Macross Newsletter #48
12/30/01

Graham's Newsletter # 48

 

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Graham's Review of the Bandai 1/55 Scale VF-1J

 
Introduction
It's been 11 years since Bandai last released a 1/55 VF-1 toy, but finally Bandai gets back into the transforming Valkyrie game with their re-issue of the Takatoku VF-1J.
 
Appearance
Bandai's VF-1J is a near total copy of Takatou's original 1/55 VF-1J toy, with some improvements and changes. Most noticeably of course is the use of painted-on or printed-on detail rather than the stickers used on the old toy. This in my opinion is a welcome change and adds a great deal to the appearance of the toy.
 
However, Bandai have not made improvements in other areas and like the original toys, there is a lot of bare unpainted metal on the re-issue VF-1J including the hip bars, the front and rear landing gear and landing gear doors and the hinges that connect the chest-plate to the back-plate.
 
I know that this is supposed to be a re-issue of the original toy and having exposed silver metal parts was popular on Japanese toys in the 70's and early 80's, but this is the 21st century now, and I really think the toy would look so much better is the silver metal parts had been painted grey to match the rest of the toy.
 
Personally, I do think that the plastic Bandai have used looks cheaper and of lower quality than on the original toys.
 
On the positive side, the VF-1J is a very sturdy toy and should give may years of trouble free play. On the negative side, the VF-1J features very limited articulation and inaccurate sculpting of the head and plane nose.
 
One interesting point I noticed is that Bandai have re-used the wings from the 1990 VF-1S Super Valkyrie. How can I tell? Well, because the stripes on the wings of the 1990 VF-1S were recessed slightly below the level of the rest of the wing as compared to the older 1/55 toys were the stripes were painted directly on the surface of the wing.
 
The box

As I have supplied enough pictures of the box, I'm not going to waste words describing it. As you can see, the VF-1J comes displayed in fighter mode in an all new window box. I like the design of this new box, with the grey metal type art and large UN Spacy symbol giving the box a no-nonsense military type look. Inside the box the toy is held in place by a two-piece clear plastic tray. Thankfully no twist ties are used to secure the toy.

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Accessories
The toy comes with the following accessories: -
  1. One gunpod.
  2. One spru of missiles (for the gunpod)
  3. One gunpod holder for the forearm.
  4. One double sided instruction sheet.
  5. One sheet of die-cut stickers.

And no, unfortunately the VF-1J does not come with a Heat shield.........Grrrrr! Come on Bandai, what were you thinking?

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Parts Fit

The fit of the VF-1J is generally very good, except for a large gap between the chest-plate and back-plate in fighter mode. This gap was present on all the toys I have examined. It is very disappointing that Bandai's engineers did not solve this problem before the toy was released.

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Like all 1/55 toys, the arms and legs do not lock together in fighter mode, which means that when you pick the toy up the legs tend to hang down slightly under their own weight.
 
The sculpt
The 1/55 toys were designed nearly 20 years ago. Compared with today, where consumers demand toys that are completely faithful to the anime appearance, 20 years ago accuracy of appearance was not a great concern for Japanese toy manufacturers and this shows in the inaccuracy of the 1/55 sculpt.
 
Although 20 years ago, the 1/55 toys were more accurate than many contemporary toys of that era, they are poor sculpts by today's standard. What do I mean? Well, lets look at the toy and examine a few areas where the 1/55 VF-1J is poorly sculpted.
  • Firstly, looking at the VF-1J head, it is completely missing it's chin! What's up with that!? My new name for Bandai's VF-1J is The 'Chinless Wonder'.
  • The shape of the plane nose is all wrong. From the side it is too short and too angular, especially along the bottom.
  • When viewed from the top, the plane nose is too wide.
  • The FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) blisters on the nose (that's the nose lasers to you Robotechies) are far too large and also the wrong shape.
  • The LERX (Leading Edge Root Extensions) (the bits between the main and sub-air intakes) are far too thick.

