VF-1S Super Valkyrie (Roy Focker Special)
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
Voted as CollectionDX.com's 2009 Best Vintage Toy of the Year!
In the year 1999, humanity was in the midst of the Third World War. Then, a massive artifact fell from space and crashed onto the small South Ataria Island in the Pacific Ocean. The arrival and hard-landing created havoc across the world, and shaky treaties were established to send an expeditionary team to the island. The team was amazed to find that the object was in fact an alien spacecraft of immense and unparalleled proportions- over 1.2 kilometers long! A massive reconstruction project was initiated to explore, rebuild, and launch the so-called Alien Star Ship-1 for defense of the world- surely something so powerful, mysterious, and dangerous would be wanted back by whoever had built it. After ten years of continuing border conflicts during the reconstruction, the technology aboard the Super Dimensional Fortress (aka the SDF-1 Macross) had introduced brand new ideas, and brought about revolutions in manufacturing , communications, weapons, and social structures just on the small island on which the ship had first crashed. But before the top secret project could be made known to the world at-large, a different fleet of even more-immense alien space battleships arrived in January 2009 to claim the Macross for their own. Thinking that this signaled the beginnings of a new war, the Macross- commanded by WWIII-veteran Captain Bruno J. Gloval- rose up to defend Earth. But, having never used the alien supra-light space fold engines before, the Macross made a miscalculated jump from the Pacific Ocean all the way out to the orbit of the tiny pluton Pluto at the edge of our Solar System! Having accidentally dragged all of South Ataria Island along with it, the thousands of workers and their families were evacuated into the fortress. But when the Macross made that first jump, her space fold engines disappeared into thin air- meaning that they would have to make the long journey back to Earth on her sub-light drives... all the while harassed by the alien invaders and their incalculable resources and battle prowess.
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The VF-1 Valkyrie series is a high-mobility fighter designed and built for the United Nations Space Navy (UN Spacy) for use in both in atmosphere and in Earth-orbit. The unique capability of this craft is that it is variable – it can rapidly change from the high-speed air-superiority Fighter Mode, to a humanoid-shaped Battroid mode which can stand toe-to-toe against 12m-tall Zentradi-sized soldiers, and a third hybrid mode called a Ground-Effect Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint (GERWALK) which combines some traits, mobility, and multifunction of the other two modes. Three primary combat models are available, differing mostly in their weapons and slight changes in capabilities: the standard mass-production VF-1A, the less-numerous squadron-leader VF-1J, and the more-limited senior commander VF-1S. A two-seat trainee version- the VF-1D- also exists, as well as a limited-armament two-seat VE-1 “Elintseeker” space-only reconnaissance fighter. Valkyries are nimble in an atmosphere as well as in space, but do not have enough fuel reserves or power for their paired thermonuclear engines needed to rocket out away from the planet unassisted; however they can successfully re-enter Earth’s atmosphere unassisted. Later on, after the Macross had successfully returned to Earth, but was redeployed (with its angered civilian population still intact within) to draw the now-named Zentradi away from their homes, the UN Spacy detachment aboard developed a second series of armored sections, wielding the mass-production of the Fuel And Sensors Tactical (FAST) Pack armor system which increased range & mobility, augmented weapons & fuel supply, and generally increased the Valkyrie to a more-capable space-superiority fighter while allowing it to continue to easily switch between its three modes without losing any of the armor. Before the end of what would become known as Space War 1, most space-bourn VF-1 Valkyries would have use of the FAST Packs, the so-called Super Valkyrie(s). The Valkyrie presented here is the VF-1S model. Various trivial stats aside, the easiest way to identify this particular model is in the head- it has a wide rounded green visor and four laser cannons on either side. The VF-1S model is perhaps best-identified as having been flown in the series by young Lieutenant-Commander Roy Focker in his Skull Squadron based aboard the Macross. While many Valkyries are liveried in white, the so-called “Roy Focker Special” is easily picked out by its base-white with black and yellow highlights, and has the skull-and-crossbones across both the canopy shield and twin V-tail diagonal stabilizers. After Focker’s death, his kohai and co-fighter pilot First-Lieutenant Hikaru Ichijyo would inherit his VF-1S, but kept the livery in-memorandum. Later on in the series, Ichijyo would be the first pilot to use the optional FAST Pack armor upgrade with his VF-1S.
