Review(updated): Yamato, Arcadia, and Arcadia Premium Finish Versions
Packaging & Extras: (3.5/5)
Before I start, note that this toy comes with a couple bundles of parts on sprues that I did not take the time to snip apart and glue on. Please keep that in mind when viewing my pictures as it might explain why my toy might look slightly different from others you come across. It’s clear that someone at Yamato did some marketing research and determined that no one cares about the quality of packaging any more. I received my Yamato SDF-1 shipped in the same box as a Bandai (original) Hi-Metal 1/100 VF-1S. The Hi-Metal toy (retails for 6,500YEN with non-super versions selling for less) comes neatly tucked in a box with windows displaying the goods inside, excellent artwork, and a magnetically sealing collector’s style flip-top lid. The Yamato toy, which retails for 32,800YEN, comes in a box made of cardboard stock just a step above paper, with bland Photoshop artwork, an odd purple/pink hue, no windows or collector’s lid, and the box appears to be too small for the product within… the box is literally bulging. When I cut the tape on one side of the box I could see that the cardboard had to be bent at a location other than its natural crease point because the Styrofoam tray inside was just a hair too large. The Styrofoam tray is sealed with a Styrofoam lid; inside you’ll find the main body of the SDF-1 and:
1) 2x ARMD
2) 2x bundles of detail bits on sprues
3) 4x black display stand adapters
4) Rudimentary display stand base and arm (hidden beneath the SDF-1).
5) Instructions Yamato 1-3000 DYRL SDF-1 Instruction Manual Web
This website doesn’t cover models, I simply don’t have the bandwidth or the skills, so I didn’t purchase or assemble one of the ‘assembly kit’ versions of this toy. Like Yamato’s VF-1 “assembly kit’ models, the SDF-1 version came in a plain monochrome box with the original manufacturing sprues and all necessary hardware of the toy within. You also received:
6) Glow-in-the-dark stickers
7) Regular stickers
8) Resin destroyed guns (as the guns are destroyed by a Meltrandi blast in DYRL)
9) Resin different foot detail (without the bell shaped bottoms of the thrusters)
10) Photo-etched detail parts
On my Yamato release the bridge of the SDF-1 had ever so slightly been nicking away at the Styrofoam lid. At the time I said “it doesn’t look like there’s any cause for concern about damage during shipping.” Arcadia may have thought there was more room for concern. The Arcadia toy comes in a box with new art but similar construction. The Styrofoam tray does seem to fit a bit better in my Arcadia box but it doesn’t feel like it’s made of thicker cardboard and it doesn’t have a flip top lid. I prefer the look of the Arcadia box as well but that’s obviously quite subjective. The big change here is that the bridge is not attached when you pull out the Arcadia toy. Instead, the bridge has been given its own little spot in the tray. You also get:
6) A screw and screw cover for attaching the bridge (included in a little baggy on top of all the sprues of screw covers)
There is a sticker that is unceremoniously dropped from the instruction guide. From what I understand, this sticker is the wrong size so Arcadia just pretended as if it weren’t included. The sticker number 8 is taken from the 1/2000 kit and was left at 1/2000 scale rather than being shrunk to 1/3000.
The premium finish version of this toy comes in a plain black box like Arcadia has used for their previous premium finish VF-1 toys. While boring, the size and matte finish of this box seems to fit the classier look Arcadia was going for a bit better than the valkyrie toys. The cardboard is still very thin, prone to creasing and ripping, and lacks any ‘premium’ touches. The toy comes in the same Styrofoam tray as the original Yamato toys but the bridge is a separate piece, now hosed in a piece of plastic rather than a new hole as Arcadia had used for their regular reissue. Otherwise, everything here is the same as the regular reissue except you don’t get the stickers (since everything is painted on). The real bummer here is that there are still parts on a sprue that you’re expected to snip out and install on the toy and, once installed, you won’t be able to put the toy back in the box unless you remove those parts. So, once again, photos of my SDF-1 won’t look as good as they could because I don’t bother putting screw covers on my toys.
