Review(updated): The Hi-Metal continues with the VF-1, both Super and Regular releases
Packaging & Extras: VF-1J Releases (4/5)
Bandai’s Hi-Metal VF-1 regular release packaging for the Hikaru VF-1J retains the excellent look and quality of Basara’s VF-19Kai release. You get high quality artwork adorning the box and a flip top magnetic lid to show off the fighter inside. The low-mark for packaging is definitely the Tamashii exclusive VF-1J Max which comes in a two-tone blue/white box that eschews the character art or the flip-top lid. Bandai didn’t skimp on accessories with the only notable omission being a display stand. Included with your toy is:
1) 5x DYRL-style fixed pose hands (same as above)
3) 3x Landing gears (2 rear, 1 front)
4) 3x Display stand adapters (for each mode)
5) Optional intakes for fighter/GERWALK modes
6) 2 wings with hard points to attach the missiles to (same size as wings that are installed)
7′) Instructions (behind the cardboard tray)
8) 4x clusters of 3 TV-style missiles
9) 5x TV-style fixed pose hands (L gripping barrel, L open palm, L fist, R fist, R attached to gun grip)
10) Extra head lasers made of more rigid plastic (on sprues)
Packaging & Extras: VF-1A Releases (4/5)
The Tamashii exclusive VF-1A toys bring back the production quality you would expect from a standard release using a full color palette but they also lack the character art or the flip-top lid. You actually get less with the VF-1A releases as they dropped the TV style hands and there’s no replacement head laser (not that there ought to be). Instead of TV-style missiles, these toys obviously come with DYRL-style missiles. This means you get the first 8 items listed above but you also get an extra set of rear landing gear in a small cardboard tray. Bandai accidentally included TV-style landing gear with a red stripe and corrected the error by throwing in the correct DYRL-style black stripe rear landing gear with note in the box below the plastic insert that houses the toy. These extra landing gear include a leaflet that I assume outlines the error but I can’t read the kanji. As an incentive to purchase the Kakizaki version, there’s a sleeve that houses all 4 of the DYRL releases (including the Focker VF-1S Super/Strike gift-set). So, for those that prefer the list presentation, you get:
8′) 2x DYRL rear landing gear in addition to the 2x TV rear landing gear (and a leaflet)
9) 4 x DYRL-style boxes of missiles
10) Kakizaki’s DYRL VF-1A also came with a box to store all of the Tamashii exclusive DYRL VF-1A toys.
Packaging & Extras: VF-1S Super/Strike Release (4.5/5)
In roughly the same size box with the same great collector’s lid and unique art work, the super/strike Focker release added some great stuff. As this was also a DYRL release, you didn’t get the TV-style hands and the included missiles are DYRL-style boxes. Here’s what else you get:
8) 4x DYRL-style boxes of missiles
9) 3x sets of reaction missiles
10) extra head lasers, these are angled out instead of the horizontal ones installed
11) Strike Parts (super/strike parts were also sold separately as Tamashii website exclusives)
12) Extra fast pack part so you can have either a super valk or a strike valk
So what’s missing? The display stand but that’s about it.
