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21st Century Toys 1/32 A6M3 Type 22 Zero Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2007 Manufacturer 21st Century Toys
Subject A6M3 Type 22 Zero Scale 1/32
Kit Number 22114 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Excellent exterior and interior detailing. Decals! Ease of assembly. Bargain price! Cons Not museum quality. Overdone panel lines. Few shape problems for the experts
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


In 1937, the Mitsubishi A5M made history as the first monoplane carrier-based fighter. Codenamed Claude, the aircraft was an advanced combat aircraft that flew many combat missions during the Sino-Japanese war. Even as the A5M was entering service, military planners were looking for an even more ambitious combat aircraft that featured firepower, maneuverability, range, and carrier-capable. Two companies were given the requirements, Mitsubishi responded with the A6M.

The A6M retained the duralumin construction of the A5M, but added a fully enclosed cockpit, more powerful engine, radio and navigation avionics, wide-stance retractable landing gear, and provisions for external stores. In order to achieve the proper combination of range, maneuverability, and limited take-off/landing roll, the aircraft was kept as light as possible. This meant that armor plate was not a design feature.

The aircraft was named Type Zero for the year of its introduction, the Japanese year 2600 (1940) and given the codename Zeke. When allied fighter pilots first encountered the Zero in combat, they had little experience in dissimilar aerial combat training. It was through this early painful learning curve that many aircraft in-service with allied forces were suddenly looked down upon since they couldn't turn with the Zero. Nothing could turn with a Zero! It would be later that allied pilots would learn the limitations of the Zero and employ tactics that played to the strengths of their own aircraft. High-speed passes, diving passes, and the Thatch Weave were some of the tactics used to remove the Zero from the sky.

21st Century Toys continues the process of offering subjects from their pre-finished and pre-assembled 1/32 aircraft lines in kit form. In this latest installment, we have the A6M3 Type 22 Zero (allied codename: Zeke). If you've seen the preassembled versions (look here) then you know that there is a lot of detail in these models, though AMS modelers would want to spend a little more time eliminating seam lines and adding their own touch to the final products, something not economically feasible on the production line.

So for those of you who want to do your own thing with this Zero, here is your chance! The kit is molded in medium gray styrene and presented in sealed sections of plastic bags to ensure that the kit arrives in your hands in good condition. You can definitely see the heritage of these kits with the screw and cap assembly techniques

The features of the kit include:

  • Sliding canopy
  • Retractable main gear
  • Retractable tail wheel
  • Extendable tail hook for carrier landings
  • Movable propeller
  • Optional pilot figure

Some might not care for the style of rivet detail and rendering of the fabric flight control surfaces in this kit, but most modelers will find this model very workable, especially since it retails for a fraction of the Hasegawa 1/32 A6M kits!

For those who still insist that detail and accuracy is more important than cost, then may I direct you to the ultimate Zero kit from Tamiya (look here). This is clearly a work of art, but many modelers want an easy build and a little quick relaxation. You can purchase 13 of these kits for the same price as a single Tamiya kit that is the same scale! Of course, the Hasegawa kit is still available at around $30.00, the choice is yours.

The kit comes with tho nice decal sheets that have markings for three examples:

  • A6M3 Type 22 Zero, UI-105, 251st Air Grooup, Tainan, Formosa, 1943, as flown by CPO Hiroyoshi Hishizawa
  • A6M3 Type 22 Zero, 7-101, Rabaul Flying Group, 1943
  • A6M3 Type 22 Zero, 168, 582 Kokutai, Kahili Airfield, Bougainville, Papau, New Guinea, 1943

If you don't have a Wal-Mart near you, or your Wal-Mart can't get these kits in stock, then I'm happy to report that 21st Century Toys is finally offering these kits into the regular hobby distribution market and your local retailer should be able to get you one (or more). The non-Wal-Mart pricing is a little higher, but not much more. Also keep your eys out for more online retailers carrying this line which will finally offer these nice (and inexpensive) kits to more of the international market as well.

My sincere thanks to 21st Century Toys for this review sample!