Review(updated): Was it worth the wait?
1) The “TREAD” is more accurately named “TLEAD” (Transport Legioss Escort Armored Dreadnought) but since “TLEAD” defies the English-speaking tongue, Aoshima and I tend to use “TREAD”. Someone back-solved for that acronym at some point saying it stands for “TRans-EArth Deployment” but… that makes less sense than TLEAD.
2) The creators of Mospeada played it pretty fast and loose with the dimensions of the vehicles in the show. It’s not difficult to find line art that makes the TLEAD look huge in comparison to the Legioss and then find something that makes the TLEAD look just a bit bigger. The official stats of the TLEAD state that it is 8.72 meters long in bomber mode and stands 10.5 meters tall in soldier. The Legioss, for comparison, is 8.75 meters tall in soldier mode, so less than 2 meters shorter. For whatever reason, the Robotech staff (maybe Paladium made the numbers up for their RPGs and the Robotech crew just rolled with it) went with a length of 9.7 meters in bomber and 13.7 meters in battloid but did not change the Legioss/Alpha dimensions… this makes the Beta absolutely gargantuan in comparison to the official TLEAD.
Packaging & Extras: Toynami MPC: (4.5/5), Aoshima (4/5)
It’s a little humorous to me Toynami kept the book motif going because it’s safe to say that anyone who doesn’t have a collection of antiquated technical catalogs won’t have a book anywhere near this size in their abode (shipper box dimensions are 37x31x17cm). All the standard MPC box attributes are here from the white shipper box with art and production number on top to the opening book and slide out tray. Unfortunately, it seems like super-sizing the boxes make them more prone to tears at the seams. Both the Aoshima and the Toynami are a bit off-center within the tray but you’d only notice that if you had the box opened and looked at it dead on. Great pains were taken to make sure this toy stayed in place during shipping and got to its new owner unharmed including twist ties and plastic wrap. Inside the box you get the body of the tread and:
1) White missiles (I’m not sure that’s what they really are) propped up behind the battloid’s head, installation required
2) Pilot figure, the pilot is the same mold used for the Alpha/Legioss and is a pain to try to get into the cockpit)
3) Metal landing gears with rubber wheels
4) 2x attaching booms for Alpha (Legioss), one for when the Alpha is in fighter mode and one for when it’s in battloid
5) A plug to conceal where the boom attaches when not in use
6) A very primitive display stand
8) Stickers (all toys come with the same sticker sheet labeled “VFB-9H”, Volumes 1 & 3 have the stickers on blue paper, my Volume 2 has the stickers on yellow paper)
9) If you purchased from Robotech.com you also received a data card.
Unlike previous MPC offerings, the instructions are not taped to the box so you can flip through them without fear of damaging your collectible… and I’m betting the provided stickers are of the same high quality I heard the Alpha possessed.
Aoshima toys come in a more traditional box adorned with pictures of the toy. Inside the box is a very simple cardboard tray sandwiched top and bottom between thin sheets of Styrofoam. The plastic clam shell within the tray holds the same contents as the Toynami offering. You won’t get unique instructions or stickers with these toys. There’s one sticker sheet with all the stickers you could need for any variant. All toys come with a simple black-and-white instruction manual you can download here:
Charm & Collectability: (4/5)
This toy is huge: 26cm (10.24″) long in bomber mode with a 43cm wingspan, 24cm (9.45″) tall in battloid/soldier). When connected to the Alpha, fighter mode is 41.5cm long!
This toy is hefty due to a fair amount of die-cast metal: 878grams (that’s nearly 2lbs!)
This toy had a limited in production run (10K max but likely no more than 5000 of each variant were actually made). The production number has been artfully concealed by Toynami by placing it inside the cockpit.
This toy is unique, to date only three Tread/Beta toys have been made: The Lansay/Gakken 1/72 Tread, the CM’s non-scale Tread that was bundled with their 1/48 Legioss, and this Aoshima/Toynami product.
