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Model Talk 1 – Introduction and Works

“Heaven doesn’t make any model better than others, nor does it make any model worse than others.”

Hi, everybody!

Tatsuya Kaneko here! Welcome to Model Talk, where I’ll be blogging about dioramas and modeling right here on hobbylink.tv! Rather than write a wordy self-introduction, I’d like to present a quick compilation of dioramas I’ve created over the last thirty years, works that have appeared in various hobby magazines and in model manufacturer’s promotions. So here, in my first blog entry, I’ll take you on a thirty-year modeling journey!

To start off, here’s one of my earliest works, dating back to 1977 when I made my debut on the modeling scene. The title is “Winter Camouflage,” and the kit is the 1/35 Nitto Sd.Kfz. 250 ammunition carrier (this was before the Tamiya 250 had been released). This was made before there were many accessory sets on the market, so items like the German drum cans and hand pump were all scratchbuilt. I won an award with this work at the very first “Armor Modeler’s Conference” (now called “Tokyo Armor Modeler’s Conference” http://tokyoafv.finito-web.com/). I was asked to join the club “Kampfgruppe 7” by its leader, Shunichiro Sogawa, after he saw this work.
This diorama was a stepping stone towards the world of professional modeling, with subsequent works appearing in modeling magazines, Tamiya catalogs and exhibitions, and more, continuing to the present time.

Here’s a diorama titled “The Shepard”, the first commissioned work I created after joining Kampfgruppe 7. Built in September of 1979, it depicted a sheep herder and his herd crossing the road in front of a pair of Allied Army vehicles. This work was also included in a display of other Kamfgruppe 7 members at the Tamiya booth at a hobby show in Tokyo later that Fall. At the time the work was not publicly released, but it finally appeared in the 1980 Tamiya catalog and the “Tamiya News” newsletter.

Here’s a look at “The Shepard” from the right-hand side. The vehicles are Tamiya’s 1/35-scale Jeep (first release) and Ford GPA Jeep. As I recall, this was the first time I used dry parsley to make leaves on trees, which I made myself with wire.

This diorama, titled “Hedge Hog” (made in October, 1977), appeared on the front cover of the 100th anniversary issue of Hobby Japan in December of 1977. Although the previous diorama “The Shepard” was made before this one, “Hedge Hog” was my first work publicly released and stands as my official “debut” as a professional modeler.

Here’s a diorama I built for Hobby Japan after “Hedge Hog”. Called “Feed” (January, 1978), it’s based on Tamiya’s German Field Kitchen, which had just been released. The model was built from a pre-production test shot supplied by Tamiya. The hanging meat was scratchbuilt with epoxy putty, and the setting showing a cook feeding a dog was later turned into a figure set by master figure sculptor Yoshitaka Hirano.

This diorama, titled “Drawbridge”, debuted in the Tamiya booth at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in May of 1978. The inspiration for this diorama was Vincent van Gogh’s painting, “Drawbridge at Arles”. This was the first time I used two-part clear resin to represent water. This version of the German Field Kitchen kit included two horses, but I used four in this diorama.

This diorama was displayed in the Tamiya booth at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in May of 1989, in conjunction with Tamiya’s release of the Sd.Kfz. 7/2 8-ton halftrack with Flak 37 “Flaksauria” kit. My theme for this work was “Severe Winter”, and it was the first military diorama I had seen up to that time featuring a frozen Russian river. I used 3mm-thick acrylic sheet to represent the broken ice floating on the river surface.

Another look at the “Flaksauria” diorama, showing the broken ice. The broken iron bridge is scratchbuilt with plastic sheet. The water was created with two-part clear resin. The snow was created with plaster.

Here’s a diorama based on Revell’s kit of Jacques Cousteu’s oceanic research ship (originally a British minesweeper during WWII), the Calypso, which is soon to be re-released by Revell. Built in June of 1989, the diorama depicts scenes both above and below the waves. Items that were included in the kit, such as the cage and diver, sharks, minisub, Zodiac boat, and helicopter all add an exciting and expressive style to the work. I got the idea for this work from a diorama of an undersea scene inside of a candy box that I made as an elementary school student.

The sunken submarine was modified from a Revell kit that included an interior. The kit is of a WWII German U-Boat, in the same 1/125 scale as the Calypso kit. The shark cage as supplied in the kit was molded a bit too thickly, so I replaced some parts with metal rod.

