Hasegawa 1/48 N1K2-J Shinden-kai "George"

Model, Text and Photos by: Tony Bell


Generally touted as the best land-based fighter aircraft fielded by the Japanese during WWII, the Kawanishi N1K2-J Shinden-kai (Violet Lightning - modified) was the final evolution of the N1K1 Kyofu (Mighty Wind) Fighter Floatplane. It was powered by the eighteen-cylinder 1990 hp Homare 21 engine and featured a low wing with a laminar flow airfoil and automatic Fowler type combat flaps. Fast, manoeuvrable and heavily armed, the Shinden-kai was equal or superior to the contemporary Allied fighters, including the P-51D Mustang and F6F Hellcat. It was less successful as an interceptor due to the poor performance of the Homare engine at the high altitudes where the B-29 typically operated.

The Kit

What can I say except that it's Hasegawa? Flawless moulding, lovely detail and superb engineering. Oh, and some nicely scratched parts because all the sprues are packaged in a single bag. When, oh when is Hasegawa going to spring for the extra $0.50 it would cost to package the sprues separately? The three-part canopy is exquisitely thin and perfectly clear. Why anyone would want to replace it with a vacuform canopy is beyond me.
The decals are nicely printed and in perfect register, albeit a tad thick and featuring that trademark Hasegawa creamy white.


As this was to be an IPMS rules out of the box (OOB) build, I didn't add anything. Hasegawa's instructions are logically laid out with clear diagrams for each step of the way.

The Cockpit

Even if this were not going to be an OOB build, there would have been little that would be needed to be added to the kit cockpit. Perhaps a bit of wiring and a seat harness, but that's it. In any case, I assembled the cockpit as per the instructions except that I sanded the sides of the seat down for a more scale appearance. It was painted overall Kawanishi interior green, mixed from Tamiya acrylics according to the instructions from the Tamiya N1K1 Kyofu (two parts XF-58 Olive, two parts XF-3 Yellow and one part XF-21 Sky). I applied a "wash" of Poly Scale flat mixed with black ink and thinned with water and then drybrushed the whole thing with a light green-grey colour mixed from artists' oils. The details were painted according to the kit colour guides with black and silver and a few red and yellow bits. The moulded on seat harness was painted Tamiya Buff and the seat cushion was painted Testor's enamel Leather. Some chipping and scuffing was added with silver paint and a fine brush.

The instrument panel was painted flat black and drybrushed medium grey. The instruments were punched out from the kit decal with a Reheat punch & Die set and applied individually to the instrument faces. Once these had dried completely, I applied a drop of 5-minute epoxy to each instrument face to represent the glass

The Fuselage and Wings

The fuselage halves were glued together with liquid cement before adding the cockpit, as this can be fitted through the hole for the wings. The fit, as expected, was perfect, with all the panel lines matching up nicely. The wheel wells were glued to the single piece lower wing, followed by the upper wing pieces. All the seams on both wing and fuselage disappeared with a few swipes of a sanding stick (actually a nail buffer). The fit of the horizontal stabilizers was perfect and these were attached with liquid cement, taking extra care to line them up nice and square.

Before I inserted the cockpit, I tested the fit of the wings to the fuselage and discovered an alarming gap of about 2mm at the wing root. I inserted the cockpit at this point and only attached it to one side of the fuselage. The wing root gap was easily rectified by carefully cutting a piece of sprue to length and using it as a spreader bar to gently push the sides of the fuselage out so that it matched up with the wing exactly. The spreader bar was glued in place with generous amounts of superglue and the wing was offered up to the fuselage. Liquid cement was run along the wing root, again paying extra attention to get the wing lined up properly. The fit of the wing to the underside of the rear fuselage was OK falling along a panel line, but I opted to fill the seam and rescribe the line to make it more consistent with the other panel lines nearby.

The front and rear canopies were dipped in Future floor polish, and when dry, masked off and attached with liquid cement. Once more the fit was perfect. I order to avoid having to mask off the engine and exhaust stubs, the engine cowling was temporarily attached with white glue at this point, leaving the engine and exhaust off.

