Bill Gunston pretty much summed it up:
"At first glance a small observation biplane for catapulting from surface vessels might seem hardly to rank as much of a warplane, but in fact the F1M served throughout World War II in such roles as area defence fighter, bomber, covoy escort, anti-submarine attack aircraft, ocean patrol, rescue and even transport." 1,118 "Petes" were delivered before production ceased in 1944 and proved amazingly useful throughout the Pacific War, long after many would have assumed the aircraft was obsolete.
Hasegawa's kit arrives in a nice solid top-opening box with the main sprues bagged separately from the clear parts. Unusually for Hasegawa, the decals aren't sealed in with the transparencies - a good move, in my opinion, because I have found them slightly creased occasionally in the past.
The kit comprises:
112 x grey styrene parts (one not needed)
14 x clear parts
A set of poly-caps to hold the propeller on
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
An etched detail set (#QG32) is available separately (see below).
The immediate impression upon opening the box is just how crisp the moulding is: this is Hasegawa right at the top of their game. There's no trace of flash or sink marks and the surface detail is excellent, with precise engraved panel lines and louvres etc., and delicate embossed rivets. Fabric surfaces are fairly subtle - which is another way of saying they're a bit overdone for my taste but, to be honest, many modellers would feel something was missing if the fabric was represented as drum-tight as you'd find it on a well-maintained full sized aircraft, so Hasegawa's interpretation is a fair compromise. Areas like the interior detail, cooling vents and riveting on the nose panels, and the details on the float completely eclipse the old Tamiya 1/50 scale kit , which I built 20-odd years ago (it was old then!) - Hasegawa's new kit really is in a different league...
A biplane floatplane configuration might understandably ring a few alarm bells for a dodgy build ahead for less experienced modellers, but Hasegawa's designers have worked hard to make the kit as straightforward as possible to assemble, without any obvious compromises over accuracy.
The fuselage halves clip together precisely and the centre pylon has a substantial plug that locks into the float, which is split into upper and lower halves to disguise the seam. Both wings are moulded with internal spars to set the dihedral and have nice thin trailing edges, while the interplane struts are pretty foolproof.
It's not often that you can assemble a biplane to any great extent, but you can with Hasegawa's "Pete", as the accompanying photo shows.
A few details
The cockpit is very nicely fitted out with 32 parts, including detailed instrument panels and sidewalls, bomb-sight, fuel tank etc. The engine may only have a single "blank" to represent the two rows of cylinders, but it''s so crisply moulded that the push-rods will look like separate parts with careful painting. A poly-cap is trapped by the crankcase to hold on a the propeller, which has good hub detail. Oddly, the position of the warning stripes is marked on the tips with raised lines as an aid to painting (no decals are included) - which seems something of a blast from the past and these should be removed for an accurate appearance.
In terms of armament, there's a neatly moulded machine gun on a finely moulded mount for the observer, breeches for the pair of forward firing guns, plus a pair of small bombs and quite delicate underwing racks. Rounding off the main parts is a 9-part beaching dolley, plus a support stand to fit at the rear of the centre float. The instructions indicate that kit will be a tail-sitter without 20g of weight in the nose of the float, so maybe the little stand is based on full-sized practice, or included just in case you forgot to add the ballast.
Lastly, there is a crystal clear set of transparencies, that includes the canopies and navigation lamp covers. The canopy framing is crisply defined and the aft section is moulded in two forms - closed or slid open for the rear gunner/observer.
Etched Upgrade Set
The accompanying etched detail set is sold separately, but is mentioned throughout the instructions so that it almost seems part and parcel of the kit. It's produced on quite a heavy-grade steel fret and includes alternative instrument panels, rigging, new fins for the bombs and smaller items such as gun-sights and grab handles, and a grill for the air intake on the central pylon. The surprising thing is what is doesn't include - namely seat harnesses (and engine wiring), which I think many modellers might buy the set for, in the assumption that they'd be included.
What is there is very nice. The instrument fascias are intended to be used with the decals provided in the standard kit and should look excellent with a drop of varnish to glaze the bezels. The bombs' fins are much finer than the moulded versions and should definitely improve the appearance, and the delicate gunsights almost speak for themselves. The rigging is a bit trickier though. The flat-section flying wires would be hard to reproduce from stretched sprue, but the attachments which are made up of several folded layers might need a good few coats of paint or filler to avoid looking like a sandwich. The thickness of the fret should prove an advantage when cleaning off any tiny burrs on the wires - those running between the wing struts and the stabilizers could be particularly prone to damage if you're not careful.
Overall, I'd have to say the etched set is a worthwhile, but not essential accompaniment to the kit and I can't help but think that Hasegawa would have guaranteed more sales by including seat harnesses. As it is, many modellers will inevitably look to aftermarket alternatives.
Instructions & Decals
Hasegawa's instructions are always pretty good and those for the standard kit are no exception. However, as stated above, the instructions for the etched parts are also included in the general assembly diagrams and they do tend to clutter things and the rigging guides need careful scrutiny - in my opinion, they're not all that clear and you risk damaging the delicate parts if you indulge in too much trial and error to find out how they're intended to fit.
The painting guide is quite comprehensive, with Gunze Sangyo paint matches keyed to most of the details throughout assembly.
The kit includes decals for a trio of "Petes":
1. "YI-23", NAP 4/C Kiyomi Katsuki, NAP 2/C Michiho Takarada, Solomon Islands, October 1943.
2. "L-2-!!", NAP 4/C Ryoji Asanuma, NAP 1/C Michiho Takarada, Solomon Islands, January 1943.
3. "951-8", 951st Naval Flyng Wing, Summer 1945.
The decals look to be excellent quality, with perfect registration and a satin finish. Paint scheme #3 features national insignia with the white areas painted over roughly with Dark Green and this is printed convincingly - alternatively, you can paint over the normal decals yourself to ensure a good colour match with your chosen camouflage.
Hasegawa's F1M2 is a beautiful kit. The moulding and design is top class and, although it incorporates a lot of fine details, the simple construction makes it a good choice for all modellers with a few builds under their belts. The lack of seat harnesses is rather strange in the etched upgrade set - I still don't think the Japanese "Big Two" have quite caught up with the possibilities of the medium yet - but that in no ways detracts from the superb standard kit. Highly recommended.
Hasegawa's F1M2 "Pete" was kindly provided for review by HobbyLink Japan. Visit HLJ for Japanese kits at Japanese prices.
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