Review by VF5SS
The film Macross Frontier: The Wings of Goodbye featured many callbacks to other parts of the Macross series. Among these was an unexpected cameo by a familiar Valkyrie, with an equally familiar voice shouting his trademark phrase...
"Ikuze, kawaiikou-chan! Eeeeeeeyaaaaahoooooooooooo!"
Macross Plus's reckless flyboy, Isamu Dyson, burst onto the screen in a customized Valkyrie that looked a lot like the YF-19 he flew in his own series. It turns out the ace pilot joined up with SMS, and eschewed a VF-25 in favor of a specially tuned machine called the VF-19 Advance.
About four years after the premier of the movie, Bandai gave fans another shock with their announcement of a DX Chogokin VF-19 Advance. There was much debate over how they could improve over Arcadia's stunning (and pricey) YF-19 with FAST Packs. The final product packs a lot of surprises, much like its source material.
The first part of my video review covers the figure itself.
The second video will show you how to use the accessories and install the Advanced Pack.
The DX Chogokin VF-19 Advance is an all new figure that delivers a familiar take on the fan-favorite Valkyrie. It is roughly 13 inches long in fighter mode, and like most modern Macross toys, uses a mix of plastic and diecast parts, giving it a noticeable heft.
Design-wise, the VF-19 Advance is identical to the YF-19 from Macross Plus. This is not without precedent, as the PS1 games Macross Digital Mission VF-X and Macross VF-X2 featured a playable VF-19A Excalibur, that was also the same as Isamu's Valkyrie save for the coloring.
Backstory aside, I'm pretty sure the animators at Satelight simply dressed up the YF-19 CG model they'd been using since promo videos like, "All That VF." So in a sense, this really is Isamu's pretty baby reborn...
As such, the VF-19 Advance is a bit of a throwback, even though it is "younger" than the Macross 7 era VF-19's.
Next to the Arcadia YF-19 (left), Bandai's is a bit more realistically detailed out of the box, with a lot more tampographed markings. In fighter mode, the two look fairly similar from above, but in profile the Arcadia version has beefier legs and is slightly longer.
Being a part of SMS makes sense for Isamu. He just loved to fly, so being a part of a PMC would let him do that with fewer pesky rules.
When compared to Arcadia's straightforward YF-19 (or even the CG model from the movie), Bandai's DX Chogokin distinguishes itself by being covered in tampographed markings. Warplane aficionados find this to be a very big draw, even if the toy is now sporting SMS logos instead of the classic UN Spacy roundel.
The surface detail is also quite nice, with subtle panel lines, numerous vents, and elaborate verniers.
Also, the diecast ankle assembly features molded engine detailing.
Up front, the VF-19 Advance has removable intake covers that reveal an authentic looking interior.
The figure has a full set of diecast landing gear with rubberized tires. Some fans have noted that the gear deviates from the YF-19, but there are engineering reasons for that. One big change is that the front strut actually folds in half before stowing away. Unfortunately, it tends to fold if you roll the fighter backwards, so be aware of how you handle it.
The main wheels lack the characteristic angle seen on other VF-19's, but let's just say this was changed for the Advance version.
And like 90% of Valkyrie toys, the gun pod's handle is sandwiched between the robot's forearms for fighter mode storage. In order to deal with the VF-19's particular belly curve, the normally straight firearm actually bends at the mid-section so it can sorta point straight.
A removable Isamu Dyson figure sits loosely inside the cockpit, underneath an opening canopy. While I do appreciate the tiny control sticks molded onto the seat, the pilot can't actually grab them and they don't seem to keep lil' Isamu in place.
Also, on my figure the canopy was not glued to its hinge properly, and sometimes slides off its mount when I move it (which happens in the video).
And like any man in his forties, Isamu is still rocking the outfit that made him famous. He is a good looking pilot figure, who doesn't look out of place next to Yamato's rendition of an Emerald Force pilot.
The wings feature a diecast hinge assembly that allows them to fold up for both Battroid mode and high-speed mode. This is similar to Arcadia's YF-19, but doesn't feel as solid in certain positions. Note that the thicker swivel point has a corresponding cutout inside the wing so it can slide inside with a soft "click."