That’s the perfect storm for a very hot collector’s item… some day. Of course the blue versions will be more desired than the red and the green. The green version was shown as cannon fodder briefly in the show but the red version only made an appearance in the failed Sentinels pilot shows. A shadow variant was supposed to follow the green release but sales were so low on the red and green versions that Toynami pulled the plug before the shadow version could make it to market. Since Aoshima never made a Dark Legioss repaint and the Shadow Chronicles failed to revitalize the brand, Toynami didn’t have those additional sales to count on for a shadow variant. Orders from Robotech.com came with a card about 25% smaller than the instruction manual with some key stats about the character associated with the volume. While Japanese releases of products generally are more sought after, the fact that both Aoshima and Toynami versions were made at the same factory in China and the Toynami Masterpiece Alpha is more sought after than the Aoshima Legioss would lead one to believe that the Robotech products may be a slightly hotter item than their Mospeada licensed counterparts. Releases included:
VFB-9H Vol. 1 Rand, December 2008, $149.99
VFB-9Z Vol. 2 Annie, February 2009, $149.99
VFB-9I Vol.3 Lunk, September 2009, $149.99
AB-01H Blue, August 2009, 17,800¥
AB-01Z Red,August 2009, 17,800¥
AB-01I Green, August 2009, 17,800¥
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (7.5/10)
This toy is definitely not without its issues. First and foremost, and potentially a deal-breaker for many eager fans, is the handling of the cockpit in battloid mode. In the animation and line art detailing the transformation, the cockpit for the fighter folds downward during transformation and then ceases to exist. The assumption is that it somehow is consumed by the cavity beneath. CMs devised a way of handling this “anime magic” but Toynami opted for a much more distinct cockpit in fighter mode which made the cockpit too large for concealing. It seems to me like they could have at least made it so the cockpit spun around and had the bottom facing forward but they didn’t and so you’ll be left with a chest that looks nothing like the prototype Toynami showed off. From a nitpick standpoint, the Toynami/Aoshima toys are a bit on the blocky side and there are large pegs that protrude off the arms. Instead of just making the red and green variants simple repaints, Toynami went ahead and created unique heads for each version, which is a touch I really appreciated.
Bomber mode benefits from the larger cockpit area in comparison to the CM’s toy. On the down side, the yellow areas of the cockpit should have been made of a yellow, see-through plastic. Another sculpt issue is most evident when bomber mode is looked at from above. The missile racks that collapse backward are supposed to butt up against the legs but there’s a large gap on either side. Since the legs are die-cast this might actually save you some paint chipping but it isn’t quite right. Since the nosecone simply folds down for battloid, there’s a cavity behind it that is visible from some angles in bomber. The CM’s toy does a better job of collapsing the shoulder and bicep of the arm into the base of the wing; Toynami seems to have cheaped it out here since there’s plenty of room in the base of the wing to have engineered a better solution than leaving the arm protruding out. The CM’s toy does a better job in most respects emulating the line art but the one exception, the yellow weapons left high above the vehicle, is so glaring that it’s hard not to prefer the look of the Toynami/Aoshima in this mode.
While the Aoshima versions are the exact same toy in most respects, the primary body colors are brighter to match the Aoshima Legioss counterparts. Where Toynami decided to mix things up a bit on their red and green variants with gray trim work opposed to the all white look employed by the blue toy, Aoshima kept the all white trim on their red and green toys. One other fun fact, Aoshima went with a slightly different head for the green Tread though the blue and red are the same used by Toynami used. A Toynami Alpha can connect to an Aoshima Tread (and an Aoshima Legioss to a Toynami Beta) but the colors won’t match so it’s much better to stick with one manufacturer’s paint schemes.
When connected in fighter mode, the toys have a bit of an upward angle either on the stand or on the landing gear. I have heard some people say they prefer the combined fighter mode of the Aoshima toys (connected) because the Legioss’ missile pod on the back of the plane conceals the Tread’s down-turned cockpit rather than creating a giant air dam. One issue with the paint most notable on the Toynami toys, it’s a tiny bit darker than the MPC Alpha’s hue.
When connected in soldier mode, the sheer size of the Beta (Tread) dwarfs the Alpha (Legioss). I don’t know if the Alpha was supposed to need to leave it’s front portions of the wings splayed as originally designed but doing so with the toy has no real negative visual impact and allows the two toys to be sufficiently close together. If you have a superposeable Alpha you can substitute that for the MPC Alpha with a bit of a balancing act (or you can use dual sided tape and it’d be pretty much a perfect substitute).
This was Toynami’s most impressively designed Robotech product. On the ‘pro’ side of the equation you get:
1) Opening cockpit that accommodates an appropriately sized pilot
2) Perfect transformation
3) Solid connection to the Alpha/Legioss toys
4) Integrated chest missile bays
While the concept behind the transformation is about as straight forward as it gets, the line art and anime relied heavily on some shifting dimensions that made implementing that transformation in toy form more difficult than one would expect. Toynami’s answer definitely simplifies multiple points but it’s still effective.
Since Toynami gave no forethought to the creation of a Beta when drafting their Alpha, it’s fair to be concerned that these toys wouldn’t come together well but I’m happy to say that they do. No, you’re not going to be able to act like your connected Alpha and Beta, in any mode, are one toy but you can put them together for an excellent looking display piece and not have to worry about them. This is definitely not the CMs fiasco all over again; the combined product actually looks like it’s meant to go together.Just for the curious, you can’t really connect the Alpha in guardian mode to the Beta as the arm for fighter mode is just too long and it would be an odd balancing act. I don’t consider this a negative though as I don’t know why anyone would be doing that. The connection in battloid mode is nice and tight. For you sickos that want to connect both toys in battloid mode, you can’t really do it, the area the boom fits into is concealed when the Beta transforms into battloid mode.
