IJN A-Target Ko-Hyoteki Midget Submarine "Pearl Harbor"
Review by Showapop
Model Kit sample comes courtesy of Hobby Link Japan
Before I start my Fine Molds’ Star Wars model kit reviews, I would like to dive into one of Fine Molds most unique military model kit releases and discuss a bit of background of what Fine Molds was known for before they picked up the Star Wars license.
The Ship & Sailor
Around 50 Ko-Hyoteki A-Target Midget Submarine were manufactured for the Imperial Japanese Navy during World World II. Contrary to popular belief they were not suicide submarines but had a duel purpose of strategic attack and shore patrol. Five of these A-Target submarines were used in the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.
The A-Target Submarines were brought across the Pacific Ocean piggy backed on larger mother submarines and their mission was to attack US Navy ships trying to make a break out of the harbor and to destroy ships that were berthing in the harbor. Although four of the submarines were sunk in the campaign, a fifth submarine H-15 crewed by Kazuo Sakamaki and Kiyoshi Inagaki encountered a gyro stabilization problem and were forced to scuttle their ship. Kiyoshi Inagaki was washed out into the sea and Kazuo Sakamaki passed out from fumes during the process of setting explosives to destroy their ship.
When Kazuo Sakamaki awoke, he was in an American Hospital surrounded by US Military guards. Thus Sakamaki became the first Japanese prisoner of war of WWII and spend the rest of the war as a POW #1 on the mainland of the USA. Immediately after the war Sakamaki wrote a book called Four Years as Prisoner of War #1 which was re-titled in the USA as I Attacked Pearl Harbor and he later became the president of Toyota in Brazil, finally retiring in Japan in the 1980s.
The fate of H-15 would be another story. After the US Navy pulled it out of the sands of Waimanalo Beach it was put on the back of a large truck and was toured across the USA raising War Bonds for the war effort. H-15 was eventually restored, designated a US National Landmark and now resides at the National Museum of The Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. Sakamaki who abstained from talking about the war after he wrote his book was finally reunited with his submarine after 50 years in 1991 in Texas in an emotional ceremony. Kazuo Sakamaki died in Japan November 29th 1999.
Joy Kits Laboratory Fine Molds is a relative newcomer to Model kit manufacturing, starting roughly in the mid-1990’s. A very private company, their high standards of quality and attention to even the most minute details have since become legendary in the world of military models and have won them great praise from modelers around the world.
Their main production line was and still is WWII military models of mostly German and Japanese tanks and aircraft and aftermarket supplies. Special attention is paid to more obscure WWII Japanese aircraft something that mainstream model kit manufactures have bypassed. Fine Molds is essentially a cottage industry boutique manufacture that makes precision quality kits that the majors can only dream of.
Fine Molds would later attract the attention of Anime and Sci-Fi fans with their beautifully produced model kits from Porco Rosso and Star Wars. The core of their success with those two licensees was putting the same effort into details and treating the fantasy crafts of both series as real vehicles sitting in a museum. The realism of the sci-fi and anime kits is what makes Fine Molds standout from most model manufactures.
Fine Molds released the A-Target Submarine in 2007 and while I think this kit was one of the most unique releases of the last four years, I was shocked to find out that the kit has not had any in-depth reviews online. This kit was originally a Fine Molds Online store mail order only item and was first released in 2001 and was not fully available to other dealers until this version came out in 2007. That just added more mystery to a kit I already wanted to build. Thankfully, Hobby Link Japan provided us with a sample to which I am grateful.
Not only is it a great subject to build but what also makes this release outstanding is the 1/72 scale that it is in, which is normally reserved for aircraft and tank kit. Making ships in 1/72 scale is not a new idea, Airfix pioneering such ship kits in the 1960s and 1970s but it has since revived recently with Lindberg, Revell and Revell Germany with their juggernaut sized 1/72 Japanese, USA and German submarines. The only time the A-Target was made in 1/72 was a vacumform kit released by Wing72 in the 1980s and still available today. The Fine Molds kit is the first injection-molded kit of the A-Target.
The 1/72 scale A-Target Submarine Pearl Harbor includes: 1x Sprue, 1x Decals, 1x Instructions. Decals for three ships are provided: One for the US captured Pearl Harbor Submarine, No. 34 Kiska Bay scuttled ship August 1943 and Hiroshima August 1944. Options include the modified Pearl Harbor nose and tail guards array and the normal fitted Kiska and Hiroshima submarines. One of the two A-Target Submarine torpedoes is included with a display stand which has an option to build with two different warheads.
