VF-2SS Valkyrie II Silvie Gena
Review by VF5SS
The VF-2SS Valkyrie II has been a perennial fan-favorite Variable Fighter ever since it debuted in the OVA series, Macross II: Lovers Again. Its admirers waited in earnest for their beloved space fighter to receive a high-quality toy from the top dogs in the VF business. After over two decades of waiting, Valkyrie II fans had their prayers answered with a bit of a curve-ball. A proper 1/60 scale VF-2SS comes to us, not from Arcadia or Bandai, but from the relative newcomers: Evolution Toy.
Now, any toy of the Valkyrie II is going to carry a super baggage pack with it. On top of the weight of expectations, this is Evolution Toy's first stab at a Macross figure, a fully transformable toy, and is the first toy of the VF-2SS ever. If you think this is a recipe for disappointment, you'd be right on the mark.
Please check out my video review.
Like most Macross toys, the VF-2SS comes packaged in fighter mode, which is unfortunate since that is easily the figure's weakest form. Kazumi Fujita and Koichi Ohata's more futuristic take on the classic VF-1 is given a rather workmanlike rendition by Evolution Toy.
While I am admittedly not a huge fan of the base design, many Valkyrie II enthusiasts have been gritting their teeth at what I must agree is a "thick" take on this VF. The toy measures about 10.5 inches from nose to engines.
Much of the thickness stems from Evolution Toy's rather outdated ways of addressing the design quirks of the VF-2SS. For instance, the Valkyrie's wings have a hinge near the root so they can angle upwards. On this figure, those hinges are realized with big square blocks that are far thicker than the wings themselves. Because of this, Evolution Toy added an extra hinge to the backpack so it can span the extra thickness in a clunky and inaccurate manner. All of these issues result in a fighter mode that looks far too bulky and gappy, especially from the rear.
Detailing-wise, the toy is on par with a decent late 90s/early 2000s collector's toy. All the important panel lines and surface bits are represented, but without the fidelity and precision expected of a toy from 2016. For example, the plane's numerous verniers are rendered as molded circles highlighted by sparkly silver paint, which makes them look weirdly retro. Additionally, the glossy lightweight plastic used in this toy's construction makes it look and feel like a low-rent High Complete Model imitator. Extra markings are provided by the included sticker sheet, which looks suspiciously like the kind from Bandai's old 1/100 plastic kit.
Others have compared the toy to the likes of CM's Corporation's Brave Gokin Legioss toys, but I honestly feel like this is just a step below that. The VF-2SS does use a similar trick of rubber covers for unsightly joints, but only on the tiny metal assembly for the tail fins. If you see these come and go in my photos, it is because they don't really stay on and end up being basically useless.
Also, I cannot for the life of Mash get the tail fins to properly tab into the sub-engines in a way that doesn't feel like I'm stressing the plastic. Honestly, I'm not even sure if my toy has its fins attached on the right side because the bases of the fins don't seem to conform to the contours of the engine block.
Construction-wise, the Valkyrie II is weirdly retro. Even the landing wheels are simple plastic discs glued to the ends of a metal rod. No separate rubber tires here. In their defense, the VF-2SS lacks any landing gear in its original line art, so Evolution Toy had to just make up something for their figure.
Also, one of the main wheels on my toy popped off and got lost in the couch, so I can't even properly display it in fighter mode with gear down now.
With its landing gear up, the VF-2SS looks passable from below. Marring the clean profile of the figure's base design is a pair of highly visible unpainted diecast struts that move the legs around for transformation. The line art depicts the VF-2SS with a tiny hinged assembly for holding the entire leg, which Evolution Toy did not even try to imitate with their low-tech engineering.
Adding to the messiness is the set of tiny tabs that are ill-equipped to keep the Valkyrie's legs locked in place. Unlike Kawamori's VF designs, the VF-2SS doesn't really arrange its parts in a way where one would just naturally align with another, so it's on the toy makers to keep each mode nice and solid. Sadly, one of the legs on my toy constantly comes loose when handling it (you see this happen a lot in my video review). I am not kidding when I say I have classic Gobot jets that stay together more tightly in jet mode than this VF-2SS.