Charm & Collectability: (4.5/5) +0.5 for Premium Finish
Yamato originally set out to create the ultimate collectible, a 1/2000 scale DYRL SDF-1. Early in that process they realized that the size wasn’t feasible (which might explain why the Bandai 1/1800 DYRL SDF-1 never materialized). Instead, Yamato scaled down their epic creation to 1/3000 and took everything they learned from their larger effort and incorporated it into this toy. For those that would only be satisfied by the hugest possible SDF-1, they made their 1/2000 prototype available as a very limited kit in December 2009. If that has you excited and you want to go track down the 1/2000 kit, be warned, it retailed for 210,000Yen… and that was before Yamato went out of business. Given the hefty price tag of the 1/3000 toy, it’s easy to understand Yamato’s decision not to go larger. Despite its enormous price tag (selling in December 2010 for 32,800 Yen) the toy sold well. The release of an ‘assembly kit’ version lowered the bar for entry substantially for anyone willing to supply their own elbow grease. Both photo-etch detail parts and glow-in-the-dark stickers (both of which were included with the assembly kit) were also available through the Yamato website. I updated this review in December 2013 when news broke that Yamato was closing its doors and wrote: “This was among the molds that Arcadia purchased when Yamato was folded so it’s likely we’ll see another production run. I suspect we’ll see more production runs in different colors- maybe even a weathering edition which would really show off all the tiny detail work.” As fortune would have it, Arcadia did reissue the toy and a”Premium Finish” version which includes panel lining and painted apps (including glow-in-the-dark paint) that make this thing really pop. All versions of these toys have all the elements are here for a hot collectible: production runs seem to be pretty small, it has some metal to it (the metal is internal and frame work related so I can’t give you a good estimate of how much metal), it’s of a hero vehicle, and it features perfect transformation. Here’s a list of release information:
Yamato, December 2010, 32,800Yen
Yamato, May 2011, 15,800Yen (Unassembled kit, Yamato web shop exclusive)
Arcadia, November 2017, 36,800Yen
Arcadia, April 2018, 49,800Yen (53,784 inclusive of tax, Arcadia web shop exclusive)
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (8.5/10) +1 for Premium Finish
Other than the need to attach the bridge and the stickers included with the Arcadia release, there are no differences between the earlier Yamato release and the later standard Arcadia release. As you can see from the line art, Yamato did a remarkable job capturing the essence of the DYRL SDF-1. There are a few tiny things you can nitpick but overall it’s simply a splendid representation of the ship most of us know and love. In addition to the overall excellent proportions, Yamato has included a large amount of very fine detail. Unfortunately, much of this detail is so fine it’s barely noticeable unless peering very closely at the toy (customizers will have a fun time figuring out ways to make that detail really pop out). Yamato released photo-etch detail packs for this toy to further blur the line between toy and model. This brings me to my only real gripe about the toy’s appearance: it looks exceedingly dull. The colors used are all muted, be they paint applications or the plastic that forms the body of the toy. Even Macross City is rendered in a very dark gray/brown. Some of the nicer details like the clear plastic bits used for the bridge and as windows in the legs are lost in huge expanses of bland. Never before has a toy made me exclaim “Wow, this thing looks so cool” while simultaneously making me yawn. A second quasi-gripe I have was the treatment of the screw covers. This isn’t a real gripe because I normally don’t mind companies shipping screw covers on a sprue because that gives me the option of leaving them off in case one day I need to perform some maintenance on my toy and don’t want to deal with prying off a glued on stopper. Unfortunately, on this SDF-1, the screw covers were designed to also form bits of detail for the toy so not applying them makes for a less complete looking toy. At this price point, I would rather have screw covers that attach like pegs and come installed for me… making me do the work and then potentially have to apply glue to my gabillion dollar collectible seems a bit tacky. It also would have been nice if the included stand had a bit more going on… the Macross Quarter comes with an SMS stand, the WAVE 1/5000 SDF-1 comes with a painted UN Spacy kite, and the most ‘premium’ of all these toys just comes with a flat black piece of plastic.
