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First Look Review
Mitsubishi A6M5/5a Zero
  • Tam_Zero_Boxtop

by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

It's fashionable in some quarters to bemoan the fact that major kit manufacturers always are “always” releasing famous aircraft subjects at the expense of less well known types. However, setting aside the obvious question of economics, it's a shock to realise that it's about 20 years since Tamiya last released a quarterscale Zero. That alone should be enough to make the archetypal Japanese fighter worthy of a revisit – and when they see just what a beauty Tamiya have produced, I think even the most hardened cynic will forgive them!

Produced in greater numbers than any other mark of Zero, the A6M5 was introduced in answer to the continued delays in introducing a Zero replacement and the pressing need to match the technically superior new US fighters then appearing. The modified Zero did away with the folding wing-tip mechanism and featured a new rounded tip which, together with thicker wing-skinning, produced a simpler wing capable of higher diving speeds. Also in the interests of performance, individual ejector exhaust stacks were adopted, giving the new model a top speed of around 350 mph. The A6M5a introduced new belt-feeds (instead of drums) for the wing cannons, raising the ammunition supply to 125 rounds per gun.

In plastic
This is one of those kits that might have slipped past me had it not been for Steffen Arndt's heads-up in the Forum to his German review on the excellent IPMS Germany site. One look was all it needed to get me logged into HLJ, credit card in hand! The timing was perfect – I ordered the kit just before leaving on a working holiday and it arrived the day after my return.

Packed in a typically attractive conventional box, the presentation is very good, with all the sprues and accessories sealed in separate plastic bags to protect them. The kit comprises:

138 x grey styrene parts
8 x clear styrene parts
A set of painting masks
Decals for 3 x colour schemes

As you'd hope with a new Tamiya kit, the quality of moulding is quite superb, flash free and with no sinkage. Ejector pin marks are subtle and kept quite unobtrusive. The surface finish comprises beautifully fine engraved panel lines, plus delicate embossed riveting and raised fasteners and lightly depicted fabric surfaces.

As with Hasegawa's recent largescale Hien, this is an example of one of the major manufacturers at the top of their game. Tamiya's new Zero really is a beautiful kit – not a huge number of parts, gimmick free and with excellent detail throughout.

A test fit shows the major parts fit perfectly – the wing root is so precise, there'll be no need for filler. The wing and nose feature separate panels – which is often a recipe for fit problems, but fear not – in this case they drop into place very neatly. Control surfaces are fixed, but the kit includes separate landing flaps. The tail is a little unusual, with a separate fin and this, combined with the breakdown of other parts and sprues layout is a pretty clear clue that Tamiya have more versions planned.

The kit includes a well-appointed 29-part cockpit, with decals for the instruments and seat harness (see below for Tamiya's alternative harness). The engine is crisply detailed, as is the undercarriage which features a nice deep wheel-well. The mainwheels are “unweighted”.

The canopy is thin and crystal clear, with a separate sliding section, and it's nice to see Tamiya provide a set of painting masks again as standard.

The kit includes a fine seated pilot and, rounding off the standard parts, a great set of 4 standing figures. These are beautifully detailed and will be sure to find a home in countless vignettes and dioramas.

Detail set
I've stated publicly that I believe including an etched seat harness in aircraft kits will eventually become the norm among major manufacturers. Tamiya are still a step away from this, and it may be in recognition of the fact that aftermarket sets will inevitably follow the release of this kit that they've followed a different approach and produced their own detail set.

Item #12624 (price 600 Yen) includes a neat set of seat belts that will definitely improve over the standard kit's decal harness. There are no other extra interior details – Tamiya are evidently confident that their moulded cockpit will more than pass muster – but the set features undercarriage indicators for the wings and wheel chocks that must be folded to shape.

The real twist that sets the package apart from competitors is the inclusion of metal cannon barrels and pitot tube. These are quite exquisite, with the barrels are produced in a dark “gun-metal” and, although undoubtedly something of a luxury, you deserve to treat yourself occasionally!

Instructions and decals
You can hardly go far wrong with Tamiya instructions and the Zero's are no exception, being clearly drawn and logically laid out. They make light work of what should be, essentially, quite a straightforward build. Needless to say, Tamiya indicate their own paints throughout, but I'll used WEM's comprehensive Japanese Colourcoats for my build.

Decals are provided for 3 schemes:

A. A6M5a - 302nd Naval Fighter Group, 1st Squadron, ENS. Sadaaki Akamatsu, Atsugi Air Base, Feb 1945.
B. A6M5 – Carrier Juno, leads ship of Carrier Div. 2, 652nd Fighter Group, Mariana Sea, June 19, 1944.
C. A6M5 – Rabaul Fighter Group, New Britain Island, Rabaul, 1943-44.

