Yamato GnU Dou Macross Plus Toys (YF-19, VF-11B, YF-21 and Upgrade Kits)

Mega Review:  Now includes all Mac+ toys and accessory kits in one spot

Packaging & Extras (2/5)
These individual releases come packaged in unique boxes with large windows that prominently display the toy in a clear plastic window.  There’s a lot left to be desired when the toys are removed from their boxes.  The box’s size and the price imply the toy comes with some extras which sets up the proud new owner for immediate let down.   Each release comes with three optional hands and a gun.  The YF-21 does not come with two guns, just the one.  The gun included with the VF-11B is comically large.  The upgrade parts were either sold separately from the individual YF-19, YF-21, or VF-11B or in a “giftset” that simply included both the corresponding toy and its upgrade parts in their separate boxes shrink-wrapped and sold together as one item.  The boxes for the upgrade parts are not unique, a sticker was slapped on the front of each box to indicate what release it belonged to (for those that couldn’t be bothered peering through the window and seeing the color of the plastic inside).   The upgrade parts should have been included with the original release and the fact they weren’t is, in my estimation, a big part of why this reason failed.  Yamato went up head-to-head with Kaiyodo’s Revoltech line with a very similarly themed toy but shorted their customers on articulation, accessories, and a stand.  Yamato did offer a stand but it was sold separately.

Charm & Collectability (2/5)
Yamato made a solid name for themselves with some truly impressive transforming Macross merchandise but this was a bold move to infringe upon Kaiyodo’s established territory just as Kaiyodo nearly simultaneously released their own YF-19 and YF-21 toys.  Yamato included a VF-11B toy and then added a VF-19A and  VF-11B in the VF-X video game paint schemes which may have added some appeal for some collectors.  Yamato also later released a line of GnU Dou VF-1 toys which went head to head with the Revoltech VF-1 toys.  Revoltech upped the ante by selling a Regult toy.  Sadly, Yamato never made the foray into enemy mecha.  There never appeared to be a clear cut victor in the GnU Dou vs Revoltech war with the market seemingly being split between the two to neither company’s pleasure.  Yamato used the GnU Dou series of toys as guinea pigs for what would later be known as their “weathering editions” selling slightly airbrushed versions as “special decoration” limited editions.  Here’s a list of Yamato’s Macross Plus (and VF-X) themed releases, release dates, and MSRPs:
YF-19, June 2008, 3,150Yen
YF-21, June 2008, 3,150Yen
VF-11B, June 2008, 3,150Yen
VF-19A VF-X, December 2008, 3,000Yen
VF-11B VF-X, December 2008, 3,000Yen
YF-19 Upgrade & Super Parts, May 2009, 2,000Yen
YF-21 Upgrade & Super Parts, May 2009, 2,000Yen
VF-11B Upgrade & Super Parts, May 2009, 1,800Yen
YF-19 Giftset, May 2009, 4,500Yen
YF-21 Giftset, May 2009, 4,500Yen
VF-11B Giftset, May 2009, 4,300Yen
YF-19 Limited, September 2010, 3,143Yen
YF-21 Limited, September 2010, 3,143Yen
VF-11B Limited, September 2010, 3,100Yen
YF-19 Limited Upgrade Parts, September 2010, 2,381Yen
YF-21 Limited Upgrade Parts, September 2010, 2,381Yen
VF-11B Limited Upgrade Parts, September 2010, 2,300Yen

Sculpt, Detail, and Paint (8.5/10)
The molded ABS plastic of the Yamato figures immediately set themselves apart from Kaiyodo’s Revoltech line.  Yamato also focused on a more true to the line art approach than the very stylized look of the Revoltech figures.  Yamato’s joint system is also far less obtrusive further enhancing the ability of their toys to better represent the animation.  For those looking for only the most accurate representation of the vehicles than the Yamato toys are the definitive winners.  There is some painted on detail (including an excess UN Spacy kite on the YF-19 toy’s wings and the wrong color UN Spacy Kites on the VF-11B) but overall the toy does look somewhat plain.   Being slightly larger than the Revoltech I had hoped to see a greater disparity in the level of detail work between the two toys but to Kaiyodo’s credit the Revoltech shows very similar attention to finer bits.  The upgrade parts do a very good job of enhancing the base GnU toys while providing connecting points for the super parts while minimizing the  negative impact of the anchor points.  The YF-21 upgrade parts improve upon the look of the base toy by correcting a paint error on the chest of the base toy. 

Design (7.5/10)
Yamato touts their GNU line as being toys built on an internal skeletal frame and they have some cool advertisements showing off this frame. By making toys in this manner, the thinking goes, Yamato opens up their toys to customizers who can pop them apart with a little effort and then reassemble them on the skeleton. Initial feedback to this has been largely positive (although it’s clear that the internal skeleton gimmick has several compromises to accommodate the odd shapes of Valkyrie Battroids).  There are lots of ball joints including the shield on the YF-19 toys.  There are some pictures below of a heavily weathered YF-19 GnU toy struggling against a YF-21 GnU toy.  This level of customization would have been far more difficult to do with a Revoltech toy.  As nice as the “upgrade” parts that were sold separately are they also serve as a clear indication that Yamato didn’t get things right the first time.  Many of the upgrade parts include incredibly simple changes to the base toy that help increase articulation with what would have been no greater expense in the production of the toys.  The upgrade parts further indicate a lack of forethought on Yamato’s part in how simple the super parts and their connection mechanisms are.   It seems far-fetched that Yamato ever believed they could have sold the different super parts separately since there’s so little to them so why weren’t these toys intended to accommodate and include the super parts right from the beginning?  This will forever be a mystery and I think it’s a large part of why these toys weren’t able to gain more traction against the cheaper but seemingly better thought-out Revoltech toys.