I don’t customize toys. As I understand it, the fun of customizing a toy comes from both the work you put into it and the final product. If you don’t love putting the work into it, it really seems like paying the extra premium for the “premium finish” version is worth it. I can’t imagine how many hours and what kind of materials the average person would need to make this toy looks this good. Now, there are a lot of other toys with AMAZING paint jobs that could be had for less (ThreeZero products come to mind) but there isn’t another SDF-1 out there that’s going to compete. From the moment I pulled the toy out of the box I was impressed. Then, after shooting photos for a bit I turned off the light and enjoyed the glow. I felt my original Yamato releases were bland and though i’m still not totally in love with the base colors, the premium finish version is nothing short of beautiful. For those looking for a negative in the premium finish, the clear plastic windows on the bridge and leg of the toy have the same matte coating applied to them. On the leg, the frosted window doesn’t matter because the interior is pitch black. On the bridge, the frosted window makes the stepped effect in the plastic that resembles different levels behind the ‘glass’ harder to see. Arcadia did throw some random glow-in-the-dark highlights inside the leg gimmick, which is fairly silly since not much light will ever get there. Painting that section to actually look like a city, with a fake sky on the sides and ceiling would have been DRAMATICALLY better.
It would have been sweet if Yamato had made some of the screw covers do double duty as gun turrets (that were already installed) and would thus spin on the ship but I’m guessing a desire to stay strictly within scale led them to conclude that any spinning turrets on this toy would be too fragile. The bummer there is that little details like turrets are what make huge space ships fun. You don’t whoosh around a big flying brick (although kudos to Yamato for making the SDF-1 incredibly solid in cruiser mode). Instead big spaceships are more tanks, they aim their guns at things and fire while the little vehicles whoosh around. I may be being a bit hard on this toy because it’s just so ridiculously priced for what you get. There’s a fairly simplistic transformation from flying brick to zombie, a small amount of metal (used intelligently for durability), and a stand that allows minimum display options. I’ve already complained about the stand not being very attractive but it’s also not the most useful. In cruiser mode the toy should cradle securely into the stand and eliminate any question as to whether or not everything is connected properly and aligned but it doesn’t quite do that… it’s like Yamato tried to make the stand fit perfectly in one very specific position but they either goofed or you have to push down way too hard on the toy to get it there. I didn’t like that using the stand in attack mode required removing a small part. How pissed are you going to be the day you can’t find where you put that piece? Couldn’t a trapdoor have been used instead? Also, the way the ARMDs attach is great from a sculpt perspective but lame from the end user stand point. The first time I installed mine I was really scared I was going to snap some part of the toy inadvertently as I manned up and used far too much force to finally get the buggers to click into place. Watch my 4K video review for instructions on how to easily plug the ARMDs in and reverse to pop them off. Keeping things in perspective, you may never use the stand in attack mode and nobody is going to be pulling the ARMDs off frequently. Let’s get to the good stuff. There are magnets in the arms and main gun and while the arm magnets seem entirely unnecessary the gun magnets do a wonderful job of pulling the front end of the vehicle together very firmly. Since magnets were used on those main guns, Yamato didn’t have to resort to putting a big tab on the cannons which would have really marred the look. There’s a stopper in the shoulders so that when they’re in the proper cruiser configurations they lock into place which helps make cruiser mode rock solid. The shoulders also have a sliding mechanism and flap that conceal the internal pieces in attack mode. The main guns also have a nicely integrated locking mechanism in attack mode that ought to help keep the guns where you want them (although it might be overkill). One leg has a window that rotates to appear closed to simulate the blast doors that would be seen from Macross city during an attack. If you remove the leg panel that houses that window you will reveal Macross city itself. The spikes that come off the main cannon are also retractable in case you favor line art that makes them appear longer in cruiser mode. What more could you ask for right? Well, at this price I imagine you could ask for a lot but you have to remember you’re paying for Yamato’s expectation that they aren’t going to sell many of these. No catapults, no launch arms (they’d be teeny), no lights, no sounds, no distractions, just an SDF-1 designed to look clean, hold together well, and include the essential elements.
