by: Dariush [ ]
Alright, I suggest a cup of coffee or a cold drink ... here we go ...
Writing about the history of the IJN Maya and the class she belonged to can easily end up in an adventure exceeding the size of a book. For this, I may apologize beforehand that the following roughly sums up what deserves closer inspection and a broader approach. Also, English is not my mother language so please take this into account while reading on.
The IJN Maya was a TAKAO class cruiser and came out of the so called New Warship Building Replenishment Program dated 1927. This program included four 10.000 ton scout cruisers.
Initially the mentioned program was referring to the well known Myōkō class but the IJN General Staff required a different design, which lead to the "improved Myōkō" plans and finally ended into building the lead ship of an own class, the IJN Takao. There were three other ships of the same class: IJN Atago, IJN Maya and IJN Chokai.
It may be of interest, that the expected opponents for that class were the 10.000 Ton American and British 8-in-gun cruisers.
The Takao class was to offer ten 20-cm guns with high elevation; four sets of 61-cm torpedo tubes on the upper deck (two on each side) and adequate AA armament as attack power.
To further deepen our wisdom into why the Takao class received the design she had, one has to know that the Takao class cruisers were planned to serve as fleet (kantai) flagship in peacetime and as a squadron (sentai) flagship in wartime. This is vital to understand the superstructure as provided since it required additional command posts and staff rooms.
Now here comes what makes it odd: Beside some other design features the General Stuff requested all that had to be squeezed into a 10.000 Ton design confirming with the Washington treaties.
This was, putting it into a phrase, wishful thinking.
No model stability tests were performed in the design process either.
Whatever could be done to save weight was accomplished in the planning but the Takao class consequently had massive weight/stability problems - 11.350 Tons standard and 14.260 Tons fully loaded displacement claimed their tribute. The problem even got worse when the ship was on cruise, because the decreasing amount of fuel raised progressively the construction waterline (CWL). Even the protective torpedo blisters could not rectify the problems and the closer the weight decreased to the standard displacement of 11,350 Tons the more critical the stability issues showed. As weight saving measure e.g. the gun turrets received poor armor protection. Don’t get me started on other honestly obscure procedures taken to loose some weight. To put things strait let me tell you that the weight/stability issue is not one to understand by the pure numbers given. The main problem lied in the fact, that all gun directors etc. were placed within the bridge section which raised 10 levels up. This brought considerable weight above the waterline hence the ship was more or less always in danger of flipping over. To make things worse, the Takao class naturally suffered some of her high speed when fully loaded.
Having said that it is amazing to go through the history of each ship of this class and to notice how long and successful they lasted.
The ships name Maya is referring to a peak in Hyōgo Prefecture.
The name Maya was initially given to a 614-Ton Japanese gunboat in 1884 and that ship was discarded 16th May 1908.
The IJN Maya was completed 30th June 1932 at Kawasaki’s shipyard and commissioned into IJN. As a side note, that is exactly the same day the sister ship IJN Chokai was completed and commissioned at Mitsubishi’s shipyard.
To start listing all the operations the IJN Maya was part of is futile. Who really wants to see a detailed report on her war activities may find these well and profoundly written at the following page: http://combinedfleet.com/maya_t.htm
To give you some highlights and finding my way to introduce the kit let me tell you that IJN Maya covered the invasion landings at Aparri, Philippines and the invasion landings at Vigan÷ Philippines as being part of Operation "M" - The Invasion of the Northern Philippines. After some Escort and patrol missions on 2nd March 1942 IJN Maya, IJN Arashi and IJN Nowaki opened fire and sank HMS Stronghold (destroyer/minelayer). The ship was further on successful in either sinking or capturing British/Dutch vessels. IJN Maya was part of the Operation Mi, which should be well known as the Battle of Midway as well as Operation "AL", the Invasion of the Aleutians.
She further sailed on Operation "KA" - The Recapture of Guadalcanal and the attempted destruction of the American Fleet and for this fought in the battle of the eastern Solomons. In late 1942 it was IJN Maya’s floatplane that marked Henderson Fields for the bombardment by dropping magnesium parachute flares. During this campaign two Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers of VB-10 arrived from their search sector and dropped a 500lb bomb astern of IJN MAYA. The SBD's starboard wing struck IJN Maya’s mainmast and crashed into her portside and ignites 4.7inch shells. Fires force IJN Maya to jettison her torpedoes as a precautionary measure and also to withdraw from the battlefield and sail for repairs to Yokosuka shipyards.
