The Raiden is sometimes portrayed as a response to clashes with Western fighters in WW2, in which the traditional Japanese fighter attribute of superb manoeuvrability was sacrificed in an all-out attempt to gain speed and rate of climb. In truth, Japan was thinking along these lines as early as 1937, when the need for a fast-climbing land-based fighter to counter high-altitude bombers was recognised by the Imperial Japanese Navy following the invasion of China.
Perhaps surprisingly, as it embodied such a different philosophy, the Raiden was designed by the same Mitsubishi team as the Zero. Work began in 1938, but due the priority given to the latter aircraft, the Raiden languished, not flying until 1942. When it did, problems soon became apparent with the engine, landing gear and cockpit, and importantly the prototype failed to meet the Navy's speed and climb requirements. However, with a more powerful engine in a shorter cowling and a redesigned canopy, the type was accepted for production in late 1942. Nevertheless, problems persisted and it was not until December 1943 that the Raiden began to enter service, some five years after work had begun.
Less than 500 Raidens were built in total, but the type played a conspicuous part in the defence of the Japanese mainland in 1945/45 where it gained a number of notable successes against high-flying bombers. It has often been commented that it was fortunate for the Allies that the "Jack" (as it was codenamed by them) was not more reliable and available in greater numbers…
Hasegawa's new Raiden represents the first time this aircraft has been kitted in 1:32 since Revell's 1970s version. The latter (reviewed HERE
) is now something of a collector's item, so a new mainstream kit is long overdue.
The model arrives in a typically stylish Hasegawa top-opening box. Inside, the presentation is very straightforward – none of the flashy extra packaging or display cards which are currently in vogue, just the sprues and a few accessories bagged up, and the paperwork at the bottom of the box.
The kit comprises:
151 x pale grey styrene parts (2 unused)
21 x clear styrene parts (3 not needed)
A set of poly-caps
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
This sample kit includes a bonus 20-page comic book by Seiho Takizawa written in Japanese and English – "Young Bloods On Light Bolt" produced specially for the first production run.
The moulding is simply excellent as you you'd expect with a new Hasegawa kit; not a trace of flash or sink marks, and ejector pins kept as unobtrusive as possible. The exterior finish is very smooth, with no "riveting" over the airframe as a whole, but very delicate engraved panel lines and a few embossed fasteners. The depiction of the fabric surfaces is interesting, as the designers have kept everything drum-tight, with just rib tapes and stitching. I definitely prefer this for a well-maintained machine to the dreadful "saggy sack-cloth" look we see all too often. In fact, I'll go one stage further still and reduce the rib tapes a little bit more for an even more subtle effect.
The relatively low number of parts for a kit in this scale indicates that it should be a pretty straightforward build – there are no separate control surfaces to worry about, and even the landing flaps are moulded closed, and certainly anyone who's familiar with Hasegawa's 1:48 scale version should feel instantly at home with its larger stable mate.
Something you definitely won't find in the smaller kit, though, is the extensive use of internal spars and bulkheads employed here. These promise a really solid assembly, with no less than 5 spacers in the fuselage to give it rigidity, and multiple spars in the wings to maintain dihedral. Whether all this is strictly needed can be judged from the picture at right – that's the basic airframe dry-assembled without
any of the supports and, as you can see, the fit is excellent. The fuselage halves line up perfectly, the wing roots are a really tight fit and the horizontal tail slots in neatly. Even the separate forward top decking sits in place with the joint looking like surrounding panel lines.
To me, the kit represents a classic example of Hasegawa's two-pronged design policy. Firstly, the kit is essentially simple and free of "gimmicks", while Hasegawa's other trademark is their way of trying to get the maximum number of versions out of the fewest possible moulds. This sometimes leads to accusations of "over engineering", with drop in panels for gun-ports and louvres etc.
Personally I seldom take issue with the latter (so long as the fit is good), but in this case I do think they've taken one short-cut too many; the cowling, as moulded, represents the earlier J2M2 with troughs for the nose-mounted machine guns. Rather than provide a new cowl for the J2M3, the designers have included "plugs" for the openings, and expect the modeller to fill any seams and match the panel lines. All this in a particularly prominent part of the kit. It may well work, but I doubt that Hasegawa will win many friends for the sake of a new cowling – particularly as it's clear from the sprues that they've designed a different top decking piece for the earlier version.
