VF-1J Valkyrie Origin of Valkyrie (Hikaru Ichijyo ver.)
Review by EVA_Unit_4A
The VF-1 Valkyrie series is a high-mobility fighter designed and built for the United Nations Space Navy (UN Spacy) for use in both in atmosphere and in Earth-orbit. The unique capability of this craft is that it is variable – it can rapidly change from the high-speed air-superiority Fighter Mode, to a humanoid-shaped Battroid mode which can stand toe-to-toe against 12m-tall Zentradi-sized soldiers, and a third hybrid mode called a Ground-Effect Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint (GERWALK) which combines some traits, mobility, and multifunction of the other two modes. Three primary combat models are available, differing mostly in their weapons and slight changes in capabilities: the standard mass-production VF-1A, the less-numerous squadron-leader VF-1J, and the more-limited senior commander VF-1S. A two-seat trainee version- the VF-1D- also exists, as well as a limited-armament two-seat VE-1 “Elintseeker” space-only reconnaissance fighter. Valkyries are nimble in an atmosphere as well as in space, but do not have enough fuel reserves or power for their paired thermonuclear engines needed to rocket out away from the planet unassisted; however they can successfully re-enter Earth’s atmosphere unassisted. The Valkyrie presented in this review is the VF-1J type. Various trivial stats aside, the easiest way to identify this particular model is in the head- it has a wide hexagonal green visor and one laser cannon on either side. The VF-1J is perhaps best-identified as having been flown in the series by young First-Lieutenant Hikaru Ichijyo (and later on by several of his fellow pilots in their own customized liveries) in both his Black Squadron and then Vermilion Squadron based aboard the Macross. Ichijyo first tested the UN Spacy’s Armored Valkyrie prototype armor, and he would become the first human to encounter the Zentradi’s fleet commander face-to-face in battle. (He ejected before his VF-1J exploded, but Ichijyo, one of his Vermilion subordinates, and the Macross’s Tactical Officer were still captured.) While many Valkyries are liveried in white, a squadron-commander’s VF-1J (like Ichijyo’s) is usually picked out by its base-white with red trim highlights. His second-and-last VF-1J was accidentally destroyed in a friendly-fire missile barrage shortly after the Macross had returned to Earth. While he was recovering from his injuries, his sempai and pre-war friend Lieutenant-Commander Roy Focker died in battle. Ichijyo would end up inheriting both command of Skull Squadron and Focker’s repaired VF-1S for the remainder of the TV series, but kept the livery of his friend’s Valkyrie intact in-memorandum.
In 1982 when “Super Dimensional Fortress Macross” debuted in Japan, the Valkyrie mecha imagined by the series’ creator & mechanical designer Shoji Kawamori, became a near-overnight success as quickly as many of his other creations in the anime series. While there were other mass-produced transformable robots on the market from other unrelated series and movies, none of them seemed to have the appeal of the smaller and non-combining “real robot” Valkyries. Indeed, twenty-six years later, despite numerous sequels and successors throughout other “Macross”-titled series, the VF-1 Valkyrie has become and remains a legendary icon for science-fiction anime and toy/model collectors at-large both in Japan and across the world. However, the complexity of the design at the time meant that toys and models often were designed to come apart in order to achieve the three modes of the variable fighter- a trait that continued to plagued designs for years to come. Takatoku Toys (aka TT) was one of the first to produce a fully-complete 1/55-scale Valkyrie that could transform without removing almost any components- utilizing both ABS plastic and die-cast metal to achieve strength and integrity. After the Takatoku Toys Valkyries became an equal hit, accessory sets for the Armored and the FAST Pack set were added. When Takatoku Toys folded under in 1984, Bandai purchased the rights and molds to many of their toys, including the 1/55-scale toys.
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For the 25th Anniversary of the start of the Macross franchise from 1982, Bandai commemorated the achievement with the re-release of four separate Takatoku Toys 1/55-scale Valkyries. These reissues make up the Origin of Valkyrie line released in 2008, highlighting two from the series-
VF-1S Valkyrie (Roy Focker ver.)
VF-1J Valkyrie (Hikaru Ichijyo ver.)
-and two seen exclusively in the 1986 feature film “Super Dimensional Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?”-
VF-1A Super Valkyrie (Hikaru Ichijyo ver.)
