Review(updated): Includes both VF-19Kai and VF-19S Blazer Valkyries
Packaging & Extras: (2.5/5) VF-19K, (4.5/5) VF-19S
The packaging is top notch with vibrant art and a magnetic flip-top collector’s lid that allows you to see the toy in fighter mode within. Things are decidedly less premium once you pull the plastic inner tray from the box. With the VF-19Kai you get:
1) 1x speaker shooter (gun)
2) 1x pair of fixed pose hands (open palm), 1x trigger hand
3) 1x adapter for the Bandai Display base
4) 1x alternate face for battroid mode
5) 3x head parts (not perfect transformation)
6) 3x optional leg cavity fillers.
The display stand adapter is essentially useless without a Bandai Action Base so you may want to buy one of those if you buy this toy. Everyone immediately groused about the lack of fists and landing gears which probably explains why the VF-19S includes a lot more good stuff. You get the following with the Blazer:
1) 1x gun
2) 2x pair of fixed pose hands (open palm and fist), 1x trigger hand
3) 3x adapter for Bandai display stand
4) 1x Bandai display stand (base and arm)
5) 1x head parts (not perfect transformation)
6) 3x optional leg cavity fillers
8) 3x landing gear (for use with including display stand)
9) 2x Optional open leg missile bay parts
The big disparity in scores here is driven by the VF-19S’ inclusion of a display stand and landing gears, the lack of which renders the VF-19K’s fighter mode nearly useless unless you’re actually holding it. Bandai did address VF-19K’s lack of accessories by selling a Tamashii exclusive accessory kit and even a Tamashii exclusive Soundbooster which I have reviewed separately. Sadly, while the accessory kit for the 19Kai includes a gun attachment piece for fighter mode, that piece was not included with the 19S toy even though it works perfectly with the 19S’ gun.
Charm & Collectability: (2/5)
Outside of Japan neither of these valkyries are very popular, “It’s a clown valk in McDonald’s colors.” Yep, some people downright hate the ‘fire valkyrie’ and its color scheme. While this is a Hi-Metal toy finding the metal may require the use of a tiny metal detector because it’s anything but obvious and the toy certainly doesn’t have the heft of a toy featuring any quantity of metal. Sure, it’s in there, in a couple tiny bits, but it seems the “Hi-Metal” name is really Bandai’s attempt to cash in on some sentimentality while conjuring images of the old perfect transformation toys… something desperately needed after the VF100 debacle (a line of VF-25 parts-formers that was terrible). Overall my outlook for these toys remains weak. I purchased my VF-19Kai shortly after release already at a discount and I bought my VF-19S in 2015, never opened, for well below retail. The releases and MSRP were as follows:
VF-19Kai (Basara Custom), January 2010, 7000 Yen
VF-19S (Docker custom), July 2010, 7000 Yen.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (7.5/10)
At the time these toys were released they were, with a huge cushion, the best representation of the VF-19 that had been made. The old Bandai 1/65 is HIDEOUS in comparison… and I’ve included a comparison so you can see for your self. However, Kawamori’s art of the Kai is so stylized that it will always be impossible for any toy to truly NAIL the 19. About a year later Yamato released their 1/60 representation, and the larger scale allowed them to come closer, but as you can tell from the line art comparison the battroid is just too squat to be born from that fighter. Impossibilities aside, Bandai did a fair amount of tampo-printing, there is no sticker sheet, and the Kai is made of a slightly metallic plastic which captures the glam-rocker ambiance pretty nicely (the blue of the Blazer is bland and too pale in comparison). There’s a little Basara pilot figure at the guitar-shaped controls in the cockpit (although he’s tiny and a little hard to make out at this scale). Docker is in the cockpit of the Blazer Valk but there’s nothing special about his minuscule pilot figure. There are nice little touches here too like vernier thrusters in the shoulders and the rear of Gerwalk/Battroid modes but there are also sloppy transitions and gaps, particular in the aft section of fighter mode.
