Yamato 1/12 Votoms Toys

Mega Review: This review currently only covers VERSION 1 toys.

Like my other Votoms reviews, it’s my intention to gradually add to this review until it covers all types of Armored Troopers (ATs) that saw release.  For now this review focuses on the version one Scopedog releases.

Packaging & Extras: (2.5/5)
The first releases in Yamato’s 1/12 line, known as the “Version 1” releases include:
A) the standard Scopedog
B) the Melkia (AKA Meliqua) paint version
C) the red shoulder
D) the Odon Investigation (gray) version
E) the Red Shoulder Aptitude version (all green with a gray visor)
These toys are packaged in the familiar boxes Yamato used for their 1/48 line of VF-1 toys which means you’ll get the flip-top collector’s lid that reveals a large plastic window that shows off the goods within.  The boxes are large but so are the hulking mecha within.  The box is adorned with attractive but bland artwork and it is repeated, exactly, for nearly all the version 1 releases. Inside the box for the V1 Scopedog toys you’ll find the following in addition to the AT:
1) 1 set of fixed posed hands (Gun gripping right and opened left)
2) Gun with adjustable second grip and movable switch for firing modes
3) 2 extra ammunition tins
4) 6x magazines for hip-mounted magazine holders
5) 2 sticker sheets
6) Instructions Yamato 1-12 Scale Votom Scopedog Instruction Manual Web
None of the Yamato’s releases (outside of a couple gift-sets) include pilot figures which irked early adopters.  The dearth of additional weapons and accessories was a strategic decision that allowed Yamato to later sell these parts separately and include them in a variety of expensive gift-sets.

There were also three “Version 1” gift-sets released. The first was the Red Shoulder + Chirico Pilot gift-set. It came in a larger box that simply housed the boxes of the Red Shoulder toy and the Chirico accessory. That larger box emulates the normal version 1 Scopedog art buts adds Chirico layered in front of the Scopedog. The design of the larger box is also somewhat mind-boggling. Instead of just being a box that housed the goods inside, the outer box is a combination of a sleeve and a box that opens like a book. The sleeve portion locks the Chirico Pilot figure box in its position above the normal Scopedog box behind it. You got everything that was listed above for version 1 toys plus everything that came packaged with a Chirico pilot figure. The Chirico figure is package slightly differently from the standalone version of the figure. Instead of the instructions being shoved in behind Chirico, the instructions for both Chirico and the Scopedog were simply slid into the sleeve. Also, the Chirico figure in this bundle does not have a clear plastic window separating it from the flip-top lid of the box. Finally, this Chirico comes in a box that is a bit deeper green than the sold separately figure.

The second “Version 1” gift-set was the Red Shoulder + Parachute Pack. As with the first gift-set, this toy and accessory bundle contained both standalone items in retail boxes but housed in a larger box. Since the original box art for Scopedog didn’t make adding a parachute pack convenient, the Parachute Pack gift-set comes in a larger exterior box that looks nothing like the previous Scopedog releases. I didn’t love the bland artwork on previous boxes and the look of this box manages to be worse in my opinion. Inside was a normal Version 1 Red Shoulder toy with everything listed above plus a parachute pack and the same accouterments as if you had purchased it separately.

The third “Version 1” gift-set was one I thought was a version 2 for the longest time so forgive me for not discussing it in my version 1 video review. This is the Red Shoulder Custom Gift-Set. Like the Parachute Pack gift-set, this toy comes in a big exterior box that simply contains retail boxes of the very first Scopedog release and the Red Shoulder Custom Parts accessory. The inclusion of a version 1 toy is  surprising given Yamato had been selling V2 toys for over a year before they created this bundle. One might presume that this bundle was created to help move leftover V1 stock after the V2 was introduced.

The Red Shoulder Scopedog with Clear Armor Parts was an interesting release. This toy is available as either a “Version 1” or “Version 2” release. Either version comes in a new black box that looks much more ominous (and I’d say much better) than the boring white boxes from the first several releases. The new box is the same dimensions and still has a flip-top lid. Does this mean that Yamato repackaged some leftover version 1 stock? It’s possible, if you know some backstory there, please leave a comment. Regardless of the version you purchased, the contents were still exactly the same as the original Scopedog releases except you also received a plastic bag taped to the inside of the clamshell that contained ‘clear armor’ parts. Essentially a reissue of the version 1 toy, this toy can be differentiated both by the box and by the metallic shiny red shoulder rather than the candy red shoulder of the white box release.