VF-1A Super Valkyrie (Maximilian Jenius ver.)
-the latter-two of which, ironically, Takatoku Toys did not survive long enough to release. For the Origin of Valkyrie release, the cockpit canopy of Ichijyo’s VF-1J- which was clear for the original TT release- is now slightly tinted in a similar way to the one from the 20th-Anniversary VF-1J Valkyrie (Ichijyo ver.) reissue for 2002. While the original release(s) had very few painted sections and many decals to fill in details like the red stripes and the UN Spacy delta kite logo, most of those decals are now stamped on, removing the need to place any decals on it- providing an immediate anime-accurate appearance right out of the windowed box. However, Bandai has now provided a bonus decal sheet which provides a much higher level of detail if you so wish- perhaps only the four decals for the shoulders are ‘required’ to make it completely accurate, with the others resembling warning labels that you might find on a real air fighter. (Over 30 warning labels are already stamped on when you take it out of the box- some of them with text so small that you need a magnifying glass to read them!) In the gallery for this review are some pictures of the Valkyrie as it appeared mint out of the box; all other pictures will show it with detail decals [that I] selectively applied afterwords.
In this form, the Valkyrie more-closely resembles a late 20th-Century jet fighter, like the McDonnell Douglass F/A-18 Hornet. And yet, it has variable-sweep wings and expanding jet thrust nozzles like that of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, allowing it to achieve supersonic speeds. In space, air-lifting surfaces are useless, and so it is equipped with thrusters at all of their tips. On either side of the nosecone and rectangular air intakes are a pair of non-functional laser cannons. The cockpit is transparent, and allows a view of the pilot’s seat, though it is a simplified design. For transformation purposes involved in the Origin of Valkyrie release, the cockpit canopy can be removed. Wedged tightly between the engine intakes and the undercarriage is a small rotating turret with two additional pulsed laser cannons. As mentioned above, the main wings angle away from the chassis, but can also sweep backwards. Different [for me only, perhaps] is that the wings can also extend to a full 90° perpendicular away from the chassis. (Why this is, I don’t know, since I have never seen a Valkyrie with wings extended out all the way as opposed to always diagonally.) The twin V-tail diagonal stabilizers have no marks on them other than the red stripes. Though they move during transformation, they cannot move about in Fighter Mode. Along the engines near the exhaust nozzles are smaller flight stabilizer fins which cannot move, but do bear Ichijyo’s squadron ID number (101) which is repeated elsewhere with across the toy. The exhaust nozzles themselves have small ribbed patterns across them to indicate vent fins; the nozzles are solid rather than being hollow enough to see inside of them. Two features that are inconsistent from the series, though, are that there are no hard points under the wings with which to attach missiles (none were ever made for these toys), and the provided spring-powered gun pod cannot attach to the undercarriage. For movable features, the Fighter Mode features the aforementioned swing-wings, the exhaust nozzles can independently open and close (again due to the transformation), and the turret beneath can turn side-to-side a little & point the cannons down/up a ways. Of interest to me, though, is the landing gear... The Origin of Valkyrie release(s) restore the Valkyrie(s) to as close to their TT origins as possible. First, while the landing gear struts are always made of die-cast metal, the ABS wheels were replaced with more die-cast. And the other is that now all three landing gear are spring-deployed, whereas in the past just the back gear was. In front of each gear is a small trigger that activates the powerful springs within. The back gear, also, now have the addition of separate ABS doors which flip open manually when the gear are extended! While not necessary for the front gear, they do help to preserve the appearance of the legs where the retracted back gear reside.
