Review: All versions!
Packaging & Extras: (5/5)
It always surprises me when toy manufacturers decide to compete in the category of “nicest packaging”. The box (24.5 x 37.5 x 12 cm) 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, 31F Messer, 31C Mirage, 31S Arad, 31E Chuck)
2) Co-pilot figure (31J – Freyja, 31F Kaname, 31C Makina, 31S Mikumo, 31E Reina)
3) 2 x Knife with pivot gimmick (for stowing behind the forearm)
4) 2 x multi-drone, 1x in flight (arrow) configuraiton, 1x in projection (square) configuraiton
5) 6x pairs of fixed posed hands (fist, grip, pistol grip straight, pistol grip cocked, open hands, salute)
6) Display stand (consisting of a base and arm)
7) 3x clear display stand adapters (fighter, GERWALK, battroid)
There’s no mention of a gun because if the VF-31 had one, it was included in the integrated mission pack rather than being a separate extra (the VF-31E does not have a gun). Similarly, I didn’t mention the 1-seat conversion piece (a cover for the back seat) because it comes installed on all the Delta Squadron planes. All said, it’s a wonderful package with the accessories you would want and a display stand to boot. While the show generally depicts the 31 without a payload, the hard points on the wings may leave you wishing some additional weapons were included.
The VF-31F was released in two flavors. The first Messer release (TV) came with everything described above and added the following:
9) 2x replacement head lasers
10) 1x replacement head fin
The VF-31F was reissued to support the Macross Delta movie: Passionate Walkure. In the movie, Hayate pilots the VF-31F briefly and the VF-31F uses the Li’l Drakkens that are more commonly associated with Windermere’s SV-262s. While the VF-31F toy is unchanged, the accessories were modified slightly to correlate to the movie’s action:
2) Instead of a Kaname co-pilot figure, the movie version comes with the Hayate pilot figure that was included with the 31J
4) Instead of Multi-drones in flight or projection configurations, you receive Li’l Drakken attachment adapters (2x fighter & GERWALK,2x battroid, in the same plastic tray that includes the display stand)
8) The instruction booklet has a few different pages to cover the different story and the new attachment adapters. Bandai DX VF-31F Movie Version Pages (web)
Note: you dont’ actually get Li’l Drakkens with this toy. Also note: the Li’l Drakken accessory that Bandai sold in January 2019 came with these same adapters. If you own the SV-262 Li’L Drakken and Missiles set and want to use those Li’L Drakken on this toy rather than buying another accessory, you can use the adapters included here.
Unlike the Delta squadron valks, the Tamashii exclusive Kairos toy doesn’t come with the 1-seat conversion piece installed; instead you receive that part in the accessories baggy in lieu of a copilot figure which is a bit perplexing… the toy comes in 2 seat configuration because there is no copilot. The multi-drones have also been eliminated. A second head laser is included “just in case” but it really doesn’t seem necessary.
Hayate’s VF-31JKai release was a bit of a different breed. The event exclusive comes in an additional sleeve that touts the Tamashii 10th anniversary celebration. Things look pretty familiar inside but there are some minor tweaks to the content. The copilot figure and multi-drones are conspicuously absent. Sorry Freyja, no ride for you this time. Instead, you get the following:
7) 2x hard point adapters to attach the reaction missiles to the wings
8) 2x clips for connecting the reaction missiles to the super parts (sold separately)
9) 2x pairs of reaction missiles
Arad’s DX VF-31S toy comes with everything outlined from the original releases and adds the parts that the 31JKai came with which theoretically should justify its slightly higher MSRP.
Bandai’s final VF-31 toy before moving on to the 31AX was the VF-31J Hayate with Fold Projection Equipment. Though the box was the same dimensions and made from the same sturdy cardboard, it was simplified to remove the flip-top lid. Inside the box you get everything that came with the original Hayate VF-31J but this one comes with the fold projection mission pack installed. Added to the display stand tray you’ll also get:
9) Standard mission pack
It had been more than 5 years since the original Hayate release so this package was a nice way of doing a reissue and including a bonus without a big price increase.
