Bandai have a history with Macross toys going back almost to the beginning of the franchise, when they bought up newly bankrupt Takatoku Toys in 1984 (promptly licensing the Macross VF-1S along with some toys from Dorvack and Beetras to Hasbro to use as Jetfire and the Deluxe Autobots and Decepticons), with their first outing being the use of the Takatoku molds for Do You Remember Love tie-in toys, expanding the line to include Strike, ELINTseeker and Ostritch Valkyries. In the 90s they did a short-lived set of toys based on the VF-19 and VF-17 from Macross 7 (which got bootlegged heavily and you can still find them on eBay if you want a cheap and not awful valkyrie toy), but then they kinda exited the Macross scene right before Yamato started work on their original Macross toys, happy just to reissue some Takatoku VF-1s in the early 2000s
When Macross Frontier came along, Bandai were producers/sponsors, and acquired the rights to do 1/60 scale toys of the mecha - this lead to much wailing and gnashing of fan teeth because Yamato wouldn't be doing them, but their DX Chogokin VF-25 line was pretty well recieved in the end, and they continued release 1/60 toys to tie in with the Macross Frontier movies and the Macross 30 computer game, including revised versions of their VF-25 and VF-27 toys to improve detail and poseability.
And continuing this trend, Bandai are now doing toys from Macross Delta, and the first release is Delta 5 - Hayate Immelman's VF-31J which he flies for most of the series. The VF-31 is based on the YF-30 from the Macross 30 game, and while Bandai made a YF-30 toy, the new VF-31 is an almost entirely new design, improving on the flaws of its predecessor.
To begin, the box is the nicest I've ever gotten with a Bandai Chogokin toy. Usually the box is a thin piece of cardboard, opening at the side to reveal a slab of styrofoam containing the toy and sometimes a plastic tray with accessories. Here, the box art is nicer than usual, and it lifts open form the top to reveal a blue card sheet bisected with a red stripe that says REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT. Beneath this is the styrofoam slab with the valkyrie in fighter mode, secure with a clear plastic lid, but even here the baggies containing the main accessories have a space in the styrofoam, covered by a piece of card with VF-31 written on it and a checklist of the contents. Beneath the styrofoam is a plastic tray with the display stand and then the instruction manual at the bottom.
Fighter mode is a big old pile of sexy swept-forward wing goodness. Features include removable intake covers (something Bandai only started to do after their initial valkyrie toys) deployable landing gear with a tow bar, but while the detail is much improved over Bandai's earlier efforts, they're still unpainted metal, while Arcadia's valks have painted white ones to better match real-world aircraft. Opening cockpit with a removable panel to reveal a backseat:
Opening hatches to reveal banks of non-deployable multidrones
And 4 underwing hard points, though no external ordnance is included in the set. This is a Bandai standard, unfortunately - the only Macross Chogokin to include compatible weapons is an upgrade set for the VF-171, and if you do have that set, you have to share the missiles out amongst all your Bandai valks. Or you're SOL. I tested various Yamato/Arcadia underwing weapons and none fit well. Boo
The design work here is exceptional. Like all Macross toys it take its cues on the overall transformation from the line art, and there's some amazing work here. Here's the 31's undercarraige in fighter mode:
See those blue triangles? Those are the hands. Here's a shot with the hatches that hide them opened up:
The panel just in front of the hand becomes a shield on the arm, and the gun and its mount point become the forearm. The white piece in front of the gun barrel is the arm's bicep
GERWALK mode is quite impressive. It continues some of Kawamori's more recent design elements, where the wing assembly is quite large and stretches backwards, giving the valkyrie more of a feeling of a plane with arms and legs, as opposed to a transition form between fighter and battroid mode. This is also the first point where the weapons pod is really noticeable. The YF-30 has this huge bar-shaped missile launcher thing, but the VF-31 swaps that out for a paired system that has a cannon on one side and a charger for the multridrones on the other. A huge improvement over the YF-30 is that the VF-31 locks together extremely tightly in GERWALK mode, while the 30 needed an external piece added to stop the back half from flopping downward
Transformation to Battroid mode is quite complicated - it took me a lot of fiddling to get the neck into the correct position, and the head pops off a lot. Again following on from Kawamori's recent designs, the engine intake/hips remain in place and the rest of the nose folds up to form the chest, and there's some very impressive bits flipping around to make it happen. That neck assembly is frustrating, but it works really well to provide the head a lot of clearance in Battroid mode, but have it flush with the hull in GERWALK and fighter mode.
Clips extend out fom sections that are hidden in each mode, work to keep parts in place. Remember when I said the back half of GERWALK mode remains solidly in place? turns out it's a pair of spars that do it, and you flip them downwards during transformation to unlock the back and flip it down to make the back pack. It's such a nice little touch.
The hands are kinda cool - the thumb, index finger and middle/ring/little fingers are poseable, though the index finger is pointing (or keeping off a trigger if you prefer) and has no knuckle joint like the other fingers do, meaning your posing options are a flat palm, pointing, a slightly curled fist, or holding a weapon. The Arcadia standard poseable hand has a little less range of motion, but in this case it means it looks a bit better than Bandai's effort here.
"Who's got two thumbs and an advanced variable fighter? Hayate Immelman!"
"I want YOU! For Chaos Ragna"
Accessory wise, there's not much in the box, A display stand (the same basic stand that's been included with Chogokin valkyries for about a decade) with connectors for all three modes (with no posing options like my fancy Yamato and Arcadia bases), six(!) pairs of fixed-pose hands, a pair of knives that fold up to be stowed internally, pilot figures of Hayate (not wearing a helmet, as was his wont in the show) and Frejya (wearing a space suit and helmet), and a pair of multidrones - one folded up, one deployed (but there's no way to actually use these with the toy or mount them on a display stand, so they're just little bits of plastic). The cannon on the weapons pod is removable and mountable as a rifle, and while you can grip it with the poseable hand, the fixed-pose hands designed to hold the gun (and knives!) work better. Oh well.
Overall this is an amazing toy. I don't know if it's my favourite valkyrie toy, but it's well up there. The best Bandai have done (though to be fair, I only own one other Bandai valk) Solid as all hell, some amazing things happening in the transformation, highly poseable and incredible details. There are minor flaws here too, but nothing that detracts too much from the overall package
More photos? More Photos:
"Hora ubatte! Shibatte! Madamada!"