Painting, Weathering and Decals

I opted for the kit markings for Lt. Naoshi Kanno's "White 15". I prepared the model's surface by first priming it with Gunze "Mr. Surfacer 500" thinned with automotive paint reducer (a less volatile lacquer thinner). After the usual minor surface imperfections were addressed, the whole model was rubbed down with 1500 grit wet 'n dry sandpaper and liberal amounts of water.

The model was washed with dish detergent and left to dry overnight, after which a coat of Future was sprayed on to act as an undercoat. Once the Future was well and truly dry, I misted on several light coats of Alclad II Duraluminum. I then added a few drops of gloss black to some Alclad II and masked and sprayed a few select panels. A wash of Liquitex acrylic Burnt Umber was applied to the panel lines, left to dry, and the excess wiped away with a damp tissue. A drop of dish washing liquid in the wash helps it flow and reduces adhesion, making cleanup a lot easier.

To achieve the extensive paint chipping by painting the chips individually with silver paint would have been time consuming to say the least. Instead I chose a radical approach to get that chipped look, and that is actually chipping the paint.

I used Aeromaster acrylic Kawanishi Green as the base colour and mixed up one slightly lighter and one slightly darker shade. After masking the camouflage demarcation line with Blu Tak, I airbrushed the base colour on the upper surfaces. As soon as this was dry to the touch (10 minutes, or so) I randomly sprayed blotches of the heavily thinned darker shade, concentrating more on the panel edges. As soon as the darker shade was dry to the touch, I did the same thing with the lighter shade, this time applying more in the centres of the panels. Again waiting only 10 minutes or so, I started to attack the green paint with a round edged scalpel blade, gently scraping the paint away to reveal the silver undercoat. I tried to work as quickly as I could and chip as much as possible before the acrylic paint started to harden. I also used some well-worn 100-grit sandpaper to wear away the paint at the wing root.

The kit decals for the dual yellow stripes were applied to some frisket paper, and masks were carefully cut out using the decals as a guide. The yellow fuselage stripes and wing leading edges were then masked and sprayed yellow. A circular mask was cut from the frisket and the white background for the fuselage hinomarus were airbrushed.

At this point, a coat of Future floor polish was sprayed on as a precursor to applying the decals. I used the kit-supplied markings, and although they look somewhat thick on the backing paper, they went on quite well with judicious applications of Gunze "Mr. Mark Softener". I have learned from bitter experience to avoid using the stronger setting solutions such as Solvaset or Microsol on Hasegawa decals, as these will cause irreversible wrinkling. Because of the extensive paint chipping, I chose not to use the smaller stencils.

A light wash of Windsor and Newton burnt umber artists' oil paint was applied to the upper surface panel lines. The whole model was sprayed with Aeromaster acrylic flat, and the exhaust stains airbrushed on with a brown/black colour mixed from Tamiya paints and thinned 90% with rubbing alcohol. A final light mist of heavily thinned Tamiya buff was sprayed over the whole model to blend all the various colours.

Finishing Details

The kit engine has to be one of the best detailed injection moulded engines I have ever seen, rivalling even the best resin ones. The cylinders were sprayed semi-gloss black and dry-brushed with Humbrol Polished Steel, while the crank case was painted with Alclad II and given a "wash" consisting of Polly Scale clear satin mixed with black ink, as were the landing gear legs. The propeller hub was painted in a similar fashion and the blades painted a mixture of Tamiya red and brown. The engine cowling was popped off, the engine glued on and the cowling reattached with white glue to avoid marring the paint. The prop and spinner are held on by a vinyl poly-cap.

The undercarriage attachment is very positive, but care must still be taken to get it perfectly lined up fore and aft and side to side. I attached mine with liquid cement, which allowed me some time to fiddle it to get it just right.

The cannon barrels, pitot tube and an antenna made from nylon thread completed the model.


This model kit was so well engineered and so well detailed that you would really have to build it with a hammer in order to screw it up. By paying attention to the basics of seams, alignment, painting and weathering, a real winner can be produced right out of the box. My Shinden-kai took a Best in Class and Best Out of Box in it's category at the 2002 IPMS USA National Convention, proving that you don't need a ton of resin and photo-etch to produce a winning model.

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