Charm & Collectability: (4.5/5)
Collectors were cautious initially; it’s very rare that the first attempt to make a toy from a new Valkyrie design goes well, but this was one of the rare exceptions. At 32 cm long in fighter mode (25.5 cm tall in battroid) and about 420 grams the toys are 1/60 scale and feel fairly heavy in the hand. The toy has metal (mostly in the joints and feet) and transformation is perfect so the two most important boxes of collectability are checked off. Bandai threw everyone for a curve with the release of the VF-31J Kai at the Tamashii Nations 2017 event. There was limited stock available at the event. More stock was made available for a wider release through a lottery. How many lottery winners were there? Only Bandai knows but we didn’t see a huge price drop in the secondary market after it happened. It was surprising to see the VF-31A get a release before Chuck’s 31E or Arad’s 31S. The Kairos release didn’t seem to go smoothly with a number of retailers canceling orders and rumors swirling about Bandai limiting the number of toys that were shipped to any given address, possible QC issues, and possibly several batches being released. I don’t know the truth but I do know that buying a Kairos was very hard to do and expensive if you weren’t able to secure one on release. The final VF-31J Hayate with fold projection unit release didn’t make much of a splash as the VF-31AX had already been teased as part of the marketing for the next Delta movie. The fold unit appears briefly in episode 6, that animation was repurposed as the beginning battle in the movie Passionate Walkure. All delta squad gets fold projection units in the episode and all are used in conjunction with Super Parts so an argument could have been made that the fold unit should have been included with the Super Parts. Look for my separate post on the Tamashii exclusive accessories. See the image above for a full release schedule.
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. Hayate gets a nice helmet-less pilot figure in either of his releases. I wasn’t thrilled the copilot figures had helmets on since I remember seeing their faces most the time but it certainly makes sense economically. The intake turbine detail, like the renewal VF-25 toys before them, lacks paint and looks 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.
The VF-31F toy’s canopy is less opaque but it still makes it difficult to see the pilots within. Fans of the planes that have emblems painted on the back (the 31JKai, 31F, and 31S) will be let down by the angle of the logo on the plane’s back. To be anime accurate the logo should be pitched pretty significantly forward from its position on the toy and there’s no clear reason why Bandai changed the angle.
The 31JKai has a barely perceptible darker tint to the blue from the original 31J release. It’s so slight most people wouldn’t even notice it and it obviously does not affect the ability to use the original 31J fast packs.
The Mirage pilot figure does have a bit more chest so it’s clear she’s a woman. The 31C head mold may be my favorite.
Arad’s 31S has a logo on the back that isn’t supposed to be angled so Bandai couldn’t repeat their problem with getting that wrong but the emblem does appear that it’s been shrunk down a little bit. Despite this, the logo looks fantastic as does the overall scheme. From a mechanical design standpoint, I like what Kawamori did on the head by bridging the two and four turret approach.
While all the “Siegfried” releases are the same except for head and paint scheme, the Kairos has a unique head and paint scheme and some changes to the mold. Here are the changes in no particular order:
1) the multi-drones in the legs were replaced with missiles.
2) YF-30 style wings
3) larger canards
4) different sensors in front of the cockpit
5) wider kibble next to the head in fighter mode (that doesn’t swing open during transformation)
The 31E retained the over-frosted canopy found on prior releases. The 31E comes outfitted with a radome on its mission pack. The radome tucks away nicely but it does make the butt of the 31E in fighter mode look less streamlined. The radome gives you four deployment options (fully opened, opened,solid disc, and stowed). When the radome is deployed in any manner it does leave a rather large gap right down the middle of the plane but it’s not too easily noticed when viewing from any forward angle. Though the head sculpt is reminiscent of the 31A, it also has several unique elements.
The VF-31J Hayate with fold projection unit is a reissue of the original VF-31J Hayate with an additional mission pack. The fold projection unit comes attached but can be swapped out for the standard mission pack. The back of the standard mission pack is gray so it blends in with the back of the plane. The back of the fold projection unit is white and doesn’t look as good; which is all the more reason to have it up and deployed. Once opened up the paint work is impeccable and there’s a nice clear lens over the center portion. Having this deployed would obviously not work well in atmospheric conditions so it makes more sense to pair it with the sold separately super parts.
