Saturday, February 14, 2015

Holy Grails & ASTRO PLAN 太空历险记/星原战记

Just about a year without a blog post.  Oh, well...

No model kits, model rockets or dinosaurs.  A change in employment and lots of business work & challenges have kept me limited primarily to just buying toys, and fixing rather worn & broken ones that were inexpensive, budget-oriented acquisitions.   I did manage to fill in a couple of spots on my robot toy 'holy grail' list, thanks to online camaraderie, trades, or generally being willing to take an items that was worn or flawed...

One of the best two scores was an original Takatoku 1/55 Armored Valkyrie armor set from MACROSS.  No decals other than what a previous owner had applied, and a battered box that suffered from some bad mildew at some past point.  The color is pretty good and the parts cleaned up nicely.  I should be able to cobble together similar decals for some of the missing spots.

The other was a great lucky find by a Facebook contact, which I traded a rare Microman piece for.  A Gakken "Henshin Robo" (USA) edition of the gigantic transformable MOSPEADA Legioss fighter - Zeta variant.  Pristine minty new in an excellent box, like it fell right out of 1985!  I scanned the decals for archive, so I'll be using the originals.

I also scored a boxed 1/55 Takatoku VF-1S Valkyrie from a Facebook contact. Again, probably more battered than most collectors would want.  Unused decals were included, which I really want to develop into a reproduction set.  It might have had an arm replaced somewhere along the way, and I had to repair the front landing gear clutch.

Last, but not least, was a cheap, broken and dirty 1/55 Takatoku blue Max VF-1J.  Dirt cheap, some collector's abandoned repair job judging by the miss-assembled head joint, and the missing crown gear, spring & screw in its shoulder (which I had replaced prior to this shot). Also needs a gun pod and a lot of white strips and other decals.  But it's still a real blue Max.

Another couple of pieces that came to me early in 2014 were two large ASTROPLAN [ 太空历险记/星原战记 ] variable fighter mecha.  They're from a Chinese animated production notorious for replication of Macross Frontier & Gundam designs, and inconsistent production values.  But one thing that was consistently great were their variable fighters based on the Chinese YF-10 & VF-11 fighter planes, rendered as transforming mecha similar to the mechanics of the 1980's Macross VF-1 Valkyrie toys  & models, but with the textures and styling of the newer Macross variable fighters.

These things are huge and colorful!  Some careful dis-assembly and tweaking, and a little work with a panel line marker and they're absolutely beautiful.  This is the YF-11, a particular variant for the hero team's female member, Xi Jing.  I had to tweak the feet to open properly, and did some panel line inking.  They're a little fragile in some respects.  Rather like the better knockoff  VF Valkyries in weight and fragility, but quite a bit nicer.  They probably wouldn't handle much kid play, but they're fine for Variable Fighter collectors...

This is one of the YF-10 variants.  Note the size... and resemblance... compared to Bandai's chogokin Macross Frontier [v1] VF-25S.

They come with a bevvy of missiles and bombs, and have slightly flexible PVC hands which helps it hold the gun pod nicely.   Articulation is decent, with clicky crown gears, PVC where parts might get flexed and broken, and reasonable articulation.  Overall, they probably just needed some more debugging and more solid materials.  But who can say what the development budget was or what else impacted the design & manufacturing choices?  All I know is that they look great, and fit in nicely with some of my biggest mecha.  There are 6 versions, three character-specific colorways for each of the two fighter types, and they've got beautiful boxes with poster instruction sheets.  Each variant in the show has its own special unique weapon & attack, but the toys just come with the same shared rifle & missiles.

The Astro Plan toys are actually dirt cheap in China at the current exchange rate.  These two birds cost about $7 USD each.  I got them via TaoBao, using a very nice proxy service.  The real expense is shipping, because they're so huge in their boxes (which you will absolutely want, because they look so great), and any shipping other than EMS or FedEx from China is considered very slow unreliable... so you're all-in on shipping.  They're also becoming rare, with fewer & fewer TaoBao shops offering them.

If you want to try to get some of your own AstroPlan toys & models, try THIS SEARCH of AstroPlan products, looking for the ones with RED TIPPED MISSILES visible in the box window if you want these big ones.  There are several smaller, less-elaborate ones in very similar packaging that TaoBao sellers are offering for the SRP of these larger ones - which is about 50-70 HKD.  There are also model kits and event smaller sized ones.  But for all the effort and mailing expense, you might as well just get a couple of big ones.

Maybe next, an appreciation of Matchbox's ROBOTECH toy line - which is cheap, and much of which originated in Japan (even the infamous 3 3/4" character action figures).