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February 10, 2003

A Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 10:03 pm

Yamato Toys’ VF-1 Valkyries… Some people swear by them, others swear
at them. You’ll seldom find a more polarised situation when it comes to
fan opinion on these finely detailed, but sometimes problematic toys.
I’ve been a vocal critic of it’s shortcomings but I know a good thing
when I see it, especially when it looks as good as these latest iterations
of my favorite Macross mecha!

If you haven’t owned one of these toys, they are basically a modern take
on the fan favorite VF-1 Valkyrie design, featuring a high level of detail
and sculpt accuracy (approved by creator Shoji Kawamori). The biggest
catch is that unlike the classic Takatoku Toys 1/55 Valkyrie, the Yamato
Toys version requires the legs of the robot to be detached and re-assembled
for its three modes (Fighter, Gerwalk & Battroid). In this respect,
the Yammie (as its fans call it) is not so much a toy as a semi-model.
The line began more than a year ago with the less popular variations and
gradually worked its way through 8 iterations.

During its earlier production run, there were sporadic complaints of
design and quality assurance issues. Loose or poorly fitting parts, usually
the Backpack in Battroid mode and the Gunpod in Fighter mode, were addressed
in subsequent versions. Though minor to some fans, these problems made
me back away from buying the toy, especially when I had first hand experience
of similar issues with the company’s earlier Macross Plus products. By
the time the Hikaru VF-1J Super Valkyrie was released late in 2002, most
of the outstanding issues had been resolved. The very popular Max &
Milia Super Valkyries released early this month incorporated all the refinements
for the line, and the confirmed news that Yamato toys would expand the
1/60 series to include other mecha (Destroid Monster and Quedluun-Rau)
finally convinced me to “buy in”. On to the toy…

To me, the angular head and distinctive diamond shaped lens of the VF-1J
defined the face of realistic transforming mecha back in the 80’s. It
is perhaps the most iconic of Macross robots, bar the Skull Leader’s VF-1S.
The one image that always appealed to me was the stylized pose the VF-1J
struck during the pre-commercial “eyecatch”.

While official art for Hikaru’s VF-1J show a white border for the camera,
I have painted mine dark grey out of personal preferance (like the classic
1/55 toy). The “separate-legs” design of the toy allows for
some pretty dynamic stances, but to actually pull off a pose like the
above required some modifications with a sharp hobby knife! That’s because
the shoulders and elbows suffer from a design fault that prevent good
posing. But first here’s my little homage to the eyecatch sequence: Frame
| Frame 2

Here’s what I did to make it work. First I had to fix the restrictive
shoulder blocks. To open the shoulder, you need to pry
off the hexagonal covers
for the screws. The opened
will reveal the halves of the small white polycap that is causing
rotational problems. Putting them back in place to align them correctly,
I used a sharp 30-degree blade to carve away parts
of the polycap along the upper 3/4’s of the protruding rim. The result
is a gain of 5~10 degrees lateral movement, which allows for better positioning
of the shoulders without “popping off” the chestplate locks
as before. Note: some older versions of the VF-1 use only one
screw plus a very tightly inserted peg. There’s a good chance the peg
will break if you force it open.

As for the elbows, Yamato opted for a symmetrical block
design. The upper arms/elbow block are made of hard PVC, while the forearms
are plastic. The original design limited the arms to less than 90 degrees
of bending. i.e. no grasping of gunpod underarm like the last shot of
the eyecatch. To remedy, I simply used my knife to
shave off the excess PVC on the elbow lock, and cut away parts of the
forearm enclosure. I did this surgery on all three VF-1Js.

Another sore point that hasn’t changed in all versions of
the toy is the strange case of the missing thumb. There are 2 types of
right fists included – a normal “grip” type with closed trigger
finger, intended to fit flush inside the arms in fighter mode, and a slightly
distorted “anime” type with angled fingers and opened trigger
finger, but with NO THUMB. For a Real Robot nut like me, this is a Bad
. Basically the normal fist isn’t very exciting and the opened
fist looks odd at certain angles. My solution is to slice
the trigger finger
free from the normal fist. I also cut away some
excess PVC behind the crook of the finger. There’s some distortion of
course, but any other way would require putty and more work.

Lastly, the gunpod needed a strap. Nevermind that it’s quite
impractical if the VF-1 was real, it looks cool! I had a spare strap from
some leftover Dragon Models accessories. So a quick 1-2 with my Tamiya
drill and some elbow grease did the trick. Needless
to say, the gunpod won’t fit under the fighter without some careful jiggling
of the strap hinges. But that’s OK because I hope to display it with a
set of GBP-1S armor (someday). I can’t think of a good reason why Yamato
made the Hikaru 1J a Super Valk. It never appeared as such in the TV series
or film, and will never appear as such on my shelves…

The Super Valkyrie configuration for Max
and Milia’s VF-1Js
is the real deal though. Yamato even molded the
boosters in matching shades of attractive red and blue. The micro-missile
pods are detachable and the cover for the booster engines is also removeable.
The main nozzles are moveable, and a pleasant surprise is that the inner
sides of the leg armor are covered, not hollow like the 1/55’s of old.
The Fighter mode is quite impressive with its load
of Reaction Missiles. And the collapsible handle fix for the gunpod means
it doesn’t drag on the floor like earlier versions.
And while the Gerwalk mode is not it’s strongest
selling point, the toy manages pretty well for static

Overall, these are probably the best looking toys of the
VF-1J ever and a good addition to any Macross fan’s collection. They still
need a bit of work to bring out the best in them, the rest is up to you.

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