Hasegawa is among the few manufacturers that produces very nice quality ships in my book. The others are Tamiya, Trumpeteer, Heller, Revell, Lindberg, Zvezda, Airfix, Italeri ... oh hell, OK, there are quite a few manufacturers out there that produces nice quality ships. However, very few of them had been able to produce one that requires very minimal corrections and out of that few, I can think of only one brand, Hasegawa. Of course I am speaking in terms of non-military ships since I am no pro there.
Lets look at its 1:350 scale Soya Antarctica 1st Corp.
I saw this kit at a local toy store a long time ago before I picked back up my scale modeling hobby. She caught my eyes and I remembered studying her pictures for the longest time before deciding to buy her. For one, she wasn't military, and second, the amount of details on her was mind boggling. So I was sold on her.
The Observation Ship Soya is truly a remarkable ship to have made so many journeys to and back from Antarctica, survived World War II and today, resides as a Museum Ship in Japan. Not many ships are able to share this kind of achievements, as seen with the Antarctic Cruise Ship "The Explorer" that sunk presumably after striking an iceberg. She literally lived through countless dangerous situations and lived to tell the tale.
According to Wikipedia, the ice breaker Soya was originally named "Volochaevets", a real mouthful to pronounce there. It was ordered from the Matsuo Shipyard Koyagi Island in Nagasaki, Japan back in 1963 by the Soviet Union as part of a three ice-strengthened cargo ships but due to growing tensions between the two countries, she was never handed over but rather served as the ice-breaking cargo freighter for Tatsunan Kisen Co. Today she has been renamed the Chiryo Maru.
The Soya is also the very same ship that made famous those two Huskies that were abandoned along with their pack during a severe snow storm and were the only two survivors a few months later. The two dogs, Taro and Jiro, were eventually brought back to Japan where they lived their life as celebrities until their demise.
The ship was also intriguing since she was the ship used in the movie "Nankyoku Monogatari" or "South Pole" as she was released in the US, with its soundtrack "Antarctica" composed and conducted by Vangelis. She was also used in Disney's movie adaptation in the film "Eight Below".
In Nov 1939, the Imperial Japanese Navy requisitioned her and in Feb 1940 she was given the name "Varyag" and assigned duties as an auxiliary ammunition ship/survey vessel. She survived torpedo attacks in 1943 from the USS Greenling, and 10 crew members were killed in 1944 near Truk when a squadron of TF58s aircraft swooped down to attack her, which led her to be temporarily grounded.
In 1956, she was modified and overhauled to make her ready for her Antarctica Research Expedition. This involved putting in a new diesel engine and the installation of a helicopter deck. She successfully made trips to the Antarctica over the period of 1956 - 1962, with her most notable career on her second trip in 1958 where she rescued explorers stranded from the first expedition at the Syowa Research Station.
During my own research, I came across her upgrade set in the form of photo-etch, and decided to get that one too, but unfortunately I had to back order her since it was out of stock. That was way back in 2007. Would you believe I finally got that set late last year, 2011? I had even forgotten I had pre-ordered her. And at that time, I thought that this was such a set back as I couldn't start on her until I had that PE set, hence that kit had laid among my stash for so long. I also found out then that Hasegawa had produced the 2nd and 3rd Corp Soya Antarctica, refitted for specific missions to the bottom of the world. Well, naturally I got all of them plus whatever upgrade sets that was available. Here's the 1st Corp range of Soya Antarctica under Hasegawa at 1:350 scale.
Hasegawa Antartica Observation Ship Soya "Antartica" 1st Corp
Kit came with white metal parts for the two miniature snow cars but minus the PE set. It also had a booklet on the Soya with some very nice reference pictures but unfortunately the text are all in Japanese.
The one thing unique about this set was that those miniature helicopters were molded in clear plastic. You had a choice to either use the decals to simulate the railings on the craft, or opt for the photo-etch set.
I have seen numerous builds of the Soya 1st Corp, and trust me, you want that photo-etch set as the ship looks literally naked without them. Gunze Sangyo (Mr. Colour) had even came out with a three bottled paint set for the main hull colours for the Soya. I have that set and compared the shade of orange to their current paint sets. Its different, sharper and brighter. I'm not sure how you can get these now but you will need to mix your paints to get that tone.
Hasegawa reissued the Soya 1st Corp last year in tandem with a Japanese TBS Drama series based on life onboard her during a mission to Antarctica.
Last check with Hobby Search Japan, this kit is still available. Unfortunately there are still no pre-cut wooden decks made available for this kit at the moment. I know, I have checked .. :(
Here are some images of a magnificently build Soya Antarctica 1st Corp by Jedrek