time to determine how to best do the camouflage pattern. There seem to be hundreds of variations of patterns on the Nick but I wanted to replicate the design on the box art and in the instructions. I used Vallejo colours which I do not regularly use for airbrushing. They mix and spray differently from my usual Tamiya acrylics. Therefore, I took advantage of the kit’s transparent wings and did some test painting. I tried painting freehand but I couldn’t properly thin the Vallejo paint to get nice lines (the tip kept drying). I also tried to use white tack snakes but I was not happy with that result.
Ultimately I decided on hard masking the pattern. To do that I needed to make some reasonably accurate masks. I went to the local photocopy shop with the kit instructions and a few spare parts. I then enlarged the painting diagrams to the size of the actual model. It was a trial and error thing with the custom enlargement setting on the photocopier.
Using the kabuki sheet under the photocopy, I cut out the masks one at a time and placed them on the model. I then sprayed Tamiya XF-14 JA Grey over the entire model.
The tedious masking job was worth it; I was very happy with the outcome. I subsequently discovered that Windex in small amounts is an excellent thinner for Vallejo Air paint.
I spent three nights finishing and installing all of the little bits (wheels, canopies, cannons, lights, antenna, etc) I found myself with a wonderfully finished model and a box full of leftovers! I am not sure what I am going to do with all of these spare parts. I am certainly open to ideas in the comments.
The Nick was not the perfect kit that I hoped it would be but it was an excellent building experience and the finished result was worth the effort. The engines, cockpit, surface detail and most of the engineering stand out. However, the panels designed to be “removable” were not precise. I’ll admit, it could have been me but I just could not get them to be glued down perfectly. Overall, the model makes an impression and does not need any aftermarket parts to make it pop.
So what you do you think of Zoukei-Mura? It seems to me that they want to produce the most accurate subjects out there while making them reasonably easy to build and paint. But maybe they are doing too much? Personally, unless I am going to super-detail the hell out of an engine bay or weapons bay, I don’t want removable panels because they look wonky.
Lastly, transparent wings and fuselages are completely wasted on me. Am I the only one out there who is not all that impressed with “transparent” plane parts? I admit I have never tried to build a see-through airplane but I have seen them: Cloudy and glue marred plastic barely showing any interior detail due to the nature of the transparent part or the darkness of the inside of the plane. I think adding a second set of transparent parts add a lot of cost and complication to a kit that would otherwise not lose a single sale without these features. They also looked “cloudy” to me. They were sort of translucent and not transparent like the canopy. I am not sure how much interior detail would be seen anyway. I’d love to hear how other builders use or modify these parts to make the interior visible.