And like Arcadia's YF-19, Bandai's VF-19 Advance has a pair of leg-mounted weapon bays. Unfortunately, also mirroring Arcadia's figure, you have to transform the wings halfway just to get the door to swing out, due to how the wing root plugs directly into the sides of the legs. Inside each bay is a single removable missile.
Making the VF-19 Advance a cut above its kin is the appropriately named "Advanced Pack." This set of equipment takes the familiar YF-19 FAST Packs and adds a pair of Frontier era main boosters, as well as bits of extra armor on the shoulders. Also included is an extra neck joint cover, which is used when the toy is in Gerwalk mode.
The main booster is heavily based on the VF-25's Super Packs, but is an entirely new piece that is designed to fit around the Advance's wing roots. Like the VF-25 boosters, the Advanced Packs still feature movable engine nozzles all over the surface.
The Advance also comes with a small squad worth of display parts, with the main piece being the typical DX Chogokin Valkyrie stand that is included with pretty much all of Bandai's big Macross toys. The two hexagon bases come with an extra long Tamashii Stage armature, and are for propping up the main boosters when they are attached to the toy in Battroid mode.
And in addition to the default articulated hands (pictured on the left), the Advance has three pairs of fixed-posed manipulators that have a meatier look. You get gun-holding hands, fists, and splayed hands.
The articulated hands are very similar to Yamato / Arcadia's design, but feature a ball-jointed thumb instead of a simple hinged one. A tab in the palm allows the toy to grip its gun pod securely.
While the toy does not include any underwing stores, you can mount any of the missiles that come with the VF-171 Armored Pack sets. Weirdly, the fit between the wings of my figure and the weapons I've got is very tight. It's at the point where if I don't push them on firmly, the missiles will fly off as if fired from a pressure launcher. I get the feeling that this feature was included to mimic the Arcadia YF-19, as well as provide another connection point to the main boosters via the innermost hardpoint.
As I've said in every Bandai Valkyrie review, the included stand is ugly but functional. The fighter mode adapter features a pair of plug-in brackets at the back of the mount. You will be using the upper holes for the brackets when the craft is unarmored.
Aesthetics aside, the plainness of the stand cannot overshadow the sleekness of the craft it supports.
And here is the briefly seen high-speed mode, where the wings are swept back and the tailfins cant inward.
Equipping the Advanced Pack while the toy is in fighter mode is a chore. This is mostly due to how the VF-19 Advance's transformation is engineered, with a lot of locking tabs and small armor parts needing to cooperate as ratcheted joints make things hard to move with precision. The tiny gray filler parts for the back of the calves are particularly troublesome, as they fall off as soon as they're bumped by something. It's such a tedious process, I ended up dedicating almost an entire video to demonstrating how to dress-up the Valkyrie in its equipment.
Don't get me wrong, though, the VF-19 Advance certainly looks great with its Advanced Pack equipped. Adapting one era of Valkyrie equipment to another is a novel idea, and the -19 series was rarely seen using any extra gear, so the overall look still feels fresh.
Here, you will be using the lower set of holes for the plug-in brackets due to how the legs move down slightly with the packs attached.
As you start transforming the VF-19 Advance, a lot of the motions will be familiar to anyone who has handled Yamato / Arcadia's -19 toys, or even Bandai's own VF Hi-Metal figures. That said, the conversion process is much more involved with this DX Chogokin, and, in some ways, it can wear on your patience.
One of the biggest surprises is how the shield and neck cover are actually one piece. Panels flanking the sides of the head flip, which allows you to untab the whole assembly from around the robot's monitor turret.
The neck cover then travels up a bit on the bracket it's attached to.
After that, the whole thing slides into the shield itself.
While the YF-19/VF-19 is a definite fan-favorite design, the Valkyrie is plagued by a bad case of engineering sloppiness. On paper, the upper torso, arms, and legs are shown compressing neatly into the rear of the fighter. In practice, all of these parts are partially occupying the same space. As such, toys based on this Valkyrie have had varying solutions to this problem. The DX Chogokin makes room for the arms and upper body by having cavities cut out in the legs.
