Saturday, July 27, 2013

Japanese Tank Collection

While looking at Japanese blogs, I stumbled upon an entry in the Strange Mecha Blog (いろものメカ雑記帳) that cleared up some of the mystery around the "Precise" tank models from my last post.

The models were announced during the Summer Wonder Festival in 2008, and were actually produced for distribution by CaféReo. I'm not sure how the name Precise came to be attached to them, but maybe that was the company that did the manufacturing for CaféReo, or maybe it is the company that held all of the old stock.

CaféReo is primarily known as a distributor of anime character goods and 1:144 scale gashapon aircraft. The tanks were part of a proposed 1/72 Japanese Tank Collection (1/72 日本戦車コレクション) which, for whatever reason, never came to fruition. There were actually a total of  9 models in the collection (as opposed to the 8 that I mentioned in my last post).

The complete set consists of three Chi-Ha medium tanks, two Ho-Ni SPGs, two Chi-Nu medium tanks, a Ha-Go light tank, and a Chi-Ri medium tank. The two additional tanks not shown in my previous post are a Ho-Ni in camouflage, and the Chi-Ri.

I started assembly of the Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks first. The few small parts supplied on sprues are easy to remove and glue in place, requiring only a bit of touch-up for the paint. There was one piece I could not really identify, and have no idea of where to place it.

Attaching the tracks was the most difficult part of putting these models together. The vinyl tracks were all bent and twisted, and needed treatment with a blow dryer to get most of the bends out of them.

Because of some recent bad luck with joining rubber/vinyl tracks with my soldering iron, I decided to try out Shoe Goo to test how well it worked on the tracks.

I cleaned off and roughened the surfaces to be joined. I put a bit of Shoe Goo on each end, and then pressed them together. I think that the trick is to make sure not to press the overlapping ends too hard and squeeze all the Goo out from between them.

After the Goo set, I removed the upper hull of the tank. I stretched sections of the track until it became long enough to go around the drive sprocket and idler, then gently worked them around the road wheels.

The tank on the left has the pre-1942 camouflage style (which may not be accurate for the Shinhoto Chi-Ha), while the tank on the right has the 1942-43 China/Home Islands type camouflage, with markings from the Moeyo! Tank School (萌えよ!戦車学校) manga hand-painted by yours truly.

The next picture is of the Chi-Ha with 120mm (L/12) short naval gun (sometimes referred to as a howitzer). I haven't seen any pictures of the tank with markings, but I added the IJN/SNLF anchor because it looks cool.

Assembly of the Ho-Ni is very similar to that of the Chi-Ha. It comes with a very rudimentary interior that seems fairly accurate in layout.

Judging by appearance, the gun is the 75mm Type 90 field gun. Making the model a Type 1 Ho-Ni I. The gun itself is pretty crude, and can move on two axes. Unfortunately due to it being front heavy, the barrel cannot really stay in an elevated position.

I tried drilling out the underside of the breech block and adding some metal to act as a counterbalance for the barrel, but it didn't do any good.

The tank on the left has the Japanese "parched grass" base coat color, while the one on the right is in 1942-43 style camouflage.

The Chi-Nu was a little more work to assemble. The headlamps need to be adjusted to the proper length before being attached, and the pick needs to be attached in a way that does not interfere with turret rotation.

The tank on the left is in the 1942-43 style camouflage, while the one on the right has the Japanese base coat color.

The tracks of the Ha-Go were the real test of effectiveness for Shoe Goo. The overlap between the tracks were very short, so the Goo needs to be pretty strong to maintain the bond under tension. The tracks can be quite a struggle to get on, since the two halves of the rear idler were almost too close together, making it difficult to fit the teeth of the tracks between them. The Goo did hold up though, so I think that for rubber band type tracks it will be my method of choice for attachment in the future.

