Saturday, April 07, 2007

Toynami 1/100 VF-1A

I have a confession to make: I like transforming robots. Whether they be small, large, or giant, I love mechanical things that go from one mode to another. I like it even more when there's a person inside, which is why I'm particularly fond of mecha anime. To me, there are few things cooler than a 50-plus foot tall robot going head-to-head with another 50-plus foot tall robot, be it a Mobile Suit, Battloid, Battroid, Megazord, Autobot or Decepticon. I like me some giant transforming robots.

So, what's better than a giant transforming robot? A toy of a giant transforming robot, which is where this review comes in.

Since I started re-reading Jack McKinney's Robotech adaptations, I've been hankering for some mecha goodness. This has been well chronicled. Over the past few weeks, I've grown increasingly needy for some sort of plastic representation of my favorite Robotech mecha; unfortunately, my Yamato YF-21 and assorted bootleg VF-1 Valkyries did little to sate my thirst for new mecha goodness. So, when I found one of the Toynami 1/100 VF-1's for sale online at a reasonable price, I jumped.

My 1/100 VF-1A Valkyrie, painted up to match Hikaru Ichijo's fighter in the theatrical Macross: Do You Remember Love? movie came in the mail, and I thought I'd share my thoughts about it.

I have another confession to make: I'm not the biggest Toynami fan in the world. I was turned off by the politics surrounding the birth of the company, and even more aggrivated at the "borrowed" designs of the Masterpiece Valkyries. That they were, essentially, upgraded Bandai/Takatoku Valkyries didn't annoy me as much as the fact that they were $80 upgraded Bandai/Takatoku Valkyries. The shoddy design and distribution of their early Robotech merchandise -- Morphers and "mini" statues -- didn't do much to restore my faith either, so for the most part, I've missed out on a lot of their products.

At Toy Fair last year, Toynami debuted their 1/100 fully transformable VF-1's, and I knew I had to have one. Unfortunately, as with so much in the Robotech world lately, I missed the release date -- hell, I didn't know they'd actually been released until about a month ago! When I began looking for a new Robotech toy, I thought about seeing if I could pick one of these up; unfortunately, most places either sold them in sets or were completely out of "singles." Since I had heard that Toynami's quality sometimes left much to be desired, I knew I wasn't ready to plop down the cash for a set of three. Luckily, I found a store online that still had individual sets for a reasonable price -- and I bought one.

I knew that if the quality on these toys was decent, I'd probably want to invest in a set of three down the road, and since the most readily availabe set seemed to be the three TV-styled VF-1J's, I opted for the earlier movie version. This didn't bother me, as I adore DYRL, and actually prefer (for the most part) the paint stylings of the Valkyries from the film over the TV series. Additionally, I'm a huge sucker for the VF-1A head styling, which two of the three movie Valkyrie toys sport. I went with the Hikaru variation over Max because, well, it's Hikaru's and everybody loves Hikaru.

Before I get into the actual toy, I'd like to cover the packaging, which is top notch. The toy comes in a mostly white window box, with the Japanese Macross logo in the upper right corner. On the front window flap, which is secured by velcro-styled tabs to the rest of the box is nicely done art of the VF-1A in Fighter, Gerwalk, and Battroid modes. The top, bottom, and sides feature a close-up of the Battroid's torso. On the left side of the package, the Battroid-mode toy can be seen through clear plastic; open up the "flap" and the myriad accessories are visible. The back of the box shows the VF-1A in Battroid again, along with pictures of Roy Focker's VF-1S and Max Jenius' blue-trimmed VF-1A. There is Japanese text on the box in various places, but I'm having a Kanji-block so I can't translate it fully at the moment (Something about "Battroid Valkyrie"). All in all, it's a nice, NICE presentation. The box is clean and understated, which is a whole lot more than can be said for some of the earlier Bandai box designs (such as the VF-17 and VF-19Kai from Macross 7).

Inside, the toy is nestled in a plastic cocoon / tray, which keeps all of it's parts -- and there are A LOT of them -- secure.