After restorations IJN Maya took active part in The Battle of the Komandorski Islands and is later assigned to the Carrier Raid on Rabaul. While just getting underway, IJN Maya is attacked by a SBD dive bomber from USS SARATOGA (CV2). A bomb hits the aircraft deck portside above the No. 3 engine room and starts a major fire in the engine room. Badly damaged the IJN Maya again withdraws from Battlefield for major repairs at Yokosuka shipyards. On 21st November 1943 the IJN Maya undergoes repairs and modification to an AA cruiser. Well, now this is important also for the kit so let me directly quote out of Combinedfleet.com TROM:
"Her No. 3 200-mm (8inch) 200-mm turret is removed as are her twin-mount 25-mm AA guns, 120-mm (4.7inch) HA guns, twin torpedo tube mounts and the seaplane hangar. Thirteen Type 96 triple-mount 25-mm AA guns and six twin 127-mm HA guns are installed as are nine Type 96 single-mount 25mm AA guns and 36 Type 93 13-mm MGs. Four Type 92 quadruple torpedo mounts, loaded with 16 Type 93 "Long Lance" torpedoes, are also fitted as is a Type 22 surface-search radar. A centerline depth charge rail is installed aft."
The IJN Maya undocks 2nd April 1944 and takes part in Operation "A-GO" - The Battle of the Philippine Sea where she is damaged by near misses. Upon her refit at Yokosuka eighteen Type 96 single-mount 25-mm AA guns are installed bringing the MAYA's total 25-mm suite to 66 barrels.
IJN Maya is also part in Operation "SHO-I-GO", Victory) - The Battle of Leyte Gulf and ceases in the Battle of the Palawan Passage.
She gets 4 torpedo hits by USS Dace (SS-247) on her portside. One in the forward chain locker, another opposite No. 1 gun turret, a third hits No. 7 boiler room and the last hits in her aft engine room which leads to powerful explosions that rent IJN Maya and she lists heavily to port and sinks at position 09-27N, 117-23E.
After all this history let me tell you this: IJN General Stuff demanded in 1925 a ship with adequate AA armament and looking at how the war unfolded it was not before November 1943 that this demand was put into practice. Just don’t get me started on the accuracy and usability as this shall suffice to give you an impression what ship we are talking about.
The box comes with a painting of the IJN Maya sailing alongside a distant ship that appears to be either the IJN Atago or the IJN Takao. This is true since the tower crane of that distant ship shows a position only found on the refitted version of those two ships in question.
The sprues and pieces have little room to move around as the box is pretty much filled with all the parts one needs to build the model. Beside the obvious there is one square box inside that holds smaller and more delicate parts together and prevents any damage. All sprues are separately bagged in plastic.
From all I can say the box was shipped around half the world to my place and there was not one issue with the content.
The kit depicts the IJN Maya in her 1944 configuration. Now, we know from the long history section that there were some massive changes applied to the ship. Most prominent are the changes to an AA cruiser (due to the way she was damaged she was the only ship of her class to receive such a refit) along with the later enhanced AA mounts. So, at least my expectations are high regarding the molded parts.
Before I precede let me tell you that I opened the plastic bags the way I got them out of the box. This way it is like you -the readers- are sitting right beside me as I find my way through the box.
So, if you are interested in the numbering of the sprues you might want to check with the parts list which I included as well.
The hull, the most prominent feature of a ship, comes in two halves with no option for a waterline model out of the box. This is not surprising as the separately provided torpedo bulges would cause some unpleasant problems. The ships plating comes out nice above the waterline. The ships plating stern and bow go fine as well. However, and I really do not comprehend why manufacturers throughout don’t pay attention to that, below the waterline and specially regarding the torpedo bulges the kit disqualifies itself. About everything is flush as flush can be. When I first saw that on the IJN Takao kit I grabbed whatever piece of information I could find and checked and cross checked whatever was available to only figure that plating should have been applied to the torpedo bulges as well - giving the class an original appearance. The portholes are not open worked with the eyebrows in place so no real complaints there. The demagnetization cable is missing though and is not provided on the sprues. The hull will be strengthened by including reinforcement pieces inside.
Oh well, there are many parts to talk about but let me start with my over all impression. There are many fine details molded on the decks and superstructure. These are extraordinary nice done and show some sort of dedication involved by the mold designer. I crosschecked with the pictures in Lacroix/Linton Wells II, Japanese Cruisers as well as Warship Pictorial 30, IJN Takao Class and am very impressed.
You may want to scroll your way through the pictures 01- 35 to see what we are talking about. While you look at those please note: I opened bag wise. This means, if you see a total of 1 or more sprues laid out then this is what was in one plastic bag. I tried to give as follow up at least one random detail photo of the according sprue(s) for you to figure the level of detail provided.
Just tell me when you are through ... alright, now we have a lot of molded on detail and that is excellent for itself. Unfortunately the level of detail varies. Just have a look at image No. 10 and compare the two doors visible. Disregard the sink holes there as I found few obvious places where they show up.
