Hasegawa’s 1/72 Jet VTOL from Ultraman: Primed For The Monster Masking Job

I loved Saturday mornings as a kid. Growing up in the mid 1970s, they actually had cartoons on the television, all morning long. Looney Tunes, Speed Buggy, Super Friends, Scooby Doo, Captain Caveman – you name it, they had it. You knew the cartoons were over when things switched over to more grown up stuff, and Soul Train came on. (Although I loved watching that too… Don Cornelius was the man! And those clothes… pure awesomeness.)

But my favorite part, even more than watching Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner… more than seeing if the Super Friends adventures would be near the water so Aquaman could get involved.. the best part was Ultraman.

You had to really be a fan to see Ultraman though. In my area, WTBS showed episodes early on Saturday morning. If memory serves correct, it was on at 7:00 AM. And while my Army habit of getting up at 0430 every morning is deeply ingrained now, eight-year-old Jon was not quite so ready to relinquish sleep yet. Plus, there was the number one rule on Saturdays… don’t wake mama and daddy.

So I had to really make an effort to see Ultraman. I suppose I could have used an alarm clock, but this was 1975, and I don’t know that they’d been invented yet. At least not that occurred to me at the time. 😉

Still, as soon as I saw the first bit of light, I’d get up. The lure to see Hyata and the others battle the evil monsters which seemed to appear in Japan on a fairly regular basis was enough to rouse me from my slumber. Each episode brought new questions… what will this week’s monster be? How long will the Science Patrol fly around shooting rockets at him? When will Hyata finally yank out the old Beta capsule, turn into Ultraman, and lay the smack down all over his candy… well, you get it. 😉

Questions needing answers.

To Decal Or Mask?

I’ve brought the Hasegawa 1/72 Ultraman Jet VTOL along to the point of being primed. Assembly of the kit was not a problem, though it did emphasize a bit of the minor frustrations I run into with Hasegawa kits.

Hasegawa produces some really cool models, with great detailing, especially surface detailing. There are always plenty of things to weather, panel line, and apply every other modeling technique to. And the fit is generally pretty good. However…

It is the “generally” part that always bugs me a bit. Hasegawa kits are not some of the cheaper ones on the market. And despite their great detailing, there always seems to be some minor fit issue that is frustrating to deal with. On this kit, it was the precision of fit around the main fuselage join.

The fuselage is divided into upper and lower halves, looking almost as if two boat hulls had been put together. The split meant that the join line runs through some very critical surface detail. And while no manufacturer can prevent every seam line from being in a problematic area, the multiple Hasegawa kits I’ve built always seem to have an area that make me sit back and scratch my head, and say “huh?” I really wonder why the choice was made to make the split as they did.

Now, to be fair, splitting the kit left and right would have created issues too, so they had a dilemma either way. I suppose they had to take the route of least resistance, imperfect as it was. That’s where the “general fit” comes in. The alignment of the upper and lower half was off just enough to require a load of sanding to get rid of the seam line. And because this kit will have a silver/metal finish, that is especially critical. But I really believe Hasegawa could make this job easier. At times they do. But I see Bandai,Tamiya, and Eduard do it regularly – and generally at better prices.

Still… it was a minor issue overall. Fill it, sand it, rescribe it, and get several paragraphs of griping out of it for the blog. 😉

If you build this kit, be prepared to do a little work in this area.

With all parts in place, and the seams generally sorted out, I could prime the model.

The choice of primer was my go to Badger Stynylrez, with gray being the color of choice for this one. Applied in an even, smooth manner, it yields a wonderfully satin, smooth finish that at most needs a bit of polishing with a soft cotton cloth. I do recommend letting it dry for several hours before applying paint. If you’re going to be masking, give it 24 hours or more.

Speaking Of Masking

The paint schemes on the vehicles the Science Patrol used in battling the monsters which ravaged Japan were quite colorful. Their vehicles had an overall metallic silver base, with red striping scattered all about the airframe. And it wasn’t just stripes… large swaths of color on the wings, tailplanes, upper and lower fuselage… and all of it featuring fairly complex curves. 

The kit comes with an extensive decal set that reproduces all of these shapes. The idea is simple enough – apply all the decals to the model, and you’re finished. Sounds good.

In theory.

But I have two problems with that. First, Hasegawa decals are generally quite awful. They tend to be very thick, and don’t conform well to the curves of a model, even with Solvaset. They’re not worst decals ever – they can certainly be used. When the model’s scheme depends so much on their use, though, I am a little nervous about diving into that plan of attack. 

The second issue is simply shape. In all the models I’ve built, I’ve rarely had decals that had to fit around compound curves over large patches of the model’s surface work well. The shape looks good on the paper, but when applied to the model, you realize the 2D artwork simply doesn’t hold up to the 3D reality of the model.  And if an edge doesn’t align perfect – and paint must be used to sort out the gap – it leaves an obvious surface imperfection.

So decals seem to be a thing to avoid.

Of course, masking provides its own hazards. Defining all those curves can be difficult. Masking them symmetrically on either side of the model compounds the situation. Add into the mix the chance of paint “leaks” under masking, paint lift when removing the tape, and paint build up along the edges of the masking… all of it presents an obstacle almost as formidable as the decals.

However, if the painted method is done well, and all the problems can be mitigated through skill and luck (mostly luck, truth be told), a painted on scheme always looks better in my opinion.

Plus, I know if I totally mess up the painted method, I can always sand it all back, and go for the decals. 🙂 So stay tuned to see how well this goes. (Hey, y’all – watch this! 😉 )

In a way, I guess it all fits together. The masking will require quite a bit of extra effort. Just like getting up early as an eight-year-old to watch Ultraman did. Still, I think the reasoning for each is really the same.

Both decisions are, and were, worth it.

Somebody has to fight those monsters! 😀


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