The toy itself is a mixed bag; I almost wish that Toynami had put as much effort into the actual toy as they did the packaging. It's not a BAD toy -- it's quite good -- but it's not a GREAT toy.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled it out of its packaging was the quality of its plastic. The VF-1A is made of a lighter-grade plastic that just feels fragile. Unlike my bootleg Joons VF-1J, which feels solid despite being a bootleg, the 1/100 Toynami Valkyrie feels very... "not solid." The plastic used is not like anything in the toy isles today; it almost feels, well, like the type of plastic I'd expect to find in a bootleg toy. Unfortunately, this is not a bootleg, so the plastic quality is disappointing.

Toynami designed this thing to be super-poseable, and it is -- so long as you're not afraid it'll break due to the lightness of its plastic. Joints at the shoulder, elbow, wrist, neck, thigh, upper leg and knee give the Battroid a nice range of movement. This is a super-poseable toy through and through, and that is a BIG step up from the older 1/55 Bandai/Takatoku designs.

As expected, the toy maintains a full transformation between Battroid, Gerwalk and Fighter; anyone who has had experience with one of the larger VF-1 Valkyrie toys should have no problem transforming the little guy. Toynami has gone a step further and designed the toy with "removable" limbs; many of the joints are simple peg-joints that can easily pop out (and back in) to avoid damaging the toy. This is a WELCOME idea that is, unfortunately, hampered by the same "iffy" plastic quality.

During my first transformation, I found that the legs and arms wanted to pop off all too easily under simple movement. In fact, I would almost say that the pop off joints could pose more of a problem than they should. For example, the legs on my -1A pull off very easily at the knee, and I've found that the design of the joint actually hinders transformation to Fighter mode. The toy is designed so that the arms and legs connect / snap together in fighter mode; on my particular toy, one of the leg joints pops out just a little bit when everything is correctly snapped into place. This isn't a big problem, but it's an annoyance, as it affects fighter mode aesthetics.

I have a couple of other nitpicks / warnings about transformation. The tail fin assembly on my particular VF-1A is slightly loose, which means that instead of fitting snugly against the mecha's back in Battroid mode, it flops down a little. The piece is light enough that this shouldn't normally happen, so I figure that this is a problem on my specific toy. Additionally, the heat shield / Cockpit canopy is VERY difficult to remove. I nearly tore my finger nail off trying to get the heat shield off during transformation. Lastly, the sliding chest assembly seems to be a little difficult to both snap into and snap out of place. Once it's in its final position, everything is fine though.

Detailing on the toy is nice, which a decent amount of paint applications and a sticker / decal sheet to provide fine detail. I love the raised Skull & Crossbones on the heat shield; I know that it wasn't like this in the animation, but I actually like the 3D design of the toy. Being Hikaru's DYRL style VF-1A, the mecha is trimmed in red across its chest and on its lower legs. According to the image I'm using as my desktop background, the toy is fairly accurate.

Accessories are plenty: extra hands, a two-stage gunpod, a full compliment of wing missiles (both types), landing gear, and a display stand are all included. The missiles are a nice touch, although I really wish they could be housed in Battroid mode like in the movie. The gunpod has a sliding stock, which compresses nicely for storage in fighter mode. I haven't put together the display stand, but I've heard that the series one designs (the movie toys) had some breakage issues with the stand that were corrected in series two.

All in all, it's not a bad toy. The design is spot-on, but it's hindered by the flimsy-feeling plastic used (this is especially apparent in the leg bars). It's a great display piece, but I'm not sure how well it would hold up under heavy play. Unfortunately, after picking this one up, I'm going to have to think long and hard about whether I want to pick up the second series of VF-1J's, especially since I can get a MASTERPIECE ALPHA or VF-1 for roughly the same price.

I'll have to post some pictures later....


Church said...

I bought one of these Toynami Valks, and I have to say, while the plastic does seem flimsy, and the joints popping off were a bit of an annoyance, the toy is definately an improvement over the previous banpresto that I owned. THe little valk was enough to get me wanting more, so it's a great first investment. The only real gripe I had, was the fact that the gun pod didn't mount without the bracket as in my 1/60 Yamato. But over all I am very impressed and am happy I made the purchase.

Phil said...

I bought one as well, and the design is very satisfying. My perc concerns the display stand. I keep the model posed in GERWALK mode (my favorite), and in this particular mode the articulation joint of the display stand is very loose (it's a king of rotula). So without using a bit of trickery and padding the concave part of the rotula with latex, the stand doesn't work well...