Unlike their competitor, Bandai found a way to smooth over the gaps with a very clever internal mechanism. Simply pull the diecast ankle assembly down...
Which causes the inner side of the calf to lift up. Another panel hinges up and over to fill in the gap almost seamlessly. Bandai appeared to dig deep for inspiration on this gimmick, as it's something you'll only see in transforming YF-19 garage kits by skilled craftsmen such as Studio Half-Eye and Experten.
The resulting Gerwalk is a faithful rendition of the VF-19's eternally awkward middle form. So far the leg joints feel pretty tight, including the ball-jointed ankles. And since the main neck cover is now part of the shield, Bandai provided a standalone piece just for Gerwalk mode. They went to so much effort to make the neck cover not just another loose accessory, but ended up doing that anyway...
Unlike the Yamato / Arcadia figures, Bandai's VF-19 has a swivel joint mounted right where the thigh swings out for Gerwalk mode. The result is a more authentic A-stance for the iconic bird-walker. Although I can't give them full credit for this idea, as Yamato's VF-17 had the same setup.
Also, check out the sliding panels positioned just above the tailfins. These are another way the DX Chogokin fills out its lower legs, so that the toy looks more cohesive from the rear. Moreover, the backs of the thighs are designed so that only the interior is hollow, with the sides remaining untouched. From most angles, the legs will look anime-accurate without the need for additional parts.
In Gerwalk mode, the Arcadia YF-19 fares much better than the Bandai VF-19. The arms on the latter sit too far back to properly drape over the wing roots. However, the YF-19 has looser ankles, and is hard to pose in this form.
Adding the Advanced Pack to the mix makes the already ungainly figure even more awkward. The arms in particular lose even more of what little clearance they had, thanks to those huge missile pods encroaching on the limbs.
Honestly, though, I can't lay the blame on Bandai for this one, as the VF-19 just never had a good place to mount large boosters the way most other Valkyries can.
Continuing on into Battroid mode will, again, remind fans of existing -19 toys. And while some steps start out familiar, they end up being a bit more involved.
For example, check out how the canards move around during the transformation. A small chunk of the black area, where they meet the main body of the aircraft, actually extends outward and serves as the pivot point where the control surface will move.
Moving on, the cockpit block, nosecone, and gullet divide up in the same way pioneered by Yamato's very first YF-19, but have tighter hinges and more tabs to hold everything in place.
The torso transformation is where the garage kit influence is especially evident.
Watch as two tan colored panels, on the inside of the upper body, move into a vertical position in order to make room for the cockpit block to slot in. Also, the twin vulcan cannons on either side of the torso slide inward to help lock things together.
The cannons can also hinge inward along with the tan panels, which allows you to push forward the front gray portions of the torso along their own tiny rails. And even though most of these parts are covered up in the VF-19's three modes, there is still a lot of detail molded onto everything. For instance, the struts for the chest vulcans look like ammo belts.
To finish off Battroid mode, the gray vernier block on top of the spine hinges up, and then it locks down over the cockpit area. Note that, despite looking similar to Yamato's VF-19 toys, there is no egress hatch like on the Fire Valkyrie.
Now, while all of this stuff is remarkable in terms of toy design, their execution makes for a handling experience that is troublesome at best, and frustrating at worse. Transforming the toy back into fighter mode requires all of these intricate parts to get crammed into specific places, or the toy will not come together correctly. Fortunately, the toy is fairly robust, but you still don't want to force anything at the risk of breaking something. I noticed a lot of the locking tabs tend to get mashed up and slightly mangled, even if you're trying to be really cautious. Frankly, the toy doesn't need this many locking tabs, given how tightly everything comes together just by how the VF-19's body parts are arranged in fighter mode. Please watch my video detailing the transformation to get a better idea of how the toy works.
Battroid mode is where the VF-19 Advance belies its CGI roots. In an age of CAD and highly controlled toy design, the Advance stands apart from other toys of this Valkyrie by looking downright organic. Rather than invoking the YF-19's line art, this toy resembles the stylized animation from Macross 7 and its spinoffs.