The Chi-Ri was the easiest of the tanks to assemble. The tracks are the most pliable of the bunch, and go on a lot easier. Unfortunately, they do not fit around the drive sprockets easily, though with a bit of work I believe that it could be managed. There are locator holes are present for attaching a machine gun and a jack, but these parts are absent from the sprue.

I scavenged the machine gun and jack from other models to complete the tank. It is in base coat color with no markings.

A comparison of CaféReo, and Altaya Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks. The Altaya tank (right) is one of the old metal models. The hull of the Altaya model is slightly longer than that of the CaféReo model.

A comparison of Chi-Ha and Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks. The two tanks to the left are early Chi-Ha tanks with the 57mm gun from AmerCom and Dragon. The two tanks to the right are the Shinhoto Chi-Ha tanks from CaféReo, and Altaya. The AmerCom, Dragon, and CaféReo tanks are nearly identical in dimensions.

A comparison of Dragon, and CaféReo Ha-Go tanks. The Dragon tank (left) is the Manchurian version fitted with auxiliary wheels. These were added because the tank had problems crossing the ridges and furrows of ploughed kaoliang fields.

The two are near identical in size. The one major difference that I see is that the rear deck of the CaféReo tanks sits higher than that of the Dragon tank.

A comparison of a Panther, the Chi-Ri, and a Jagdtiger.

My final impression of the CaféReo models is that with the proper enhancements, they can be made into great scale models. The tracks are particularly bad (in part because the drive sprockets are sometimes assembled crooked), and could do with some Dragon DS replacements. Unfortunately, I'm not that ambitious, and even getting them to the stage they are currently in is already a great accomplishment nowadays. I do however have some damaged models that I may one day use for such a purpose.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Precise Japanese Tanks

A mysterious set of 1/72 scale Japanese tanks attributed to "Precise" have been sporadically available from various sources for the last couple of years, but there does not seem to be much information about the models or the company that had them made.

The only information that I have been able to find out was that the tanks are from a pre-production test run, and were never released. Because of this, there is no retail packaging, and the tanks are sold in cellophane bags.

Although the models were discovered in a warehouse in Hong Kong, I believe that they were made for a Japanese company. I was told that there should be 8 tanks in the complete set, which seems to fall into the typical paradigm that Japanese companies use to sell gashapon toys. I'm guessing that the tank I'm missing would be the "secret" model that is typical of these collectible trading toys.

The 7 tanks that I have are the following:

Type 97 Chi-Ha Medium Tanks

Type 97 Chi-Ha with 120mm naval gun

Type 1 Ho-Ni Tank Destroyer

Type 3 Chi-Nu Medium Tanks with 75mm gun

Type 95 Ha-Go Light Tank

The models come with the two halves of the hull fitted together, but not glued. The machineguns, headlamps, pioneer tools, and other small bits come pre-painted on sprues, and need to be attached separately. The soft vinyl tracks also need to be installed separately.

I have not taken any measurements yet, but they definitely look 1/72 as opposed to 1/76. Stay tuned for size comparisons when I get these built up.

Friday, July 5, 2013

AX 2013 Day 1

Anime Expo is in L.A. again, and this year brings us a working replica of a Panzer III done up in the markings of Ōarai High's Anko Team from the anime series Girls und Panzer. The tank was made by Panzer Fabrik out of Colorado, and sponsored by Sentai Filmworks. A Panzer IV (which is what the tank actually should be) is also being constructed, but is not finished yet. Crunchyroll has some video of the tank being parked out in front of the LACC.

The model actually did a really really nice pose for me, but because I wasn't as familiar with my loaner camera, I missed the shot and ended up with a not so great picture of her.

It's not a period tank, but I think that the wear patterns are still relevant for reference. Maybe even more so than looking at a tank in a museum that is no longer running.

I think the convention staffers thought I was weird for taking pictures of things like the tank's wheels and tracks, and one of them suggested I go to the other side so I could take pictures of the girls instead, so I had to oblige him.

I can't wait to get the Platz kit of the Anko Team Panzer IV so I can build one of these in 1/72 scale.