The Unryu, lead ship of her class, was first envisioned as part of the Japanese military's wartime construction program. Initiated in 1941, it called for the construction of additional carriers. The Hiryu was selected as the base design due to her good qualities, and was modified for ease of manufacture. The island structure was moved to the starboard side and only two deck elevators were installed. She could carry 50-60 aircraft. Following Japanese losses at Midway, the construction program was expedited.
Unryu was laid down August 1, 1942 and completed August 6, 1944. Five other carriers of her class were commenced but only two were completed. Japan's losses left Unryu without fuel, aircraft and aircrews and her operational life consisted of short trips across the Inland Sea to Kure and other ports. Finally, in December of 1944, the Allied invasion force bound for Luzon was detected and Unryu was prepared for a special mission. She embarked a small group of A6M5 and D4Y aircraft, and 30 Ohka suicide bombs, as well as other supplies, and on Dec 17, departed Kure, headed for Manila. She was accompanied by destroyers Hinoki, Momi and Shigure, the last a bad omen as she had a history of being the only survivor of her task forces.
On the morning of December 19, 1944, one of Unryu's D4Y aircraft spotted USS Redfish, a Balao class submarine. Unryu went to alert status, but at 1635, Redfish fired four torpedoes and one struck Unryu under the island, on the starboard side. She lost power. For 15 minutes her crew worked desperately to get her working. Just as she was beginning to build steam, a second torpedo from Redfish struck, ahead of the Island structure, detonating the Ohka bombs. There was a tremendous explosion, and Unryu was destroyed, taking 1200 of her crew down with her. Survivors were taken by Shigure back to Japan and Hinoki and Momi continued on to Manila, where both were sunk in action. For further reading, look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_aircraft_carrier_UnryĆ«
and here http://www.combinedfleet.com/Unryu.htm
Jim Starkweather first looked at this kit here http://www.combinedfleet.com/Unryu.htm
and gave us a good overview of the parts in the box. I have included sprue shots for the benefit of anyone wanting a closer look. The sprue breakdown is as follows:
1. A sprue, hull sides.
2. B sprue, hangar deck, lower hangar deck inserts, some island parts
3. C sprue, waterline hull base, bow and stern lower deck sections
4. D sprue, deck sections and elevators, one in grey styrene, on in a frosted clear plastic.
5. E part, attached to the clear D sprue, bridge glass
6. F sprue, island and hull side structures
7. G sprue, island and hull side structures
8. H sprue, hangar sides, external structure parts
9. I sprue, stern decking, Ohka bombers
10. K part, on clear D sprue, control booths
11. 25mm gun sprue
12. W sprue, various gun mounts, boats, aircraft X2
13. Y sprue, aircraft in dark green styrene
14. aircraft sprue, misc. aircraft, X2
15. weights for ballast
16. etch fret with antenna masts and carts for Ohka bombs
Decals, Instructions, Painting Guide
There is a large decal sheet with deck markings and camouflage and Hinomaru markings for the aircraft. There are three small decal sheets with more Hinomaru in different sizes.
The instructions are laid out in a folding pamphlet style, with a sprue map and a painting guide. Paints are provided by number of GSI Creos Mr. Color and Aqueous color, and by name.
In the shipyard
Construction begins with assembly of the hangar deck, first adding the sides to the main hangar deck, and then the lower deck sections. The Ohka bombers are pictured on the main hangar deck, which is where I put them later, but should have been placed in the lower hangar deck according to what I read. Don't glue the elevators in place as you will need to either apply the deck decals or paint it to match.
assembles the bot and stern deck sections. the 25mm guns are very tiny and easily broken off and lost. You are provided with exactly enough. I could have used a dozen more. The 25mm triple mounts, part W40, it at an upward angle.
, the rear deck gets a pair of launches. Incidentally, the only painting call-outs are for the boats and lower deck sections.
assembles the hull. One weight is applied to the bottom plate and the hull sides are then fitted. My experience was that it was best to place part C11, the outer hangar wall on the bow, after the hull is assembled. I didn't do this and found it didn't fit as well. There are some holes to drill in the hull sides before the hull is assembled, drilling on both sides. Fit was good, but not perfect, and I could have benefited from more dryfitting.
