Fujimi vs. Cyberhobby: 1:72 D3A1s in a Battle of the Kanbaku:

It’s time for another bout in our continuing series of head-to-head battles between 1:72 kits of similar types. Today, the battle’s between two eastern takes on a classic early-war aircraft, the Aichi D3A1 Type 99 Attack Bomber, which came to have the allied code name “Val” late in 1942. The Type 99 was responsible for the destruction of more allied shipping than any other Japanese type. It had all the attributes of an early-war dive bomber: fixed landing gear, a big wing, two crewmen – and a tendency to become outclassed by the opposition in short order. The Type 99 fared well in 1942, but when it started facing more robust opposition – in the form of both fighters and improved anti-aircraft fire – its rate of loss climbed dramatically. The D3A2 – which was externally identical except for the addition of a propeller spinner – had increased internal tankage to increase range, but the arrival of the Yokosuka D4Y Susuei nudged the Type 99 off the larger Japanese carriers. Just the same, the Type 99 was an active participant in the defense of the Philippines and were pressed into service as kamikazes; as would be expected, losses were of “frightening proportions,” said Rene Francillon in his landmark book “Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War.

So, with the background laid, let’s meet our competitors! First, the defending champion as best Type 99, it’s Fujimi’s D3A1! Dating back to the early 1990s, this kit is a bit long in the tooth; the copy I’ll be using for the review is the Fujimi 2-in-1 kit, which has two Vals in it and a box banner honoring the 50th Anniversary of the end of WWII. And, in this corner, the challenger, dating to 2012, is the Cyberhobby D3A1. I’ll be reviewing the “Midway 1942” boxing.

Before we get started, let me say that the price tag on the Cyberhobby kit is daunting – I paid about $45 for mine, which is a lot of dough for a single-engine 1:72 aircraft. So can it pull off a convincing win that justifies that cost?

As always, this will be a 12-round bout scored on the 10-point must system: the winner gets 10 points per round, the loser 9 points unless there’s a knockdown, in which case more points may be deducted. In the event of a tie, both contestants get 10 points.

Let’s meet our judge! He’s a scale modeler who coordinated the Midway model display aboard the USS Hornet in 2012 and is currently building Lt. James Muri’s B-26A from that battle. He’s published articles about Midway and he even saw the movie in the theatre in “Sensurround!” Please welcome the Midway Model Maniac… me!

Let’s get ready to ranburu!

1. Box

Both are top-opening boxes that keep the parts nice and secure. The Fujimi box is a little bigger (but that’s because there are two models inside) and it has two images: paintings of a D3A1 flying past Diamond Head during the Pearl Harbor operation and a later scheme launching from a carrier with the obligatory audience of cheering crewmen. Cyberhobby also goes with the launching scene, also with the hat-waving audience in the background. The Fujimi painting of the D3A over Hawaii is okay as far as the plane goes, but the background showing Honolulu is pretty feeble – the buildings along the beach look like something from a third-world country, and immediately behind them is farmland – not accurate, even in 1941. However, the lower scene is far better than Cyberhobby’s similar scene. As these two opponents feel each other out, round one is a draw.

2. Surface Detail

The two have panel lines that are very similar in depth, but which diverge in places. However, on the bottom of the wing, Cyberhobby includes a little rivet detail. It also includes the fairings on the belly that Fujimi missed. Both kits have raised rib detail on the rudder, ailerons and elevators that is considerably exaggerated; they’ll both need to spend some time with sanding sticks to look realistic. In fact, Fujimi’s ribs are more petite and to-scale. While it’s disappointing that Cyberhobby could not improve on this feature, the inclusion of detail on the plane’s belly that Fujimi missed give Cyberhobby a narrow 10-9 round.

3. Fidelity of Outline

Another close round! The fuselages look about equal, as do the wings. One area where the Cyberhobby kit pulls ahead is in the wheel pants; the struts are more accurate than the Fujimi examples. Despite different treatments of the cowlings, both are right in length and look. The fillet on the vertical tail is just a shade more accurate on the Cyberhobby kit. After much scrutiny, it’s another very narrow 10-9 round to Cyberhobby.

4. Ordnance and Displacement gear

This is a clear win for the Cyberhobby kit. The 250kg bomb is provided as a single-piece body with detail, with separate fins, and the 60kg bombs are also rendered with detail. Fujimi gives you a featureless 250kg bomb with separate halves and s seam to deal with. The racks for the 60kg bombs in the Cyberhobby kit have detail, which is missing from the simplified Fujimi racks. The displacement gear in the Cyberhobby kit is more petite and smaller in size, which is more accurate. In all, an easy 10-9 win for Cyberhobby.

5. Landing Gear

Fujimi has the wheels molded into the spats. Cyberhobby has separate wheels and spats, and they’re weighted, even. The Fujimi tail wheel is molded into one of the fuselage halves, while Cyberhobby has a separate tail wheel. The Fujimi tail wheel fairing is more accurate. Still, I give it to Cyberhobby, very narrowly.

