YF-11 Unit 4 Zi Jing “Purple”
Review by Showapop
One of the most controversial animated programs to appear earlier this year was the 26-episode series called Space Adventures (空历险记 / Taikong Lixianji) which debut in China on January 16, 2010. Known unofficially in Japan as Star Field War Record Astro Plan and in the USA as simply Astro Plan, Space Adventures is the story of a Space Migration Fleet that is forced to leave earth due to global warming and deadly meteorite showers and to locate and colonize a livable planet for Earth’s survivors.
Along the way the fleet crosses paths with the alien race from the planet Icarus that are bent on universal domination. Six pilots are chosen to combat and defend the fleet from the aliens, flying their own individual colored YF-11 and YF-10 variable fighters. Dubbed the Sky Arrow Team, not only does every member pilot a custom transformable Yi Fighter but each fighter has its own special weapon to combat the aliens.
What made the show controversial was the inspired and sometimes blatant plagiarized mecha and character designs from such shows as Macross Frontier and Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Details such as the UN Spacy kite logo and Gerwalk modes of the Yi Fighters are used throughout Astro Plan. Critics have gone out of their way to even call it Robotech: Astro Plan, a critical dig at both Space Adventures and Harmony Gold. Although the joke is getting old now, I believe that many people are seriously missing the bigger picture of what we are about to see come from China in terms of their own original toys and animated programs.
(the below video is a fan video and does not use the music from the actual show)
Ten to fifteen years ago model kit manufactures such as Hobby Boss from China and Academy from Korea were somewhat a joke to military kit model builders. In a Hasegawa, Monogram and Tamiya dominated culture, Academy and Hobby Boss churned out inexpensive and ill proportioned kits for the masses that were fun to put together but by no means a threat to the big three. But over the years both makers have been making steady improvements in their business plan, product and quality control. Today Hobby Boss, which was once seen a charming little manufacture out of China is now making some of the best military kits on the market at sometimes 1/3 of the price that Tamiya offers their kits at. Academy has slowly built a vast product range of high quality and highly accurate model kits at affordable prices that match and sometimes surpass Hasegawa’s products. There isn’t a an IPMS meeting I go to where somebody doesn’t break out a $12.00 Hobby Boss kit and talk about the kit in high esteem compared to a $40.00 Tamiya kit.
The same goes for the animation. My Chinese gal pal Silu was able to pick up a copy of Space Adventures on DVD for me, which I have been watching over the last week. A combination of Flash and CG animation the quality is not up to what is going on in the USA and Japan but there is a lot of unbridled energy and short glimpse of inspiration going on throughout. In all its flaws and quality issues, it is still more than anything that Harmony Gold has done with the Robotech brand in 30 years and its still one more mecha cartoon that USA has not done.
I actually see the entire Space Adventures experience like musicians starting off in a garage rock band. If you have ever been in such a group your first songs are usually covers of your favorite band. You dress like them, sing like them, play their songs and act like them on stage. But if things hold together you start developing your own style, write your own songs and learn your own performance style.
What Chinese animation (Chinanime?) is missing at the moment are their own, homegrown intellectuals to take Chinese animation to another level. They need their own Ralph Bakshi, Go Nagai, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner or Chuck Jones to make it wholly original. I cannot help but to think there is this young no name Chinese animator/writer sketching away somewhere in Beijing who grew up on a steady diet of Anime, Punk Rock and world politics who’s future is to redefine the Chinese animation industry. If the drive is there, like Hobby Boss and Academy, it is going to happen. And I believe it is going to happen. And great toys will follow after that.
When I first watched Astro Plan, It hit me across so many levels. I laughed. I was embarrassed. I was inspired. I was confused. I was shocked. One of the best aspects of the show was the YF-11 and YF-10 Yi Fighters based off the current Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force Shenyang J-11 and Chengdu J-10. The fact that the YF-11 and YF-10 turned into robots and had special weapons was great addition. An obvious copy of the VF-25F Messiah from Macross Frontier in robot mode there was something about the YF-11 that connected with me that the Messiahs did not in pure aesthetics level. While the Messiah’s lines are a bit to busy for my taste, the YF-11 are much more smoother and simpler in design and much more appealing to me.
When I watched the Purple YF-11 piloted by ace female pilot Zi Jing do a 360˚ turn in fighter mode in one quick scene I had to wonder if any toys are being made of these cool fighters? And when I saw that Hyperwiz was making the purple YF-11 it was toy lust at first sight. After some Internet searches I found that Hyperwiz in China was the official manufacture of Space Adventures toys but beware of bootlegs though as they are already on the market.
Hyperwiz makes four versions of all six YF-11 and YF-10 fighters: Small sized, Medium sized and large DX sized. They also manufacture model kits but I have yet to locate any for purchase. I simply had to own Zi Jing’s Purple YF-11 for my collection and Ko Toys out of China seem to be the only exporter of these toys. At $29.99 plus $15.00 shipping I purchased the DX version of the ZI Jing’s YF-11 and three weeks later I got a HUGE box in the mail. When Hyperwiz says deluxe they do mean DELUXE!
The box measure nearly 20 inches tall with the YF-11 snugly fit in a clear vacuum form tray with its missiles, gun pod and pylons securely taped into the tray. The instructions are printed on the back of a huge full color Space Adventures poster. I wish the poster would have had the YF fighter specific to the toy depicted but the poster is impressive and a nice unexpected extra added bonus.