Durability & Build (8/10)
Initially these toys feel very solid and well built. Yamato’s opting for ABS over PVC plastic means the toy feels solid and not at all rubbery like the Kaiyodo Revoltech toys. Every joint felt responsive and I didn’t feel at any point that I was on the verge of something snapping.   After having owned these toys for quite some time most joints are still nice and stiff.  Unfortunately, the nifty design which allows these toys to be easily disassembled for customization purposes (and for upgrading the toys for those people who buy the upgrade parts) also makes these toys prone to having parts fall off.  It’s usually a quick matter to snap the parts back into place but it can be a little frustrating and disconcerting.  I also had some paint scratching issues with my YF-21 toy where the yellow paint on the chest met the shoulder.  .

Articulation (8/10)
I have only one complaint about these toys: the legs are missing a twisting point. There is still a very large range of movement in the legs but a twisting point would have allowed just a bit more fun. The feet can be angled and pointed without regard to the rest of the leg so that largely counters much of the problem caused in other toys when a leg twist is absent.   With exception of the VF-11B, the improveme6nt parts on the YF-19 and YF-21 toys increase the range of movement.  The improvement parts for the VF-11B only make it so the toy can attach the super parts which is why the VF-11B upgrade parts are the cheapest of the bunch.  Even in their best form the GnU toys never can quite meet the flexibility of their Revoltech competition but they do do a very good job of coming close.

Total Score (36/50)
Yamato set the MSRP in Japan to 3,150 Yen or roughly $31 US at the time (I miss those times). That makes this about a $40 toy for folks outside of the Far East once shipping is included. While it is a pretty decent toy it was over-priced especially with the Revoltech competition retailing for closer to $25. Think of it this way, for a long time Robotech.com had the Toynami MPC Alphas on sale for $39.99 and those are toys loaded with diecast and have the ability to transform into three modes (although the GNU will last longer and has much better build quality).  At $25 I would say this is would have been a good buy… at $40 I’m thinking they should have made it a $50 toy and incorporated transformation into it.  The idea that for $50 you could get the original toy plus the “upgrade parts”, which should have been bundled with the original toy, is cringe-worthy.  Eventually these toys, even the “limited decoration” versions all became real shelf-warmers and were sold at bargain basement prices.  One would have hoped that Yamato would have learned their lesson from their botched attempt at the Mac Plus line of GnU Dou toys and packaged the VF-1 toys with super parts and a display stand… but they didn’t.  Instead they showed the VF-1 GnU prototype at shows with Super Parts and a display stand and then sold the toy with a display stand but no super parts leading many to suspect Yamato planned to nickel-and-dime their customers once again.  Sadly, no super parts were ever released at all for the VF-1 GnU toys and the entire line has since disappeared into the sunset (except for all the toys that are still warming shelves at steep discounts).  With Yamato now making cautious attempts at the entering the modeling market it would be really neat to see them release all white versions of unassembled battroids in the GnU fashion.  I imagine an unassembled unpainted toy would put these toys in a much better price range and would still appeal to the customizer market that Yamato was courting originally.

NOTE: This review has been updated.  Picture resolution was increased, new pictures were added, line art comparisons were added, and an HD Video review was added.  In my continuing effort to make the site easier to navigate I have combined eight previous posts into this one post.
Yamato GnU YF-19 Upgrade Parts originally posted February 23, 2010
Yamato GnU YF-21 Upgrade Parts originally posted January 19, 2010
Yamato GnU VF-11B Upgrade Parts originally posted January 5, 2010
Yamato GnU YF-19 and VF-19A originally posted July 14, 2008 and updated January 18, 2009
Yamato GnU VF-11B originally posted January 12, 2009
Yamato GnU YF-21 vs Kaiyodo Revoltech YF-21 originally posted December 1, 2008
Yamato GnU YF-21 originally posted November 17, 2008
Yamato GnU YF-19 vs Kaiyodo Revoltech YF-19 originally posted July 28, 2008

4 Replies to “Yamato GnU Dou Macross Plus Toys (YF-19, VF-11B, YF-21 and Upgrade Kits)”

  1. Great review. I really like the YF-19. It would be great for another company to make one as I heard Yamato’s 1/60 YF-19 did not have the sturdiest plastic, but all the other reviews said it was sturdy. I just think it is very expensive.

  2. how tall is the GN U Dou compared to the Hi metal VF-19?
    does it “sorta” work as a 1/100 toy? I do recall the HM VF-19 being a bit oversized.

  3. GNU Dou is roughly 13.5CM so it’d be like 1/115 scale. The Hi-Metal came in at about 17CM or 1/91 scale.

  4. The GNU-Dou, is imo a great line. I really wish they stuck with it and released more figures from every Giant Robot series! Revoltech beat them to it unfortunately, but I don’t really find them particularly well manufactured. Some of the proportions are ‘weird’, they are a bit too small, and the PVC used sucks. GNU-Dou, were a great size and the finish was fantastic too. Anyway, I guess there will never be any others. Unless Arcadia decides to pick up and revive the line. (unlikely but one can only hope!). A real shame, had more people tried them instead of only swearing by Revoltech, they would’ve quickly come to realize that the Yamato figures were the superior product. With as much pose ability. Also one thing I loved is that they could also be posed in a rigid manner, to mimic the old robots from the 80’s! Great for vintage lovers like myself.
    Try that with Revoltech…it’s just Revolting (could not help myself!!). I do own a few Revoltech, but personally don’t like them much. Their strength lies in their variety and quantity NOT quality.
    Come on Arcadia, bring back the GNU-Dou!!!

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