1) Lack of integrated landing gear
2) Lack of shoulder/top of chest mounted missile bays
3) No lock to keep the cockpit in position for bomber mode
4) The cockpit doesn’t lock in the closed position and often has a somewhat agape appearance.
5) No lock to keep the torso upright in battloid (the rear booster should peg into the pelvis so the toy wouldn’t have a tendency to flop backward)
6) Nothing locks the connecting boom into the Beta except the display stand. The boom slides into the cavity but if you angled the combination downward it would just slide right out (so you probably don’t want to zoom the connected toys around your living room too much).
That was it for my complaints in 2008 but these days it seems like premium toys routinely sell for more than $200 and we’ve come to expect a bit more from them. In the case of the Beta, there are a few more elements we would expect today:
7) there should be an integrated plug for the connecting boom, probably a spring loaded door that would slide into the cavity as you slid the boom in.
8) Ideally the connecting boom would be integrated and telescoping though that’s probably unrealistic given how heavy these toys are.
9) The combined toys in fighter/bomber modes look good but I would have preferred the Alpha to sit a little higher so the fist area sat perfectly in the cavity of the Beta’s chest (but there is line art that makes it look like the top of the arm should meet at the center of the chest so it’s hard to argue exactly how it should be).
Durability & Build: (8/10)
This toy is built so much better than the Alpha or Legioss toys that it made me feel let down when I brought the Alpha in for the photo shoot. While the build of these toys is vastly superior to Toynami Alpha or Aoshima Legioss, I did encounter a few issues:
1) Paint application fail on one of the ‘bombs’ that raise up behind the head.
2) A bit of a sloppy glue application on the back of one of the legs and one of the arms.
3) A hip ratchet that doesn’t work on one toy (the joint is stiff and functions properly but there’s no ‘clicking’ at the various points there should be
4) One thing that really worries me is the yellow paint on the cockpit gets smashed against the Alpha/Legioss feet when combined in fighter mode. For now I’ve only seen smudging but it seems like a scratch is likely.
5) The gray plastic used in the feet has numerous inconsistencies in color.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there’s painted die-cast in areas that rub up against other parts so you’re going to want to be very careful to avoid scratches. The paint on the Beta is uniform throughout, the whites are a brilliant white, the joints offer audible clicks, and by the end of handling it you’ll get the feeling that the Alpha must have been made by another company entirely.
For it’s day, the articulation wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good either. The head can swivel left/right but can’t look up or cock at an angle. The shoulders spin all the way around and allow the arm to extend away from the body. There’s a twist point mid-arm and then an elbow that allows 90 degrees of movement.. a wider range of movement would have been very helpful. The only articulated aspects of the hands are the ability to spin at the wrist and the ability to move all the fingers (they are one piece). There is no swivel at the waist. The hips extend out for transformation and have a very impressive ability to angle out away from the body. Unfortunately, the hips are not ball jointed so you can’t angle the toes out/in and there’s no twist point in the leg to compensate for this. If you don’t extend the knee the range of movement is paltry, like 25 degrees, and extending the knee increases that range by only another 15 degrees. The knee should have had two pivots, one at the lower portion of the hip and one at the top of the calf to allow at least 90 degrees of movement. Only the front toe is articulated with knuckles where it connects to the leg and mid-toe. There is no angling the toe left or right, nor can the back toes be moved. Since the leg can’t twist at any point, the relatively static ‘foot’ is less of a hindrance but you would still hope for more. In fighter mode there’s really no articulation to note. Of the two toys, the CM’s is more pose-able/dynamic.
Total Score: (36/50) (-.5 for Aoshima)
Granted, a lot of people are really going to be turned off by the battloid mode’s looks but it didn’t take me all that long to get over it because bomber mode looks pretty good. Of course, many people think this toy’s bomber mode is an abomination so that won’t be much of a comfort. The real issue here is that the Alpha that’s made for this toy sucks (whoa, I just had a total déjà vu moment… this feels just like my CMs review now). You know what would be great? Toynami should now remake the 1/55 Alpha completely out of plastic, ditch all the missile bays, the opening chest compartment, the Cyclone bit, the poseable hands and sell it for $39.99 so people who don’t feel like spending an arm and a leg on the ultimately unsatisfying blue MPC Alpha have a better option.
NOTE: This review has been updated. Originally posted on December 21, 2008, and then updated on October 20, 2009 to include the Aoshima product; it was updated again on March 2, 2011 to include pictures of the green and red variants, line art comparisons, a video review, and to update the content.
On May 12, 2019 this review was updated again to include release date and price information, a 4K video transformation guide, scans of all the instructions, pictures of the red and green Aoshima toys, numerous all new 4K photos. Additional observations were included based on my additional experiences with the toy.