The first question people always ask me is “What is the quality of the toy?” First off this is not a bootleg quality toy, but a well-produced quality toy you could find at a local toy store. After pulling the figure out of the package tray, it is in my opinion the quality of the toys feels like a toy that was made in the 1990s. From a person who collects toys from the 1960s through today that by no means a putdown.
The plastic is good solid quality plastic similar to the plastic used on GI Joe vehicles in the 1980s. Hard molded rubber is used for the head and hands. There is no die-cast anywhere to be found but I do believe there should be. Not for aesthetic reasons but for functional reasons. I can see some major joint parts over time breaking due to too much handling such as the leg pivot and numerous other smaller joint parts. As is, it works just fine but I could see stress of play breaking some of these joints overtime if one is not careful.
There is also a hole in the back that accepts a peg in the backpack that snaps firmly in place so the backpack will not fall down like on so many of my Valkyrie toys. The only manufacturing flaw is one of the leg fins not being properly glued in place. The arms are quit flimsy as there is no place to lock the arm into place on the shoulder body area.
Once pulled out of the package the YF-11 is impressive with a good height and shelf presence. The color is a beautiful deep and bright purple and the paint mask application is well done.
Articulation is a bit below average for today's pose suave audiences. Think of articulation of the Takatoku 1/55 Valkyries, which some minor exceptions, seems to be what the YF-11 was modeled on. There is leg pivot at the knees and hips, arm and shoulder pivot and the head rotate on a joint. The worst pivot is the elbow joint, which only pivots at 25˚, which is not very much. This can be an issue especially if you are going to pose it with the gunpod. There is really no reason for the elbow to have such little articulation.
The gunpod is great addition and I like the unique shape of the barrel. The gunpod snaps snugly in the hand but unfortunately there is no place for it in the fighter mode. But having watched Space Adventures the gunpod appears out of nowhere, 70’s animation style, so it is correct to not have a place on the fighter for the gunpod.
A nice array of missiles and bomb stores are included but unfortunately they are also the worst feature of the toy as none of them stay on the four pylons provided and its impossible for any of the four pylons to stay on the fighter without them falling off shortly after. Sadly under realized engineering makes what could have been the best feature the worst.
The Gerwalk mode is called Falcon mode in Space Adventures and I have to say there is some drool quality with this mode. The YF-11 in Falcon mode looks beautiful and it is one of my favorite modes I prefer to keep it in. It takes up a lot of shelf real estate but “Wow” what a look!
Transforming to the jet is very straightforward especially if you are familiar with 1/55 Valkyries with some added bonus features. For example since the YF-11 is a delta wing, the wings unfold in the middle to make the full wing plane and snap firmly in place in the legs with pegs. In fact there are a lot of pegs and snaps throughout to keep the toy solid in jet mode.
The exception is the arms, which have no place to snap underneath the body. They are constantly falling out from underneath the body in jet mode and have to be arranged just right for them to stay in place.
The jet mode looks great and it nice to see a transforming toy of a modern Chinese aircraft regardless of its relation to Astro Plan or Macross. It is an impressive and large fighter plane toy. Landing gear folds out of the legs and nose with the nose gear being telescopic. The telescopic is a nice addiction but great care is needed with twisting it up and down as the width is smaller that sprue seen on model kits. This is an example of another part that should have been diecast.
The overall worst feature of the YF-11 is the cockpit. I just cannot wrap my mind around what is going on here. When I opened it up I expected to see a sexy little purple Zi Jing figure and what I saw I couldn’t describe. Is it a hose coming out of a headless body? Is it arms coming out of a head? Not quite sure but it is not a sexy Zi Jing! The cockpit detail is soft and underdeveloped and this one lack of feature drops the overall quality of the toy as a whole. When I see the cockpit I see a children’s toy and not a fully developed teen toy, which is what I feel what market Hyperwiz is trying to capture with this otherwise wonderful DX edition of the YF-11 in price and size.
Also the Macross Kite logo needs to go. To think with all the great art designers and architect in China the producers of the Space Adventures could not find somebody come up with a logo for the Migration Fleet?
One of the main issues I have with this figure is what it does not come with. The special weapon for Zi Jing’s YF-11 is a pair of bird shaped wings that launches thousands of feather missiles. None of the DX or the other Space Adventures toys comes with any of their special weapons, which is another huge letdown. It would have been an impressive toy if it had came with the wings but Hyperwiz choice not to include them.
For $29.99 I do not feel ripped off or put out unlike some of the other Bandai toys I see selling at 5 times the price and only getting a little bit better quality than this. It is a good quality toy for what it is. If Hyperwiz put some more effort into articulation, die-cast joints and parts, cockpit details, special weapons and missile and bomb stores we would have a winner although as is, it finishes the race in my book. I feel the YF-11 is under realized about 75% to what it could be.
I by no means dismissing what the producers of Space Adventures have done. There is a fine line between plagiarism and inspiration and I see Space Adventures frantically going back and forth between the two. The entire Astro Plan Space Adventures experience is schizophrenic, somewhere between making a crass quick buck and the other side made up of hard-working animators, writers and engineers thoughtfully wanting to sincerely put out a great cartoon and toy product. I surely hope the later half will win out, which I think in the long run will happen.
©2010 article and pictures by Leonardo Flores and CollectionDX.
|Posted 3 November, 2010 - 20:06 by Showapop|