|Writing Reviews & the Dragon Kit Controversy
|by Doug Chaltry
|24 December 2003
|Recently, there was
some serious discussion about the newly released Dragon
kits on some of the small scale forums. These kits have
generated many conflicting opinions, likely because of
the many different views on modeling held by small scale
builders around the world. It seems that for everyone who
dislikes these kits (such as me), there is someone else
ready to defend the kits as being worthy models. During
these discussions, the way that I write my reviews came
into question, and I feel that I should perhaps delve
into "why I write what I write" not only to
help others understand the purpose of my reviews, but
also to help myself clarify my thoughts for future
In one perspective, viewers of my site can be split into two categories: those who have not yet purchased the models being reviewed, and those who have. Upon analysis of my thought process going into these reviews, I have realized that I write them almost exclusively for the benefit of the first group of people: those who have not yet bought the models, and would like to see a review of them before they do.
For the second group of people, those who already own the models, I understand why they might want to read my reviews: they have their own opinion on the models, and out of curiosity, they would like to see what others have to say about them as well. After all, this is why I read other model reviews myself. Perhaps the other reviewers have found errors that I missed, which need to be corrected, etc.
But as I said, my own reviews are aimed at those who do not yet own the kits. So when I write the review, I base it on what *I* would like to know about a model that I have not yet seen myself. For example, when I decide that I want to build a model of a particular vehicle, I want to know the best kit available. This is because thanks to the world of international mail order, most of us have access to almost any model available. For example, if I want to build a Panther tank, there are several choices, and I want to know which one is best because that's the one I will buy.
I rarely look at potential model purchases in the light of: "What can I do to make this kit as good as possible?" That attitude is most useful for when I already have a kit. Rather, I take the attitude of "I want to buy the best kit possible." Once the best kit is settled on and purchased, THEN I try to figure out how to fix its flaws. I try to write my preview articles in the same manner. So when I negatively criticize the Dragon kits, it is because I am aware of better alternatives, and I recommend them to the modelers who don't already have the Dragon kits.
I just read my preview of the ESCI Wirbelwind, and the conclusion that I wrote caught my attention: "Although a nice kit for its day, I feel that it has been eclipsed by the Hasegawa Wirbelwind, and is likely of interest only to collectors (but it certainly can build into a fine model on its own)." I am actually surprised that I didn't receive any hate mail from modelers who own this kit and wanted to defend it. Reading that statement is what made me think that perhaps I should clarify why I wrote it, and others like it, and hence, this editorial.
I would never encourage people to dispose of models they currently own in order to buy something better (although I often do this myself). In the case of that Wirbelwind, it is a perfectly acceptable kit, and for someone who already owns it, the final model will probably look great. But for someone who does NOT own it, and may be considering getting a Wirbelwind kit, then I would recommend the Hasegawa kit over the ESCI kit, which is the basis for my concluding remarks.
The same holds true for the new Dragon kits. For those of you who already own them, I hope you enjoy them, and I am sure that with effort, it's certainly possible to make them into fine models. But for those of you who don't own them, be aware that there are usually other (and better) choices available. Personally, I will not buy any more Dragon kits until they have demonstrated a marked improvement in their quality. So far their only unique release, the Ferdinand, is inaccurate as a Ferdinand. For the others they have released to date, I would rather buy their competitors' kits, and scratchbuild the differences (i.e., Revell M1A1 into and M1A2, etc.).
But back to my reviews . . .
I have certainly learned a lot while reading the discussions about the Dragon kits (as well as from simply writing this editorial that you are presently reading). I have realized ways to improve my reviews to better suit both groups of modelers: those who have the kits, and those who don't. But although I will now aim to include more information relative to both groups, I fear that because of the volume of reviews I've been posting lately has greatly increased, each review has been shorter and shorter, so that likely they will no longer be useful for anyone! :-(