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Articulation
The 1/55 toys feature fairly limited articulation. To me it seems like the toy was designed to have only the minimum amount of articulation necessary to transform the toy and little more.
 
It would have been nice if Bandai could have improved the articulation, but no they chose to remain faithful to the original design of the toy. This means that unfortunately, the wrists still do not rotate, the legs cannot spread and the hands are simple non-articulated lumps of plastic. Also, the feet still cannot thrust vector in fighter mode.
 
Transformation
Transformation is smooth and simple and can easily be accomplished in under 1 minute. Um........what more can I say!
 
The Landing Gear
The landing gear is bare unpainted silver metal as are the landing gear doors. Even the wheels are bare metal. While this is faithful to the original Takatoku, it looks plain ugly in my opinion.
 
The rear landing gear is also very short and the front landing gear is at an angle when in the down position, which is incorrect. The front landing gear strut should go straight vertically down.
 
Gunpod
The gunpod is also faithful to the original Takatoku design, which means it does not telescope, and what's worse there is no way to attach it to the toy in fighter mode.
 
Comparisons to Yamato
Although comparing the Bandai 1/55 to the Yamato 1/60 is sort of like comparing apples and oranges (and has already been done before by me), I though I'd quickly go over it again.
  1. Level of detail: The Yamato has far more detail = 1 point to Yamato.
  2. Ease of Transformation: With it's design aimed more at children, the 1/55 is the easiest VF-1 toy to transform. Although it must be said that the transformation of the Yamato is also deceptively simple, although slightly more time consuming. = 1 point to Bandai.
  3. Articulation: With it's statue like poses, due to the limited hip articulation, the Bandai is the clear loser here = 1 point to Yamato.
  4. Accuracy of sculpt: The Bandai is a very inaccurate sculpt with poorly sculpted head (no chin), nose (too fat & wrong shape), cockpit (wrong shape) FLIR sensors (too big & wrong shape). The Yamato is overall a far more accurate sculpt (the VF-1A head is especially accurate)  = 1 point to Yamato
  5. Accessories: The Yamato comes with two types of missiles, a detachable heatshield and multiple hands. The Bandai has none of these = 1 point to Yamato. 
  6. Durability = The Bandai probably has the slight edge here, as 1/55 have shown they can last 20 years. the Yamato is relatively unproven although it seems pretty tough = 1 point to Bandai.
  7. Gunpod: The Yamato's gunpod telescopes and attaches in fighter mode. The Bandai's gunpod cannot telescope and cannot attach in fighter mode. = 1 point to Yamato.
  8. Landing gear. The Bandai's landing gear is bare metal, lacks detail and the rear landing gear is too short. The Yamato's landing gear is also not that detailed, but at least it is painted! = 1 point to Yamato.
  9. Proportioning: The Bandai is fairly blocky and does not really look like it would fly in fighter mode. The Yamato is about as close to perfect proportioning as is possible, except for the slightly small head. = 1 point to Yamato.
  10. Finish = The Bandai has a slightly better paint finish (just) than Yamato = 1 point Bandai.
Out of the 10 areas above, Bandai gets 3 points in total for durability, ease of transformation and finish. The Yamato gets 7 points for it's superior detail, articulation and accessories
 

In conclusion, if you want a toy which actually looks like a VF-1 is highly poseable and comes with loads of accessories then, get a Yamato. If  however, you are not too bothered by lack of accuracy of appearance, limited articulation and like lots of bright shiny metal all over your toys, then buy a Bandai.

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The cost
The VF-1J is supposed to sell for 6,800, but due to the relatively small number produced it is selling higher in many places. Even though the toy has only been released for around one week, I've already seen shops selling it for nearly 10,000!
 
Personally, I only plan to buy one of each Bandai (compared to 4 to 6 of each Yamato) as the poor sculpt and limited articulation of the Bandai really turns me off. Now if only Bandai had re-sculpted the head, plane nose, cockpit and gunpod. Added articulated hands and wrists and modified the hip joints like Fulcy has done for a spread legged pose, then I would consider buying more.
 
Graham