VF-19S Emerald Force Color
Review by VF5SS
1994 was a time when the Macross franchise was poised for a real comeback. After the middling venture of Macross II, Shoji Kawamori decided to rescind his vow of never making a Macross sequel and became involved with the plan to produce a veritable Jet Stream Attack of three new Macross productions. The first was Macross Plus, which was an Original Video Animation series that I believe was born out of the previously non-Macross related Advanced Valkyrie project. In August of 1994, it introduced viewers to a new chapter in the Macross world where a new set of characters were thrown into a familiar, yet more intimate situation where the tumultuous of the love triangle and the power of music guided their fates to an unexpected destiny. Three months later Macross 7 began airing on television and would become the longest running TV series in the Macross franchise. Set only five years after the events of Macross Plus, it showed the further expansion of the setting into the greater unknown as the aptly named New Macross Class colony ship, the Macross 7, ventured forth into deep space while searching for a new habitable planet to colonize. Familiar faces from the original Macross TV series and movie returned to aid a new cast of characters who all found themselves engaged in a conflict far beyond their control. Along the way, a man in a green tank top stood before a mountain and challenged it with his voice. The third Dom in this assault was a planned live-action production called Macross: Final Outpost: Earth, which in a very Japanese way, is on indefinite hiatus.
In the end it meant everyone was getting more of what they loved! And by that I of course mean pop music. Airplanes that turn into robots are just a nice bonus on the side.
As Plus and 7 were simultaneous productions, Shoji Kawamori designed almost all of the Valkyries fighters for both series. As such, the brand new YF-19 prototype and its counterpart the VF-19Kai Fire Valkyrie shared the spotlight as the true successor to the venerable VF-1 Valkyrie. With new episodes of Macross Plus being released as Macross 7 was airing, the debut of the Fire Valkyrie and the prowess of the YF-19 showed that this was the Variable Fighter that would take up the mantle of flagship machine for the franchise. The success of the YF-19 within the OVA hinted of the eventual arrival of mass-produced VF-19 Excaliburs that would compliment the often unappreciated awesomeness of a certain fire red airplane. So naturally when you have red, ya gotta have blue. Thus the VF-19Kai Fire Valkyrie would beget the VF-19S Blazer Valkyrie.
As Macross itself rises to the achievement of its 30th anniversary, the toy makers at Yamato have stayed with the license for over ten years. Their rise to prominence as merchandisers is a testament to their devotion to making money while simultaneously celebrating one of the most recognizable giant robot properties in Japan that is not Gundam. Having managed to craft what may be the definitive VF-1 Valkyrie toy (along with other Valkyries), they finally achieved what is possibly the definitive modern VF-19 toy. So join me as we stare at pictures of expensive airplanes that turn into robots just as we have for nearly three decades.
See? Gamlin's a pilot and even he likes looking at robots on the internet. Just like us.
Officially known as the VF-19S Excalibur, the affectionately nicknamed Blazer Valkyrie is almost completely identical to the previously released VF-19Kai Fire Valkyrie save for a few key differences. The most important change is that this toy is in fact, blue. It's a very pleasing blue in fact. Digital cameras may have trouble capturing the shining azureness of the plastic but I can assure you this is a cool cobalt aircraft. As for the rest of the changes, the two most obvious ones (besides the blue) is the new wings and a lack of canards behind the cockpit. Also embedded above the engines are new shoulder pauldrons. The new head also has a total of five laser cannons peaking out from the dorsal spine.
While I find the entire VF-19 series to be a real standout entry in the pantheon of Valkyries, I find the four (or so) VF-19s from Macross 7 to be more aesthetically pleasing than the original YF-19. Much of this is due to how the design was smoothed over to accommodate the constraints of TV level animation and to match the show's general design philosophy. Everything about this design combines a sense of sleekness with a very compact form. In fact, the changes like the smooth shoulder pauldrons that blend into the legs and the lack of obvious Battroid-like detailing to the legs makes it difficult to even tell that this futuristic fighter jet is going to miraculously become a robot. The colors absolutely accentuate the look of the VF-19 as the characteristic Emerald Force colors highlight the deep blue with striking yellow paint apps. The overall colors are a nod to the real life Naval demonstration team, the Blue Angels, and gives this Valkyrie a sense of legitimacy almost on par with a gray color scheme.
