Tamiya’s next big 1/32 release is a perennially popular topic around the modelling interwebs. I’ve written about it several times, including:
- Wait, Tamiya’s Doing a 1/32 P-51D Mustang? – 2011
- Thoughts on Tamiya’s Upcoming 1/32 F4U Corsair – 2013
- Thoughts on Tamiya’s New 1/32 Mosquito FB.VI – 2015
The current round seems to have kicked off from two directions. A clever post from what seems like a newish Facebook page, Fake Modelling News:
And the second, a post on Large Scale Planes bemoaning the lack of a new 1/32 kit at this year’s Shizouka show, which is where Tamiya typically introduces new 1/32 subjects (LINK).
This confluence got me thinking – maybe an update is in order. I mean, every time it comes up, I hear two common refrains. On the one hand, there’s a sort of shrugging, “Tamiya is Tamiya and they’ll do what they want”. On the other hand, there’s “Tamiya will definitely do X”. Sometimes said by the same person, which is funny.
The truth is this. Tamiya is Tamiya and they’ll do what they want. But they’ve established a pattern going back to at least 2009 that they have not yet deviated from. And as long as they hold to that pattern, precedent can help inform prediction.
The way I see it, there are two separate but related tangents – timing, and subject selection.
Here’s a quick timeline of Tamiya’s 1/32 releases going back to the Spitfire IXc in 2009:
- 2009 – Spitfire Mk.IXc announced in April 2009, released in summer
- 2010 – Spitfire Mk.VIII announced in April 2010, released in summer
- 2010 – Spitfire Mk.XVI announced in November 2010, released early 2011
- 2011 – P-51D Mustang announced in April 2011, released in summer
- 2012 – P-51D/K Pacific Theater Mustang announced September 2011, released later in the year
- 2013 – F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair announced April 2013, released in summer
- 2014 – F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair announced September 2014, released in November
- 2015 – Mosquito FB.VI announced April 2015, released in summer
Tamiya’s 1/32 release pattern is now four subjects and eight separate kits old. And it can broadly tell us a few things.
New subjects are introduced in odd-numbered years. 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 all saw the rollover to completely new subjects, all of which were announced in April and subsequently appeared at the big Shizouka show before being released in mid to late summer.
New variants are introduced in even-numbered years. This usually happens in the fall, at the All-Japan Hobby Show, with the notable exception of the Spitfire VIII.
Tamiya has not “gone back”. Within this release schedule, now seven years on, Tamiya has never gone back and released a variant kit of a previous subject once a new subject has arrived. There have been no new Spitfires after the Mustang, no new Mustangs after the Corsair, etc.
Taking precedent forward for the next year, I’m pretty confident making the following predictions:
The F4U-1D Corsair isn’t happening. I would love to be proven wrong, and the -1D is a very simple edit to the -1A, but precedent points to its release as being unlikely.
Expect a new Mosquito variant this fall. Apart from the two Spitfire variants, Tamiya has been announcing the follow-on variants about 18 months after the first subject release. That points to a similar September/October timeframe for a second Mossie. If I had to hazard a guess, it’ll be a B Mk.IV or a NF.II.
Expect a brand new subject in about a year. Again if precedent holds, we should be learning about the next Tamiya 1/32 subject in about a year, in April 2017. What will it be?
I’ve said these things before, but nothing’s really changed, so, bears repeating.
Tamiya is Tamiya and they do what they want, but their choices of subjects seem to fall along at least some variables.
Popularity. Developing kits of this level is not cheap, and Tamiya needs them to sell at volume. That means popular subjects with a ton of interest behind them. Don’t go expecting a 1/32 Reggiane Re.2005.
Competition. Tamiya doesn’t shy from competition, but they’re a business, and they look for where the opportunity lies. Typically a popular subject that hasn’t been swarmed all over by other manufacturers. I really wouldn’t expect, say, a Do 335 from them.
1/48 Precedent. Tamiya’s last three subjects have all been drawn pretty much right out of their 1/48 catalog. The Spitfire kits are a sort-of exception here, being different variants. But this makes sense. Tamiya likes what Tamiya likes, and the 1/48 catalog gives them a leg up in terms of how to approach engineering, and what to expect from a sales and interest perspective. And if anything, this has been firming up. Their last two 1/32 kits, the F4U-1A Corsair and Mosquito FB.VI, feature nearly the same box art as their 1/48 versions.