A few details
OK, moan over – and there's only the one, because other than that this is a beautiful kit!
The cockpit consists of 34 parts and should look nice and busy when completed. The instrument panel has very crisply moulded bezels and the faces are also provided as decals if you don't want to paint them. There's no seat harness included (maybe this is something Hasegawa should consider as it's rapidly becoming de rigour
in modern kits), although there is a seat cushion, but there is a really excellent seated pilot figure. This has a choice of 3 styles of head and has an alternative right arm raised in salute. I don't normally fit figures in my kits, but this one does look so good, I might well make an exception this time…
The openings for the wing-mounted cannons must be opened up and there are drop-in parts above and below the wings for the access panels and spent cartridge chutes. The cannon barrels themselves have hollowed-out muzzles thanks to slide moulds, and there are info-views in the instructions to ensure that you set them at the correct angle relative to the wings.
The undercarriage is straightforward but effectively detailed. The main gear legs have separate oleo scissors, while the mainwheel hubs are also separate to make painting easier. The wheels are unweighted and held in pace with poly-caps. The wheel well is nicely moulded with some interior detail. There may be more you can add, but the references I have to hand are noticeably vague in that department. (Note: Hasegawa include a flyer for a new Japanese-language publication, Model Art Profile #11, which may well be worth obtaining by anyone wishing to superdetail the kit). The tailwheel is moulded integrally with its leg – slightly surprising, but it's very crisp and should look fine painted carefully.
The sole item of stores is a 4-part drop tank, which plugs in under the fuselage.
There's a choice of propellers – "standard" or "high performance". Both comprise individual blades that are designed to lock into the hub at the correct angle. The engine is built up from 13 parts and shows some fine detail on the cylinders and ducted cooling fans. Push-rods are included, but you may want to add an ignition harness too. How much will actually be visible when everything is assembled is open to doubt – but the propeller is retained by another poly-cap, so you could probably leave the cowling unglued to allow you to display any work you put into the engine. If you do, I'm sure there should really be extra pipework and cabling to add at the rear of the engine. Once again, slide moulds have been used so the exhausts are ready hollowed-out.
Lastly there are the transparencies. These are absolutely crystal clear and undistorted – the cockpit glazing is some of the nicest I've seen in a long while. Hasegawa also provide covers for the navigation lamps, along with a gunsight reflector and the "death trap" interior armoured glass mounted on protruding metal stalks precisely at face level – just what you want in an emergency landing… The canopy can be posed open or shut, and a nice touch is the inclusion of grab handles.
Instructions and decals
The assembly guided is presented in time-honoured Hasegaawa-style with very clear diagrams and paint matches for Gunze Sangyo paints. The construction sequence looks pretty logical and the overall assembly very straightforward.
Decals are included for two aircraft:
1. 352-20, flown by Lt. J. G. Yoshihiro, 352nd Naval Flying Group, Omura, March 1945
2. 3D-152, flown by Lt. Susumu, 302nd Naval Flying Group, Atsugi, March 1945.
The first scheme of course features the classic fuselage lightning-bolts - it's hard to imagine a manufacturer releasing a Raiden without them. The decals are very nicely printed, in perfect register with a silk finish and minimal carrier film around most of the items. The printing is pin-sharp for the instrument bezels and a nice touch is the inclusion of a panel of IJN Grey to go behind the fuselage data-plate stencil. Insignia are included for the pilot figure.
Hasegawa have provided a solid basis for a fantastic finished model. I really appreciate the "no frills" approach, because it's brought us an easy-to-build, finely detailed kit at less than half the price of some recent 1:32 WW2 fighter kits. This seems a very wise approach, because while the Raiden may not have the instant worldwide appeal of a Mustang (for instance), I think Hasegawa's definitive largescale "Jack" is guaranteed to be a steady seller for many years to come. Highly recommended.
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