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In 1982 when “Super Dimensional Fortress Macross” debuted in Japan, the Valkyrie mecha imagined by the series’ creator & mechanical designer Shoji Kawamori, became a near-overnight success as quickly as many of his other creations in the anime series. While there were other mass-produced transformable robots on the market from other unrelated series and movies, none of them seemed to have the appeal of the smaller and non-combining “real robot” Valkyries. Indeed, twenty-six years later, despite numerous sequels and successors throughout other “Macross”-titled series, the VF-1 Valkyrie has become and remains a legendary icon for science-fiction anime and toy/model collectors at-large both in Japan and across the world. However, the complexity of the design at the time meant that toys and models often were designed to come apart in order to achieve the three modes of the variable fighter- a trait that continued to plagued designs for years to come. Takatoku Toys (aka TT) was one of the first to produce a fully-complete 1/55-scale Valkyrie that could transform without removing almost any components- utilizing both ABS plastic and die-cast metal to achieve strength and integrity. After the Takatoku Toys Valkyries became an equal hit, accessory sets for the Armored and the FAST Pack set were added. The VF-1S Super Valkyrie made it American shores earlier than the 1985 TV series “Robotech” (an amalgamation of “Macross” and two other unrelated anime series- “Genesis Climber MOSPEADA” & “Super Dimensional Calvary Southern Cross”) in the form of the Autobot Jetfire in the anime series “The Transformers” (1984-86). This is because, at that time, the rights to the designs from “Macross” were not handled clearly, and Takara Tomy acquired the Valkyrie molds. Afterwards, however, the original rights were restored to Bandai, and Jetfire was no longer legally allowed to be manufactured under the Transformers™ trademark. (In 2006, under the Transformers Classics line, a brand new toy was designed for Jetfire, which functioned & looked similar to the earlier red and white Takatoku Toys 1/55-scale figure, but did not infringe upon the trademark still held by Bandai.) When Takatoku Toys folded under in 1984, Bandai purchased the rights and molds to many of their toys, including the 1/55-scale toys, and released this VF-1S Super Valkyrie “Roy Focker Special” set- containing both the basic fighter toy & accessories, and the bonus Super FAST Pack armor. For the 20th Anniversary of the start of the Macross franchise from 1982, Bandai commemorated the achievement in 2002 with limited-run reissue of the VF-1S Super Valkyrie- though it more closely resembled the original TT design rather than the 1990 reissue which will be covered here...
