Review by SpaceRunaway
The Volks Full Action Figure series was released over the course of 2002 to 2010. Initially available exclusively by mail order through Dengeki Hobby Magazine, this line has mostly been forgotten by history, and remains poorly documented even in Japanese. In light of that I offer these reviews as a warning, lest we forget. In case there are terms used that leave you confused and/or angry, take a look at the first review of this series for further clarification.
During my first brief stint with the FAF line back in oh, 2006 or so, there were only three FAFs that I really wanted, and two of them I picked up, those being the Thrudgelmir and the Granzon.
The last was the Valsione R. FAFs were more expensive back then though, and even though I found T and G for what were bargain prices for the time, I was already nearing a few hundred dollars on those two alone, and there is limit to how much a person will spend on things that they hate. It wasn't until I was reminded about this line the second time around that I came back to the Valsione R. Somehow, in seeking out the last figure I really wanted I ended up with a small mountain of FAFs along the way. At any rate, the Valsione R is somewhat special for me.
The Valsione R first showed up as a reconstructed and much enhanced version of the Valsione in 1996's Super Robot Wars Gaiden: Masoukishin THE LORD OF ELEMENTAL for the Super Famicom. LOE was a precursor of sorts to the modern Super Robot Wars Original Generation games, removing the licensed characters and expanding on the SRW world outside the Mazingers and Gundams.
By the way, "R" stands for "Return" (and only "Return", not "Refine" or anything else the internet might try to tell you).
Here's the usual youtube pull of the attack animations, although I feel like I need to say that I find the SRW:OG2nd Valsione R sprite really weird looking and it's easily my least favorite incarnation. This clip is also kind of...bouncy, but in that misguided, Dead or Alive kind of way. I hope the people that watch these are remembering to change the settings to HD, because that's why I post them.
The R comes in the later (but not the last) style Dengeki Hobby box.
Also, the box is kind of enormous.
You need to attach the two wing-like thrusters out of the box. As soon as you do, you will probably immediately realize one of the biggest issues with the Valsione R. I really do like this figure though, so let's at least get past the introductions before I start complaining.
With the figure in hand, my first impression is very positive. The sculpt and proportions are great, and she looks like she came right out of one of the LOE's sequels.
The hair sculpt in particular is fantastic, especially compared to the Valsione's Raggedy-Ann hair. As far as paint goes, the metallic gold highlights are really eye catching, and everything else nice and glossy. It's over-applied in some areas, especially the white, but there aren't any major imperfections.
The majority of the joints used on the Valsione R are unlike any of the other figures I have from this line. The only use of Volks' familiar double joints are in the knees. In the shoulders and elbows are these ratcheted single joints that I've never seen before. It's strange, because as far as I can tell, none of these joints show up in any other FAFs. After the Valsione R the majority of the figures either go back to more familiar means of construction while a few towards the very end, such as the Compatible Kaiser, use all new joints that look almost prototypical to what would be used in their flagship A3 line. It seems confounding that the Valsione R would get bespoke joints when even the last released FAFs would still have the double joints that had been used since the beginning of the line. I'm really, really curious if these ever showed up in any other Volks product.
Anyway, like the usual POM joints Volks uses for this line these are very sturdy, and the ratchets, although stiff, transmit that familiar feeling of quality that seems to come with clicky joints. As far as function goes though, it's a mixed bag. While the arms have much more lateral movement than a simple ball joint, the elbows actually suffer somewhat, combining with the Valsione's thick gauntlets to produce a less than 90 degree range of motion.
Far odder are the spherical swivel joints used on the wings, which look almost Revoltech-like. These give the thrusters some extra possibility, but looking at the back brings us face to face with the issue I mentioned earlier.
The connection points where the wings plug in are so close together that it ends up locking the hair sculpt in place. To begin with, the large hair really restricts head movement, but which the wings attached the Valsione's head is for all intents and purposes completely immobile. It's the tradeoff you have to make for having such fabulous hair I guess.