If you want to really raise your eyebrows, consider Tamiya’s 1/48 release order:
- A6M Zero – 1973 (A6M2), 1983 (A6M5)
- Spitfire Vb – 1994
- P-51D Mustang – 1995
- F4U Corsair – 1996
- Mosquito FB.VI – 1998
Were there other kits introduced between these? For sure. The He 219 was released in 1997. So was the Beaufighter. And the G4M Betty and Bf 109E-3 were released in 1996. But I would argue that these subjects did not meet the other two factors of popularity and competition sufficiently.
Correlation does not equal causation, but Tamiya’s 1/32 releases follow the same subject order as their 1/48 kits. Hmm.
The Zero Effect
***NOTE: Due to popular demand, I’m going to talk about the Zero kits as well.
So what about the Zero? In some ways, its absolutely in line with precedent. In other ways, it seems to represent more of a curiosity. Personally, I view it as Tamiya’s toe-dip into 1/32 props, as the kit that acted as a proof point and maybe set them on their 2009-onward trajectory.
The first 1/32, the A6M5 Type 52, was released in 2000. This was followed a year later by a “Real Sound” version with a motorized prop and other gimmicky features.
In 2004, Tamiya moved on from the Zero and released their 1/32 F-16. Then, in 2006, the Zero returned in the form of the A6M2 Type 21, and chased it with a reissue of the Type 52 in 2007.
The Zero is unique in several ways. First, it has a lot of gimmicky features that have increasingly disappeared from subsequent kits. Like landing gear that can be raised and lowered. Second, there’s a lag between releases – six years in fact – that isn’t evidenced anywhere else in Tamiya’s aircraft history. And third, the Zero is the only 1/32 subject that has been chased by new-tool 1/48 kits – the updated 1/48 Zeros released in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
I don’t think Tamiya’s 1/48 Corsairs or Mosquitos really need revisiting (yet). But if the Zeros were setting the pace as opposed to being more of a special case that kicked something off, one would think 1/48 kits of the late Merlin Spitfires and a new-tool P-51D would have been no-brainers. In the case of the Zero, you have to consider the age of the 1/48 kits – the A6M2 dated to 1973, and the A6M5 to 1983. Far older than the mid/late 90s catalog Tamiya’s been working through since.
So overall, I think the Zeros are instructive, but they stand somewhat apart from the pace that’s been set from the Spitfire onward.
So, What’s Next, Dammit?
What new subject will we be drooling over in April 2017? The evidence of 1/48 catalog precedent can help narrow the field to an extent. Tamiya probably won’t be producing [insert obscure pet interest here]. And popularity and competition can safely, I think, eliminate some others. We won’t be seeing an He 219 or a Do 335 or A-1 Skyraider or a Bf 109E. A Skyray probably isn’t in the cards, either.
If you trace your finger forward from 1998’s Mosquito to the next new-tool 1/48 kits, you land on the Fairey Swordfish (1999), P-47 (2002) and Me 262 (2002).
The Swordfish, to me, would be a weird choice for Tamiya. I love the Stringbag, but it’s not as popular a choice as the subjects on either side of it, and Trumpeter’s already got a very good 1/32 offering. However, Tamiya has released three separate boxings of the thing, so they clearly like it. And Tamiya does what Tamiya wants.
But the P-47 and Me 262…now there are two that ring the popularity gong like nobody’s business. Outside of the 109 and the Mustang, I think you’d be hard pressed to find two subjects that are more popular. Hell, I’d venture almost any contest you could venture to would have at least one P-47 or 262 somewhere on the competition tables.
Both would face competition – Trumpeter’s Me 262s are rather good, and the P-47s from Hasegawa and Trumpeter are at least solid. But in both cases, Tamiya’s 1/48 entries are regarded as better than any of the larger 1/32 kits.
To my mind, the P-47 makes more sense. The competition is more flawed. The huge array of schemes and nose art begs for multiple builds. The Razorback and Bubbletop are different enough in shape as to justify buying both (same can’t be said for the Me 262A-1a and 262A-2a). And thanks to the Corsair, Tamiya’s already got a world-beater of an R-2800 to throw in the front.
But…the Me 262 has those black crosses on the wings, and we all know the modelling community goes a bit crazy for zee Germans.
If I had to call it now, my prediction is unchanged from last year:
Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject will be announced in April 2017, and it will either be a P-47 Thunderbolt or a Messerschmitt Me 262.
…if precedent holds!