In this form, the Valkyrie more-closely resembles a late 20th-Century jet fighter, like the McDonnell Douglass F/A-18 Hornet (and more-so the later F/A-18E Super Hornet). And yet, it has variable-sweep wings and expanding jet thrust nozzles like that of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, allowing it to achieve supersonic speeds. In space, air-lifting surfaces are useless, and so it is equipped with thrusters at all of their tips. On either side of the nosecone and rectangular air intakes are a pair of non-functional laser cannons. The cockpit canopy is transparent, and allows a view of the pilot’s seat, though it is a simplified design and the canopy cannot open. This is different from the original TT design, which had a completely-removable canopy so that the cockpit shield used in Battroid Mode could be swapped out. The canopy here is screwed into place internally. Wedged tightly between the engine intakes and the undercarriage is a small rotating turret with four additional pulsed laser cannons. As mentioned above, the main wings angle away from the chassis, but can also sweep backwards. The twin V-tail diagonal stabilizers have a single large skull-and-crossbones logo on the outside of each one, denoting this VF-1S as being part of the Macross's Skull Squadron. Though they move during transformation, they cannot move about in Fighter Mode. Along the engines near the exhaust nozzles are smaller flight stabilizer fins which cannot move, but do bear Focker’s squadron ID number (001) which is repeated elsewhere with decals across the toy. The exhaust nozzles themselves have small ribbed patterns across them to indicate vent fins; the nozzles are solid rather than being hollow enough to see inside of them. Two features that are inconsistent from the series, though, are that there are no hard points under the wings with which to attach missiles (none were ever made for these toys), and the provided spring-powered gun pod cannot attach to the undercarriage. For movable features, the Fighter Mode features the aforementioned swing-wings, the exhaust nozzles can independently open and close (again due to the transformation), and the turret beneath can turn side-to-side a little & point the cannons down/up a ways. Of interest to me, though, is the landing gear… The original TT design had spring-open landing gear struts which were completely die-cast. Here, the spring in the nose gear has been removed, and all four wheels on the toy have been replaced with dark-blue ABS plastic versions. While the back gear retains their springs to open, they must be manually opened rather than triggered. To hide this, the ABS on the lower legs/engines were extended to cover the gaps for the trigger & now-missing additional cover door.
The basic GERWALK form retains the Fighter Mode’s nose & main chassis, but then deploys the arms and legs of the Battroid Mode. There are two infrequently-seen variations of this-
- with the arms remaining stored, but the legs are deployed and the V-tails left open
- the arms and legs are deployed, but the V-tails are also left opened
-but the GERWALK is mostly seen with both the arms & legs deployed, and the V-tails retracted. While GERWALK Mode is capable of flight, it can hover across land faster than the Battroid Mode can, also allowing for more-effective close-range evasive maneuvers than Fighter Mode. All weapons from Fighter Mode are accessible here, while adding the accessibility of the arms and hands for grappling. The two parallel engines- which run most of the length of the aircraft- fold downwards at the intakes to form a pair of reverse-knee legs & feet. The undercarriage from between the engines in Fighter Mode form the arms- the shoulders of which come to rest to either side of the air intake/hips. The V-tails have been collapsed down on top of each other, and the platform upon which they are mounted swings up-and-over to form a thruster backpack on top of the fighter’s back-half. The laser cannon turret remains between the air intakes/hips though. With the arms deployed, the Gatling cannon pod machine cannon can be inserted into the right hand-only since the left is a solid fist. Figure articulation enters the picture with the GERWALK Mode... The shoulders ratchet forward backwards every 30°, and ratchet outwards every 30° out to horizontal. Because of the design of the toy, the swinging transformation joints that move the shoulders from between the legs to outside of them rest at a notable outwards angle, so bringing the shoulders straight down is not possible (even though they are shown as such in the anime series). Both swiveling joints in the elbows allow both full-twisting, and 90°-upwards movement. Both the knees and hips ratchet at every 30° forward/backwards, but unfortunately, the ankles do not move about, so putting the GERWALK into more-dynamic poses is not possible; thus, the legs become limited because of balance issues. (Really, all you can do is make it stand straight because the legs & feet are not capable of balancing the toy in any other way.) The laser turret- without the undercarriage to block it- can now swivel around 360°.
