ACKS VFG VF-31J Siegfried – Review

INTRODUCTION:

This time around we have something a little bit different for the tabletop. It’s not very often that I get myself a model kit. I usually don’t have the time or patience to build them, and then once I have the assembly completed I often don’t continue on to do the stickers/decals or even (*gasp!*) the painting. However, that being said, I’ve always been interested in the model kits that are based on the various Valkyrie fighter jets from the Macross universe (or Robotech if you are more familiar with that title).

While the ACKS Variable Fighter Girl  VF-31J Siegfried (phew!) may not be a “proper” Valkyrie kit, it’s certainly not a bad place to start. The Variable Fighter Girl (VFG) model kits follow in a long line of mecha musume style figures which include Busou Shinki, Armor Girls Project, and the Frame Arms Girl figures. The VFGs have more in common with the Frame Arms Girl figures than the AGPs as the Frame Arms Girls are model kits that need assembly, and the AGPs are complete figures with removable armour/weapons.

This particular Valkyrie features in the anime series “Macross Delta“, and it’s a bit of a surprise that they would go with a generic anime style girl and not use one of the Walküre girls from the show. One of Macross’ core themes is the power of music/song, and Macross Delta continues the trend by introducing us to an idol group made up of 5 members, rather than the usual one or two singers. It’s a bit of a wasted opportunity in my opinion, I would have really enjoyed seeing the Walküre girls get the mecha musume treatment.  This is my first time dealing with an ACKS (Aoshima Character Kit Selection) kit, so let’s see how we go, shall we?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

Bits n bobs.

As expected from most model kits these days, all the parts are molded in different colours and then arranged on numbered sprues, which means that once it’s assembled the end result is a pretty decent model, even before painting. The text in the instructions is written in Japanese, but the pictures/diagrams are pretty comprehensive, so anyone with any sort of model building experience can jump right in and start building. Model building newbies on the other hand, might not understand straight away some of the steps that the instructions are trying to convey. It’s also worth noting that the whole kit can be built without any glue whatsoever and it still holds together quite well.

“Ms. Siegfried”.

“Battroid” mode

Flash forward, and here we have our finished products. The VF-31J Siegfried in its fighter mode is very sleek and seems to share a lot of its looks with its predecessor – the VF-19. Even before any paint is applied, there is plenty of detail on display and the panel lines are very refined and clear. In a way it looks very plain and it’s clear to see that for the best results, it’s going to need the full treatment (painting, panel lining, decals, sealing). I haven’t applied any stickers or decals on mine just yet as I might wait until it’s painted before I even attempt to apply decals.

Note: Unfortunately, with my kit there seems to have been some sort of mold/printing error which has left my fighter with a rather large hole in the fuselage. It’s quite a let-down and it’s even worse since it’s in such a noticeable location. Hopefully this is an isolated incident, and not a testament to ACKS’ quality control.

I can’t go into space looking like this!

The girl figure (“Ms. Siegfried”?) shares the same colour pallete as the fighter and she actually turned out to be a bit taller than I was expecting. Her overall design is very reminiscent of the Busou Shinki line with the way that she combines with the Valkyrie to form a sort of “power suit”, although without the modular/customisable aspects. Due to the softer plastics in the joint areas, she’s able to hold her poses surprisingly well. She feels very light in hand but that would be due to the fact that a lot of her sections are hollow and she’s made from a different grade of plastic that you would normally find in figures of her size.

Size comparison with Vervietta and Lirbiete.

ACCESSORIES:

Not a lot of options here…

There’s not a lot of accessories here. The Valkyrie doesn’t come with a lot of weapons and there are no weapons or items for Ms. Siegfried to hold on to. As a result, she only has a few interchangeable faces (and a blank so you can create your own) and a few spare hands – left and right open, “gripping”, and flat. There are extra sets of eye decals included in the kit, but no lip/mouth decals which is a bit odd, but also understandable since the spare face is fairly plain as it is.

