Review(updated): The Baby Chunky Monkey
Packaging & Extras: (2.5/5)
I can’t get enough of Takatoku’s packaging. Each toy comes in a box specifically made for it with attractive art and that signature cardboard texture Macross fans have come to love. You can also expect the standard weaknesses of the box flaps that can be easily torn and the fragile plastic windows. The toy is nestled in an old school Styrofoam tray and comes with the following:
* These toys originally came with guns but then a cult of firearm thieving elves stole nearly all of them (none of my original four samples had one). The 1/100 does not come with the arm clip of its bigger 1/55 brother so you won’t be mounting the gun (if it has one) ever and there’s no spring-loaded bullet feature either. Some have proposed that the 1/100 toys were made in multiple factories or multiple runs and only one factory or one run actually included the guns.
Charm & Collectibility: (3/5)
These toys were made in large quantities but 30+ years later it’s hard to find ones in great condition. Some appear to be more rare than others in relation to what characters were more popular. There were five releases:
VF-1J Hikaru Custom
VF-1S Hikaru Custom (Focker)
VF-1J Max Custom
VF-1A Mass Production (Misa)
Though Miria got the 1/55 treatment, she did not have her VF-1J made into a 1/100 toy. Unlike the 1/55 toys that feature a lot of metal in the legs, the 1/100 toys feature metal chest plates. Upon Takatoku’s demise there was a flood of gray market releases and knock-offs in varying quality. When Do You Remember Love was released Bandai sold a Hikaru VF-1A in the DYRL paint scheme with a couple very minor tweaks to the head and shoulders. When Yamato went from 1/60 scale to 1/48 scale it seemed the era of the pocket-sized valkyrie was over but that changed with Toynami, Kaiyodo, and Bandai all released transformable 1/100 toys. Yamato and Kaiyodo also released non-transformable battroid toys in smaller scales. Special thanks to Zor Master for supplying me with the original 1/100 toys I reviewed, included a Hikaru 1J that was actually a Matsuhiro release. The pictures of the Bandai and Takatoku 1A toys are still from those samples he sent me.
Sculpt, Detail, and Paint: (6/10)
For the era, and in comparison to the 1/55 toys, I’m actually quite impressed with these. Sure, they’re not the best-looking toy in any mode (especially GERWALK) but they do capture the spirit of the VF-1 very nicely despite the necessary compromises. No, you’re not going to get a lot of attention to detail and yes, you are going to see some awkward sections like the landing gear doors and the less-than-ideal tail fin section. The paint tends to be decent and matched to the plastic well (although after this many years you can expect these toys, even if they were cared for properly, to be showing slight signs of yellowing). Expect a shrunken 1/55 with some evidence of compromises to obtain the smaller size and that’s what you’ll have. The VF-1A heads are particularly unattractive. There’s a big screw hole in one side of the head. Bandai made the head even uglier by shrinking the head laser and thickening it up. Bandai also reshaped the shoulders and the result is pretty ugly. In comparing the 1/100 Takatokus to Bandai’s Hi-Metal R or Toynami’s 1/100, it’s easy to see why demand for these toys has trailed off so much.
It may be smaller in scale but this toy contains most the cool design aspects that made the 1/55 so beloved. The major things that don’t carry over from the 1/55 are:
1) No ratcheting joints… everything is friction-based here
2) No sliding fists… they fists are permanently exposed on the 1/100
3) No spring-loaded landing gears… but it does have integral landing gears
4) No rotation point in the arm above the bicep
5) No gun-clip for attaching the gun in battroid/GERWALK mode to the arm
6) The arms don’t latch as firmly into place in fighter mode
The toy transforms intuitively and has a feel that will be immediately familiar to all Macross collectors. In comparing this to the Toynami 1/100 or Bandai Hi-Metal toys, the newer toys have loads more articulation, hard points on the wings, the ability to stow the gun in fighter mode or clip it onto the arm in other modes, but they do not have integrated landing gears (you’ll need to swap parts on the newer toys).
Durability & Build: (6/10)
Unlike the 1/55, the 1/100 doesn’t feel so bullet-proof. The ratcheting joints are all gone so you can expect looseness to develop. The chest is metal so there’s still some heft but it’s not making anything important stronger and, if you’re not careful, may actually scrape the sticker covering the cockpit canopy. The tail fins are secured via a very frail and finicky system that is prone to failure. As with all Valks, additional care should be given to the head lasers. My Max VF-1J had never been moved before this review and as a result of its first transformation to GERWALK mode I completely stripped the paint off the legs (second picture below). Max is the only 1/100 that features painted legs and so I recommend you all learn from my mistake and immediately loosen the screws in the hips so the legs can move without having the paint shaved off. The landing gears open via a small plastic hook you must pry upward; unfortunately that plastic hook can pop off if the landing gears have frozen up rendering the landing gears exceedingly difficult to open ever again (third picture below). There’s also a hook below the cockpit that attaches the front of the toy to the back in battroid mode, this hook is stressed in every transformation and if it breaks your battroid mode toy will be much less fun to handle. The feet of the toy also have a tendency to do their own thing as far as opening and closing which never leads to anything broken but can make the toy look a bit sloppy in fighter mode if a foot has opened up. One final thing to look for is the visor on the VF-1J toys. Takatoku applied a sticker for the visor with glue that will inevitably be failing by this point in the toys life as witnessed in the pictures of the VF-1J Max.
This toy is similar to handling a 1/55 toy with the exception that you can’t rotate the arm above the elbow and that hurts. Since the fists don’t have a retraction mechanism there is a new pivot point at the wrist but it adds very little to what you can accomplish. As mentioned earlier, the ratchet joints are no longer present which leads to the toy feeling more smooth when being articulated and makes it so you never feel like that proper angle you want is in-between where a ratchet would allow. Really, you only have two choices here: the stiff soldier standing at attention (or looking in any direction) or a running soldier. GERWALK mode looks a bit silly no matter what you do and this is made much worse by that lack of an arm rotation point..
Total Score: (29/50)
By today’s standards this toy is a little bit lackluster and really can’t compete with the more flashy Toynami (which sells for much less) or Bandai (which sells for similar prices to a classice Takatoku) offering but it’s still great in its own right. Basically, you can expect to spend 4x (or as much as 10x) what you would on a Toynami offering for this vintage Takatoku and you’ll be foregoing the missiles, display stand, posed hands, heat shield, and additional points of articulation for integrated landing gears and a feeling of nostalgia. While to some collectors, such as myself, the charm of these little toys is entirely worth it, if you’re on a search for the best Macross toys by current standards then this is definitely not for you.
Original post date: May 31, 2007
Updated December 18, 2016: Increased the resolution of all photos and replaced most photos with ones taken from a new camera. Added HD video review and transformation guide. Updated content to reflect the most recent information.