VF-1J Hikaru Ichijo Custom
Review by JoshB
My relationship with the Valkyrie is a tricky one. Part of me thinks enough is enough, I’ve got shelves full of them, from every series and every era. Because I have been involved with the design for so long, I can’t help but be curious when a new incarnation of the classic design arrives. I want to know “How did they do it this time?”
Plus, I know you the reader want to know if it’s any good. While I may have them, you may not. So while I probably wouldn’t have bought this for my own collection, my curiosity and the desire to bring you a review made me do it.
We all know the design by now, we all know the background. The VF-1 is the signature convertible fighter (Valkyrie) from the legendary TV series “Macross”. Despite achieving perfection with the initial Takatoku 1/55 Valkyrie, many toy companies still try to improve upon the design, often with mixed results. So how did Bandai do? It’s not their first foray into toys of this design – after Takatoku folded, Bandai took the molds and continued the line, and then later reissued them as the “Origin of Valkyrie” toys. In addition, they made some smaller-scale transforming Valkyries, and a high complete model version. This; however, is what I consider to be Bandai’s first “Modern” VF-1 toy.
The toy is part of Bandai’s VF HI-Metal line, which apparently must refer to the screws, as there’s little metal in it. The toy is safely 95% plastic, with the only metal being a connector bar and the feet. Be prepared.
The box is nice, if not small and light. The cover is secured by a magnet at the bottom and flips open to reveal a die-cut window, revealing the parts inside. There are a lot of parts.
Also notice the big block of English text on the box. Interesting.
The toy is small and light, but you have to remember that this is now in 1/100 scale, almost half the size of the Chunky Monkey. All of Bandai’s VF HI-Metal offerings are supposed to be in scale with each other, which makes a cool display when you can have Valkyries from different series in the same scale and toy line.
Since the toy is packaged in fighter mode, that’s where we will start. The sculpt is good, and things are well proportioned and nicely defined. Seam lines are unobtrusive and the toy holds together in a viable fighter mode. All details are printed on with no stickers to apply.
You can remove the canopy to get a good look at the miniature Hikaru Ichijo figure, which has painted details.
The air intake vents are nicely defined, adding to the look of a “real” fighter.
Due to the size, landing gear are separate parts that need to be attached to use. Hey, at least this one comes with landing gear, unlike the Fire Valkyrie.
The gun pod can be attached to the fighter with the use of a special connector part.
A second set of wings is included that have holes to attach the missile pods – these wings swap out easily. Four sets of missiles are included.
A special clear stand adapter is included for use with a Bandai Tamashii Stand (not included) to be used in fighter mode.
Before we get into the Gerwalk mode, I want to talk about the transformation. Like the Fire Valkyrie, It can be a perfect transformation if you are willing to settle for some anime inaccuracy. A default set of fists are included that can stow away in the arms, but they look very small. The vents on the legs need to be changed and the cockpit needs to be swapped out with the heat shield.
It is in the transformation to Gerwalk mode that the first changes become apparent. The way the shoulders slide along rails in the chest cavity is unique, but they pop off far too easily. The backpack has some neat hinges in the wings; the legs and arms have some great articulation, but it is in this mode that one of the first shortfalls of the figure becomes apparent – the feet.
Each foot consists of a front and back metal “toe” which are connected to a central piece via ball joints. The central piece connects inside the leg and allows you to pull the whole assembly down. Unfortunately the ball joints are not tight enough and have too much range of motion. Try to pose It, and the toes slide out of place repeatedly. You need a lot of patience and a steady hand to get it to stand in Gerwalk mode. It’s frustrating.
The unique aspect of transformation into robot mode is the metal swing bar that connects the legs to the body. In the past many companies have tried different approaches to make this work – some favoring aesthetics, some favoring ease of use. I’m happy to say that this toy strikes a nice balance between the two. At the end of the bar is a plastic part that basically clamps on to the sides of the nose where those two bumps are, securing the legs to the torso. It looks nice, and is not too intrusive. It took me a minute to figure out the right way to place it, but once you get it, it makes sense.
Chest transformation is similar to the old valks, but I found myself popping off the chest plate by accident more than once. It goes back on easy enough, but it shouldn’t happen in the first place.
While you don’t have to swap them, you can switch out the intake vents on the legs with the solid panels. You can also replace the hands with either of two sets. One set is angular and mechanical, the other is rounded and more like the anime. Either way, the larger hands look great. You have an assortment of hands including closed fists and gun holding hands.
The head comes with an extra set of antenna, in case you break or lose one. One thing I don’t like about the head is the blank space around it. In other toys, the plate the head sits on would meet the back panel - here there’s just empty space. It doesn’t help that the back panel isn’t too tight and tends to fall back a little.
So how does this Valkyrie compare to the competition?
1/100 Toynami Valkyrie
The Bandai toy uses higher quality materials, is more accurate, and has nicer packaging. However, the Toynami version is cheap and fun – almost $50 USD cheaper than the Bandai version, and that number goes up with international shipping. Although they are in scale, the toys serve very different purposes. Would you give this to a kid? No. Would you give the Toynami? Yes.
Yamato GN-U VF-1J
Similar scale, good construction, comes with a stand but does not transform. Only $10 or so cheaper – go with the Bandai.
Doesn’t transform, cheap plastic, but does come with super armor for $30 – go with the Bandai (although it’s the cheapest version with super packs). There is the transforming Revoltech version, but I still say skip it for this.
Larger, sturdier, more fun, but double the cost, takes up a bit of shelf space as well. This one is a tossup based on what scale you like.
For my dollar, the best valk out there. Not at all anime accurate, but tons of fun. Only $30 more than the VF-Hi Metal, you can’t go wrong. Purists won’t like the inaccurate proportions.
I think it’s a fine effort on Bandai’s part, and it’s corrected some of the shortcomings of the previous releases. If you already have some of the aforementioned releases, this one is kind of unnecessary, but if you are looking for your first valk, this isn’t a bad choice.
|Posted 9 November, 2010 - 23:31 by JoshB|