VF-11B Thunderbolt with FAST Packs
Review by Prometheum5
The 1/60 VF-11B with FAST Packs is available from HobbyLink Japan.
Macross Plus debuted in 1994, and brought the Macross franchise into the modern vernacular, with stellar CGI, gorgeous animation, sleek designs, a killer soundtrack, and what is still one of the most popular Macross stories. The main-character mecha of Macross Plus were the experimental prototypes YF-19 Excalibur and YF-21, competing for the role of UN Spacy’s next standard-production variable fighter, to replace the aging VF-11B Thunderbolt, some thirty years after the first VF-1 Valkyries were put into service. The VF-11B is a ‘grunt’ variable fighter, designed to fulfill a variety of roles without excelling at any one.
The 1/72 VF-11B was among Yamato’s first Macross toys, when Yamato first started to produce perfect-variable Macross toys way back in 2001, with the infamous easily-broken hip-bar and vacuformed heat-shield that had to be held in place with double-sided tape. The FAST Pack release fixed the hip-bar, and added tabs to the heat-shield which could be tucked under the canopy instead of using tape.
Thankfully, Yamato has come a long way since 2001 in toy making, especially in regards to their Macross perfect-variable fighter releases. The 1/60 VF-11B with FAST Packs is the latest release from Yamato, completing the holy trinity of Macross Plus valks in Yamato’s new standard 1/60 scale. The new Thunderbolt toy is a marvel of modern engineering, with Yamato getting pretty much everything right, proving that when they bang their heads together hard enough, Yamato can pump out a really fine toy.
Starting with the packaging, the actual box is thankfully much smaller than that of the other 1/60 Macross Plus releases. I’ve read that it is closer in size to the box of the new 1/60 VF-1 version 2, but I do not own one of those yet to confirm… the box is shy of a foot square, and around 4 inches deep. The box features Yamato’s now signature crazy photo-shopped toy images, with a front box flap revealing detail shots of all three modes and a clear window allowing the actual toy in fighter mode to be seen in its clear vacuformed tray, with the various accessories arranged around the toy.
Comparing to the 1/60 YF-19, and other large 1/60 releases, the box feels to be a bit higher in quality, with a slightly heavier grade cardboard and tighter fit than on previous Yamato boxes.
When we remove the toy from the box, the complete contents are:
- 1x VF-11B Thunderbolt, in fighter mode including removable anti-projectile shield, removable intake covers, and removable Marty & Beck Mk11 Ejection Seat
- 2x Super Part dorsal missile launcher-equipped boosters
- 2x Leg-mount FAST Packs
- 1x 30 mm Gunpod with retractable anti-armor bayonet and removable ammunition clip
- 1x Gummy pilot figure
- 2x Yamato-stand attachment parts (One for fighter/GERWALK mode, and the other for Battroid mode
- Instruction Manual, Sticker sheet, special notice sheet
The first important thing to do once the toy is removed from the box is to scope out the special notice, showing that there are two pieces of soft packaging foam underneath the removable canopy ejection seat that need to be removed. There was a great debate upon the toy’s release due to some owners not looking at this notice or being able to read Japanese, and assuming the foam was in place to make up for an engineering shortcoming in the mounting of the removable cockpit. This turned out to not be the case, and the foam is simply present to prevent any potential damage to the cockpit area during transit… a nice inclusion on Yamato’s part, showcasing their emphasis on providing a high-end well-engineered toy experience.
The sticker sheet looks crisper than on some of Yamato’s previous releases, and the film looks thinner than on that of the 1/48 VF-1 line, but I still did not apply any stickers, as eventually I plan on printing a decal sheet for each of my valks and panel-lining and weathering them a bit. The instruction manual is in Yamato’s standard well-photographed black and white, with a line-drawing in the front for sticker application, and an impressive number of pages walking the buyer through transformation from fighter mode to GERWALK mode, and then on to Battroid mode, with a section at the end for the special features of the toy.
Now that the toy is freed from its cardboard and plastic prison and devoid of any packing foam (I used a tweezers to get the two pieces of foam out), we can get to know it. The gunpod mounts in between the arms under the ventral end of the fuselage, and fits solidly. The intake covers can be removed for fighter mode, and both lock in solidly and still come off easily enough using a fingernail. The fighter mode overall has a fantastic tight finish, and can be barrel-rolled and zoomed around no problem. Looking at the underside of the fighter, there is a small slider under the cockpit on the nose of the plane. This slider moves an angled piece of plastic inside the front of the plane, which supports the removable cockpit in fighter mode, as the cockpit can then retract or depress into the nose of the plane for Battroid mode. Fighter mode features die-cast retractable landing gear, which brings us to one of my only two real complaints on this toy: the landing gear are near impossible to deploy without some kind of tool, and I have already both broken a fingernail and scratched the paint on one of the gear struts trying to get them out. I ended up using a piece of silverware to get the landing gear out for this review, and do not plan on deploying them again. The fit of the gear doors is very good, especially considering the awkward shape of the gear doors on the VF-11; the tires are rubber, and the wheels roll, and to accommodate the small profile of the landing gear bays on the legs, and leg gear rotates on the strut.