Here’s a diorama that was displayed in the Tamiya booth at the May 1990 Shizuoka Hobby Show, in conjunction with the release of Tamiya’s Sd.Kfz. 251 Ausf. D variation “Schtummel” kit. This is the first time I built a scene showing a German 8-ton halftrack towing an 88mm cannon. The scattered snow was created with a type of crystal powder used for Japanese paintings.

This “shadowbox” diorama was displayed in the Tamiya booth at the Tokyo Hobby Show held at Makuhari Messe in October of 1990. The scene depicts a Russian T-34 tank on the attack inside a factory. I used mirrors to increase the sense of depth beyond the actual depth of the box.

Here’s a diorama depicting a scene in a field of sunflowers. This work appeared in Hobby Japan’s “Military Modeling Manual”, published in the Winter of 1994. I had been wanting to build such a scene for many years, and had actually tried many times, although unsuccessfully. Then, I tried printing the flowers out from my computer, then cut each flower out individually. After two weeks of sleepless nights, I finally had 370 sunflowers made, and could finish a diorama I had planned for years!

Since then, sunflowers have appeared as photo-etched metal sets, paper craft sets, and even injection plastic kits. Thanks to these convenient new items, modern modelers can avoid tendinitis like I suffered cutting out all those flowers by hand!
The Panzer III model was made from the now out-of-production “High Tech” kit by GSI Creos (Gunze Sangyo).

This diorama was made for the Military Modeling Manual released in the Winter of 1996. For me, this was a pretty big diorama, measuring 80cm by 30cm. The windmill was scratchbuilt using plastic sheet. Both StuG IIIs are from Dragon.

In this diorama, I represented the shadow of an aircraft by airbrushing it directly onto the snow. This wasn’t my original idea, but one I got from seeing a diorama created by the amazing modeler Fumihiko Mushika. I was also influenced by works of modern art, such as the “Shadow” series of shadows painted on walls done in the 60s and 70s by artist Jiro Takamatsu, now on display in Tokyo’s National Museum of Modern Art.

Using Tamiya’s Long Range Desert Group Chevrolet kit, I built this 1/35-scale diorama with a comic book action style. This was for 1997’s Military Modeling Manual. I created the dust being kicked up by the truck with pre-colored fibers used in making flies for fly fishing.

I built “Attack of the Giant Tarantula” using one of MPC’s “Gigantics” kits, a series that also featured a giant scorpion, a giant mantis, and a giant wasp (also released by AMT/ERTL). Although the kits come with diorama accessories, I just used the Tarantula itself to create a Japanese-style giant monster attack scene. I used a mix of 1/144-scale Japan Self Defense Force tanks and 1/150-scale railroad buildings. This diorama was built for Dengeki Hobby magazine.

This diorama was created for Armour Modelling magazine (November 2001) as the first installment of a series to showcase new kit releases in diorama settings. The kit is Tamiya’s 1/35-scale 105mm-gunned Sherman, built without any extra detailing, using only the accessories and figures that came with the kit.

Here’s another work that appeared in a series in Armour Modeling magazine (October 2002): Trumpeter’s 1/35-scale Chinese Army self-propelled gun. The slogan in Chinese on the banner reads, “Unpreparedness is one’s greatest enemy.” You can also see a black cat on the other side of the vehicle taking aim on a gaggle of ducks.

Here’s a diorama I built for Model Art’s quarterly magazine “M-cat” (2002). I finished Tamiya’s 1/48-scale Swordfish kit in flashy colors and without weapons as a civilian aircraft, then scratchbuilt a flock of flamingoes taking wing to go along with the aircraft.

I built each flamingo by hand, making templates printed out from my computer to make wings and bodies from plastic sheet, filled out with epoxy putty and detailed with wire. I then posed each flamingo considering the intensity of the triangular formation they are flying in.

This diorama depicts the Battle of Kursk. To better represent the scale of the battle, I built the diorama in 1/144 scale. It was built for Dragon in 2003.

This is a relatively new diorama I built for the popular Fuji Television show “Let’s Build Models Custom”. I built this over a period of about two weeks during January and February of 2009, while staying in a weekly rental apartment! The kit is Tamiya’s 1/350-scale IJN Destroyer Yukikaze.

The Yukikaze kit included a small set of photo-etched metal parts that included things like the radar, but I had to buy an aftermarket set of PE for the handrails. The black smoke coming from the funnels was made of the same fly fishing pre-colored fibers as I used in the Desert Chevrolet diorama described above. The sea surface was made with stone powder clay.

