FEXT Hobby OWL One accessory for Bandai Hi-Metal VF-1 Toys

Observations & Critique: Includes series 01 and SP releases

The OWL One comes shipped from Hong Kong in a brown shipper box. I purchased two at the same time and received both boxes taped together before being wrapped in paper. Inside the brown shipper you’ll find a nice package with a window that shows the goods within. All toys come in the same box but there’s a sticker that wraps around the edge indicating which model you purchased. The fact the sticker wraps around the edge is a nice touch in that it allows you to determine which model it is if you’ve purchased multiples. You will likely be surprised by how heavy the package is. Inside the box there are several trays. In the first tray, you’ll find the flavor of armor you ordered as well as:

1) 2x Pilot seat (Lower seat and upper seat to accommodate 2 seat variants)
2) Neck cavity filler

In the next tray you’ll find
3) Armor display stand (14 pieces)
4) Tamashii Stage Act display stand adapter

Under those two trays there are two plastic bags that contain:
5) Chain base
Bag 1
2x floor or roof (interchangeable)
1x back wall (two parts, front and back)
Bag 2
1x pillar (optional)
6x attachment pieces (2x top, 2x bottom, 2x for vertical connection to another base)
1x roof support bracket

Behind the yellow cardboard insert you’ll also find a plastic bag containing:
5) Stickers
6) Instructions
If I had my druthers, they would have included all the weaponry with each release but I get the business reasoning from not having done things that way.

The “SP” version of the OWL One armor comes in the same box as the original releases with all of the same trays and baggies but no longer includes stickers but does include adapters for the backpack weapons to attach to a VT-1 or VE-1. The convenient sticker that wraps around the front and the side of the box has been altered so that it’s generic with only an SP logo on the front and a selection box on the side that was manually checked with permanent marker. The instruction manual was updated to reflect only three releases of the SP line, the pictures were updated to remove the numbers so that the instructions seem more universal, and the content was resized and reorganized to allow the instruction packet to be a tri-fold front and back rather than the big fold-out poster the original instructions were.

Now we need to unpack the different flavors available. There were eight variations in both color and accessories that were released in July 2018 for $44.90. The top of the box illustrates all the differences between the original release flavors. An additional three “SP” variants were released in August 2019 for $47.90. The box wasn’t updated to reflect the new SP releases but, whatever version you get, the instructions have a variant list and part checklist. The parts variants can be summed up as the following being provided for either the left, the right, both, or neither:
Gauntlets with Gatling gun or standard gauntlets
Backpack boosters with cannons or standard micro missile pods
Shield attachments for the gauntlets
Large missile attachments for the gauntlets
Not happy with the load-outs? All of these armors are built the same way so you can buy several and mix and match the pieces to get your desired effect.You can even swap out the body parts for great custom color schemes.

The OWL One is based on the scratch built “Thunder Hummer” custom model which the Internet tells me was made by Kouichi Hatakeyama and was featured in the October 2002 issue of Model Graphix Magazine (the “000” version being the closest rendition). The armor was well received and has been modeled in resin for both the Yamato 1/48 VF-1 and the Yamato (or Arcadia) 1/60 V2 VF-1. This is the first production version we’ve seen of the Thunder Hummer in toy-grade plastic and Fext has teased that they may also produce a version for the 1/60 V2 and, with Bandai having just announced a 1/48 VF-1, one has to wonder if that won’t be in their plans as well.

This is not a faithful reproduction of the Thunder Hummer, there are several areas that deviate. The Thunder Hummer was flat above the chest missiles and had shoulder missile launchers that wrapped around the shoulders rather than covering them entirely. The Thunder Hummer was also very flat whereas the OWL adds numerous panel line details (like the GBP-inspired markings on the chest missile covers). The painting and detail work also differ from the original but all of these decisions seem more a matter of artistic license than they do shortcomings. FEXT Hobby has given us their interpretation of the Thunder Hummer rather than a straight copy and the result is something that will appeal to some people more than a reproduction of Hatakeyama’s original would have. I always thought the chest armor on the original design sat too low, it seems the folks at FEXT Hobby agreed, raising it which simultaneously helped latch it more securely in place. The shields, missiles, and Gatling guns are also a very fun addition.

For the most part these armors are rendered in bare plastic. Where there is paint, it seems to be done well. I noticed only the most minor paint flaws on mine; on par with anything I’d see from more established brands. While the exterior looks great there was certainly room for improvement on the shoulder and chest missile bays. FEXT kept the part count to a minimum so the bays are made of the same piece of plastic as the armor they’re housed in. This means the bays are rendered in bright white with a bright white missile and a red painted tip. A better solution would have been to have some sort of dark gray plastic piece to serve as the base of the missile compartment.

