Observations & Critique: Overkill Anyone?
As a Tamashii exclusive item, the Armored Parts Set comes in a brown shipper box. Inside the shipper, there’s a retail ready box (37.5 x 24.5 x 15 cm). The retail box contains two trays. The top tray holds:
1) Armor Parts
The second tray adds:
2) A display stand consisting of:
The same base and arm that come with the VF-31AX display stand
2x support attachments that fit into the stand arm
1x brace for the front of the display stand arm in fighter mode
3x support arms
3x support claws (with fingers and connectors requiring assembly)
3x display stand adapters (fighter/GERWALK/battroid)
2x support brace for mission pack (one for battroid, one for GERWALK)
2x wheel supports (for fighter mode landing gear)
Behind it all you’ll find:
The packaging is slightly altered from the 31S parts release with the wheel supports moving from the top to the bottom tray. As with the 31S parts, all the braces and support are a good warning for what you’ve gotten yourself into.
Like the 31S armor parts that preceded these (released March 10, 2019), the 31AX armor parts (released June 24, 2022) were Tamashii exclusives that retailed for 16,000¥ (before 10% tax). The armor more than doubles the weight of the underlying toy which provides the heft many collectors look for… while introducing a host of other issues. The ‘collectability’ of these parts is hampered by the lukewarm reception of Absolute Live!!!!!!, the second Macross Delta movie in which these parts make their debut (and likely lone animated appearance). In the movie, the whole Delta squad goes out in armor parts that were allegedly repurposed from armor parts meant for the VF-31A. So, I think Bandai screwed up by not doing one of the following:
1) In the animation, make the armor generic so people could buy it for ANY of their VF-31AX toys (or even the VF-31A)
2) In the animation, differentiate each type only by the doors of the missile bays and then provide the matching missile bay doors with the armor parts.
Doing either of those things might have convinced people to buy these parts for multiple toys… instead they’re relegated to Hayate who also has Super Ghosts and Super Parts. I had a lot of fun mixing and matching parts from all Hayate’s accessories but it’s a bummer that there’s almost no hope Mirage or Bogue will get accessories. I also think it was dirty pool that Bandai had Hayate using his armor parts cannons with the Super Ghosts making people need to buy two accessories to achieve the look in the most iconic of the Absolute Live!!!!!! battles.
Changes from the original 31S parts are minimal but the 31AX parts generally have a few more paint applications with more trim details which helps break up the monotony of the gray blanket you’ll be wrapping your 31AX toy in.
Missile detail is unchanged from the 31S and is good enough. The missile bays have interior detailing and the hinges are generally hidden sliding types. The medium range missiles are detailed nicely. As with the 31S armor, I felt Bandai should have given us a touch of dark paint inside the medium range missile bays and inside the barrels of the various guns.
Substantive changes are limited to the differences introduced by the 31AX as it evolved from the Siegfried. The AX has larger canards on the shoulders so Bandai modified the shoulder attachment point. The AX has different wings so Bandai altered the wing booster attachments. The AX has larger forearms so Bandai removed the forearm armor from the gatling guns. For these reasons, those specific parts can’t be swapped between Kairos Plus and Siegfried toys.
The weaknesses of this accessory are unchanged from the 31S Armor Parts:
1) The additional weight makes the toy difficult to handle. Using the stand is highly recommended. This is a shame because the unladen toy is generally fun to handle.
2) Certain joints, like the elbow hinges, are unable to support the added weight so you may need to use the included clear accessory rods to prop up parts of the toy.
3) In GERWALK mode, the weight of the parts on the back of the toy causes the gap to increase behind the cockpit. My toy relies on the display stand adapter in fighter mode and can’t function without it.
The landing gear ‘supports’, indeed the entire thought process around the rear landing gear, is trash. The only upside is that you likely won’t display the toy with the landing gear pointed toward you so this failure will mostly go unnoticed.
The 31AX seems to have a slightly worse time with the armor parts attached. The pegs that attach the legs to the wings and the legs to the mission pack are all a bit too small leaving no margin for error. This is frustrating when going to fighter mode as you attach one leg only to have the other leg pop free. The intakes in fighter and GERWALK modes also do a poorer job attaching than they did on the 31S adding to the frustration of trying to line everything up and have it secured. Perhaps a build issue, but I also had a much harder time securing the gatling guns to their hardpoints.
On the positive side, the armor posts host a plethora of hidden missile bays. The parts generally attach securely with only the hip, upper leg, and shoulder armors requiring a bit of precaution when handling. Though no longer playable, the final result is an intimidating display piece that can still achieve a variety of great poses though it takes some time, patience, and thought about how to secure/support things to get there.
I don’t love the idea of leaving this heavy accessory on my toy for years at a time in a display case. I would worry that the strain would eventually cause things to go loose, develop stress marks, or possibly even crack if you didn’t put enough effort into placing the supports. I also don’t like the idea of slipping on the mission pack support over the beautifully insignia on the back of the craft. As mentioned previously, the gatling gun on one arm refused to securely fasten to the hardpoint causing it to pop off frequently during handling; I’m not sure how widespread this issue is.
The armor parts are so big and so striking that I can imagine some people want these for nothing more than the looks. The fully armored 31AX does has a commanding presence on a shelf. If you’re in it for the impressive displays, then there’s nothing here so glaring that I would tell you to steer clear. If you loved Absolute Live!!!!! then there’s a good chance you’ll want these parts only for the mission pack cannons so you can attach that to Hayate’s 31AX with the Super Ghosts. If neither of the above apply to you, then can safely skip this accessory. This accessory transformed (ha!) a 31AX toy that I enjoy handling into something that caused extreme frustration, particularly during transformation. It’s not fun, it’s not iconic, and it’s expensive so you likely have better avenues to channel those funds.