Everything I said about the solidness of the look is also reflected in the design of the toy. While in fighter mode, Yamato's VF-19S is locked together with numerous tabs that keeps the legs virtually bolted to the wings and body of the fighter. The only things not locked into place in fighter mode are the leading edge root extensions or LERX (look it up) near the front landing gear. However these are stiff enough that unless you purposely move them, they will not come unaligned while handling the toy. Also the landing gear can be deployed without any straining your fingernails this time. Only took them about eight toys to get that right.
For fighter and Gerwalk mode, the Blazer Valkyrie has an optional neck cover for achieving extra anime accuracy. Personally I think the toy looks fine without it but I appreciate the option. Without this cover, the exposed neck area is still black so it matches the black parts of the overall color scheme.
The VF-19 does come with a pair of stand adapters for either the Yamato Macross display stand or the unloved Might Block stand. The connection point uses a small gap between the LERX and main body and I have found this is not a very solid attachment point. In lieu of this I am using an infamously adaptable Flexi-Display stand. I should note that the wings on this toy are actually sharp and may inflict personal harm to the careless.
One gimmick that is shared in all three modes is the ability to open the leg mounted weapon bays. Inside is three pairs of missiles that can be rotated into firing position. Also as a non-music delivery system, the VF-19S carries the same GU-15 gunpod as the YF-19.
Lastly you can open the canopy to reveal the small Docker pilot figure. In the series, Docker was the first (named) victim of the mysterious Varuta forces who mysteriously attacked the Macross 7 and afflicted their targets with a mysterious illness using a mysterious weapon. For about half the series, Docker was in a catatonic state. With his teammate incapacitated, Gamlin carried some guilt over the apparent loss of a comrade.
Then Docker got better and we learned he was kind of a jerk.
Regardless, the paint applications on this small, rubbery figure are rather extensive and well done.
For details on the transformation, please see the included video review. As a brief mention, the use of numerous locking tabs for fighter mode may seem daunting at first, but there is a logical order to unlocking everything that gives the whole process a satisfying feel.
Moving on to what is arguably a Valkyrie's most recognizable form, the VF-19S in Gerwalk mode manages to retain the stability of fighter mode while achieving the characteristic bird-walker posture.
Unlike the previous YF-19 toys, the newer VF-19 toys have an extra set of slots in the torso that lock the wing roots into the sides of the body. The result is a VF-19 that can keep its unique looking Gerwalk mode with its body at a slight angle and the arms straddling the wings. Gerwalk mode is so secure even genius Asterpaulinizer could not begin to transform it to a different mode.
Yamato popularized the use of thigh swivels to allow their Valkyrie toys to assume a solid A-stance in Gerwalk mode. For their new VF-19 toys, Yamato switched to more traditional ball-jointed ankles. The part of the ankle mechanism is made from diecast metal and slides in and out on a ratcheted track.
Much like how the VF-19's fighter mode hides its variable nature, the Battroid mode also has few hints as to the design's default form. Even Modcineaste was amazed! The VF-19's novel approach to folding up the entire front half of the fighter mode into a compact torso is one of the reason I find it to be one of the best Valkyrie designs in Macross. The act of bringing the middle portion of the fighter mode up and over the cockpit is faithfully replicated in this toy with a few additions that brings everything tightly together. The result is a sturdy humanoid machine that carries through the sleekness of the fighter and adds an aggressive touch to the Battroid mode. Overall, the Battroid mode of this VF-19S really captures the look and feel of the animation design.
The rear view of the Battroid mode shows the very clean profile of the VF-19 design. On the VF-19S and VF-19Kai, the entire rear "spine" area is one chunk of painted diecast metal which adds to the figure's weight while complimenting the solid plastic construction of its limbs. While the thicker wings of the VF-19S do not fold up in as nicely as the VF-19Kai or YF-19, they still serve their purpose as Kawamori approved Hip Thingies™ so of course I love them.
The head of the VF-19S carries the lineage of all Valkyries made for people who are Roy or are like Roy. As the leader of Emerald Force, Docker certainly qualifies. The distinctive white faceplate and jet black cap with yellow highlights is perfectly bisected by a piercing red visor.
All five laser cannons can be rotated into position for maximum firepower from the Monitor Turret.
As with the VF-19Kai, this toy retains the Battroid mode egress hatch.