Also, check out how the red and black stripe patterns on the chest and leg fins have been reversed. I'm not sure if this was a deliberate decision or just an honest mistake from Satelight, but it's a subtle way to distinguish the YF-19 from the VF-19 Advance.
The legs end up being a bit on the slender side, but it's an aesthetic decision that doesn't bother me at all. The built in calf filler parts help add the right amount of solidness to the lower body. Note that the diecast hinge assembly on each wing slides further inward, which helps compress the whole hip thingie into a more compact piece.
The forearms in particular show off the more stylized sculpt, with the elbow having a very muscular bulge.
Arcadia's take on the YF-19 is a very traditional rendition, that emphasizes the more solid look of the line art. It's certainly more true to Macross Plus's animation style than the VF-19 Advance.
Honestly, though, I feel like both versions represent legitimate interpretations of the design.
And if you have both versions, you can do some "symmetrical docking."
Taken as a whole, the VF-19 Advance is largely the same as any of the Yamato/Arcadia figures in terms of articulation. However, it uses ball-joints for its shoulders and hips (instead of simple universal swivels), so its poses are a little more lively.
Although, both toys are pretty good at boogieing down.
Being a part of the -19 family means that the Advance can readily assume a kneeling pose. Just be sure to keep the hip wings out of the way.
This is a very natural pose for these Valkyries.
The one major addition is the inclusion of a working waist joint. This bit of engineering cleverness doesn't seem to accomplish much, but the fact that Bandai was able to do it speaks of their ingenuity when it comes to toys. Here, you can see why the front landing gear had to be folded into a much tighter space, as it allows the lower half of the groin the ability to swivel left or right.
How this works is: There's a metal rod going from the bottom of the "spine" up through the nose block of the Battroid. The small chunk of the fuselage where the legs connect are fixed in place, with the rest of the body rotating around it.
You can also angle the hips outward on their ball-jointed diecast mount for a decent amount of leg splaying. The exposed screw can be used to adjust the tightness of the joint.
Another cool detail is the inclusion of movable knee guards. Underneath is an accordion-like surface that suggests how the legs would be hollow, yet flexible, in order to function as jet engines.
In addition, what served as upper air intakes in fighter mode becomes a pair of movable butt plates for Battroid mode. They are each mounted on a small articulated arm with a hinge up top and a ball-joint at the bottom.
The Advance's head is pretty much the same as its forebear, right down to the little gray things on its cheeks and angry black eyebrows. Moving the head around is pretty easy, thanks to a double ball-joint setup at the top and bottom of the neck.
And, like any good YF-19 based toys, its humanoid eyes are visible beneath the clear green visor.
Also, a friend of mine pointed out that this toy lacks the YF-19's red arrow detailing along the back of the head, but that wasn't on the CG model from the movie so maybe it's a deliberate omission.
Much like both the Yamato and Arcadia YF-19's, the VF-19 Advance features a removable forehead that reveals a detailed interior. The entire design of this gimmick is pretty much identical too. First you slide the front of the head up to reveal the innards of the skull.
Presented by Banpresto.
And then you slide the green visor forward to get a good look at the painted silver eyes. I always liked this bit of detailing, as it ties the star Valkyrie from Macross Plus to Basara's ride from Macross 7.
It's interesting to see how this gimmick has become integrated into what we expect for toys of this character.
Bandai's VF-19 definitely looks the part when wielding the design family's trademark gun pod and shield.
And the toy has no problem holding the weapon in a variety of poses.
It should be noted that the Bandai toy's gun pod is noticeably slimmer than what we're used to from Yamato / Arcadia. However, it makes up for this with some tampographed markings.
For close-combat, the VF-19 uses its pinpoint barrier to add some extra punch to its punches.
To enhance the effect, Bandai included this swirling energy cloud that is meant to invoke how the VF-19 looks when engaging in fisticuffs. It uses the same wrist connection as the hands, and can be used on either side of the toy.
While it looks cool, this accessory is by no means essential, and I won't be bothered if it's left out of a future version of this toy.