Originally I was way too nice on this toy and the release of Yamato’s stellar effort has made this clear to me. Compared to prior VF-19 toys, and Bandai’s atrocious VF100 line, the Hi-Metal VF-19 toys are easy to handle, hold their modes well, and do just enough to be enjoyable as toys. Unfortunately, they do have a pretty long list of shortcomings:
1) Imperfect transformation. Bandai defenders might point out that even Yamato’s 1/60 VF-19 toys have a bit of partsformation but you’re going to find yourself digging for more pieces with the Hi-Metal line. You might be a bit bummed that you have to pop off and stow tiny black pieces of plastic (seems like those will be easy to lose) to pop hands on but you can take some solace in the fact that there’s no way any integrated hands would have looked or functioned as well as the supplied fixed-pose hands. The fact you’re going to have to install the head antennae when transforming from fighter mode would have had you hunting in your toy’s box for parts anyway. I found the additional parts for the backs of the legs almost completely unnecessary. While you’re going to need the head antennae and the hands you definitely do not NEED these leg parts unless you’re planning on having the toy in some sort of walking away pose on your shelf. The leg parts do snap in very well and they are bright red so they won’t be nearly as apt to get lost as the hand covers. The VF-19S only NEEDS the separate hands and comes with an optional back of head that has the guns splayed outward.
2) There are no integrated landing gear, no landing gear at all for the VF-19Kai, and the landing gear for the VF-19S need to attach to the display stand, not the valk.
3) No removable intake covers (though Yamato didn’t make this happen either)
4) No opening cockpit
5) Gun doesn’t stow in fighter (for reals)
6) The toy doesn’t lock together as well as you would want it to (particularly the shoulder and wing pieces in fighter mode)
7) No neat gimmicks. The Yamato toy has a few, although the 19S does have the swap-in missile effect on the legs, no connecting points for super parts or sound boosters (the sound booster required a separate attachment piece), and certain parts don’t seem to latch in/down as well as they should (like the shoulders in fighter mode and the face in battroid).
Durability & Build: (7.5/10)
Early reports seem to indicate that this toy is fairly resilient with satisfactory build quality. I haven’t seen numerous complaints about easily removed paint apps or any parts that have exhibited early signs of stress/weakness. There have been a few build quality issues ranging from over-gluing to loose fit. Fortunately the build quality complaints have been fairly limited and the general consensus seems to be that this is a quality product that can be handled frequently and will still display well. It’s certainly no old school chunky though and it is small with removable parts so it’s nothing you’d want a child running around with. The quality of the plastic on Yamato’s VF-19 toys is notably higher. The antennae/lasers on the VF-19S look fragile and my VF-19S has a leg that doesn’t peg together as tightly as it should which allows it to spin around too freely during handling.
This toy does very well while having a few key short-comings. Starting with the good: the hips flair out for very wide A-Stances, the legs twist and bend just as you’d want, the feet are fairly adaptable, and the arms have a huge range of motion at the shoulders. Unfortunately the head is not on a ball joint so you are limited to left/right glares and the elbows do not have the additional hinge which would allow the toy to touch its shoulders. Obviously with no landing gears you’re going to want to get the display stand from Bandai (or another company) if you’re a fan of fighter mode.
Total Score: (34/50) VF-19K, (36/50) VF-19S
The subsequent release of Yamato’s 1/60 VF-19Kai and VF-19S in May and November of 2011, respectively, diminished some of the Hi-Metal’s collectability and may have exposed a fundamental issue with Macross collecting. The Hi-Metal toys were roughly 33% of the MSRP of the Yamato toys but practically everyone wanted to compare them against each other (no surprise, the Yamato is vastly superior). This begs the question as to whether there is a market for ‘affordable’ Macross toys or, since the niche is dominated by adults with disposable income, should manufacturers aim their efforts at the (super) high end (as Arcadia has done). Bandai has plans to visit this scale again with a line they’re calling “Hi-Metal R” but I would guess it too will meet an early demise as it seems collectors want it to have the features of a larger scale toy. This means that shoppers will be let down by whatever compromises Bandai makes to accommodate the scale and instead opt to spend multiples of the MSRP on larger toys (because they can). The other option here is that Bandai poisoned the well with their terrible VF100 toys and then underwhelmed with the Hi-Metal VF-19 by making several dubious design decisions. Maybe enough time has now elapsed that, assuming they don’t botch the toy or the accessories again, the stage is set for the new line. If Hi-Metal R doesn’t become vaporware we may find out in the next 12 months.
April 21, 2015: Review was updated to include an HD video review
April 14, 2015: Review was updated to include pictures and more data about the VF-19S Hi-Metal toy, added an HD Transformation guide.
January 17, 2012: this review was updated to reflect the release of the later Tamashii accessory kits, Blazer Valkyrie, and Yamato 1/60 toys. Score has been reduced a bit since the Yamato toy raised the bar.
Original Post Date: March 30, 2010.