Taking a cue from that Bandai VF Highly Low Metal VF-19S I reviewed a while back, Yamato's VF-19S has included a pair of "fill-in" pieces for the backs of the thighs. Again these are completely optional accessories that attempt to add some anime accuracy. The leg on the left has the fill-in piece while the one on the right does not.
This is the normal shield that can be used during the transformation.
Another anime accuracy accessory is a separate shield that can only be used in Gerwalk and Battroid mode. It has more tapered sides that in my opinion aren't enough of a distinct change for my tastes. Both shields have different detailing than the ones included with the VF-19Kai.
The GU-15 gun pod is a new take on the same design as the previous YF-19 toy. This gun is slightly larger and more substantial than the previous one. The old gun was secured with a peg in the toy's palm while the new one use a tab instead. It still retains the removable butt stock, which is also the gun's magazine. Also the foregrip collapses inward for fighter mode. While the toy's articulated hands (based on the ones from the VF-1 and VF-11) do hold the gun securely, I kind of miss the inclusion of fixed posed hands. With all the other optional anime accuracy accessories, I don't understand why fixed pose hands were on the cutting block post VF-1. The wrists use the same size peg and hole connection as the VF-1 so you could use the hands from that toy but they cannot hold the GU-15 gun pod. Also they would look a bit...
...fabulous, funky and some other adjective I can't think of.
A combination of the VF-19's design and the solid feel of each joint makes the VF-19S one of the most articulated Valkyrie toys to date. Eschewing ball-jointed hips actually helped the stability of the design as a pair of hip swivels give a similar range of motion with tighter joints.
Kneeling is easy with the VF-19 and the VF-19S even has a deeper knee bend due to the diecast sliding joint in its knees.
You can even slide up the bicep sleeve of the arms for a faux double-jointed elbow.
With a little patience, you can even teach your toy the art of the crane.
Emerald Force is the latest special operations unit assigned to the Macross 7 fleet. Headed up by former Diamond Force member, Lieutenant Docker, Emerald Force uses the brand new space optimized VF-19S and VF-19F type Valkyries to ensure the safety of its home fleet.
This official doujin complements the VF-19S.
Do not let the next section mislead you about my enthusiasm for this toy. I merely wish to point out some common concerns. As I mentioned before, the lack of fixed-pose hands is a minor issue for me. The toy's default articulated hands to a perfectly fine job holding the figure's only accessory and doing some basic poses while fitting the general proportions of the toy. I just feel that a pair of fists and dedicated gun pod holding hands like the TV series VF-1 Valkyries could have been the sensuous cherry on the proverbial parfait. Also in fighter mode there is a visible gap in the knee area due to how the legs must extend for fighter mode. While these gaps are almost permanently in shadow under normal lighting conditions, it make irk some people. In fact the upcoming VF-17 Nightmare (Stealth Valkyrie) has additional sliding panels to cover up a similar gap. Lastly, Yamato has mentioned in passing that there are no plans at this point to produce the VF-19S Blazer Valkyrie's unique Super Booster packs. They found that the tightly locked together fighter form left little room to add these boosters. Personally I would accept two sets of boosters for each mode but I do know of their relative unimportance in the series. In a way the VF-19S is meant to be encapsulate the design of the FAST pack equipped YF-19 as the YF-19's booster packs smooth over the legs and blend the shoulders into the rear of the fighter just as the VF-19S's basic design does already. Again, these are just a few minor points of interest that nobody really cares about.
But I do...
In the year two-thousaaaand Yamato attempted to fill the void left by Takatoku and Bandai by making toys based on a then six year old OVA and movie. With the news of a new animated entry in the Macross franchise still two years away after the brief flash of that weird Macross 3d project, the Japanese toy industry was making strides into the world of modern toy design. Looking back, their first YF-19 seemed just as awkward and dated as the old Bandai VF-19 toys. In an embattled market, the CAD prophet descended to let Yamato know it was not alone. With a single click of the mouse, their future was decided. They would rise up and try again. On the tired, broken backs of the past they continued to press on. Knowing that after some missteps they could always start over. Believing with all their money, the Valkyries rose again. With the VF-19Kai Fire Valkyrie, they took it to the next level. The release of the VF-19S Blazer Valkyrie made it all seem more real. Whatever the future may bring, as of this moment we have reached the definitive VF-19S toy.
|Posted 3 December, 2011 - 14:11 by VF5SS|