ROBOBLOG III Archives

1.07.2007

If this were any better a Valkyrie, I think Harmony Gold would have to sue.

So Hasbro, manufacturer of the Transformers toy line, has had this gap to deal with between their recently concluded Transformers Cybertron toy line/cartoon and this coming July 4th weekend's big budget, Michael Bay-directed Transformers feature film. To fill this gap, they've been making updated figures of some of the most prominent characters from the first three years of the original 1980's Transformers toy line and cartoon.

And of course, one of the most beloved toys of the original Transformers toy line is everybody's favorite Super VF-1S Valkyrie Fighter repaint, Jetfire, the Autobot Air Guardian (officially licensed from Bandai, manufacturer of the toy, by Hasbro). The problem with doing Jetfire today is that, by golly, he's a Super VF-1S. Thankfully for Hasbro, back in the day they had to create a fake Jetfire named Skyfire for the cartoon, since the manufacturer of the bulk of the Transformers line back in Japan, Takara, didn't want the cartoon to advertise another manufacturer's toys, so the new Jetfire toy is an homage to both the original toy and the cartoon version.


Original Transformers Jetfire and Skyfire model sheets for the 1980's Transformers cartoon, yanked from the Teletraan-1 entry on Jetfire. This Jetfire animation design was only used for the original toy commercial in 1985.


Of course, it's still as close to a Valkyrie as you can get without being either licensed by Big West or Harmony Gold, or being a cheap, shoddy piece of work you'd find at Big Lots. The Skyfire design had a lot of really ugly bits to it, especially in plane mode, so most of the callbacks in Fighter mode are to the toy, which if you'll recall does bear more than a passing resemblance to the F-14 Tomcat, the coolest real-world fighter plane of the 1980's.


Fighter mode. Note the swing-wings and FAST packs. He also has the arm armor of the Super Valkyrie, which fires those clear blue missiles, though his arms are at the sides instead of between the Fighter mode legs. The gun you see beneath the blue missile is half of Jetfire's twin-barreled laser cannon, which is based on the Skyfire animation model. Splitting the gun in two and storing it this way hides the robot mode hands, the otherwise exposed hands being one of the few major annoying bits of the toy's transformation (or in this one little case, lack thereof).

While the nosecone is ugly as sin, it's an homage to the squared-off Skyfire nosecone, only done up in the Jetfire toy's colors. The intakes on the front cleverly fold up to the sides to become the intakes on the robot chest, as on the Valkyrie robot design. That's a clever bit of turning a weakness in one mode into a strength in another.

In the Skyfire animation design, the FAST packs were turned into one big brick that the tailfins stuck out of -- a very inelegant solution that made Skyfire look even less aerodynamic than squaring off all the fighter's curves did. Here the toy designers stick with what works, even if it means totally aping the Macross FAST packs. A top view would show you that between the packs is a fake version of the Valkyrie's tailfin/small thruster cluster bit that folds up in the GERWALK/Guardian and Battroid/Battloid modes. It's fake because when you remove the FAST packs, it comes off as well, and Jetfire's vertical tailfins fold up from the sides.

I really like how they put the twin lasers on the sides of the nosecone, splitting the difference between the Valkyrie head lasers and the occasionally-seen "nose lasers" from the Macross animation. That's a cute touch.


GERWALK/Guardian mode. Not in the instructions, of course, but very doable. For comparison, Yamato's 1/60 VF-1A in Hikaru colors, as close to Jetfire colors as mass-released Valkyries get. Since this Valkyrie is sans Super Valkyrie equipment, I thought I'd strip Jetfire of his as well -- and let me tell you, getting those FAST packs off is a total pain, and I think it even shaved off some bits of the plastic clips that hold it in place when I yanked the piece off.

One thing that the nigh-to-excessive panel lines and the style of the tailfins make clear is that the designers took this very much to be a "space F-14," going back to the real aircraft that Shoji Kawamori took for inspiration when designing the VF-1 in order to de-Valkyrie-fy the Jetfire design. The wings have much more of a Valkyrie shape to them than an F-14 shape, however.


Battroid mode. Standing next to my Toynami Hikaru's Strike VF-1S super-poseable figure, I think all the major points of comparison are made crystal clear. If you clicky-click for detail, though, you can even notice the (unpainted) Valkyrie shoulder lights flanking Jetfire's head. That Valkyrie head, by the way, is a helmet that comes off to reveal a very good likeness of the Skyfire animation model's head.

The wings, of course, sweep up in an homage to Skyfire. Similarly, the strange look of Jetfire's legs is an homage to the very bizarrely curved and flared shape of Skyfire's legs. Oddly enough, y'know, the super-poseable Valkyrie's giant knees remind me more of Skyfire's knees than Jetfire's do. While the rounded parts on Jetfire's shoulders reference Skyfire's, there are small triangular markings on there that seem to be a reference to the particular markings on the Valkyrie shoulders. Hmm.

The FAST packs reveal spring-loaded Strike Valkyrie-style guns because when you're making a big cool toy like this, you've got to get as many spring-loaded weapons on there as possible. Isn't there some VF-1 variant from the Macross II timeline that has Strike packs that bend and fold like this?

All in all, a very cool, cleverly thought-out figure that makes a ROBOTECH and Transformers fan like me doubly giddy. Aside from the clips that hold the FAST pack on, which are a bit too strong and consequently a bit too prone to breakage I think, the whole thing is very solidly put together, and while the transformation process isn't as smooth as the Valkyrie transformation ... um, seriously, what is? Personally, I'd call this twenty bucks well spent.

4 Comments:

  • Underneath the chest hinge in vehicle mode, there's a tiny, embossed copyright notice:
    © TAKARA 2006
    © 2006 HASBRO, INC.

    That's probably the main reason Harmony Gold USA would be foolish to sue. Takara bought a majority stake in Tatsunoko Productions in 2005. Takara also hired Studio Nue in the 1980s to help design the Diaclone toys that would later become the Transformers, and Studio Nue still does Transformers work for Takara today. Studio Nue (via Big West) and Tatsunoko happen to be the copyright owners of Macross.

    If Harmony Gold sued, it would be suing the same people who produced the anime and gave them the license in the first place. Harmony Gold could sue for breach of contract, but they would look awfully silly doing so and destroy what little remains of their credibility in Japan.

    For another possible design homage, check out the back end of the arm blaster units (on either side) and behind the fake trigger of the handheld cannon (on either side) for a familiar bar-intersected circle.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 January, 2007 02:29  

  • What is the matter with you trying to tell HG to sue. It will look stupid for your HG players.

    Words of wisdom.
    HG was a nice small little company but nobody knew the evil they do when they got a little bigger and greedy plottin on a another way to make money by suing, but I tell you it is a rough world, Go to school HG and make your own shows instead ripping other people work, You tell me its a corporate's world, play the rules
    And fade fools, like big west 'n break rules until we major Blaze up, getting with lawyers through your pager Was raised up, commencing to money makin' tactics

    HG sitting getting buzzed, looking for some easy way to make money from the tranformers, cause HG wanna be a BIG BULLY.

    Say HG wanna sue
    HG gonna sue
    yes they gonna sue
    One day HG gonna sue
    yes HG gonna sue

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 January, 2007 18:03  

  • Dude, I was making a joke. Geez ...

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 09 January, 2007 00:47  

  • Maybe you need one of those disclaimers like darkwater has, because apparently some folks think you ARE Harmony Gold ...

    By Anonymous Untitled, at 10 January, 2007 18:26  

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