Hasegawa N1K2-J ‘George’, 1/48. The Violet Lightning.
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Seeing certain aircraft sometimes brings back a memory, for me the N1K2 reminds me of playing Combat Flight Simulator 2 when I was 8 years old, I always thought of it as the 'fat Japanese plane with the big guns and the cool cockpit'. Several years later and I still think of it as such..
The 'George', like all other late war Japanese designs, are something I find truly fascinating. These aircraft were more than a match for the best of the allied aircraft in theatre at the time, however were severely hampered by poor quality of materials, a lack of skilled pilots, and a lack of numbers. Like many axis aircraft they truly bring up the question of 'What If?'. What if the N1K2 was produced in larger numbers? What if the N1K2 was built with solid and reliable construction? What if the Army and Navy stopped bickering and focused on a single capable late war fighter instead of spreading scarce resources even thinner? Regardless of all the late war Japanese aircraft that were made, the Shiden-Kai has a special place for me due to those Combat Flight Simulator 2 days, and I've always loved its chubby look. So many documentaries I watched growing up made it clear that the Japanese Air services were 'useless' against the victorious allied aircraft, so finding out about these designs which were the best that Japan could produce and were able to tangle with the allied Air might is fascinating.
Regardless, the kit: Hasegawa's N1K2 is a relatively new kit coming out in 2000, the kit sports good detail, good fit, a good cockpit and at a decent price. It's overall a great kit for the money, not perfect but definitely a fun build, however the main flaw of this kit was that it was built alongside Tamiya's absolutely beautiful A6M5 Zero so it got very overshadowed by the near perfect Tamiya kit.
This kit was built during the first UK lockdown, being 1 of 6 I managed to finish in that time and was finished around late April. I also had some Eduard photoetch for the N1K2 that I got on discount when getting the kit, but only used the instrument panel. On top of this Eduard cockpit masks were used which are basically an essential purchase for me, however they didn't come with a mask for the small glass window on the fuselage. Finally I wanted my model to have 2 yellow stripes so bought Montex, however at the time I didn't do any research and thought I was buying decals as they were under the decal section of the website as they come with the small decals for the kill markings. As such, this was the first time I used Montex paint masks and nowadays use them quite regularly.
The 'George' like many Japanese aircraft suffered from the paint shortage at the time, the quality of paint was often poor as a result and aircraft were often not given primer on external areas. For many planes this meant a variety of colours were used depending on what was available, as well as bare-metal becoming more common (interestingly the Zero seemed to escape this fate), as such early production N1K2s had the standard grey-grey paint found often on Navy aircraft for the undersides, whereas later ones had bare metal. To represent this metal as well as the extensive chipping I wanted to do I sprayed the entire model with AK Extreme Metal paints, this came out fairly well and they were quite fun to use but I had some issues with weird texture in some areas. Furthermore to cause chipping I used AK Chipping Fluid which produced a very heavy effect, but it's what I wanted to go for, this did cause a weird texture to appear which is unfortunate but was mostly fixable with some light sanding, one issue was that the AK paint was so shiny and smooth that the Tamiya paint used chipped off extremely easy when combined with chipping fluid so there is a good deal of lost paint due to masking tape, but this mostly wasn't an issue. If I was to do this model again I'd recommend also picking up some brass gun barrels as the included plastic ones are quite flimsy and I'm surprised they haven't broke, they're also difficult to align so they are all pointing in the same direction.
After posting this to instagram a fellow modeller recommended trying to paint the brass rod to hide it, because of this I got thinking and decided to try and photoshop the stick out of the photo for my A6M5, but annoyingly I never went back to remove the stick from these ones. Later on I'd move over to using clear acrylic rods which I generally prefer though both have their advantages.
Overall this was a fun build. When I see it I always think back to learning to fly in Combat Flight Sim 2 with my Grandad (a civilian pilot) trying teach me to fly a Corsair. I never knew anything about the George back then, but I still vividly remember the cockpit with its bright red instruments and thinking how different and cool it looked. As such, the George has always been one of my favourite aircraft from Japan, perhaps this is largely because it looks so different to other Japanese aircraft thanks to its rather wide proportions. If this aircraft didn't have a spinner, and was painted silver with a couple of stars, it wouldn't look out of place in the USAAF.