6. Cockpit

Fujimi’s cockpit is sparse – simple bucket seats lacking belts on a floor, with flat instrument panels enchanced by decals, and a control column. Rudder panels are molded to the floor. There is no sidewall detail but thee are some sink marks. There’s a nicely molded Type 92 machine gun for the observer, but there’s no mount for it – and even if there was, the clear parts have no provision for an open canopy.

Cyberhobby has more stuff in the office, starting with considerable sidewall detail (which also sports three ejection pin marks amid the raised ribs – good luck with that). The instrument panel has molded instruments, but they are completely unlike anything in the real aircraft. The bodies of the forward-firing guns are included, but they seem somewhat narrow. The seats, front and back, are identical and are not quite right in shape. The control column is present, but inaccurate. The observer’s instrument panel is just okay. Again, there is no mount for the observer’s Type 92 machine gun – but there’s also no gun in the kit.

How do you score a round where both contenders punched themselves in the face? I have to go to my modeler’s sense here: I’d rather have no detail to work with than a bunch of detail that’s wrong that I’ll have to remove before doing my own work. It may be controversial, but I’m calling it for Fujimi.

7. Engine

Cyberhobby tries to get back on track here. The crankcase and mount are separate and there’s nice rivet detail. There are pushrods, but the cylinders lack cooling fin detail. Ouch! Fujimi has a one-piece engine front with an utterly smooth crankcase, but the Hikari 1 engine in this kit has fins – and pushrods in the wrong positions. Terrible efforts by both contestants, and the crowd boos. Call it a draw.

8. Propellers

Cyberhobby’s prop is daintier – it’s also pointier. That’s totally wrong. It does have nice hub detail, however. Fujimi nails the shape, although there are ejector pin marks toward the base of the blades. Fujimi ekes out a win in this round.

9. Clear Parts

This battle’s getting sloppy now. Cyberhobby gives you parts for an open canopy and a closed one, but the stacking sections are very pronounced and the last three sections are so undersized they won’t touch the sides of the fuselage, making the single-piece canopy unusable! Fuimi’s single-piece canopy at least fits the fuselage. The round goes to Fujimi (although it really should go to Falcon or some other vacuformed canopy vendor!).

10. Instructions

Fujimi has to get the edge here; it’s less complex kit is explained in seven steps, and there’s little to get confused about. Cyberhobby crams everything into five steps, and some of the items on the instructions in no way resemble the parts on the sprues.

11. Decals

This is a little tough, since these are not original boxings, but let’s work with what we have. Fujimi has a very large sheet from which you could build just about any early-war D3A1; the markings called out are for “Egusa’s Stallion” from Soryu, a Hiryu D3A, a Kaga D3A and a Zuikaku D3A from the Pearl Harbor operation, plus a Celebes-based aircraft from 1942. There’s a red numbers jungle with the code letters for the first, second and third carrier divisions (AI, AII, BI, BII, EI and EII), so if you do some research you can just about any Pearl Harbor plane. The fuselage stripes, tail stripes and fuselage bands are all here, in various colors, as are wheel spats markings and vertical tail bands.

Cyberhobby give you two planes that flew on the strike on Midway Island, both from Akagi, a D3A aboard Shokaku at Coral Sea, and a Celebes-based machine from 1942.  Gray wing walks are provided, something Fujimi omitted. The tail stripes are each separate stripes, which ought to be a blast to apply and keep even. The printing looks sharp and in register.

This round is close, but it goes to Fujimi and their extremely extensive sheet.

12. Extras

The Cyberhobby kit includes folded wingtips, and I hope you like folding your wings, because the tips are longer in chord than the wings at the break line. That means some re-shaping if you wish to build the wings extended. The rudder and other control surfaces are separate in the Cyberhobby kit, which expands complexity but gives you a bit of latitude for posing the model. Cyberhobby gets a minor win here for trying but not succeeding spectacularly.

The verdict

This fight revealed things both models need – new engines, interiors and clear parts. When we go to the cards, what do we find? A draw – 145-145. Dead even. If you want a tiebreaker, go to the price tag; you’ll find the Fujimi kit quite a bit cheaper on the vendor tables at a contest or on eBay (where it can be had for $7-$12 plus postage). Cyberhobby let us down here; there were areas where it could have made a great leap ahead beyond Fujimi’s good starting point, but it blew it with the interior (no observer’s weapon?), engine, prop and other things. Please, Cyberhobby: your core kit is good. Re-do the detail sprues and you’d have a winner.

References:

Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, by Rene Francillon

Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945, by Robert Mikesh

Aichi D3A Val, Nakajima B5N Kate, by Seweryn Fleisher and Zygmunt Szeremeta

Maru Mechanic No. 34

Aichi 99 Kanbaku “Val” Units of World War II, by Osamu Tagaya

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2 Comments

  1. As for the Cyberhobby kit does NOT have a Control Stck in the Cockpit…

    • The Midway edition has part D2, which goes at the pilot’s feet in front of the seat and is stick-like (although nothing like the real item). Perhaps this was added later, after the initial edition.


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