The first unique “Version 2” toy was a gift-set that included the “Space Warfare” Scopedog (all green, including the visor). Both the Scopedog and included Round Mover came in normal-sized boxes for the toy and the accessory but this time Yamato had left them completely devoid of any printing. Both the toy and the accessory come in unmarked white boxes… after all, there’s a big exterior box that lets you know exactly what’s inside. Unfortunately, the larger exterior box takes bland to a whole new level… it’s very dark and uninspiring. You still receive everything that was packaged with the version 1 Scopedog release and the separate Round Mover accessory. The colors on this Round Mover are totally different.

The most surprising Yamato release (to me) was the Strong Bacchus. In Takara’s universe, the Strong Bacchus is so meaningless that it’s one of the few designs that hasn’t materialized in the Actic Gear line. This is a version 2 toy and more of a re-mold then you might think. The white box returns with some bland Strong Bacchus art but now the top and the bottom are a deep blue instead of the green of the version 1 boxes (the Melquiya version has purple top and bottom). Yamato gave us some interesting options which meant there’s more in the tray than usual. You get items 1-4 of the Version 1 releases outlined above plus:
5) 1 groovy custom sticker sheet so you can make battling customs
6) Magazine holders for the hip armors (the SB has a unique housing pre-installed on the toy and covered with a piece of tape)
7) 2x backpack hook delete covers (so you can give your SB a flat back)
8) Purple Bear visor and antenna (for use with a Melquiya Scopedog, sold separately)
9) 2x foot spike mechanisms (these are installed on previous Scopedog toys but are options on the SB)
10) 6x screw covers for interior of foot
11) Instructions Yamato Strong Bacchus Instruction Manual Web

The Brutishdog is a version 2 toy and is obviously different in that it loses its right hand in favor of a Gatling gun and claw. As such, there are some changes to what’s in the box. I’ll update this post later to include more on the Brutishdog and the other version 2 toys. For now, here’s what comes with the Brutishdog:
1) Brutishdog backpack
2) 2x left hands (one gun holding, one open)
3) 7x magazines for hip-mounted magazine holders
4) 1x sticker sheet
5) Instructions Yamato Brutishdog Instruction Manual Web

The Turbo Custom was Yamato’s final unique treatment of the Scopedog but it didn’t mark a change in the status quo. The package includes essentially the same things that came with the Version 1 toys except now all the stickers fit on one sticker sheet. The white box was ditched but the art of the new box, while attractive, was still pretty bland. The flip-top lid remained present and the dimensions of the box didn’t change from the Version 1 offerings. New gimmicks also meant new instructions. Yamato Scopedog Turbo Custom Instruction Manual Web

The Roots of Ambition Gift-set hit shelves just as the global economy was tanking. The large exterior box finally got some dynamic and attractive looking artwork. Inside, things didn’t look very premium. Presumably to save a few pennies, Yamato didn’t bother to give the toy or the accessory its own box within the larger box this time. Since the clamshells that house the items aren’t meant for stacking, it makes things pretty ugly when you open up the box. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to affect the safety of the goods and you still get everything you would expect from either a Turbo Custom or the Roots of Ambition mission pack.

Yamato’s farewell to the Scopedog was The Last Red Shoulder Turbo Custom Gift-set. Unlike the Oddon/Roots of Ambition gift-set, this time the huge box included retail style boxes with flip-top lids for the individual Turbo Custom and Last Red Shoulder accessories housed within. It’s a beautiful package and really seems to be a very fitting send-off to the this line of toys.

Charm & Collectability: (2.5/5)
Like other Votoms lines, collectability of these toys varies significantly from one release to another.   The pictures above are lifted from various Yahoo Japan auctions and show-off WonderFest exclusive add-ons built by customizers who clearly liked what Yamato had to offer. An introduction of a V2 to the series (featuring minor joint enhancements) has made some of the later releases more desirable.  Here’s the release schedule as I’ve been able to scrape it together, please let me know in a comment if you spot anything incorrect:

Scopedog V1 (released December 2004, 17,800YEN)

Scopedog V1 Meliqua Color (April 2005, 17,800YEN)

Scopedog V1 Red Shoulder Custom (January 2005, 17,800YEN)

Scopedog V1 Red Shoulder + Chirico Giftset (Toys ‘R Us exclusive – January 2005 22,700¥)

Scopedog V1 Odon Investigation Unit Custom (February 2005 mail away, 17,8000¥)