Even though Ms. Siegfried can move quite well, there’s no stand included for her or the fighter to allow for dynamic poses or to display the fighter “in flight” so to speak. From a display point of view, it would have been good to have her set up with the fighter displayed close by in a flying position. I’ve found that there are mounting holes for display stands to plug into, and that Figma stands work quite well. However, it is disappointing that there is no landing gear included for the fighter to be displayed in a landed position.

To be fair, the Vic Viper fighters don’t have landing gear either.

One can’t help but draw comparisons between the VFG model and the “Vic Viper Sisters” from the Busou Shinki line. Each figure can be displayed separately, or in a combined mode with their fighters. Although, while the Vic Vipers can be transformed into a stand-alone robot mode, the Valkyrie can only form a sort of “power suit” for Ms. Siegfried whilst in Battroid/robot mode. There is an option for her to ride around on the Valkyrie in its “Gerwalk” mode which is nice. The Vic Viper girls miss out on a Gerwalk mode due to how their fighters transform into their respective robot modes.

Lirbiete’s robot mode.
Vervietta’s robot mode.
… at least Ms. Siegfried can stand up by herself.

ARTICULATION:

Ms. Siegfried by herself moves pretty well and has a decent range of movement. However, when combined with the VF-31J the robot/mechanical limbs tend to be a bit restrictive. The soft plastic in the joints gives the limbs a smooth movement, and because the limbs are pretty light it’s easier for them to stay in position. In combined mode, the Valkyrie’s feet are pretty stable, but it would have been nice to have some sort of display stand for the more dynamic poses.

She does however have a port and an adapter for display stands to plug into, and the aforementioned Figma stand works a treat. You will need to be careful when moving her legs, as the hip pieces tend to get in the way and can easily pop off.

Seriously, can we do something about these?!

CONCLUSION:

375mL drink can for scale.

I must say that I have mixed feelings about this figure/kit. Yes, it’s Macross and the girl figure is definitely cute, but for me there are just too many negatives to instantly give this one the coveted “must have” status. I’m hoping that the mold error that my kit has is a purely isolated incident. How that got past quality control is beyond me.

Not funny, you guys!

I’m somewhat used to the occasional transforming figures that rely on “parts-forming”, but this is next level. It really makes switching between modes a chore and while the end result may look kind of cool, it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. There are too many small parts that need interchanging and sections that need to be disassembled and reassembled for my liking. Although the whole kit can be put together without glue, after a few rounds of “transforming”, you’ll start to figure out which pieces/sections can or should be glued together to stop them from coming apart during the whole process (ordeal?). This is definitely a “display, not play” piece.

If you’re a big fan of Macross and mecha musume, then you might enjoy this kit a bit more than I have.  I do love a bit of Macross (and I didn’t mind the Macross Delta anime series), but this kit is a bit of a sour note for me.  It’s also worth noting that now there’s another kit in the series which is the VF-31A Kairos (possibly worth getting if you’re into cat-girls as well 😉 ).  Just be wary of any mold imperfections if you do happen to get one.  It’s not due for release until December 2018, so there’s still time to consider if it’s worth getting.

The ACKS Variable Fighter Girl VF-31J Siegfried can be found at the links below along with other similar model kits/figures.

I mean really, what even ARE these things?
Hey guys, you haven’t seen any of my parts around here, have you?
… umm…
… I’m just gonna go now…

Good Smile Tachikoma – Review

INTRODUCTION:

The Tachikoma by the Good Smile Company had been a long term “Grail” of mine. And now that it’s in my collection I can most certainly confirm that it was definitely worth the wait. The Good Smile Company (along with Max Factory) are more famous for their Nendoroid and Figma  lines, so it’s interesting to see something a little different from them.