The basic GERWALK form retains the Fighter Mode’s nose & main chassis, but then deploys the arms and legs of the Battroid Mode. There are two infrequently-seen variations of this-
- with the arms remaining stored, but the legs are deployed, and the V-tails left open
- with the arms and legs deployed, but the V-tails are also left opened
-but the GERWALK is mostly seen with both the arms & legs deployed, and the V-tails retracted. While GERWALK Mode is capable of flight, it can hover across land faster than the Battroid Mode can, also allowing for more-effective close-range evasive maneuvers than Fighter Mode. All weapons from Fighter Mode are accessible here, while adding the accessibility of the arms and hands for grappling. The two parallel engines- which run most of the length of the aircraft- fold downwards at the intakes to form a pair of reverse-knee legs & feet. The undercarriage from between the engines in Fighter Mode form the arms- the shoulders of which come to rest to either side of the air intake/hips. The V-tails have been collapsed down on top of each other, and the platform upon which they are mounted swings up-and-over to form a thruster backpack unit on top of the fighter’s back-half. The laser cannon turret remains between the air intakes/hips though. With the arms deployed, the Gatling cannon pod machine cannon can be inserted into the right hand-only since the left is a solid fist. Figure articulation enters the picture with the GERWALK Mode... The shoulders ratchet forward backwards every 30°, and ratchet outwards every 30° out to horizontal. Because of the design of the toy, the swinging transformation joints that move the shoulders from between the legs to outside of them rest at a notable outwards angle, so bringing the shoulders straight down is not possible (even though they are shown as such in the anime series.). Both swiveling joints in the elbows allow both full-twisting, and 90°-upwards movement. Both the knees and hips ratchet at every 30° forward/backwards, but unfortunately, the ankles do not move about, so putting the GERWALK into more-dynamic poses is not possible; thus, the legs become limited because of balance issues. (Really, all you can do is make it stand straight because the legs & feet are not capable of balancing the toy in any other way.) The laser turret- without the undercarriage to block it- can now swivel around 360°.
The entire purpose of making a transformable fighter in the Macross universe is so that it can literally engage Zentradi soldiers at their own height since they are normally four times the size of humans! (According to the series’ lore, the GERWALK Mode was not intentionally designed into the VF-1 prototypes, and was accidentally happened-upon during the testing phases when an incomplete-transformation occurred.) The missile pods usually attached to the wings are disposed of since the wings need to be folded back for improved dexterity. But on occasion, wings with un-fired missiles can be left open, though this can potentially throw off the Battroid’s balance within a gravity field. The Gatling cannon pod can be wielded like a rifleman’s machine gun, and it retains full use of the two laser cannons along the lower turret (now acting as the head of the Battroid). While it is still capable of flight in this mode, the Battroid is mostly meant for ground-based, even melee-range combat as its engines can quickly overheat from supporting itself without air-lifting wing surfaces, despite being V-TOL-capable. (In space, this obviously becomes a non-issue.) While the legs straighten out and can now bend in a more human way, the main top-half chassis splits down the middle crosswise, and folds in upon itself, with the wings retracting behind the new humanoid form. The cockpit is now positioned in the center of the torso- covered by an additional retracted layer of armor- and the laser cannon turret moves to form the head of the Battroid. Unlike the VF-1S, Bandai never made a modified version of TT’s VF-1A head. Despite that its proportions are still a little off, it remains the most anime-accurate of the four original TT designs. (While prototypes for the heads of the -1A and -1J were built by Bandai, they were never put into production at any time. An alternate head was made for the -1S, but only appeared in Bandai’s first reissues in the late-80s & early-90s.) The original TT version had a removable cockpit canopy which could be replaced with an identical-sized cockpit shield equivalent, which- as stated above- is recreated here. When they first reissued the 1/55-scale Valkyrie(s), however, Bandai forewent the removable canopy- opting instead for a removable accessory which fit over the screwed-in-place canopy. (Why the cockpit shield was changed, I don’t know.) The arms go through no changes in the transition between GERWALK and Battroid Modes.
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One of the more baffling issues with the VF-1 design for toy and model makers was the transition that the legs make- going from behind & below the cockpit to now hanging aside it. In official series line art, a collection of hydraulic pistons swing the engines/legs down and forwards, and then a pair of clamps emerge from the nosecone to grab onto them, forming the hips. Then, before the transformation is completed, the pistons release their grip on the legs, and retract back into the chest section. The magic of TV and instantaneous-transformation animation made this a non-issue, but most toy and model designs have simply substituted this process for detaching the legs completely, providing an accessory part which clamps onto the nose, and then reattaching the legs onto the now-hip joints. Takatoku Toys was one of the first to solve this in a practical way- its 1/55-scale toy was breakthrough in making a complete and realistically-transforming Valkyrie. A pair of silver die-cast levers extend just beyond the leading edges of the air intakes ending in a pivot point. Then, during transformation, the levers pivot on these points, and allow the legs to swing down further than they could on their own. But, unlike the “real” Valkyrie, these die-cast levers do not detach once the transformation is complete, and can still be seen to either side of the cockpit in Battroid Mode.