But enough about the flaws, let's focus on some good things about the VF-2SS. To Evolution Toy's credit, their toy is at the very least trying to match the Macross toys from Bandai and Arcadia with the Valkyrie II's gimmicks. The toy does have an opening canopy with a pretty good looking cockpit on the inside.
The Silvie Gena pilot figure looks pretty good too. In fact, initial impressions from Japanese twitter users often said this accessory was easily the best part of the toy.
And to my surprise, Evolution Toy was able to put a tiny tampo printed display on the cockpit's main console.
Evolution Toy even added the ability to mount the VF-2SS's gun pod underneath the plane's belly. A little slot in the backpack's hinged flap lets the weapon plug in. Or at least it does in theory, as the connection is far too loose on my toy.
The toy does not come with a stand or any kind of adapter, but works okay with a FlightPose stand provided the tabs are doing their job.
From certain angles, the unsightly diecast swing bars will get lost in the shadows of the plane's underside.
However, there is no denying that the VF-2SS's characteristic front body intakes were shrunk to the point of barely existing just to shoehorn in those swing bars.
Like with many VF-1 derivatives, the meat and potatoes of the VF-2SS's conversion lies in moving its legs around. The aforementioned diecast armatures hinge and rotate on a small polycap-type joint, which are themselves attached to an L-shaped gray plastic piece. These bits do not appear to move, but often get flexed a bit as you move the diecast bars around. While this is a bit worrying, I think the gray parts are made from sturdy POM plastic.
The arms hinge out to the side where they attach to the same tabs that can sometimes fail to keep the legs in place. A plastic tab joins the diecast bars for both Gerwalk and Battroid mode. Also note the tiny flip out tabs near the middle of the main body. These are where the upper legs/intakes attach for Gerwalk mode, but also need to be left out to allow the main body's hinges to fold for Battroid mode.
Another praiseworthy part of this toy is how the hands are stored inside the forearms. Evolution Toy recognized the existing panel lines of the VF-2SS design and made the forearm open to the side so as not to affect their curvy profile.
Gerwalk mode is where the Valkyrie II starts to get closer to its forebear in terms of layout, and the toy benefits from this. Its legs are more smartly placed and get locked into a stronger set of tabs. The arms are 50/50 on my figure, as one shoulder assembly gets slowly squeezed off its mounting tab in the the same way the leg does in fighter mode.
Weirdly enough, the toy does not have a true forward and back joint in its ankles. Rather, each "toe" of the Valkyrie's feet moves independently, with a ratcheting joint that lets them rest at the appropriate angle for each mode.
And while the toy's legs do have mid-knee swivels, their placement deep within the joint makes it difficult to get the Valkyrie II into a proper A-stance. Ideally, most of the work for this pose should be happening where the intakes meet the main body of the Gerwalk, but the locking tabs impede angling the legs outward in such a manner. You could leave the legs unlocked completely, but that makes the figure unstable.
The figure's hands are chunky, but have all the same functions as the poseable mitts from other Macross toys. You get a hinged block of three fingers with an independently movable trigger finger and thumb.
Tabs in the palms of the Valkyrie's hands end up doing most of the work in keeping a grip on the toy's gun pod. Unfortunately, this is one of those toys where the blocky fingers were not designed with the gun's smooth, rounded handle in mind, so closing them tightly will just knock the weapon out of the VF-2SS's hand.
When moving along to Battroid mode, pay attention to these small rotating tabs. In fighter mode these lock the backpack in place, but must be reoriented to help keep the torso together. They end up plugging into tiny slots near the edges of the chest plate and have to coaxed in as both halves come together.
Battroid mode is easily the toy's most stable form as multiple clips, pegs, and tabs keep everything in place. It also demonstrates how the VF-2SS is a very Battroid-centric design, as the limbs that could scarcely tuck away in fighter mode are now free to rest comfortably along the design's slender torso. The toy makes for a roughly 10.5 inch tall robot figure.
The Valkyrie II certainly has a lot of presence in Battroid mode and Evolution Toy's rendition makes for a good display piece.
Complementing the sleek S-type head design is clear plastic parts for both its visor and head sensor.