While it certainly isn’t comparable to LED lights, the Premium Finish version does come with glow-in-the-dark paint apps. The apps are small and lose their glowing effect rather quickly. In the picture below I had the toy right next to very bright photography lamps and then switched them off (in a room with no ambient light whatsoever) and took a picture in the ‘night scene’ mode on a tripod. The green of the background is produced by the green glow of the paint apps. Your toy will likely NEVER look this bright. In a normal room with nearly no ambient light sources, absent point-blank photography lamps, you’ll get a very mild glow.
Durability & Build: (9/10)
My concerns for this toy were very minor and all center around the ARMDs and their attachment and release Don’t struggle too much with that, watch my video. The other thing to be careful of is pushing the SDF-1 around while you try to install the ARMD. You wouldn’t want to snap off an antenna or rail gun as you fussed around getting an ARMD on. There isn’t a ton of paint applied to the regular release version of the toy but the paint that is there appeared flawless on mine. Obviously the premium finish version has much more paint and again, I saw no flaws. The premium finish version also has a matte top coat that should protect the paint a little bit. When the toy is in attack mode, if I wasn’t using the stand, the center section had a bit of a rattle to it but nothing to be concerned about.
How do you accurately score a toy that isn’t meant to have a ton of articulation? There isn’t any head, ankle, hand, or waist articulation. Twist point at the knee? No… but it’s not theoretically supposed to have any of those things. The argument could be made, at this price point, we should get all those points of articulation and then CHOOSE whether or not we wanted to use them but if you know what you’re purchasing then you shouldn’t really be expecting those things. You also won’t get any adjustable booster nozzles, spinning gun turrets, or opening hangar doors. This thing displays well because it is huge and detailed well… it does not display well because it is dynamic. This is in direct contrast to Bandai’s Macross Quarter which is so chock full of articulation it was astounding. I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t get the arms where I wanted them without moving the shoulders. I wanted the shoulders straight up and down with the main guns in firing position. The Wave WHAM SDF-1 has far greater articulation throughout the arms.
Total Score: (40/50) +1.5 for Premium Finish
If you go into this knowing that the SDF-1 isn’t particularly dynamic you might want to think of this toy as scoring 34.5/40. Do you not care about the packaging and you’re happy with the very basic stand and not much else? Well then you can think of this toy as scoring 31/35. I encourage people to break down the scores in all of my posts to meet what’s more important to you as that’s the reason why the different categories exist. No matter how you slice it, this toy is either very good or downright fantastic. The big issue here is the astronomical MSRP and it only gets worse if you’re considering the premium finish version. The market for capital ships is very small in comparison to the market for fighters. Capital ships might make intimidating display pieces but they aren’t sexy toys. So, Yamato had to price to sell half (or some percentage they’ve figured out) as many of these toys and still recoup the costs and make a gain. The problem with a big capital ship toy is that, if it doesn’t have stuff like light up engines or windows, articulated guns/weapons, or other gimmicks then it doesn’t have much of a fun factor. After the initial “OMG I finally have the beautiful SDF-1 toy I’ve always wanted!” moment you’ll inevitably end up using it as the back drop for some display where you’ll probably not touch it again. Instead, when you reach in your display case, you’re going to be far more likely to manipulate the more dynamic valkyries in your possession which will all be carefully arranged in front of this SDF-1 toy. From my own experience, reviewing the Macross Quarter was more FUN than reviewing the SDF-1 (both were enjoyable in different ways). By buying this toy you are accepting that you’re paying a steep premium because you want a toy with limited appeal… not because it has incredible bells and whistles. When making this decision for yourself you may want to weigh how many other, more popular toys you could purchase for the same price. Obviously if you’re a huge fan of the SDF-1 then there’s no doubt that this is the current ultimate rendition, particularly the premium finish version.
Original post: January 26, 2011
Updated December 25, 2013 – Added HD video review and transformation guide. Updated content to reflect Yamato’s going out of business. Also included Yamato promotional pics at the end.
Updated February 25, 2018 – Added content relating to the Arcadia reissue, added 4K review of Arcadia and Yamato releases, increased resolution of existing photos
Updated March 11, 2018 – Added 4K Transformation guide from attack to cruiser mode. Added scan of instruction manual.
Updated May 13, 2018 – Added 4K video review and content relating to the premium finish release.