The entire purpose of making a transformable fighter in the "Macross" universe is so that it can literally engage Zentradi soldiers at their own height since they are normally four times the size of humans! (According to the series’ lore, the GERWALK Mode was not intentionally designed into the VF-1 prototypes, and was accidentally happened-upon during the testing phases when an incomplete-transformation occurred.) The missile pods usually attached to the wings are disposed of since the wings need to be folded back for improved dexterity. But on occasion, wings with un-fired missiles can be left open, though this can potentially throw off the Battroid’s balance within a gravity field. The Gatling cannon pod can be wielded like a rifleman’s machine gun, and it retains full use of the four laser cannons along the lower turret (now acting as the head of the Battroid). While it is still capable of flight in this mode, the Battroid is mostly meant for ground-based, even melee-range combat as its engines can quickly overheat from supporting itself without air-lifting wing surfaces, despite being V-TOL-capable. (In space, this obviously becomes a non-issue.) While the legs straighten out and can now bend in a more human way, the main top-half chassis splits down the middle crosswise, and folds in upon itself, with the wings retracting behind the new humanoid form. The cockpit is now positioned in the center of the torso- covered by an additional retracted layer of armor- and the laser cannon turret moves to form the head of the Battroid. Bandai- when they purchased the rights to the 1/55 toys- took an extra step, and redesigned the head for this release to give it a more anime-accurate design, as opposed to Takatoku Toys’ original more-blocky design. Also changed is the cockpit shield, which is now provided as a two-pronged accessory which clips onto the inside of the chest. The original TT version had a removable cockpit canopy which could be replaced with an identical-sized cockpit shield equivalent. (Why the shield was changed, I don’t know.) The arms go through no changes in the transition between GERWALK and Battroid Modes.
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One of the more baffling issues with the VF-1 design for toy and model makers was the transition that the legs make- going from behind & below the cockpit to now hanging aside it. In official series line art, a collection of hydraulic pistons swing the engines/legs down and forwards, and then a pair of clamps emerge from the nosecone to grab onto them, forming the hips. Then, before the transformation is completed, the pistons release their grip on the legs, and retract back into the chest section. The magic of TV and instantaneous-transformation animation made this a non-issue, but most toy and model designs have simply substituted this process for detaching the legs completely, providing an accessory part which clamps onto the nose, and then reattaching the legs onto the now-hip joints. Takatoku Toys was one of the first to solve this in a practical way- its 1/55-scale toy was breakthrough in making a complete and realistically-transforming Valkyrie. A pair of silver die-cast levers extend just beyond the leading edges of the air intakes ending in a pivot point. Then, during transformation, the levers pivot on these points, and allow the legs to swing down further than they could on their own. But, unlike a “real” Valkyrie, these die-cast levers do not detach once the transformation is complete, and can still be seen to either side of the cockpit in Battroid Mode.
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For accessories, a Gatling cannon gun pod is provided, which can shoot five plastic projectiles (which actually resemble the missiles used under the wings in the series). Though not appearing in the series, there is a small sensor atop the gun pod which acts as the trigger for the spring-powered projectiles. Rather than being held within a hidden storage compartment, the VF-1s carry their 50mm Gatling cannon from the undercarriage in Fighter Mode. The toy cannot do this as there is not enough clearance provided by the landing gear to do so; also, there is no slot or clip for the gun to attach to as there is not enough room amongst the undercarriage itself. However, as in the series, the Gatling cannons can be affixed to the outside of the forearm (as they are in Fighter Mode). Since the toy cannot do this (needing to make room for the retractable hands), an accessory clip is provided, into which the handle of the cannon can be attached. (Alas, I have lost mine...)
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Also of interest is the point that most of the detailed labels from the original TT version were replaced with decals that had to be applied by you after you removed it from the box. (While later releases would restore most of the originals’ stamped-on labels, decals were still used.)
FAST Pack (Super ver.)
Bandai’s “Roy Focker Special” set included all of the parts necessary to convert the standard VF-1S Valkyrie into a Super Valkyrie. These consist of:
- Two boosters and a connecting panel (needs to be assembled)
- Two fuel pods with clips (needs to be assembled)
- Two additional paired missile launchers
While the 1/55 Valkyrie toys were not designed from the start to incorporate accessory armor components, the FAST Pack had to still work in all three modes without significant interference. This is accomplished by using small tabs and clips on the armor which merge & hook onto the original toy. In the series, the large boosters on top of the Fighter Mode are attached directly to the retracted/folded V-tail backpack. But since the original toy had no purchase, a special accessory ABS plate slips over the backpack, and then the boosters connect to the plate. (The other pairs of armor can’t really be attached in Fighter Mode.) In Battroid Mode, the additional missile launchers hook and snap over the top & bottom of the outside of the lower arms. This way, when the arms form the undercarriage, there is still space allowed for the legs & arms to swing about. The spare fuel tanks/thrusters for the legs are actually made of two pieces each. The larger exterior section must be carefully hooked over the two small flight stabilizer fins, and then held in place as the back section(s) slip into holes. An extended length of ABS along the inner-side of each leg- and the small clips along the fins- prevents the completed assembly from slipping off.
