One of the long-standing tenets of warfare is that knowledge of the enemy, his strengths, weaknesses and the disposition of his forces is a key ingredient to emerging victorious in battle. From before Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War” until today, this has held true time and again. Even the effect of overwhelming forces can be blunted, redirected or nullified by timely intelligence and artful application of maneuver. In short, it’s just like the Public Safety Announcements of the 1980’s continuously exhorted: Knowledge is Power, and Knowing is Half the Battle.
Given the numerical superiority of the Allies, it’s no surprise then that both German and Japanese forces placed a strong emphasis on their reconnaissance capabilities. Faced with such a physical imbalance, it was critical for the Axis forces to be able to determine what was happening when, and as swiftly as possible. This need took on the form of ever higher-performing recon aircraft.
The key in WWII was to not only find the enemy, but to survive and develop your film. Without the real-time video transfers and secure datalinks taken for granted today, it was imperative that recon planes have the highest performance possible. For the Germans, the Arado Ar-234 with its jet engines provided eyes in the sky that were immune to interception. For the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), this key capability was missing until the introduction of the C6N1 Saiun, a powerful, fast, and ultimately too-late aircraft known to the Allies as “Myrt”.
The development of the Myrt was protracted and it only entered service after the war had turned irrevocably against the Japanese. However, once the bugs had been worked out and the C6N began flying recon sorties, it proved that it could definitely do what was needed. Given that the Saiun was quite a technical achievement, it’s not a surprise that it has been kitted a few times in various versions. One of the oldest and most obscure kits is Aoshima’s C6N1. The Aoshima Myrt is a real classic, first sold more than half a century ago. As you might expect, this kit is not one that most people will want to bother with. Of course, for me, the lure of building something this old and admittedly crappy is too strong to resist!
The Story Until Now:
To get a better feel for the saga of this particular Saiun, the reader is directed to the following links. From here, you can see what I started with, and what it’s taken to get it to this point!
Battledress: Painting the Saiun
Now, you can’t send Myrt out without a suitable dress on, right? The question is: what colour should the C6N1 be? Opinions seem to vary, although given that no one seems to know the right colour for a Zero, and there were many times more of those than there were Myrts, the confusion is understandable. I’ve only ever seen very few black and white photos of the Saiun, and that didn’t help me much. Thank goodness for that good ol’ “information superhighway” thing, eh?
Looking on the internet, I came to the very useful “Wings Palette” site (http://wp.scn.ru/) that had several options. There were light grey and bright IJN Green examples, as well as some in various shades of more olive green Since the site is all artists’ renderings and profile drawings, it’s impossible to say if they’re correct, but it gave me some ideas. There were even a few that did NOT have the entire engine cowling in black. This seems to be quite unusual for IJN planes, and I was drawn to one of those schemes. I eventually chose one that was said to depict a machine from the Navy’s 343 Flying Group. It was all olive green with a low demarcation line for the light grey underside, and a white spinner. This looked classy and different, so I decided to go with that.
I primed the whole plane in Colorplace rattlecan primer, and then painted the wheel bays with a bright bluish turquoise mix I had left over from a robot I built some time ago. I washed the bay with Nuln Oil and then used Silly Putty to mask them. I also painted the inside of the doors at this point. I painted the entire lower side of the plane in Model Master Acrylic (MMA) Light Ghost Grey, and then masked it off with Tamiya Tape.
For the topside, I mixed MMA Bright Green, Brown, Olive Drab and some Guards Red to create a brownish olive colour close to what I saw online. I was pretty pleased with the results, but I couldn’t apply it until I got the canopy masked. Oh good, my favourite, masking canopies…
I then painted the topside with my MMA Brolive colour (that’s brown-olive, you see) and it only took two coats. Upon unmasking I had a few paint leaks to fix up, but overall it went well, and thanks to MMAs not changing colour when applied by hand, touching up was a cinch. I gave the paint a quick wet sand with 320 grit and then applied a couple coats of Future to prepare for decalling.
This is an old kit. It’s actually ancient, since it’s likely more than 50 years old. That means the decals are just as old. This thought did not make me a happy modeller. However, I decided to go full-retro and try to at least use the kit decals. If they didn’t work, I was toast. I don’t have spare Hinomarus, so I’d have to go and buy some. You can imagine my surprise and joy when I found out that the decals worked perfectly!
Thankfully, Aoshima packed the decals in the same bag as the rest of the kit, meaning that they were sealed off from the world for the entire life of this kit. Thus, despite their age, they decals hadn’t seen the ravages of time. It was quite unexpected that not only did the decals NOT break up when they went into the warm water I was using, but that they also stayed together and sat down on the plane well. The decals had a surprising amount of adhesion too; some decals seem to barely stick to the surface of a model, but once these were burnished down, they were solid. The good thing was that they could also be re-wetted to move them around, all without damage.
Well, almost. I did find that the very edges of the decals were prone to chipping, but in most cases the decal would tear and fold over, so the ‘chip’ could be recovered. The problem was that the decals were quite thick, and did not want to sit down into the panel lines. I tried MircoSol and MicroSet, but they had no effect at all on the decals. In many ways, the decals are similar to either old FROG decals or even newer Revell Germany decals in that they resist contours with considerable strength. Even laying Future on top and letting it soften the decals didn’t work. To make them lay into the panel lines better, I actually cut the decals along the panels, and that allowed them to “roll into” the contours much more easily.