Now is as good of a time as any to discuss the FAST Packs and Super Part boosters, as I’ll be taking them on and off for the remainder of the review to showcase all three modes. The dorsal boosters mount via clips that fit into the intake and exhaust detail on the top of the fighter, much like they do on the old 1/72 Yamato toy, but the leg FAST Packs are now mounted via magnets, a trend started with the 1/60 VF-0 line. On the VF-0s, the magnet fit was not always perfect, and the FAST Packs could be knocked off easily, but on the VF-11B, the fit is spot on, and the leg armor is not going to be accidentally knocked off ever when mounted on the legs. It is worth noting that the VF-11B’s tail fins retract when mounting the FAST Packs, but on this toy, they can be left deployed if so desired.
Transformation to GERWALK mode is straightforward, and gives us our first look over the single biggest improvement over the old 1/72 toy: the shoulders. The old toy had these big ugly hinges on the wing-roots and this terrible sliding pin design to get the shoulders from retracted in fighter mode to deployed in GERWALK and Battroid mode. The new toy adds in a few extra parts and steps to prevent any unsightliness in the design. The tips of the wing roots have a hinge to allow the shoulders to move past without having to make the wing roots slide out of the way, and the shoulders feature a two-point hinge with an oddly shaped bar that allows the shoulders to get where they need to be and still be articulated and attractive. Discussing the shoulders brings us to my second minor issue on the toy.
The armor flap that covers the shoulder bar is held on by a plastic pin-hinge, and they pop off easily if you hit them wrong during transformation, which seems to happen to me most of the time. These parts should really have had metal pins going all the way through them to hold them on, as it would suck if one of them got lost when it pinged off. I will probably drill these out and add my own metal pin, as I am fairly ham-handed and seem to knock them off most of the time, but they do fit right back on without any fuss. GERWALK mode also features a couple of folding and sliding panels that fill in some of the gaps that would otherwise be present. A large panel slides out of the front of the wing struts to cover the gap between the front of the fuselage and the wing struts, and two small panels fold out around the head to cover some of the gaps in the back of the fuselage. The fit of these parts is perfect, and they really add that bit of extra detail to the toy.
GERWALK mode is fantastically poseable, featuring the extendable knees of all the recent Yamato releases and very well articulated ankles. The articulated hands are a drastic improvement over the first chicken-hands of the 1/48 VF-1, eliminating the separately articulated pinkie, allowing for a rock solid grip on the gunpod and much less ugliness. New Macross fans joining us after the debut of Macross Frontier will be happy to note that the VF-11B can achieve the ‘nose in the dirt’ GERWALK pose seen so often in that anime, something noticeably lacking in Bandai’s recent DX Chogokin VF-25 toy’s GERWALK mode.
Transformation to Battroid mode is where some of the engineering magic of this toy really comes to light, especially in the design of the heat-shield, something that was basically considered anime-magic impossible until now. When transforming to Battroid mode, the cockpit is depressed, and the bottom panel of the heat-shield is exposed. The bottom piece must be pulled up into position, and must be pulled until it is felt to firmly click, and then it is rock solid. When the front half of the forward fuselage is bent down, the larger top section of the heat-shield is exposed, and the engineering Yamato is capable of is really visible. The heat-shield is mounted on a multiply hinged bar, allowing it to retract most of the way into the rear portion of the neck of the fighter while still being able to slide forward into position where the canopy of the fighter previously was, including a panel that folds into position to cover the gap in the top of the neck needed for all this sliding magic.
The rest of the Battroid folds neatly into position without any trouble spots, and locks in solidly thanks to some clever catches on the back of the torso. Two sensor units slide out from the top of the fuselage to sit next to the shoulder hinge bars.
Articulation in Battroid mode is among the best Yamato has ever produced, if not the best. All of the joints are rock solid, something Yamato has had trouble with in the past, and nothing feels even remotely breakable. The hip-bar is die-cast, and extends to allow extra clearance and articulation instead of having the socket mount for the hips extend out from the hip itself, as on the 1/60 YF-19 (my single biggest complaint on that toy, as it is prone to falling out). The elbows feature just under 90 degree bending, a minor failing of the toy after the double-jointed elbows of the 1/60 VF-1 v.2. The forearms have a bit of rotation to them, allowing some great poses with the shield blocking shots.
In Battroid mode, the gunpod’s foldout bayonet can be used to great effect, and the Battroid can also be posed reloading the gunpod with the removable clip panel on the top of the gun. The one thing missing from the gunpod that the old 1/72 toy had is an extendable stock, but that’s really minor. The knee armor is movable like on the 1/48 VF-1 line, and the shoulder design makes for some phenomenal articulation there. Even with the Super Parts mounted, the toy has fantastic balance, and is really fun to play with.
I am really pleased with this toy, as Yamato has proven that they can indeed deliver on their promises of durable well-engineered toys. The VF-11B hits on all the right parts, and is definitely among the best toys Yamato has produced. Yamato made sure to use all the right materials in all the right places, with phenomenal use of die-cast in all the high-stress places. My only two complaints are the hard to use landing gear and easily dislodged shoulder armor parts, but those are minor in comparison to the kinds of problems some Yamato releases have suffered from. The toy is not cheap, but really, if this higher price means the toy will be flawlessly engineered instead of almost good, I’ll take it.
I’ve seen some complaints about the lack of tampo-printed markings, but really, I’d still rather the toy was well made than be festooned with markings. The toy has an immaculately clean and crisp paint job, with no over-sprays at all. I’d recommend the VF-11B to any and all Macross fans, even if they’ve been burned by Yamato in the past. It’s really that good.
|Posted 24 May, 2009 - 12:44 by Prometheum5|