, more detail to the rear hull. The hangar wall is added, a middle deck layer is placed, with four motorized launches and support beams for the main deck. Three 25mm triple gun mounts are added to the completed assembly. There are some deck details molded in place but no guide on how they should be painted.
is assembly of the smoke stacks, with detail parts added to the sides. They are fragile and one broke getting it off the sprue.
Up to this point, assembly was fairly straight forward, with no major issues aside from getting things to fit right.
assembles the island structure. Main parts come from three different sprues and detail parts from 3 more, which was a hassle. Whey they couldn't be placed on one sprue I don't know.
adds gun mounts to the port hull side including the twin 127mm AA guns, and anti aircraft rocket launchers near the bow. Antenna masts are provided, two to each side aft of the island structure. The styrene parts are indicated, but there are optional etch parts for use, if you desire. They can be positioned upright or down.
adds the same details to the starboard side, including the base of the island structure. I lost one of the supports for the covered triple 25mm gun mounts, but a piece of styrene stock rod filled in nicely. As a side note, there are support columns for the forward and rear main deck. They can be placed but I opted to wait until the main deck was installed, to make sure everything lined up.
the hangar deck in dark gray before closing up the deck. I placed the clear deck section in place, but the plastic was somewhat frosted, hiding any detail that would have been visible. The grey styrene deck section seemed to fit better, so I went with that option. Again, dry fitting is needed. I then began gluing the deck in place, working my way around, starting at the bow and then along the port side, across the stern and up the starboard side, clamping carefully as I went along. I placed the island structure on the deck before I placed the deck on the hull, but should have waited until the deck was set in place as it would have been easier to work around. The antenna mast, part B4, is again very fragile, and both arms were broken off. I glued them back on, but both were lost again during painting.
Building Complete, now finishing
With the deck in place, construction of Unryu is complete. I assembled the Ohka bombers and placed them in the forward hull area. I painted the Unryu in IJN green overall, with medium green for the deck and hull side pattern, using Tamiya paints. I went with the belief that Unryu embarked the A6M5 and D4Y, and painted them IJN dark green with IJN gray lower surfaces. The instructions indicate only one Hinomaru on the upper and lower wing surfaces when there should be two. They also indicate decal 13, white outline on the Hinomaru, but there are only enough decals for 5 aircraft. You get 6 A6M5 and four D4Y, so you can only decal half of the provided aircraft. If you choose not to decal the lower wings, you can get 7 total.
The deck decals caused me the most trouble. The decals are fairly thick, most likely because of their size. They fit the deck well, but I could not get them to settle over the deck details. I spent four days trying to get the decals to settle, using both solvaset and micro-sol. I used a blotter to press on the decals to get them to work into the details. In the end, they mostly settled in, but started to shrink and pull apart around some of the details. I set the elevators in place and after the decals had settled I carefully trimmed around them with a razor. I then added the white striping, but ended up getting it a little off on the elevators. I can understand that this is a basic kit and inclusion of the deck decals was nice, but if they include etch, a set of masks would have been great, and certainly up the the expected skill level. There are no rigging instructions provided.
For those who want a higher level of detail in the kit, both Aoshima and Lion Roar offer extended etch sets.
This was a relatively new ship when she was sunk, with limited miles on her, and very few landings on her deck. I've started with a light wash and some grey oils, mainly to highlight details.
Unryu down the slipway
I thought this was a nice kit, offering good detail. It went together well. Some of the small parts were fragile and broke easily. I wanted some extra 25mm singe mount guns to replace those that I lost, but I don't know how common that is for other modelers. Really the biggest issue for me was the decals, both the lack of enough decals for the aircraft and the difficulty in getting the deck decals to go down. I don't think a set of painting masks for the deck would have been too much to ask for. This isn't a beginner kit, but is still a good introduction to ship modeling while still offering the opportunity to super detail. There are no detail painting instructions, at least in English, and as mentioned, no rigging instructions. The special clear deck really didn't offer anything special as it wasn't clear enough to see inside detail clearly.
If you are a fan of IJN subjects, or of WWII naval vessels, especially carriers, this is a great model to work with. The history of Unryu is short and tragic but I don't know that I would have ever learned it without modeling.
I searched around online and found this kit widely available, with prices ranging from $42.00 US to almost $80.00 US, before shipping.