Box Front

The Tachikomas are a special type of A.I. controlled “spider-tank” (for want of a better word) that appear in the Ghost in the Shell franchise and this particular Tachikoma appears in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series. Although they pack some pretty serious firepower, the Tachikomas used by Section 9 tend to sound and behave a lot like children. The A.I. component of their design means that they can operate independently, or with a pilot at the controls. They have small wheels at the base of their feet which they use to get around with mostly, but they are capable of firing off tow-lines from either side of their “abdomens”/cockpits which they can use to climb walls and perform other spider-like functions.

Box Back

Among all the varying Tachikoma figures available, what sets this particular version apart from the others is the inclusion of a small scale figure of the Major, Motoko Kusanagi. The figure itself appears to be quite tiny (less than 1:18 scale approximately) and is pretty well articulated. Just like in the TV series, the abdomen/cockpit of the Tachikoma opens up for the Major to sit inside and operate the controls manually.

Not pictured: cup holder.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

Once you get the Tachikoma out of its box, the first thing you may notice is that it has quite a decent heft to it. This is due to the body, legs, and arms being made of a metal alloy. Only the abdomen is made of plastic, most likely due to all the moving parts in it. It’s a very good representation of the character, decked out in a metallic blue with silver accents and topped off with its characteristic white “bowling-ball” eyes (3 on the top of the body and 1 underneath the abdomen).

Everything moves fairly freely, and due the heavy nature of the body and limbs, the joints are extra “ratchety” to make up for this. As a side note: it’s typical for second hand figures to have weakened joints from having to support the weight of the body for extended periods of time. The wheels appear to be made from a hard rubber which may hinder standing because as the weight of the body presses down, the feet/wheels slide and the legs tend to splay out.

Walking on tip-toes so my feet don’t slide out on me!

The tiny (TINY!) Motoko figure that’s included is also pretty cool. This particular version of the Major is wearing her usual Section 9 tactical suit which primarily consists of shades of grey . It’s pretty well sculpted for such a small figure, even if it’s light on details. It’s also worth noting how fragile/delicate some of her joints appear to be. Although this figure appears to be quite poseable, I wouldn’t necessarily class it as an “action figure” (especially if you’ve had to pay a substantial “slow-poke tax” as I have). Great for posing and display, not so much for general play. The Major scales quite nicely with the Tachikoma and it’s nice to see them posed together.

Cover me!

ACCESSORIES:

Inside the cardboard box there’s a styrofoam piece that holds the Tachikoma, the Major, and an assortment of accessories. In the package you’ll find a set of interchangeable armour pieces that can be swapped out or re-arranged with the “lights” that attach to the abdomen/cockpit. Also included is an additional set of “feet” that have the wheels protruding slightly more so that the figure can roll around a bit easier. The armour pieces are plastic, whereas the extra feet are made of metal with a plastic wheel with the same hard rubber tyre.

There’s also a “mini-gun” attachment so you can replace the usual “cannon” main weapon for a “Gatling gun” variant. The Major herself only comes with 2 open hands and 2 right hands – one holding her pistol and one holding her trusty Seburo sub-machine gun. Unfortunately, the guns are moulded into her hands and therefore aren’t removable.

Also included is an instruction sheet and stickers that you can apply to the Tachikoma. It’s a bit of a shame that there wasn’t more accessories for the Major, but it’s kind of understandable given her small scale and that she’s technically the Tachikoma’s accessory.

ARTICULATION:

The Tachikoma itself moves as you would expect and the joints ensure that it can hold most poses pretty well. The joints that connect the legs and abdomen to the body feel a lot like the Revo joints that feature in the Revoltech line. They can offer full rotation around where the joint connects along with quite a sturdy click/ratchet. In this case it’s pretty necessary to have this ratcheting action in order for the legs to support the heavy weight of the metal main body.

Care to explain how tyre tracks got on the ceiling?

The legs and arms are also made of metal but aren’t as heavy. The “eyes” have a full 360 degree range of motion and can roll around similar to how a trackball works. The joints for the legs can rotate fully and have a sort of dual swivel system which allows the top of the legs to move up and down as well as backwards and forwards. The second joint in the legs also has full rotation, but the movement in and out is somewhat limited.