The decals are very good quality, silk finished with minimal carrier film. While they are slighter thicker than some other manufacturers decals, the registration is spot-on and the tiny stencil marks have clearly defined Japanese characters.

Tamiya's new Zero is a lovely kit! Beautifully detailed and moulded, its straightforward construction makes it ideally suited for all modellers of average ability upwards. The import price of Tamiya kits in Europe is often something of a sore point, but at a UK price of around £25, the Zero still represents reasonably fair value for a new kit of this quality. Buying my kit from HLJ represented a significant saving and, with the P&P spread over a larger order, the Japanese price equivalent to around £15 made the kit exceptionally good value. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Superbly moulded and detailed, but still simple enough for all modellers of average ability upwards.
Verdict: Almost certainly the best 1/48 scale Zero available, Tamiya's new kit is a real beauty!
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 61103
  Suggested Retail: 3,200 Yen
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Aug 16, 2008
  NATIONALITY: Japan / 日本

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. All rights reserved.


Any more updates on this build Rowan. You haven't "forgotten" about it have you . Andy
SEP 17, 2008 - 01:02 AM
Hi Andy I'm afraid not (about the updates) - I haven't had a chance to do any modelling since last week. I hope to do a bit tomorrow night... All the best Rowan
SEP 17, 2008 - 01:59 AM
Hi Rowan I hope you haven't quit modelling .. a bit more on colours that came up today on HS ... http://www.network54.com/Forum/149674/thread/1222166122/ if you do not hurry I will start this model too .. the Hellcat is nearing completion .. just this darn ignition wires keep me away from it cheers Steffen
SEP 23, 2008 - 04:06 AM
Hi again Just to surprise Jean-Luc and Steffen... here's the scene on the workbench ahead of what was meant to be a solid weekend's modelling - before I caught some sort of bug and was out for the count! I hardly dare say it, but the Zero is basically finished. As you can see, I'm planning a little vignette with the kit figures and Tamiya's Kurogane - painted in Navy colours, which will both make a change from all the khaki ones and also hopefully hide the simplified interior a bit (I want to model the top down). I'll take some proper pics once it all comes together. All the best Rowan
NOV 02, 2008 - 08:35 AM
Rowan: The Zero looks great. Looking forward to seeing the vignette. Hope you feel better Taylor
NOV 02, 2008 - 02:05 PM
Hi Rowan, Things are looking very nice. I am looking forward to the vignette and figure painting. Be sure to show us your progress on that too! Chas
NOV 02, 2008 - 08:07 PM
Hi Rowan! Wow, now that's some progress... You'll see, the figures are very nice to paint. What color will you use for the Kurogane? Black? Jean-Luc
NOV 05, 2008 - 12:36 AM
Excellent work Rowan. I was wondering what had happened to the Zero build. Looking forward to seeing some more progress with the vignette. Andy
NOV 05, 2008 - 12:57 AM
Thanks for the encouragement guys! Much appreciated. The figures will be somewhat unknown territory for me, because I haven't tried to paint any since I was a kid. Hopefully, they'll turn out reasonably and will encourage me to try vignettes more often - I think what Jean-Luc and Michael achieve adds so much life to models, I'm very keen to have a go. I'm following the Hasegawa instructions for painting the Kurogane. They suggest Navy Blue or "Cowling Colour", so I'm using WEM's cowling colour which is basically almost black with a faint hint of blue. I'll mist on a slightly lightened coat and also dry brush etc., so that it doesn't just look like a shapeless dark blob next to the Zero. All the best Rowan
NOV 05, 2008 - 02:29 AM

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  • Tam_Zero_Parts_1
  • Tam_Zero_Parts_2
  • Tam_Zero_Parts_3
  • Tam_Zero_Cowl
  • Tam_Zero_Figures_1
  • Tam_Zero_Clear
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  • Tam_Zero_Surface
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  • Tam_Zero_Flap
  • Tam_Zero_Cockpit_Floor
  • Tam_Zero_Instruments_1
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  • Tam_Zero_Seat
  • Tam_Zero_Engine
  • Tam_Zero_Exhausts
  • Tam_Zero_Well
  • Tam_Zero_Gear
  • Tam_Zero_Propeller
  • Tam_Zero_Figures_2
  • Tam_Zero_Details_Pack
  • Tam_Zero_Etch
  • Tam_Zero_Details