Scopedog V1 RS Aptitude Test Unit (lottery winners, 1 of 100 February 2005 mail away, 17,8000¥)
Scopedog V1 + Parachute Pack Giftset (Toys ‘R Us exclusive – September 2005, 25,200¥)
Scopedog V1 Red Shoulder with Clear Armor Parts (May 2006, 17,800YEN)
Scopedog V2 Red Shoulder with Clear Armor Parts (May 2006, 17,800YEN)
Scopedog V2 Space War Specification + Round Mover Giftset (May 2006, 23,900YEN)
Strong Bacchus V2 (August 2006, 19,800YEN)
Brutishdog V2 (November 2006, 19,800YEN)
Scopedog V1 Red Shoulder+ Red Shoulder Parts Giftset (September 2007, 24,990YEN)
Brutishdog V2 + Fyana Giftset (October 2007, 21,600YEN)
Scopedog Turbo Custom (April 2008, 19,800YEN)
Scopedog Turbo Custom + Roots of Ambition Parts Giftset (April 2008, 23,000YEN)
Scopedog Turbo Custom + Last Red Shoulder Parts Giftset (December 2008, 23,000YEN)
The steep price of these toys definitely scared off a lot of would-be buyers in the beginning.  In 2006 and forward Takara, CMs, and MaxFactory all got in the Votoms game offering lower priced alternatives.  The market was soon saturated and steep discounts were seen on all lines.  By the end of 2008 the bubble had popped on the Votoms market just like it had on the US real estate market.  Manufacturers all abandoned the property and it took a decade for many of these toys to appreciate to their MSRP values (although most are still hard to sell at significant discounts).  Rumor has it that the production runs of the Turbo Custom toys were relatively small since the writing was already on the wall regarding the saturation of the market at that point.  The scarcity coupled with the thought that these late releases would have the fewest issues has seen a spike in the Turbo Custom values back to MSRP or above it.  The Brutishdog also appears to be one of the more desirable releases.  Votoms fans love their Red Shoulder Parts.  As a result, that accessory has become very popular as has the Giftset that includes it.  The basic green Scopedog, the purple Meliqua color, and the Strong Bacchus generate the least demand.

Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (8.5/10)
From a proportion and overall mold/sculpt perspective, Yamato and ThreeZero both did an excellent job with Takara taking a few more liberties with their Dual Model Zwei line. Of course, if you’re a modeler, you have lots of other great options that you may feel exceed where the toys fail. Yamato also gave us some phenomenal interior details with excellent paint applications.  I was very impressed when I started taking the toy apart.  Unfortunately, Yamato completely skipped detailing the exterior of the toy. It seems that Yamato expected their customers to want to add their own custom weathering and paint schemes to these toys so they intentionally left them naked (like Takara’s DMZ-01 “Material Version”).  The result is a toy that looks downright boring on your shelf which is compounded by its massive size.  You’ll have big plastic spans with no detail at all.  Modelers have made these toys into amazing customs… but most of us will have to resort to applying the substandard stickers to the toy and never quite being happy with the results. One interesting note on the “Red Shoulder” toys. The very first red shoulder toys feature a bright but matte red shoulder on the right shoulder. For the version 2 red shoulder release Yamato changed to a metallic red (though that release also has a version 1 variant… not sure if the version 1 variant has the matte or metallic finish). When Yamato made the Roots of Ambition accessory, the shoulder changed to blood red, as described by Chirico in the series.

Design: (8.5/10)
This toy does things that toys have no right to do.  It completely muddies the water between toys and models with its ability to break it down into components.  This thing is so diorama ready it’s a true shame we never got Vanilla or Gotho figures.  One of the touches I found pretty outstanding while simultaneously problematic was within the forearm.  There’s a magazine inside the forearm that you need to slide out to release a spring-loaded punch.  This is awkward in that you need to find a toothpick or another magazine to move the magazine through.  What makes this awesome though is that it’s the same magazines that the toy has strapped to its hip armors and would be what provides the ammunition for the punch mechanism.  So, there were lots of easier and more user friendly ways Yamato could have handled that punch mechanism but I appreciate their extra effort in unifying the punch mechanism with the ammunition that made it work.  Here’s how all the features break down on my standard Votoms design category test:
1) Scopes rotate: Yes.  Scope tracks left to right: Yes.  Head twists left to right: Yes.
2) Visor opens upward revealing the pilot: Yes.
3) Opening cockpit: Yes.
4) Internal controls: Yes (including foot pedals!).  Articulated: Yes (Pivot up/down & twist).  Gun stowage: No.
5) Removable Pilot Figure: Not included.  Articulated: N/A
6) Opening foot well: Yes.
7) Articulated armor panels on hips, feet, and wrist: Yes.
8) Articulated shoulder mounts: Yes.
9) Removable armor with internal mechanical detail: Yes.
10) Back that accommodates different accessories: Yes.
11) Foot wheels: Yes, spinning and recessing.
12) Functional foot pivot spikes: Yes.
13) Punch mechanism: Yes.
14) Dog mode: Yes.

