Review: The line begins with Hayate Imelmann’s ride
Packaging & Extras: (5/5)
It always surprises me when toy manufacturers decide to compete in the category of “nicest packaging” as Bandai has. The box features thick cardboard folded over a second time making it feel as sturdy as some shoe boxes. There’s a flip-top lid but when you flip the top there’s a cover beneath with a schematic and a warning to “Remove before flight”. It’s a curious but charming touch though it does lessen the benefit of the flip-top which generally let you immediately admire your toys. Once you get past that cover you encounter a plastic clamshell over a Styrofoam tray. The presentation is amazingly clean with the accessories all tucked behind a small cover. Besides the VF-31 toy you get the following:
1) Pilot figure (31J – Hayate)
2) Co-pilot figure (31J – Freiya)
3) 2 x Knife with pivot gimmick (for stowing behind the forearm)
4) Individual hologram device in flight position (arrow)
5) Individual hologram device in project position (square)
6) 6x pairs of fixed posed hands (fist, grip, pistol grip straight, pistol grip cocked, open hands, salute)
7) Display stand (consisting of a base and arm)
8) 3x clear display stand adapters (fighter, GERWALK, battroid)
I didn’t mention a gun but because it comes attached to the toy and is fairly integral by design of the VF-31. All said, it’s a wonderful package with the accessories you would want and a display stand to boot. While the VF-31, as I recall it, typically flies without weapons on the wings, there are hardpoints there so the one thing that you might feel is lacking are some missiles/bombs.
Charm & Collectability: (4.5/5)
Time will tell on these but it’s clear by the price and the package that Bandai is trying to make these a collector’s item. Macross Delta seems to have been relatively successful and the plan is to currently issue every variant of the Delta platoon. The toy has metal (mostly in the joints and feet) and transformation is perfect so the two more important boxes are checked off. Here’s what we know of the release schedule so far:
VF-31J Imelmann custom, December 2016, 21,600Yen
VF-31F Messer custom, April 2017, 21,600Yen
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (9.5/10)
Bandai spared no expense when it came to painting detail onto these toys. You will note there were no stickers in the box and that’s because every marking is already on the toy, generally painted very crisply. The sculpt looks like the toy flew straight off the screen. The weaknesses are very minor. There’s not a lot of detail in the cockpit and the cockpit itself is shrouded by a very golden canopy that doesn’t offer much transparency. The copilot figure is wearing a helmet though the more memorable scenes of two people in the cockpit generally involved a Walkure member not wearing a helmet… so it seems a little like they threw a helmet on the girls so they could use one mold for all of them. The intake turbine detail, like the renewal VF-25 toys before them, don’t have any painted detail making it look very plain. Landing gear enthusiasts will likely emit audible groans the first time they expose them. The rear landing gear are an awful joke and the front landing gear seems pretty generic though it does have an articulated tow bar. There’s also a lot of different color sensors going around toward the front of the plane which is a bit garish. Those nitpicks aside, this toy is pretty amazing.