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The completed Super Valkyrie is able to pose and transform just as easily as if it did not have the armored sections in place. The only limiting factor may be that the backpack thrusters add a good share of weight- putting it onto carpet may risk having it fall over backwards! Same with GERWALK Mode- because of the limits in the legs, balance is also a potential problem here as well, but on a hard flat surface there is no issue.
The other is that, in Battroid Mode, to prevent the Valkyrie’s own smaller backpack from hinging open under the new weight, the blue panel which is slipped over it has an extended bar that rests directly against the folded-up wings. (This, alas, prevents the Super Valkyrie from being posed in Battroid Mode with the wings open. You can optionally hold the backpack in place yourself if you want the wings open, but the moment you take your hand away, the backpack boosters- and thus, the toy- will suddenly flip over backwards!) In both Fighter and GERWALK Modes, however, this is unavoidable because that bar is not resting against the wings, so don’t turn it upside-down unless you’ve got a good grip on it. Now, during transformation, it is required that the backpack still be able to open easily like this, so you just have to deal with it. When the Super Valkyrie is in Fighter Mode, the legs intentionally curve downwards- as they do in the series- to make room for the additional fuel pods on the lower legs; whereas without the armor, they are straightened.
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In the feature film, “Super Dimensional Fortress Macross- Do You Remember Love?” (1986)- which is an alternate retelling of the series- a new version of the FAST Pack is introduced- the Strike Valkyrie. (This is limited only to commanding pilots in VF-1S models; all other Valkyries use the standard Super Pack.) The only variation is that the right booster is replaced with a double-barrel laser cannon that can also fold down over the Battroid’s right shoulder. Unfortunately, Takatoku Toys- despite the success of their “Macross” toys- folded under before the film’s release. Bandai did, however, later release a VF-1S Strike Valkyrie (Hikaru Ichijyo ver.) set which could easily swap the front of the right booster with the paired movable laser cannons.
Even though 19 years have passed since its initial release, this set remains a solid example of quality Japanese toy engineering. Its proportions may not be completely show-accurate- the toys are often lovingly referred to as “chunky monkey”- but the die-cast arrangement, durability, and realistic transformation makes it a standout. My own (as you can obviously see in the photos) saw many battles and travel great distances under my care to get to where it is today. It is one of the founding pieces of my collection, and even now remains one of my most-treasured and honored despite its age and wear. This does not surprise me, as I saw one- and only one- on eBay going for $500! Even today, it remains a solid design compared to some of the toys I see coming from Japan. And the Super FAST Pack was very carefully designed afterward to interact with the basic toy while allowing flexibility and transformation to remain relatively unchanged. (When transforming it, the arm-mounted missile launchers need to be removed to gain access to the fist-extending tabs, but that’s really the only pick.) While later toys and models would allow greater flexibility in the legs and arms, they still substituted completely removing them or using thin skeletal frameworks in order to switch between the three modes. And to be honest, while it would have been nice to have a removable cockpit shield, I could see how making a new clip-on may have avoided losing or breaking it. But, hey, I’m not complaining! By itself, the 1/55-scale Hi-Metal Valkyrie toy is fantastic. Adding the Super Pack to the “Roy Focker Special” set makes it just that more intricate and fantastic. This is any Valkyrie-collector’s dream-come-true: a big, fully-transformable, show-accurate, and durable toy representation of their favorite mecha.
|Posted 2 March, 2009 - 09:41 by EVA_Unit_4A|