Charm & Collectability: (3.5/5)
Production runs on these original releases tended to be small with several of them being Tamashii website exclusives but none of them did particularly well with most being available below MSRP right up until the release of Bandai’s Hi-Metal R (HMR) line (which is a reboot of this line). Now that the HMR line will likely revisit all “original” Hi-Metal (I’ll call them “OHM” henceforth) releases so the value of the originals should be capped. The OHM toys do have some metal (but it’s pretty much just the feet), they are nearly perfect transformation, and they are a lot of fun so the right elements are all there. Release dates and MSRPs were as follows:
VF-1J Hikaru Custom, June 2010, 5,500 Yen
VF-1S Focker Custom, November 2010, 6,500 Yen
VF-1J Max Custom, September 2010, 5,775 Yen
VF-1A Max Custom, April 2011, 5,775 Yen
VF-1A Hikaru Custom, April 2011, 5,775 Yen
VF-1A Kakizaki Custom, April 2011, 5,775 Yen
Accesory: Super/strike parts, July 2011, 2,100 Yen.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (8.5/10)
This toy looks amazingly good for its scale. Is it the best representation of the VF-1 ever? No. When viewing fighter mode from close up you can see some gaps and seams where the parts can’t quite all tuck into each other perfectly. In the side-angle fighter mode comparison you can see that the Hi-Metal is a fantastic representation, perhaps nailing the rear half of the plane better than any previous toy, but it simply can’t compete with the cleanliness of the Yamato V2 (now Arcadia) lines (which I suppose is to be expected considering this toy Hi-Metal is about 40% smaller). From the birds-eye picture you can see that the Hi-Metal is a little tubby in its thickness but this is to the benefit of GERWALK and battroid modes where the arms and legs have a more appropriate thickness (the backpack looks too thick but that’s a function of how wide everything else is). The amount of pre-painted detail is strong and the toy is definitely pleasing on the eye. As you can see, Bandai did an excellent job getting the proportions of the strike parts correct.
The TV pilots are very small while the DYRL pilots are larger, some say this is because of how the pilots are depicted differently in the respective source material. The Roy release comes with super/strike parts that include a removable panel that exposes engine detail which could have used an oil wash or some extra paint applications but is enough to work in this scale. The landing gears and air intake all look good but the turbines could have used a splash of paint to liven them up a bit. The metal feet include some nice detail of the thrust vents.
The pictures above show comparisons of the Hi-metal to various other toys including the Yamato V2 (now Arcadia). Bandai must have gotten some negative feedback from others because they subsequently moved the jolly roger lower on the heat shield for the final three VF-1A DYRL releases and the subsequent Hi-Metal R (HMR) line. The HMR toys also replaced the bright white of the base paint with a light gray, added larger biceps, and larger heads for the VF-1S and VF-1A toys. HMR toys also have more accessories and a removable nosecone so the HMR GBP armor accessory can be installed.
The most common question here is bound to be “Do I really have to swap parts to transform this toy?” The answer is a definitive ‘yes’ but it’s only ONE part. You definitely DO have to switch the canopy with the heat-shield as the heat-shield has a slot for the chest to connect to. Failure to swap this part will result in a pretty terrible looking battroid mode. Otherwise the toy does feature integrated hands that flip out which have detail for all fingers and thumb, and, while obviously on the small side, function perfectly well.
The mechanisms employed in transformation are fantastic and I really wish I could score the toy higher. The transformation is an absolute breeze that improves upon previous efforts. The arms at the shoulder slide forward and back making transformation into GERWALK from fighter possible without even bothering to disconnect the intakes at the hips. Going to battroid involves a new swing bar that latches firmly into place and allows a huge range of motion without being visible or requiring the crotch trap door that Yamato (now Arcadia) employs. All modes lock together tightly and remain secure in their mode whilst being handled as Bandai has used all the right pegs and slots. I can’t give this toy a higher score because working in such a small scale and a specific price range requires compromises. The landing gears are not integral. Owning some 1/100 Takatoku toys I don’t mind Bandai having made this decision… tiny integrated landing gear often come at the expense of the look of the toy with its landing gears deployed. The way the landing gears attach is simple and effective. The tires are painted plastic and do not spin. If you have any sort of display stand you can avoid using the landing gears all together. The intake shields can be easily swapped with turbine detail in a way that’s easier than Yamato’s method of needing to squeeze in a finger nail or toothpick but at the cost of needing another part to swap in (obviously, if using parts irritates you, the intakes are optional parts). Another short-coming is that the cockpit canopy does not open, it can only be removed. One more design attribute clearly influenced by the diminutive size is the toy’s gun. Rather than making a gun with an expanding stock and collapsing grip Bandai went with the more standard (in this scale) approach of making the grip removable. I wouldn’t call it a short-coming but I find it bizarre that Bandai decided to supply an extra set of wings for all those people who find the hard-points distracting. Who is that person who hates the hard points so much Bandai felt that was necessary? The supplied missiles fit firmly into place and do not fall off. No, the missiles can not be individually removed from their clusters.
