This is one of three new sheets Lifelike Decals has released covering the Ki-44 Shoki. In looking at Lifelike’s website, I see most of their decals are available in 1/72, 1/48, and 1/32, but these sheets appear to be only available in 1/48 as of now.
Clearly, a lot of time and effort has gone into the research on this sheet. Ten different references books are listed and cited throughout the individual aircraft descriptions.
This particular sheet covers the markings of 4 different “Shoki” aircraft, 3 Ki-44 II Hei versions and one Ki-44 II Kou version. The recommended kit is by Hasegawa, although I’m sure they could be used on the old Arii/Otaki kits.
The 4 markings are as follows:
- Ki-44 II Hei of 23rd Sentai, 1st Chutai
- Ki-44 II Kou of 85th Sentai, 2nd Chutai
- Ki-44 II Hei of Major Togo Saio, 85th Sentai
- Ki-44 II Hei of Major Atsuyuki Sakado, 70th Sentai
Each aircraft has a nicely-done color side profile. Numbers 1 and 3 also have smaller color top and bottom views, while Number 4 has a small color top view. Curiously, no top or bottom view is provided for Number 3. There is also a small generic color 3-view showing stenciling placement. A full set of stencils is provided for 1 aircraft. Enough Hinomarus are provided to cover 2 aircraft. There is also one set of the yellow ID markings for the wing leading edges.
Each of the side profiles is accompanied by some quite in-depth text, describing unit assignments and some history of the individual aircraft. There is also an explanation, complete with cited references, as to how Lifelike came to its conclusions regarding paint schemes and markings. Several paragraphs are devoted to each profile. Lifelike explains where they made educated guesses (and how they arrived there), as well as potential errors in references (and why they are considered errors). They also point out an error in Hasegawa’s kit markings.
The decals themselves are on one ‘standard-sized’ decal sheet, with a small addendum sheet for the kill markings of a/c #4. They are printed by Cartograf. The addendum sheet looks like just about every other Cartograf decal I have ever seen (ie, crisp, slightly glossy, minimal carrier film, and thin), but the main sheet does not. The decals on this sheet look to have a thicker and glossier carrier film, reminiscent of Hasegawa’s kit decals. I tested out the wing leading-edge decals on an old model to see how they would perform, and was pleasantly surprised. I used hot water (this method works great for Hasegawa decals), and applied as normal over a gloss base (Future). They adhered just fine and the thick carrier disappeared. I did use a cloth to press down the decal (as I do with Hasegawa’s kit decals), and it conformed to panel lines, etc. I tried a second decal using cool water, and needed some MicroSol to get it to cooperate. I did not test the decals on the addendum sheet, but they look like they would behave well. I would think to apply those like any other Cartograf decal – over a gloss base, perhaps with some MicroSet and Sol. I would not press this type down as it is too thin and this is unnecessary.
I liked the layout on this decal sheet, and one thing in particular stood out to me. A/C #2 has some characters in white on its tail, as well as a red band outlined in white. The characters and band are printed as one decal in white, and then there is a second, slightly smaller band printed in red. This provides for a perfect alignment of the characters with respect to the band, and also ensures the red band has a nice undercoat to prevent the camouflage colors from bleeding through.
This was my first experience with Lifelike decals, and I have to say I am impressed. The research clearly shows this to be a labor of love. As I had several of the references they mention, I was able to follow their train of logic regarding the markings quite easily. The information in this sheet stands on its own, but it is nice to see how clearly Lifelike shows its sources. I was a little concerned about the apparent thickness of the carrier on the main decal sheet, but this was clearly unfounded. I would definitely recommend this sheet for someone wanting to spruce up his or her Ki-44.
Thanks to Lifelike Decals for providing the sample and to IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.