A simple neck joint allows the VF-2SS to rotate its head turret a full 360 degrees, as well as look up and down a tiny bit.
The arms are fully poseable with ratcheting joints in both their shoulders and elbows.
Normally, the elbows can only bend about 90 degrees.
However, an extra hinge hidden in the contours of the bicep greatly adds to each arm's range of motion.
Now, you can curl the arms up all the way.
All of this lets the Valkyrie II get a good two-handed grip on its gun pod.
The weapon itself is not amazingly detailed or anything, but looks the part well enough.
It features a hinged hand guard, as well as an extending front portion that echoes the VF-1's gun pod design.
Below the waist, the VF-2SS suffers from a common problem with VF-1-esque toys, in that its legs are limited by their closeness to the back plate and wings.
Spreading the wings and/or unlocking the swing bars helps a little bit, but the toy's articulation is still far too limited for anything truly dynamic.
Frankly, the toy looks more awkward than cool in anything other than a standing pose.
Even a stand doesn't seem to help.
To paraphrase Macross II's unforgettable Dennis Lone, Evolution Toy doesn't know the first thing about Valkyrie design. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the final product is just not up to par with the current crop of Macross toys. The toy's rather "old school" engineering does not impart it with a sense of Takatoku-like durability, but an inescapable feeling of obsolescence. This is the Valkyrie II toy that could have easily been made when the series was new, but lacks the qualities of a solid collector oriented toy. For its price of roughly $220 USD, Evolution Toy's VF-2SS is not the kind of throwback I see buyers welcoming with open arms. However, it is, as of this review, the only Valkyrie II toy to exist. And it will soon be joined by both a yellow-striped Fairy Squadron variant and Nexx Gilbert's blue-trimmed machine, both of which will come with the Valkyrie's huge Super Armed Pack equipment. While I cannot recommend this toy at its asking price, it does make for an okay display piece in Battroid mode, so it might be worth it to diehard fans of the Valkyrie II who want a large 1/60 scale representation of the VF-2SS on their shelves. Even so, I would wait for a hefty discount before looking into one of these toys.
And before I close out this review, I want to share some information that may shed some light as to why it has taken such a long time for the Valkyrie to receive a toy. Contrary to belief, there was no grand conspiracy preventing the production of a VF-2SS, just the results of the Macross license's limited Japan market. I spoke with the number one English-speaking Macross II fan, Adrian (aka Save) of Macrossworld and the Macross Speaker Podcast, about the lack of a VF-2SS toy until recently. Much like famous war reporter, Dennis Lone, he went straight to the source and asked his contact at Yamato (this was before they became Arcadia):
"I also knew the same contact over at Yamato Toys that Graham knew. He was part of the family that owned the company and he pretty much oversaw the running of the company. He introduced me to the team of employees that worked on the Macross product line. As I got to know them, I would ask about any possible Macross II products, mainly a VF-2SS. At first they would just default to, "there are no collectors (in Japan) that would be interested in buying it". After a while two members of the team both said "since they have a relationship Kawamori, and it's not his design, they didn't think it would be wise to ,pursue a Macross II license". This was around the time of the 1/60 scale Valk release. Either way, even I would side with them that in Japan there was no market for the VF-2SS prior to Frontier, even if they did get a license.
Fast forward to preset day and I still joke with Mr. K about a VF-2SS and usually he just laughs.
I was also told that Evolution Toy tried to get the Macross II license a year before they first showed off the VF-2SS at Miyazawa Mokei spring 2015. Their original plan was to have it released around or just after the release of the Macross II Blu-Ray, but BW stalled on granting them the license."
If things were different for Macross, there might have been a VF-2SS toy sooner. The reality of the situation is that the demand for Macross II products within Japan has been very small for a long time and it wasn't until Frontier came along that the series as a whole benefited from its newest entry's huge success. Could there be more Macross II Valkyrie toys in the future? Well, Bandai did display a prototype of a Hi-Metal R VF-2SS at one of their trade shows, but as of this review there has been no further info about it (or even up close photos). Perhaps when Macross Delta launches for real there will be a new glut of Macross products, spanning the entire breadth of the series, flying along with it.
|Posted 3 March, 2016 - 18:24 by VF5SS|