The Strike parts are much more sensible than the Toynami 1/100 strike parts. They fit securely and held on during transformation with only slight caution paid to avoid knocking them off. During some more aggressive posing I was able to knock the leg armors off but this shouldn’t be a problem for normal usage. As mentioned in the sculpt section, the top missile booms feature removable armors that show off the inner detail. I found this touch to be completely gratuitous in this scale and there were a few pics I had to take a second time because the cover had come a tad unseated from normal handling. The armor included with a strike toy will fit on the standard releases. There’s a gimmick to the backpack that allows it to be pressed down a bit which locks it into place so you shouldn’t have issues with the backpack falling over from the weight of the super parts.
Durability & Build: (7/10)
My first Hi-Metal toy (Hikaru’s 1J) came missing a part but fortunately for everyone else, I’ve only seen this happen to one other person. There have been grumblings of over-glue and looseness of fit in numerous spots. My toys all began their lives exceptionally stiff but definitely loosened over time. On some releases I had issues with the arm sliders being stiff but the ball joints in the shoulders being loose. This would lead to arms detaching during transformation but they easily pop back on. Here’s a list of the most common connections to get loose:
1) Shoulder ball joints
2) Front toe ball joint
3) Wings without hard points (particularly in battroid)
4) Pistol grip fixed posed hands
A little dot of glue, a piece of paper or tape would help stiffen most areas of looseness. The swing bar is made of metal so there shouldn’t be any worry about that part breaking. The only other obvious metal pieces I see are the feet but that’s not for durability purposes.
I think the video review sums things up rather nicely. In battroid mode this toy seemed more fun to me than some of the battroid mode toys that could not transform. The only issue keeping this toy from scoring higher are the range of movement of some of the joints (ankles, knees). The super and strike armor have no negative effects on the articulation of the toy.
Total Score: Standard Releases: (39/50), Super Releases: (39.5/50)
Some with a keen eye may see that this toy isn’t a true 1/100 scale. Measuring in at 16cm long in fighter mode that puts the toy at roughly 1/88 scale (or 1.8cm too large for 1/100 scale). Your initial reaction might be to wonder why Bandai didn’t just shrink their toy down a bit more but I’m sure Bandai felt it was better to go a bit big and make the toy even more fun. It’s amazing what they pulled off in this small a package. While great for the size and price it is definitely not a replacement for the Yamato (now Arcadia) V2 line of 1/60 VF-1 toys. As space continues to become more and more an issue for me I really appreciate when such a good thing comes in such a small package. Don’t have a Bandai stand to use? The pictures with the battroids above shows that you can steal the Toynami 1/100 stand for this Hi-metal, you can also use the Yamaguchi stand (more for GERWALK/Fighter). These toys are a lot of fun at a great size and price point. At the time of their release there were lots of premium toys in bargain bins (Yamato V2 toys at half price) so lots of consumers made the smarter choice and went with the discounted premium toys. More recently, with Yamato out of business and Arcadia not using the mold frequently, Bandai has seen the opportunity to release a slightly upgraded version of the toys as the “Hi-Metal R” line. If you’re in the market, those are probably the ones you should hunt down though the upgrades are minimal.
Original Post: February 1, 2011
Updated January 6, 2016: Included pictures of Max VF-1J Max, updated content for HMR releases, updated release information.
Updated March 1, 2016: Added HD transformation guide
Updated March 16, 2016: Added HD video review
Updated March 5, 2017: Added DYRL VF-1A content including HD video review