One of the best features of Japanese Model kits is the box art. The painting on this box is beautifully rendered and a work of art, leaving the viewer with the euphoric feeling like they are standing on the bow of the mother submarine looking at the A-Target in open seas.
The kit is basically one sprue, which contains all the parts injected in dark grey. The ship itself is halved waterline style to aid builders who might want to build the kit in a resin water diorama. The surface details of the parts need to be seen to be admired. The raised surface weld seams are accurately presented along the hull of the ship with fine raised bolts and crisp recessed panel lines in the conning tower. Although the details are fine, great care is needed to cut the parts from the sprue and when sanding seams.
It is a very quick build as it is essentially just two parts for the hull, three parts for the conning tower and various other small detail parts. I learned a quick and easy way to fill the delicate seams in the conning tower and tail fins that does not include using modeling putty. My friend is also building an A-Target Midget Submarine and had the conning tower and fin seams flawlessly filled. He told me he used white glue for those seams as you can fill it in with a toothpick and if you mess up you can wash it off with a wet Q-Tip. The results are amazing and if you get anything from this review I hope this is it.
Gluing on the forward torpedo guards and screw protector is where one needs to step up and take great care. I first glued the prong and let it dry. Then I glued on the protectors which I also let dry overnight. Finally I glued the brackets on. Yes it took three days to assemble that portion of the model but that time is needed so all the parts can fully dry and support the weight of the previous glued part.
The screw protector’s only issue is that the instructions were not clear about how the round guard piece slides all the way to two tiny prongs as opposed to just sitting on the end. I only realized this after I tried to glue the Fine Molds provided template of the fin stabilizers and they did not reach the part. Luckily, I was able to realign the part without any issues.
The kit also provides a small torpedo with two different warheads. I was not clear on which warhead was proper for the Pearl Harbor submarine so I ended up using the warhead with the raised relief so the torpedo had some kind of surface detail and did not look plain. It is a nice addition to the kit but I wish it were provided with the proper torpedo carrier rather than a generic stand.
The submarine was painted using a mixture Tamiya Flat Black and German Grey. The real submarines were painted flat black but I suggest using the German Grey mixture as opposed to a straight flat black as it tends to make the kit dull and details get lost due to the monochromic color. I am getting a better idea how to pre shade using Tamiya colors and I can honestly say this is the best example I have done.
I sprayed Testors gloss on for the decals so they could have a smooth surface to go on. The decals went on great and much better than the dismal decals provided with Porco Rosso model kit I built a couple of years back. Not all the decals are used, which is good to add to the spare decal box. I finally sprayed a flat coat to seal in the decals and protect them from my later oil paint washes. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to photograph flat black but believe me the finish came out nice.
Oil Washes were then applied in the recessed areas and a silver pencil for dings throughout. Rust was replicated using ground brown chalk powder and then brushed on at the appropriate places.
A huge problem I have with any kit that has wires and rigging is the instructions are never clear how they attach and what they are even for. Fine Molds continues this tradition by not explaining where and how the lines are attached and what they are even for. I made an educated guess and the results look great.
I actually never put any kind of rigging or wires on my models as they usually get broken and it is not worth all the trouble, but the results came out quite nice. Use stretched clear spruce; attach each end with super glue. It will have some slack. Then get a match, light it up then blow it out. The heat from the still hot match will tighten up the slack. The end result is impressive.
The kit does come with two stands for each end of the submarine so kit can be displayed without rolling over. I painted them white so there could be some contrast with a nearly black painted model kit.
This is one of the coolest kits I have ever built, which is different than my usual fare of 1/72 airplane models, sci-fi and anime ships and robots. It was nice to step outside of the box for a bit and build such a rewarding kit. The best aspect of this kit is that it is an unusual but much needed addition to my collection of 1/72 Pearl Harbor aircraft kits. My only real complaint is that I wish it had come with two scaled 1/72 IJN sailor figures so one can get a better idea of how large this submarine really was.
This kit is great for beginners as it is a simple build and since the A-Target is one color over all, it should be easy to spray paint if one does not have an airbrush. Master builders should admire the detail and nuance throughout the kit and could be tempted to build it in waterline with resin water. Overall a great kit and another great addition to the Fine Molds model catalog. For $24.00 it is a great buy for what you get.
Enough of the Military model kits (until December)! Let’s get some Hasagawa Macross and Fine Molds Star Wars model kits up for review on CollectionDX!
Fine Molds 1/72 INJ A-Target Midget Submarine can be purchased from Hobby Link Japan .
©2010 Article and Pictures by Leonardo Flores
|Posted 8 June, 2010 - 16:16 by Showapop|