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
Other positives include:
5) The same optional 2 seat configuration exactly as it was on the renewal VF-25 and the YF-29 toys
6) Compartments on the back of the leg that slide forward to expose Walkure’s hologram devices (“multidrones). The door opens either pivoted upward or slid all the way forward. The 31A replaces the multi-drones with missiles.
7) The gun can be removed from the mission pack and held in the toy’s hand
8) The mission pack can be deployed in fighter mode or not deployed in GERWALK mode for a different look
9) The mission pack can be removed entirely (potential for sold separately accessories there!)
10) Guns that pivot forward on the forearms in GERWALK and battroid modes
11) The ability to stow the daggers behind the forearms and leave them there through transformation
12) Ratcheting joints in the hips and knees (super useful given all that kibble that hangs off the back)
Beyond the gimmicks, the toy is very solid in each mode with perfect transformation that is complex without being demanding. 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 not a problem here; everything is solid. This toy feels like a generational improvement over the renewal Frontier toys with the DX YF-30 being the transition (I’d consider the 19Adv a member of this new generation as well). All the faults of the YF-30 are neatly addressed here without the addition of new problems. No supports are needed, 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 because bits go askew. The guns that swing around on the forearm have a similar issue, they can slide inward in fighter mode making the seams too large, they would benefit from detents in the fully forward and fully back positions. 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 big plus of Hayate’s Kai release and later, Arad’s 31S, was the inclusion of reaction missiles. The missiles are pretty cool in that they are individual missiles that peg together. The bridge that holds the two missiles together has a circular hole that you can plug a hard point adapter into that would then attach to the wing. It would have been cool if the hard point adapter fit the same way that the missiles attach to the bridge so you could opt to put one missile on each hard point. This couldn’t be done because the missiles need to spin on their hard point to be facing the correct direction as the toy goes from fighter to GERWALK mode. While the attachment system was a little funky, it worked properly and failed to frustrate so I’m still very pleased with it.
The VF-31E added the radome mission pack which folds nicely to stow underneath the craft in a way that does not interfere with the use of the landing gear or fighter mode display stand adapter. As mentioned in the sculpt session, you also have different extension points you can use for spreading the dome out or creating a solid disc. Though the disc has some seams and isn’t perfect in how it comes together, it is solid and looks good enough for my tastes. As with other mission packs, you have the option to keep the array stowed in GERWALK mode. In Battroid mode you can chose to keep the dome collapsed behind the vehicle or put the dome up high like the original Elintseeker.
The fold projection unit that comes with the final Hayate 31J reissue can be removed and installed on any other VF-31 (including 31AX) toy. The unit has many sliding/concealed hinges to keep the look as streamlined as possible.
Durability & Build: (8/10)
It’s now been over a year since the first DX VF-31 toy hit the shelves and we have yet to hear about any particular point that is breaking on users. 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 painted hook that is on top of bare plastic and the arms are almost guaranteed to rub against this and shear some paint off. Other areas of paint rub I’ve seen on my toy include a rather annoying scrape behind the canopy (where the gap I’m about to discuss sometimes forms) and near the swivel on the biceps. 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 little thicker than all the other seams. You can reduce/eliminate it with some pressure but during handling it will pop back up (and pushing it too firmly might be how I caused my paint to rub off on my Messer toy). 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 toys were much kinder. I was able to massage them 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 samples have had no problems, offering an audible click to let me know success was achieved. It’s worth noting that there are no in-between locking points for the ankle, they’re either out and locked in position out or they’re in all the way, anything in between is free to slide. Specific to the Messer toy, the head spike is removable which helps prevent breakage but does create the possibly of it being lost. Initially I wasn’t too off-put by how easily the spike could pop out but it seemed to become more of a nuisance the more I handled the toy. If you find yours is loose, the easy fix is to put a tiny bit of clear nail polish, white glue, or even a sliver of clear tape to help bolster the thickness of the peg and then reinstall it.
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: (45.5/50)
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.
Original post: January 4, 2017
May 28, 2017, Added VF-31F Messer content
October 22, 2017, added VF-31C Mirage content and HD video review.
April 22, 2018, added VF-31A Kairos content and 4K video review.
November 4, 2018, added content pertaining to the Movie release of the VF-31F
August 18, 2019, added VF-31E Chuck content
February 9, 2022, added VF-31J Hayate with fold unit content