Survivors from the sunken battleship Yamato, in 1/350 scale. As you can see, each figure is about the size of a grain of rice. Building this diorama made me realize that you could create very exciting human drama even in such a very tiny scale. I wonder what kind of impression it makes on you?

So there we have it, in lieu of a self-introduction, that was a look back at thirty years of my dioramas! Now I’d like to continue the journey with you here in the Model Talk blog, where we can explore the many facets of modeling and enjoy creating stories together.

Talk to you again soon!

Photos by Naraoka Tadashi

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  1. Just one thing, WOW, I am starting to get into modeling now, I am 17 years old, and I am just loving everything, the only problem is that I live in Brazil, everything is expensive, if doesn’t have it here. Works like that make me wanna do the same thing. I am going to buy 4 HG kits of Gunpla, my firsts kits ever. Gundam is another love of mine. And by the way, this work is just brilliant!

  2. WOW how i wish i could do all this stuff…

  3. Hi Tatsuya-san….just one word…: Sugoiiiiii…
    I wish one day i will reach your level. Im in Italy now but hopefully in November ill be in Tokyo ( ..watashi no kanojo wa Nihonjin desu….:) ) so i was thinking to make some modelling in Japan but i dont know any good shop in Tokyo , i mean some place i could visit , do you have some suggestion..? Hobbylink is a great resource…thanks to the staff for the professional service you have achived..
    Regards from Italy

  4. Hi Tatsuya san,

    As an ardent fan of military modelling, i must say i am inspired by your work!
    I’ve seen some of the episodes from the fujitv PLAMO series on youtube (including the yukikaze one 🙂 ) and the level of detail and different techniques showcased has helped me, and i’m sure many other modellers from around the world.
    Truly you have an eye for the aesthetics and am an inspiration for all fans of this fine hobby of plastic modelling!

    All the best,

  5. Brian from HLJ here. Thanks for the comments, folks! Kaneko-sensei is indeed a master craftsman, and we are extremely fortunate to have him on board with this blog. Stay tuned for more!

    Marcello, when in Tokyo, head on over to Akihabara, and in particular, a building called Radio Kaikan (right outside the main station). They have everything…and more!

  6. Hi there!

    Kanekos’ dioramas are great inspiration for me! I would be gratefull if he had decided to make a dvd with techniques etc.

    I would like to ask what products does he use for making sea water…especially in Jacques Cousteu’s oceanic research ship diorama!

    Thank hobbylink for this great effort

  7. Crazy details, especialy the flamingo picture.. just mindblowing.

  8. Absolutely brilliant work, Tatsuya-san. For me, the most important aspect of a good diorama is the ability to tell a story. You, sir, are a master storyteller.

  9. 雪風はすばらしいですね。戦闘時の帝国海軍の写真はほとんどなく、戦記の文章でしか知ることができませんが、ジオラマでは情況を目で感じることができ、こんなだったのかなあと感慨ひとしおです。何百人もの人々がどのように小さい駆逐艦に拾い上げられるものかと思案することもありましたが、まさにこのような感じだったのでしょうね。


  10. いわゆる、デモドリモデラーです。すばらしい作品です。僕はリアルタイムで彼の作品を見ることができて幸運でした。今一度ふりかえるとあー、あのころは純粋だったな?。と思います。いかに真似してダイオラマを作成するかとか試行錯誤していました。当時カンプグルッペンジーベンの作品には影響をうけました。現在病気療養中のため時間があるのでデモドリモデラーになってしまいましたが35年前のことがよぎります。今回の震災で模型棚がこわれてかなりの当時の作品が壊れましたがそれを修理しています。金子氏の作品はほんとにすばらしいと思います。

  11. Hi there,

    where did you get the figures of the Yamato survivors ?

  12. You are a great modeler man!; this dioramas have inspired me to made
    my own work.
    I love your italian street with the shermans and the italian lady. i used to make my
    german street: http://unosetentaydos.mforos.com/1631456/9432948-ingleses-en-alemania-1-48-ahora-si-finalizado/?marcar=ingleses+alemania.
    take a look please.
    i salute you from Mexico.

  13. Hey everyone i have a youtube channel dedicated to models and dioramas at http://www.youtube.com/user/ArmyModels btw good pics man awsomeeeeee

  14. one of the great persion i ever mat on my life

  15. Outstanding work!

  16. Very very Amazing!

  17. How did you make the u-boat look like it sank in the Jacques Cousteau Kit. Ive been trying to make i diorama similar to yours but cant get the submarine to look right. Please help me.


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