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For accessories, a Gatling cannon gun pod is provided, which can shoot five plastic projectiles (which actually resemble the missiles used under the wings in the series). Though not appearing in the series, there is a small sensor atop the gun pod which acts as the trigger for the spring-powered projectiles. Rather than being held within a hidden storage compartment, the VF-1s carry their 50mm Gatling cannon from the undercarriage in Fighter Mode. The toy cannot do this as there is not enough clearance provided by the landing gear to do so; also, there is no slot or clip for the gun to attach to as there is not enough room amongst the undercarriage itself. However, as in the series, the Gatling cannons can be affixed to the outside of the forearm (as they are in Fighter Mode). Since the toy cannot do this (needing to make room for the retractable hands), an accessory clip is provided, to which the handle of the cannon can be attached.
I first learned about Takatoku Toys’ 1/55-scale Valkyries when I was gifted one in 1991 for Christmas (the 1990 reissue which I covered for CDX). Whereas then I was simply thrilled that I was getting one simply because it looked cool, now I look back and see how well it has stood the test of time despite the damage it has taken over the years. To this day, Takatoku Toys’ design remains the standard by which I judge all others toys of the beloved variable fighter. Even with later releases by Yamato like their improved 1/60-scale Valkyrie design, it is not something that kids can play with- but rather a transformable collector’s figure meant to be posed and appreciated for its immaculate details rather than banged around between 6 year-olds. And so, for me to see Bandai reissue not one, but four 1/55-scale figures is like a dream-come-true. While my 1990 reissue will remain a treasured founding piece in my own collection, the Origin of Valkyrie line allows me to appreciate the quality of the design once more from a collector’s standpoint. (I tell ya- when I got [these] in the mail, it was like F-ing Christmas 1991 all over again!) While it was nice to have the super-detailed stamps and an even wilder assortment of optional decals with which to clutter up all of that carefully-poured ABS, I wish that some of the pre-packaged labels had not been there in order to preserve the less-cluttered anime look, and then allowed me to decide what went on and what didn’t. While I think having the extra labels, stamps, and decals makes it more “realistic” and will encourage collectors to customize as they see fit, I would like the option of preserving what I see from the original series. (What bothers me most is that they don’t explain where almost all of those decals go- you have to guess at about 90% of it!) Having been exposed only to TT’s 1/55-scale VF-1S up to this point, this was an unusual experience for me. Even though the only thing that is different between all of [the VF-1 Valkyries] is the coloring scheme and head design, it was enough to make it feel like a different toy. The most disappointing thing, then, was the head which is only half there. Little bit of trivia: when Banda acquired the TT molds in 1986, they redesigned the head of the VF-1S to be more show-accurate. (Later reissues of the -1S would fore go the Bandai redesign in favor of restoring the original TT head.) While prototype re-design heads for the VF-1A and this one were made, they were never put into production. So this toy still reflects the original TT design- which lacks the lower half of the head, including the pointed chin seen in the series. (Ironically, Takatoku Toys’ -1S head is still bigger, so available space was never an issue!) However, having the smaller head meant that it could hug the nose better in Fighter and GERWALK modes like they all do in the series- without the green eye cameras showing- so it’s a toss-up. I’ll come forward and admit that Ichijyo’s coloring scheme and the head were never really favorites of mine, so there is a little prejudice there. But, I cannot say at all that those two minor issues detract in any way from the overall quality of the toy. I still love the Takatoku Toys 1/55-scale sets, and this VF-1J Valkyrie (Ichijyo ver.) is no exception. I still fully recommend getting ‘em!
Author’s Note: I want to quickly and publicly pass on my heartfelt thanks to our own CollectionDX co-owner/CFO and fellow reviewer ShogunDan for giving me the opportunity to cover the Origin of Valkyrie line. He was unable to cover the four of them, and so he handed them all to me to review instead- to which I was both stunned and highly appreciative. ShogunDan- thank you very much!
|Posted 2 April, 2009 - 04:13 by EVA_Unit_4A|