So if this toy is so awesome, why not a better score?  There are some minor quibbles that can become major pains in the neck.  First, the center of gravity on this toy is too high and too far to the rear which makes it fairly unstable.  Yamato should have compensated for this by engineering some pretty spectacular ankles but while the ankles have a great range of movement they do a terrible job of mitigating the weight distribution issues.

Second, the fist should be articulated and failing that they should certainly be easier to replace then the mechanism employed here which always makes me concerned that something is going to break. The gun holding hand has a very annoying tendency to lose its thumb.

Third, while the toy has an amazing ability to be broken down to its core components, the various armor pieces don’t come together well enough.  It’s not at all uncommon to find the biceps have rattled apart in transit.  The parts really should have locks that keep them together and make it so the user needs to do something that clearly shows intent to disassemble the toy rather than just having sections of the body come off while posing the toy on the shelf.

The “Version 2” toys made the following improvements:
1) The feet have ratcheted toes
2) The heels have been tightened significantly
3) Disconnecting the waist from the torso now requires a full 90 degree turn of the upper body instead of 45 degrees
4) The shoulders are significantly tighter
5) The lens on the visor is darker/less milky
6) The various pieces of the toy seem to hold together better so I’m guessing there were very minor changes to the tolerances on the molds
7) The hip ratchets seem stronger, the toy has less of a tendency to fall backward when wearing backpacks

Durability & Build: (7/10)
This largely rolls into the cons of the design section as noted above.  Since Yamato didn’t put locks on the parts that can be disassembled they relied on the build being so spectacular that simple snugness of fit would hold everything together… and this proved overly optimistic.  All parts fit well enough to stay on for very minor handling but that’s about it.  The spikes in the ankles sometime slide down on their own and even the gun does a poor job staying together. Fortunately, the toy is made out of very high quality parts so, while stuff may pop off inadvertently or the whole toy might topple over, it’s pretty rare for something to actually break. Most joints are also easily tightened up with a piece of tape, some dried glue, or clear nail polish. You get to breathe easy knowing you won’t scratch anything since Yamato didn’t paint any detail on the exterior of the toy.  Unfortunately, all the limbs on this toy are very heavy and removable, a combination that can lead to looseness in some very key joints.  Once something this big and heavy gets loose it becomes an absolute nightmare to handle and the fun factor goes flying out the window.

Articulation: (7.5/10)
The articulation of this toy is good without being excellent.  Provided your joints haven’t gotten too loose you should be able to get this toy into some very impressive looking poses but you’ll frequently be reminded of its limitations.  All the joints that should be here are here (with the exception of articulated hands) but the range of motion on some of the joints is limited.  The elbow won’t give you more than 90 degrees of flex although the knees might surprise you in comparison to some other Scopedog toys out there. A truly brilliant Scopedog toy needs to have a lot of heft in the feet and AMAZING ankles… this toy has rather light feet comparably and good, but not amazing, ankles.

Total Score: (36.5/50)
Currently I have this toy scoring a hair lower than the Takara 1/18 Scopedog figures.  Yamato just barely failed to deliver in a few key areas that kept this toy from being a dream toy.  Visually these dogs just don’t seem to be in the same league with the Dual Model Zwei line (and can’t hold a candle to the ThreeZero toys that came later). It’s a shame because Yamato spent a lot of effort on the interior of the toy which many people will never take the time to enjoy.  Similarly, Yamato designed this toy with amazing care but the issues handling it make it feel like less than the sum of its parts.   If you’re someone who appreciates finer details a lot more than how cool a toy looks in a display case then you’ll probably prefer the Yamato but you should stick to the later releases and bring a lot of patience. If you’re someone who likes to customize their toys then this toy is a wonderful canvas for you to begin your work.

Original Post Date: December 15, 2012
Updated August 23, 2017: Added content relating to the ThreeZero releases, added content and pictures related to all version 1 releases beyond the first release, added HD video review.
Updated March 9, 2018: Added pictures and content relating to other Yamato releases including scans of the instruction manuals.
Updated October 20, 2018: Added information about the Red Shoulder Gift-Set and updated release information

One Reply to “Yamato 1/12 Votoms Toys”

  1. If you really love the design, you should give the 1/20 bandai model kit a try. It’s almost perfect. Too bad no toy has been able to reach such high level of detail, not even the huge yamato pieces.

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