I won't complain about the chance to do some sweet uppercuts with it, though.
The final stand adapter clips underneath the Advance's groin, and allows it to perch atop the main armature with no issues.
As a member of SMS, Isamu flies alongside a lot of VF-25 Messiah Valkyries. The newer plane is a bit more slimmed down and simplified compared to the VF-19, and their respective toys reflect that. Admittedly, I think the VF-25 edges out the Advance in terms of ease of transformation and handling. However, much of that can be blamed on the fact that the VF-19 design itself is one of the most complex Variable Fighters from Macross, so there is only so much a transformable toy can do to streamline things.
On the way to fully equipping the Advanced Packs in Battroid mode, you can dress up the VF-19 Advance like the YF-19 with its FAST Packs. Just use the outer leg parts, the calf fillers, and the movable shoulder armor bits.
Unlike in fighter mode, the little gray filler parts have nothing to knock them off in Gerwalk or Battroid mode.
The upper intake covers make for a set of subtle shoulder pads, that enhance the Advance's silhouette without compromising femininity.
Giving any VF-19 variant a set of main boosters has to be met with the design's own limitation. While the Macross 7 era Excaliburs mounted theirs on the ends of their shoulder pads, the Advance opts to let them stay attached to the wing roots.
The result is a rather Muv-Luv-esque setup, where the bulky rocket packs are arranged like jump units. Bandai's toy even adds an extra hinge point in the hip wings, just so the boosters can have enough clearance while also remaining parallel to the legs.
I found that the toy has no problem standing or doing action poses, even with the big boosters mounted in an odd place. Unfortunately, one of the hip wings is a bit loose, and it starts to droop down with the pack attached.
All that said, the main figure never loses its swagger, even when loaded for space warfare.
To rectify this situation, Bandai included the aforementioned armature equipped mini-bases for the purpose of holding the boosters up when the toy is in Battroid mode. While I am not opposed to this idea, the execution with this toy is a bit dubious. Bandai did a similar thing with the AGP Yamato, but there the extra arms were attached to the main display base. Here, they just float around separate from the main pedestal, without any way of connecting to it. And once again, instead of engineering an unobtrusive way to plug the arms directly into the boosters, you just have to make do with the standard figure clamps. I feel like if this were a Soul of Chogokin, they would have found a much more streamlined solution. Honestly, I don't really hate this setup, it just frustrates me with how halfhearted it comes across.
Still, I am not one to look a gift Valkyrie in the air intake, so I appreciate having a set of extra long Tamashii Stages.
"Let's go, you cyborg bastards!"
Overall, Bandai's DX Chogokin VF-19 Advance is a pretty solid figure in terms of build quality and the strength of its individual modes. However, the clever bits of the transformation are impeded by inconsistent parts fit and tightness. Honestly, I feel like there are a whole lot of factors involved in deciding whether or not to pick one up. If you already bought Arcadia's YF-19, there is not a whole lot this figure does differently. Bandai's attempts to clean up the areas on other -19 toys that are usually left hollow is a fantastic idea, but it leads to frustration when converting the toy from one mode to another. I must have transformed the VF-19 two dozen times over the course of shooting the pictures and videos for this review and it never got easier, even as I grew more familiar with the process.
Accessories-wise, the Advanced Pack is a cool design, but the placement of its main boosters may leave some fans scratching their heads, as it makes the figure more awkward outside of fighter mode. However, if you skipped over Arcadia's version, the VF-19 Advance is still a really good substitute that comes with more in the box and costs about 9800 yen less. Unfortunately, this is a Bandai toy, and is therefore difficult to preorder and sometimes even harder to find on the aftermarket for a fair price. All other things being equal, the decision really comes down to your own expectations on what Isamu's Valkyrie needs to accomplish, as both toys nail it in terms of build quality and construction. Although, I will say that Yamato / Arcadia's -19 series toys are a lot easier to transform and, to a lot of fans, that is much more important than clever tricks that clean up the gaps left by the conversion process.
As for me? I can't wait to see this toy in pink.
|Posted 20 July, 2015 - 15:16 by VF5SS|