This toy does include the design elements you’ve come to expect from high-end Macross collectables:
1) Detailed, removable pilot figures
2) Opening canopy
3) Integrated landing gear with separate spinning rubber tires (front landing gear locks forward and includes articulated tow bar)
4) Removable intake covers to expose turbine detail
The VF-31 features the same optional 2 seat configuration that was in the VF-25 and YF-29 so Bandai has integrated it into this toy exactly as it did renewal VF-25 and the YF-29 toys. You also get compartments on the back of the leg that slide forward to expose Walkure’s hologram devices (either pivoted upward or slid all the way forward). The gun can be removed from the backpack and held in the toy’s hand. Beyond the gimmicks, the toy is very solid in each mode with perfect transformation that is complex without being demanding. The battroid design requires a lot of back kibble and mass so Bandai put ratchets in the hips (along with an extension mechanism for greater range of movement). You may remember that one of the bigger weaknesses of the renewal VF-25/VF-27/VF-29 toys was the plate below the head didn’t really lock into place but that’s definitely not a problem here, everything is solid. This toy does feel like a generational improvement over the Frontier toys with the YF-30 being the transition (I’d probably consider the 19Adv a member of this new generation as well). All of the faults with the YF-30 are neatly addressed here without the addition of new problems. There’are no needs for additional supports, everything smoothly and securely locks together. As for quibbles, while the canards and stabilizers make it relatively easy to determine the correct angles, it’d be nice if they had more resistance when they reached their proper locations. I end up having to retake pictures a million times because everything wasn’t perfectly symmetrical. The guns that swing around on the forearm have a similar issue, you can see in the picture below that they slid inward in fighter mode making the seams too large. It’d be really nice if they had a detent to create resistance at the point where they were perfectly forward in either direction. The biggest negative here isn’t entirely Bandai’s fault. The rear landing gears are AWFUL. They offer almost no clearance at all from their kneecap housing, they look horrible, they seem entirely impractical, and they will make you grateful to have an included display stand… even if the display stand is kind of ugly and very rudimentary. Another negative are the articulated hands that come installed on the toy. The trigger finger is stuck in a pointing position while all the other fingers have a knuckle. This relegates you to open hand poses or forces you to use the supplied fixed-pose hands. The articulated hands also don’t do a good job holding the gun.The toy allows you to stow knives behind the forearms. I had a tricky time getting fighter mode to seat back together with the knife stowed but others say it works fine for them so the tolerances must be pretty tight. If you find your fighter mode isn’t quite latching together right, double-check that you didn’t leave a knife in and see if removing it helps you out.
Durability & Build: (7/10)
It’s too soon to accurately grade this toy so I’m giving it an average score as a place holder. You will scrape paint off the toy, the instructions basically tell you that it’s going to happen. This appeared most true to me in the area where the arms swing forward from fighter to battroid mode. The back of the fighter mode curves down into a hook that is painted blue on top of white plastic and the arms are almost guaranteed to rub against this and shear some paint off. Fortunately, this won’t be the most visible wear spot so if that’s the worst of it, then the score here will creep up. There’s also one ‘fit’ area that bothers me. Behind the cockpit where the nose connects to the fuselage, there tends to be a small gap that’s a thicker than all the other seams. You can reduce/eliminate it with some pressure but during handling it will pop back up. There’s a sliding mechanism here so it seems like they didn’t get the tolerances perfected. When I first pulled the toy from the box it had numerous gaps and fit problems. This was the same on my 19Advance and I had to transform that toy several times to iron out all the kinks… my 31 toy was much kinder. I was able to massage it a bit and get everything lined up but moderate handling generally causes a few seams to get fatter than I’d like. I have seen some complaints about foot extension gimmicks not being very strong (sliding too easily back into the leg after extension) but my sample had no problem, offering an audible click to let me know success was achieved. I’m optimistic that this score will improve as the joints seem very intelligently designed and there is no excess of ball joints like the Frontier had that were so prone to getting loose. If joints get loose or break off this score will dive. I’ll keep an eye on the Internet and update as needed.
I don’t think a transformable toy can do much better than this. This toy did everything I asked of it. The backpack weapons pivot independently and rotate and angle similar to the mechanism from the DX YF-30 toy. Watch the video for a full run down of all the points of articulation, it’s very impressive. As mentioned earlier, there’s a hip extension gimmick that lets you get the legs to be even more dynamic. The feet feature ratcheted positions for GERWALK. In GERWALK, I found myself wishing I could rotate the feet further outward but that was really my only negative. In battroid mode the legs really shine letting you angle and twist in several spots.
Total Score: (44.5/50)
Consider this a preliminary score since the durability/build section is still a wildcard. Obviously, I’m pretty impressed by the total package here. The toy looks like a high end collectible, it feels great in each mode, and it is also fun to transform and play with. If you’re a fan of Delta you will need to get at least one DX VF-31 toy. If you hate Delta but are a fan of this mechanical design, you’re still going to want to hunt one down, it’s that good. At 32CM long in fighter mode and a bit more than 25CM tall in battroid, it’s exactly 1/60 scale so no reason to fear it won’t fit in with the other Macross toys in your collection.