Speaking of tradeoffs, the design is so back heavy that the only way she can stand completely straight is with a pretty heavy Okawara lean. Her high heels, already making very little contact with the ground, are really hard to lay flat, and on my specimen both the hip and ankle joints are really loose. Getting her to balance isn't quite as bad as it was with the original Valsione, but she really needs her stand to stay upright.
Speaking of the other sister, here they are together. The R gives off a reliable older sibling vibe, despite being technically younger. And also the same suit.
Other highlights setting the R apart from the ordinary FAF are the bicep and hip swivels, torso joint, and ball jointed hands, and she does a decent job at attempting an approximation of the original Valsione R artwork.
While the R only has a single pair of extra option hands, there are a fair amount of accessories included.
First up is her default melee weapon, the Divine Arm. Like these things usually go, the Divine Arm comes in several pieces: two hilts, one with a hand attached, and a sheathed and unsheathed blade to connect to them. An extra sheath in the 'open' position is included.
The Cross Smasher is (one of) the Valsione's energy attacks, inherited from the Valsion, her "father" unit.
To use the Cross Smasher pieces the regular shoulder domes need to be removed.
This is very difficult to do with human fingers*, and thus the real star of this reviews enters:
The Pick! Mk.2!
While The Pick was last spotted in the review of the Werkbau in a fetching gold (yellow) color, it makes a grand return in a classy silver (gray).
The Pick pops the shoulder pieces off with ease, after which it fades into obscurity and is never seen again.
With the Cross Smasher pieces in place, you end up...kind of underwhelmed.
A good dose of Imagination is necessary for this to work.
By the way, this is the version of the Cross Smasher as it appears in the handheld versions of LOE and SRW:OG2nd. None of the other games featuring the Valsione R use the opening shoulder domes as a component of this attack.
The last weapon is the Divine Blade, an upgraded version of the Divine Arm in the shape of a Japanese sword. In this case, the blade and hilt aren't separate, but the hilt on the sheathed sword can be removed.
The Divine Blade comes into play for the Valsione R's strongest attack, Engetsu Sappou, or "Full Moon Killing Technique". As a reflection of the pilot's questionable hobbies, the name is taken from the title of a 1969 samurai movie.
She doesn't quite have the articulation needed to pull of the attack, but I tried.
The later style hexagonal patterned stand is included, and as is the norm for these stands the base is customized for the Valsione R.
The image is a little hard to make out because of how small it is, but it's also reprinted on the box.
Look how smug she looks! It's adorable!
Rounding out the package is the usual color booklet.
The Valsione R is a little strange. It has a lot of little touches that make it feel like more of a modern toy than many of it's other FAF brethren, but it doesn't quite come together. If you're a fan of the character though, there's very little else to choose from when it comes to a figure of the R, outside of garage kits and a 15+ year old Banpresto build it yourself prize toy. I'd guess that it's the most well known of the classic SRW suits that still hasn't received a Kotobukiya kit.
It's probably because of my longtime fondness for the character, but I find myself a lot more forgiving of the R's shortcomings since it's a least a passable action figure, compared to the Granzon and Thrudgelmir. It's not super rare, but it's steadily held its worth much better than many others from this line, and even now a used copy still goes for around what it originally retailed for, give or take 500 yen.
The Valsione R will always be my first choice when it comes to an elegant lady robot to lead your other red-headed robots into battle.
With that, I'm taking a break from FAFs for a while. Jump down to the comments to get a bit of a retrospective and wrap-up.
*It's totally not at all.
|Posted 19 June, 2014 - 16:06 by SpaceRunaway|
Comments4 comments posted
What a strange journey this has been.
How did it get to this point?
Part of it was the chance to talk about something that no one else was talking about. Part of it was the desire to shed light on what was basically a ‘forgotten’ toyline, despite the relatively recent age of the Full Action Figure line. Of course, to be forgotten requires knowledge of something’s existence beforehand, and the exclusive, mail away origins of this line helped push it further into obscurity. The challenge of researching a line with very little information available, even in Japanese, was intriguing.