Image 11 shows the corresponding sprues regarding the floatplanes, boats etc. and some clear parts. While the detailing of the planes and boats look precise considering the scale, the clear parts lack. This is not caused by the shape or thickness of those parts but because inside the searchlight parts there is a bubble enclosed.
The clear Bridge windows on the other hand look perfect. Image 16 is dedicated specially to the IJN Maya as the replacement for the No. 3 turret is provided in form of the AA platforms. While we are at this picture here comes a drawback of the molded on parts and your mileage may vary. However, looking at all those boxes and stuff molded on the platforms and decks frightens me because I can already imagine the massive masking that comes along with it.
In fact I wonder who is responsible to decide which part gets molded on or comes separately .e.g. Take the FineMolds Millennium Falcon for instance. It comes with over 800 parts and all I can say from watching different building logs is that commonly modelers glue each fragile part onto the flush hull and paint it after they are finished. Now someone please tell me what is the use having so many tiny parts if painting them will be done after they are fully attached and in place?
For the current IJN Maya it is the other way round. As much one likes the molded on details (and I am honestly happy they are there at all) but why didn’t AOSHIMA -for the sake and ease of painting - give them separately?
If you understand my point of view about detailing and molded on parts please feel free to go through the pictures again so you can judge for yourself before we proceed...
The square box I mentioned earlier contains mainly guns and turrets. Now these are the parts of the kit that decide pretty much about the over all impression. This is especially true for the IJN Maya in the depicted 1944 configuration.
I suggest you flip through the pictures starting from image 26 - 35 first. Well, noticeably the main gun turrets got a planking structure. That is good news. However the joint lines do not only look off scale but they are, having checked this with Warship Pictorial 30 at page 10 picture. Also, the plating was not attached flush on the turrets main body but had square formed holes between the side and top armor. This is as well missing on the kit. The gun barrels and barrels, oh well, they are there but they did not receive enough attention by showing pieces of a round plastic rod. Positively speaking the different sizes of the barrels go fine when compared. The blast bags are attached to the gun barrels leaving the modeler with only one option to work with.
When it comes down to the painting instructions I found no evidence other than the box pictures to help. Nor is there any rigging diagram provided. A Black and White picture at the end of the instructions sure is not any help either.
The instructions are clearly laid out and are easy to follow. At step 10 one is asked to cut the windows of the No. 1 turret range finder because the Takao class didn’t have them. At step 20 the modeler is advised to make 1mm holes with a pin vise at the back of part D8 and D9.
Not being the most vital part but none the less the only question that you may have after all is done will be about how to display the built ship. The stand provided by AOSHIMA is a standard version one may find with almost any full hull model. I suggest to disregard the kit stand and make one yourself. A piece of a wooden dry dock comes to mind as well as a wood/brace model stand. The ship surely deserves more attention than what the kit provides.
After all this writing and research I have a mixed feeling about this kit.
I sure love it as I can make no secret about the fact that I am very interested into the IJN Maya due to her relatively short AA cruiser role and her long lasting during the pacific war.
For this, I am as well forgiving regarding the one or other inaccuracy.
At the same time one has to face the fact that this kit in 1/350 will be the only one for a long period of time.
I am not sure where else I could state this so this place seems just right: I honestly doubt one can build a 1/350 scale ship with museum quality. At least if it is such a ship like the Takao class or smaller. The parts are just to small and tiny to qualify for that, no matter what one tries.
Knowing this, the one or other might understand my disappointment regarding the hull plating’s. A real chance passed by to provide a visually correct appearance. The over all shape of the hull is superb, don’t get me wrong there. The plating problems can be rectified by a modeler and I am sure some people will take the challenge.
The detailing throughout is impressive as well. Doors, portholes, vent holes etc are all there and show the correct size and shape. The platforms and pagoda structure of the command section -almost looking like a castle- is perfectly done.
The off scale turret plating is a minor issue because at least it is there and one can easily sand down to make it appear the proper size. The other way round - without the plating at all- would be much of a problem in itself.
The gun barrels and barrels kind of disappointed me specially because the IJN
Maya AA cruiser role was depicted.
Nothing that could not be rectified by using AM parts. I am pretty sure BMK Company will offer nice brace barrels up to scale to help out at that point.
The molded on details requires some skills in painting the ship. Here is my advice: Be very easy with the paintwork and remember, you can always add more but you can not take away what was applied.
The modeler will achieve even without additional AOSHIMA PE parts and AM parts a stunning representation of the IJN MAYA by enhancing the delicate details provided paint wise.
Since the kit is missing the railings totally I suggest to at least getting those from Tom´s, LionRoar, or WEM. I am pretty confident you won’t be disappointed.
The last question that remains is about recommendation: Yes, I really recommend to obtain this kit as it is -beside what may appear as harsh negative critics- a superb kit with everything one needs to accomplish a respectable and up to scale model.
Don’t trust the rating as a number but look inside the why and how!