The arms are connected to the body with ball joints, but the range of motion is limited due to the body, legs, and the Tachikoma’s main weapon getting in the way. The end of each arm has a claw that can rotate and has articulated pincers that can individually open and close. The main gun can also move around a bit but its range is pretty limited. The “cannon” attachment also features a sort of “safety” muzzle cover that can be removed after its “pin” is pulled out (possibly a safety measure to ensure that a rogue Tachikoma would be unable to fire its cannon by itself).
The joint connecting the abdomen to the body allows for full rotation but can only tilt up and down slightly. The silver “spinnerets” on either side of the abdomen can also spin all the way around.

However, what makes this figure the definitive version is that it has an opening cockpit. Not just an opening cockpit, but also the inclusion of a little poseable figure of Motoko that fits nicely inside. The cockpit opens by pulling the top upwards and then opening the doors outwards. The doors also slide outwards slightly to allow them to open more. Inside is a fairly detailed rendition of what the interior would look like. It’s easy to see where the pilot would sit and how they would interact with the controls. Closing the cockpit is just a simple matter of reversing the process and having everything tab into where it’s supposed to.

What? I’m drivin’ here!

The Motoko figure that comes with this particular Tachikoma is pretty cool in its own right. It’s quite poseable and is a decent representation of the character given its small size. The head sits on a ball joint in the base of the neck which allows for a decent range of motion.

Her head can rotate fully and tilt forward to a fair degree, but can’t tilt backward very far, if at all due to the collar of her suit. The shoulders have a double ball joint and there’s a swivel just above the elbows.

The elbows themselves have a hinge that can bend to just past 90 degrees, and there’s a ball joint in the wrists. The ball joints in the wrists also allow for the interchanging of hands. The waist has a ball joint, as do the hips.

The joints in the hips allow for a decent range of movement, but it’s slightly hindered by the sculpt. There is a swivel just above the knees and the hinge in the knees allows them to bend to just past 90 degrees.

Her ankle area is surprisingly well articulated, with a ball joint just above the foot as well as a “rocker” joint in the foot which allows for a decent tilt left and right. All of this combines to make this figure of Motoko the smallest, yet most dynamic to date.

CONCLUSION:

The Tachikoma by the Good Smile Company is regarded as the definitive version of any Tachikoma figure based on the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex TV series so far. It’s the most accurate and most poseable given its size and the inclusion of the Major as a figure that can fit inside the cockpit makes it a worthy addition to any toy collection, especially for all you Ghost in the Shell fans out there. It must be said however, that this particular figure is only available at aftermarket prices, which can be pretty crazy at times. It’s these crazy prices that push this figure into “Holy Grail” status for many collectors, so if you want it, be prepared to pay a hefty price for it.

375mL drink can for scale.

That being said, once you have this figure in your collection, you won’t be disappointed (just make sure you find one with strong joints that can support its own weight 😉 ).  For a much (MUCH!) cheaper alternative, Revoltech have released their own Tachikoma figures.  Although they are much smaller than the Good Smile version, they still come with some interesting accessories and can be a lot of fun to play with.  Also worth mentioning is the Perfect Piece Tachikoma which sort of sits in between the Good Smile and Revoltech versions in both size and price.  It’s a fairly detailed figure and it has a metallic finish as well as an opening cockpit, but the pilot Motoko figure isn’t poseable, or as detailed (or as much fun 😉 ).

The Good Smile Tachikoma can be found at the links below along with other figures in the Good Smile range.



You ready to go and fight crime?

I’d love to… but there’s someone already at the controls…
Wha…? Who’s in there?!
Come out with your hands up!
Umm…. Hi?…
Oh for… Get out of there!
You can’t go around stealing Tachikomas just because your movie sucks.