Beyond all of those reasons, however, it’s probably just because of a slightly masochistic streak.
When I started doing these reviews based on the few FAFs I already had, I had already reached a verdict on this line in my mind. These were among the most misguided, incompetent toys ever made. While not a directly related factor, the high aftermarket prices circa 2006 didn’t do anything to soften that opinion. Not only that, the ones I had were physically gross to handle. I assumed that my experiences held true across the board.
As I went deeper into the line, I found that it was a little more complicated than that.
To be clear: I still don’t think these are good. They aren’t however, the spawn of Satan born into a PVC casing. The major problem is that they’re bafflingly inconsistent. With most toys you can generally see that future releases build upon past releases to improve the line. For instance, during the length of the FAF lifespan Bandai would go from MSiA in all of its evolutions to the Robot Damashi line (Not that it is fair to compare Bandai to Volks). With FAF, it’s really hard to see that. Later releases have no guarantee that they’ll be better. Early innovations and improvements are removed between figures, quality control seems to mostly be up to luck of the draw, and cautious optimism after finding a FAF you like quickly turns to disappointment when the next one crumbles apart in your hands.
By the way, I have one FAF left that hasn’t seen a review. The Altairion is designed to be a transforming toy (well, it part-swaps). The problem is that its joints weren’t strong enough to handle the swapping, and now instead of a robot I have a pile of broken pieces. I’d still like to pick up another so I can do a proper review, but in case you were wondering: Don’t Buy the Altairion.
And yet, even that’s hard for me to say. Because the QC is so wildly inconsistent, I can’t claim these reviews to be anything other than my own experiences. That’s just how FAF do.
At first, my position was clear: Do not buy any of these toys, you do not want them.
But maybe…maybe you do want them? After all, some of these characters aren’t available in any other format. I can’t say that you’ll have the same QC problems, just as I can’t guarantee that the figures I liked will still be in one piece for you. At the very minimum, I hope these reviews might help you know what to possibly expect.
And if I convinced you to stay as far away as possible from these, well, I don’t feel too guilty about that either.
I’ll probably still do the occasional FAF review from time to time, at the very least, I’d like to review the final FAF release, the Fairlion twin pack. I also have dreams of redoing a lot of my early pictures so they’re not so dark and terrible. I don’t have any timeline for that though.
FAF and I need to see other people for a little while.
I am so glad that the very first FAFS review you link to in all the subsequent ones opens with the line, "This is mostly Veef’s fault."
Because everything always is in a way...
That retrospective at the end was really super interesting, because your attitude towards the figures did noticeably change as the reviews went on! Hell, I'm even vaguely interested in this fig, shame the prices are still higher than she's probs worth. And it's an oddly... meditative way to resolve toy reviews in a way I don't often see. Something looked kinda metallic about her shoulder joints, btw; is any part of them metal or is that just the lighting?
Also, those gifs were utterly glorious and gave me a good chuckle, totally worth the 10000 hours in MSpaint.
For your comments, and actually reading through all of that.
Doing these reviews was really a roller coaster, because every time I started actually feeling optimistic about the line it came back to bite me. The time between reviews got longer and longer because I really did burn out a couple times.
I'm happy to hear that there was some sort of noticeable progression through these. This was my first time writing on the same subject for an extended length of time, so hopefully that shift, while unintentional, kept things interesting, rather than too unbalanced.
It's crazy how far the prices have come down in the last few years, and even now they're still dropping, outside of only a couple which have kept their crazy prices. I've been really shocked at how low some of the prices are getting on second hand shops like Mandarake (although I've resisted the urge to order any more for the time being) Maybe in a few more years all of them will be easily available?
And no, as much as I'd wish for metal in this, it's sadly just a trick of the light.