This toy comes with a lot of good stuff. The chain base is simple in execution and effective. All parts connect very securely. My only complaint here has to do with the dimensions. The bases are exactly the width and height they need to be when the armor is on the rack. You would not be able to have the armor on two different VF-1 toys inside two different bases looking straight out and then push those bases right next to each other. Similarly, if the armor has cannon on the back, you will need to angle the cannon forward because the base isn’t tall enough to leave it pointing upward. Chaining bases together vertically only becomes worthwhile when you have 4 or more bases.

The SP bases function the same as the original bases but there are a few additional slots top and bottom, probably for functioning better with the FEXT System diorama sets.

The armor rack is also simple and performs its job admirably. Again, all parts latch together securely. When attaching the armor to the rack, only the leg armors connected more loosely than I would have desired but that was only the most minor of inconveniences. Everything looks great on the rack either in or out of the chain base. All of the different accessories can be attached. The bonus that you can also move the arm armors to an outer position and slide the front armor forward to allow the VF-1 to be posed within the armor rack is super cool. I was genuinely surprised by how much fun I had with this system before I even got the armor on a VF-1.

The armor goes on the toy simply and stays on securely. The only area that I found difficult was the shoulder armor and the instructions seem to skip this step. Watch my video if you’re also having problems, the shoulder missile bays should latch on very securely. I loved that the backpack accessories had an integrated support that swings forward. It doesn’t peg in super tight to the top of the toy but it doesn’t have too. This support was a clever way for Fext Hobby to overcome what is probably the worst design issue with Bandai’s Hi-Metal R toy: the backpacks don’t have a lock that keeps them upright in battroid mode like the original Hi-Metal toys did.

Since this armor doesn’t require the removal of the nosecone, feel free to purchase this accessory for your original Hi-Metal VF-1 toy. Though you will get some mileage out of the included vertically aligned pilot seats, this armor doesn’t work perfectly with are the VE-1 and VT-1 toys. The missile bays on the shoulders, chest, and legs all open revealing missile detail within. For added fun factor, you can even install the hard point ordinance included with the VF-1 to the arm gauntlets.

While the Series One armor fit all Hi-Metal and Hi-Metal R toys that preceded its release, it did not work for the 2 seat variants (VF-1D, VT-1, and VE-1) that Bandai released later. To remedy this, FEXT Hobby made some changes for their SP releases. The chest was re-shaped for a universal fit. The downside is that the chest doesn’t fit quite as tight on 1 seat VF-1 toys but the positive is that you can apply the armor to every Bandai Hi-Metal or Hi-Metal R toy to date.

The VT-1 and VE-1 have different backpacks from the other VF-1 toys. On those toys, the vertical stabilizers don’t fold so the backpack is left at an angle. To get the back boosters of this armor on the proper plane, FEXT Hobby includes adapter parts. The parts work fine but they do position the boosters further away from the body which creates conflicts with the strike cannon and the shoulder armor and the fold out supports that keep the backpack in the proper position. Fortunately, the backpack is stiff enough that it doesn’t need those fold-out supports and the strike cannon still looks good angled somewhat upward if you did want to show the armor off with the shoulder bays open.

From a build perspective I was very impressed. Everything locked together tightly, paint was decent, and the plastic feels bare but otherwise great. This is a much simpler armor than Bandai’s Hi-Metal R GBP and that works in the OWL One’s favor providing a much less frustrating experience. Parts don’t pop off inadvertently.

When installing a bulky armor like this there’s obvious concern that the articulation of the underlying toy will be restricted. I was genuinely surprised by how little this armor inhibited the range of motion of the underlying toy. With the armor in place the Hi-Metal toys (OHM or HMR) are still very fun to handle. The boosters on the backpacks are also articulated. The backpack gun pivots down over the shoulder for versions that come with it.

In Macross collecting, it’s very rare I come across a toy or accessory that I feel is a great value so these Fext Hobby OWL One armors were a tremendous surprise. They look super impressive. If I had the display space, I might want to buy them all just to have them on their armor racks as a backdrop to my Hi-Metal display. The only strike against these accessories is that they’re non-canonical: they were never in any animation or other story. The non-canonical nature is probably what gave Fext Hobby the opportunity to produce an unlicensed product so it works as a blessing for those of us who don’t mind venturing beyond established designs. So, if you’re not turned off by the fact this design may be something you’ve never seen before, or by the fact it’s not a perfect recreation of the original Thunder Hummer, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t head over to Fext Hobby’s site and grab at least one. Fair warning, I bought two and wish I could justify owning more so it may be hard to stop yourself. It’s nice that the SP versions were done in gray so if the bright white was your only turn-off the first time around, you now have new solid options to choose from.

Updated September 29, 2019 to include SP variants

Original post: September 9, 2018.