I bought this kit after rediscovering the wonderful Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden (Allied code name George) and, after learning that the George was an offshoot project of the Rex, I enthusiastically sought out this kit.
The Japanese Navy put out a requirement for a high-speed seaplane in September of 1940. The plane was not required to land at any airfields but would be used to support the invasion of islands in the Pacific. What came off the drawing boards at the Kawanishi Naruo plant was the ultra-modern N1K1 Kyofu, or "Mighty Wind" in English. The performance of the N1K1 was so good that, in 1942, Kawanishi was ordered to develop a land-based fighter version, which became the N1K1-J George.
I have had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of spending time with a real Rex at the Nimitz Naval Museum in Fredricksburg Texas. I went over every square inch of that aircraft. I begged the curator to let me into the cockpit to no avail. I doubt much of it was left intact anyway. I took many measurements in the event I ever got around to scratchbuilding one. That never happened, but I did have some excellent first-hand data on the Rex.
The first thing that grabs you about Tamiya kits is the beautiful artwork that graces the front of every box. This kit is no exception. The angle of the Rex on the front of the box shows off its very streamlined looks. I wish Tamiya would move their logo off the upper left corner of the box so I could frame all my box tops and hang them in my office. The kit is well packaged and fits in the box with minimum space to knock around in.
I am always intimidated by the bewildering set of instructions that is included in every Tamiya kit. There are the usual octagonal symbols that tell you what Tamiya paint to use and where to use it, along with the multi-language descriptions and a breakdown of the types of tools needed to successfully complete this project (all Tamiya products). I get tired of referencing what XF-11 is or X-28 is, but the exploded views are simple enough and any skilled builder should be able to figure out how to build this without reading of the many translations placed on the edges of the page.
The canopy is one of the best injection-molded plastic parts I have ever seen. It is thin, to scale and very clear with little to no distortion. These rival any vacuformed canopies I have seen lately. The front windscreen and back teardrop-shaped back half and a clamshell-style side opening section are well done. A clear gunsight is also located on the same tree. I was a little concerned that the tree of clear parts was placed loose in the box, but it did not seem to pick up any damage or scratches in shipping.
A lead weight is included in this kit to make the main pontoon sit on the cradle properly. Otherwise the plane is too tail heavy. The weight is a metal bar that has its own bag to protect the other parts.
Tamiya molded the aircraft is in a medium gray plastic and each tree is individually wrapped. They chose a black plastic to mold the dolly carriage. The first tree has the fuselage halves on it, along with the main pontoon halves. There is a rudder molded on the right half of the pontoon and it is finely crafted and to scale in thickness. I was very impressed by the delicate engraving of the fuselage halves. There is even a small tie down ring molded to the bottom of the fuselage for when the plane is moored to a dock. It is a great job of injection molding, but it is right in the way of sanding out the seam. I might cut it off and save it on a piece of tape to be glued back on later rather than break it off in an attempt to sand around it.
The cockpit sidewall detail is molded into the inside of the fuselage in the form of a simple grid of stiffeners. The cockpit tub is also on this tree. It is well detailed with throttle levers and flap levers already molded to the panels. A set of foot pedals is included as a separate component. The front instrument panel looks like something out of a science fiction space ship with the gauges being soft and without detail. All the seat needs is to have its lightening holes drilled out and a set of harnesses added to make it a very detailed addition to the cockpit. There is a forward bulkhead that can be seen behind the instrument panel that has the gun breeches coming out of it; it can be detailed up easily.
The cowl ring is done as one piece and is a fine bit of mold engineering. The engine is molded as one piece with good detail but, because of the size of the spinner and the conical shape of the front cowling, superdetailing this area would be a waste of time.There are two options for the exhaust, a straight stack or a longer curved stack coming out the side of the cowling. Other sundry parts are included on this tree. The wings and outrigger pontoons have been shown the same care as the fuselage halves, with fine scribed lines where needed and great raised detail in just the right areas.
The dolly that came with the kit was a very nice touch and it can be weathered for a more realistic look. Being dipped in the corrosive salt water of the Pacific and just wheeled off to the side when not in use took its toll on these pieces of equipment. A boarding ladder is also included on this tree and this can be weathered as much as the dolly.
Tamiya’s decals have always run the gamut from brilliant to terrible. The Rex’s decals are right in the middle. The Hinomarus are the right color, but look a bit thick and a tad out of register on the carrier film. I will probably replace them with some SuperScale ones. The yellow tail numbers have a discoloration around the edges, probably a result of an attempt to make them more opaque. There are also two yellow leading edge bars. I can only see these turning darker as they are applied to the green of the upper surface of the wing and lighter as they are applied to the gray of the bottom side of the wing. One long decal is included that is placed in the prop arc on the main pontoon along with a pair of "no step" red lines for the upper wing flap area. A small data plate is included and it seems very well done, with fine print. I just hope I don’t place it upside down or backwards. My Japanese isn’t as good as it use to be.
This plane is slick. The engineering is first rate and the plane looks light years ahead of its time even with the huge pontoon hanging from its underbelly. The parts are well thought out and construction seems like it is going to be a breeze. Even with the exorbitant prices many model manufactures are asking, I always feel like I get my money’s worth out of Tamiya.