Overall, decalling wasn’t as painful a procedure as I had envisioned it would be, and given the extreme age of the decals, they performed excellently. It’s a shame there weren’t some aircraft numbers or other markings. I believe the newer “retro edition” of the Aoshima Myrt does come with a more complete decal set, but beggars can’t be choosers in a situation like this. Since I was trying to use as much of the original kit as possible, I decided I’d just stick to what was in the box, decal wise.
As an aside: I feel bad for those who buy the “retro edition” Aoshima Saiun. Sure, the box art is nice, and you might be thinking: “Oh, even an OLD Japanese kit is likely better than a middle-aged American one!” Yeah, well, you’d be wrong, as you can now see. In fact, I’ve seen the retro kit for about $22, which is a crime against modellers everywhere.
To highlight the panel lines, I used finely ground up chalk pastels. However, I also decided to try and use a “filter” of pastels. I flat coated the entire airframe with Delta Ceramcoat Matte Indoor/Outdoor Urethane Varnish; it seems pastels bite much better on matte surfaces. I then ground up some pastels to be a shade or two darker than the paint I made for the topside of the Saiun. I gently applied some pastel to the surface, and then using a brush laden with Varsol I “washed” the pastels into the surface. A note of caution is required here: if you apply the pastels too roughly to the matte surface, they will tend to “grind in” and even significant pressure will not dislodge all of them. This can result in “dark spots” in the paint. If this happens, I don’t know how you get them out. Maybe Isopropyl and some vigorous rubbing, but I’m not too inclined to try it.
I repeated the procedure on the underside, but with a grey pastel mixed to be close to the Light Ghost Grey I used on the underside of the plane. In both cases, the filtering effect worked passably well to give some slight colour variations, although it wasn’t exactly what I was going for. I even washed these thin coats of pastels over the Hinomarus to tone them down a bit, and I was amazed that it really worked, without distorting the colour too much. This is where things ended up going ever so slightly south, as you’ll see…
The underside, all complete. The blue gear bays contrast nicely with the grey and green of the plane. The panel lines add “pop” and the Hinomarus don’t look too discoloured!
The filtering later of pastels was locked in with more matte coat, and the panel lines were then more heavily outlined in their respective colours. I then used more Varsol to dissolve the pastels into the panel lines, causing them to be darker and reducing the amount of post shading beside the panel lines. Well, that was the theory. It didn’t quite work perfectly. I think it would have been better done over a shinier surface, as the pastel did get ground into the ‘post shading’ areas a bit too strongly. While the washing of the panel lines came out well, I feel the post shading is a bit too strong, and I wasn’t able to correct it.
Then, I did the worst thing a modeller can do and ignored my gut. I had applied the grey panel line shading/wash over the underside Hinomarus and it had worked nicely. The grey tinted the red darker, and it looked just fine. So, instead of using a darker red pastel (that I already had made up) for highlighting the panel lines on the topside Hinomarus, I decided I could get away with using the same green as on the rest of the plane. A voice in my head, which I summarily dismissed, told me that was a bad plan. I didn’t realize how bad until I re-matted the airframe post shading. As my little voice suspected, while grey may play nicely with red, green does NOT. Thus, the shading on the topside Hinomarus is a lot stronger than I would have liked it to be. Still, lesson learned and it’s not a total disaster, so that’s something.
To finish everything off, the plane was sprayed with a Future-enhanced version of the matte varnish to give it a semigloss appearance. The spinner was painted Tamiya XF-2 Flat White and the blades were made out of a mixed MMA reddish brown. Once the canopy was unmasked, the inside and the panes of “glass” on the outside were given a coat of Future. Sadly, not much can hid the warped, distorted and almost wrinkly appearance of the transparencies, but that’s not my fault. The canopy was glued down with White School Glue and I was glad to see that my “tinplate” interior actually managed to look passable! The last thing left to do was to glue on the gear, which went very easily and which fit quite well.
This has been, in turns, a fun, vexing and interesting build. To start with, it’s important to note that this kit is a brutish pig of a model. It has little going for it from a modelling standpoint, and it shows its age like a Hollywood star with too many facelifts. Nothing on this kit is acceptable by today’s standards, and it is, for all intents and purposes, a piece of junk. Very few people would even bother to give it the time of day, and I can’t say I blame them. There are better alternatives out there now, and for anyone who wants a kit with anything approaching ease-of-build I would recommend those other kits.
However, even considering this model’s many and varied faults, I still found it a fun kit, overall. If you like a challenge, and you like to push the “retro experience” to the limit, then this is still a viable model. I enjoyed seeing what I could do with something so raw and unrefined. If you don’t take yourself too seriously and you’re not trying to win an IPMS Nationals convention anytime soon, then the Farpro kits aren’t as bad as they could be.
I can’t recommend this to those of little patience or those who have been wooed by the current crop of expensive ‘superkits’. It’s a great starting point for a “What If” however, and the airframe could make a decent “test mule” for new techniques, too. It’s even a good kit for a younger modeller with low expectations. It is simple, looks like a plane, and doesn’t take a lot to build up. If done with some care, the action features could even add some “play value” to the kit. Who HASN’T flown a built kit around their bedroom at some time in their modelling career?
Overall, the masochist that I am, I enjoyed building this kit. It allowed me to play with a few new techniques on an inexpensive and, if need be, disposable kit. However, I also liked the feeling of bringing something that so few people would bother with to completion. I am rather satisfied in being able to show that yes, with some work, these ancient kits can still be built. In short, this kit can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be; in the end analysis how much you get out of it says as much about your approach to modelling as it does your skill level!