Friday, July 6, 2012

Figure Friday: G1 Jetfire

With this article, I'm taking a week vacation.

A Figure Friday on Jetfire has been in the making for a while. In some ways, I have almost been nervous for writing this, or taking the pictures. You see, neither the pictures nor my words will suffice in describing how magnificent this toy is. I will of course try my best, but as you will see, the pictures I've taken are mediocre.
And my words.. well read on for what is truly the best toy ever made.





I will assume that most people reading this will understand part of what the big deal is. I mean... just look at him!


But it's obviously more than just how the toy looks. In order to understand some of it, I suggest you read what I wrote about Macross.

Straight to the point, Macross was a Japanese cartoon in the early 80s. It revolved around ancient alien technology being discovered by the humans. Where Transformers was all fun and kid-friendly, Macross wasn't. Or rather, it was, but it was intended for a different audience. Macross would have been almost unwatchable by the American children (and their overly protective parents), and to a lesser extent the European kids.

Death, nudity, genocide, war, complicated emotions. This would not have been considered a children's cartoon, which is also the reason why it was completely remade when it got released to a US audience, and renamed Robotech.
The essence of Macross may have disappeared, because it's a fantastic cartoon, and Robotech is only ok. But the design of the piloted robots remained. And I guess that's what really matters for a kid, whether he's from America, Europe or Japan.


And the design of the Macross robots/jets are flawless. It's a design that just sticks. It resembles an actual jet, but is somewhat unfamiliar and exotic, in a sci-fi kind of way. And then it turns into a robot. And who doesn't love jets that turn into robots?
I'm still a kid at heart, but I also appreciate stories that manage to keep me interested, and I will admit that the connection to Macross is a big reason why I hold this toy in such a high regard.

Macross may be awesome, but this is a Transformer, right?

Right! Sort of. And here's the biggest reason why this is such a fantastic toy, at least in my opinion.
You see, Jetfire was included in the second year of Transformers toys, which Japanese toy company Takara  in collaboration with Hasbro made. Most of the original Transformers came from other, previous toylines from Takara, including Megatron, Ratchet and Soundwave. To put it simply, most of the Transformers toys weren't originally intended to be "Transformers", they simply were transforming toys.

But Takara, as big as they were, didn't originally make all of the Transformers molds. They borrowed quite a bit of toys from other companies, which simply got incorporated into  the Transformers line. This is why you for instance see canopies capable of holding small figures in the Dinobots - they originally were part of a different toy line.
And this is where Jetfire comes in. The toy was originally made by Japanese toy company Bandai, made specifically for the Macross toy line. Bandai had  simply figured out how to make a jet transform into a robot, and Takara in a smart move asked to borrow the molds, knowing they could never do it better themselves. Take a look at G1 Starscream for the "other" way to do it, with detachable hands that had to be somewhere else when he was in jet mode, and a completely immobile robot mode. To be fair, the G1 seekers (Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp) are significantly smaller than Jetfire.  But it's no coincidence Jetfire is far more complicated and has far better robot mode than most other Transformers.

"Manufactured by Bandai"
This would never have worked today. Takara and Bandai were, and still are the two biggest toy makers in Japan. This would be like Hasbro and Mattel borrowing toys from each other. When this was going on in Japan, Mattel and Hasbro was in a deep conflict with each other.

Here's my loose Jetfire - made by Bandai, but released by Hasbro - next to a new re-issue of the VF-1 Valkyrie from Macross - made, and released by Bandai.


I'm sure that Takara or Hasbro would have been able to come up with something on their own, but chances are we'd never see Jetfire at all if this was a decision made in the United States.
When Jetfire was featured in the cartoon and comic, due to legal issues with Hasbro and who ever had the Robotech licence, he was pictured different from his toy version.

Similar, but different.
In the comic, Jetfire was the first new Autobot. Initially made as a Decepticon, used to capture the human boy carrying the Matrix of Creation. But he was eventually turned, and made an Autobot. As if the red color wasn't giving away his future alignment. Stupid Shockwave, should know better than to make a red and white Decepticon.
I always liked Jetfire in the comic. He was stoic, powerful, fast. And he had a great design, even though it didn't match the toy.

Let us take a look a closer look at the toy.


Jetfire has a few cool features, in addition to the three modes (sorry, no pictures of the Gerwalk mode, I just forgot). For instance the pop-out landing wheels. They still work in my old one, just as well as they do on the brand new Hikaru Ichijo Bandai VF-1.


The transformation is simple enough, and at no point do you feel like anything will break. Vital parts are made of metal. But it does feel like a more delicate toy than its contemporary Transformers buddies, and the transformation is slightly more intricate.
You will also notice how much better the articulation of Jetfire is than most of the other G1 toys. You can actually pose him in many different ways.



Jetfire also came with armor. It works best in his robot and gerwalk mode. But his boosters fit nicely in jet mode. These are the fragile parts, specially the tabs on the arm parts. But mine are surprisingly enough intact.


Jetfire is a large robot. He's the size of Blaster. Bigger than Optimus  Prime and Soundwave. I consider him to be 1/60 scale, the same scale as my other Macross jets and the Masterpiece Transformers Seekers. But the box of the Hikaru Ichijo VF-1 says the scale is 1/55. Close enough.
Regardless of scale, Jetfire is at least towering Bumblebee, as you can see below.


So that is Jetfire. I never had him as a kid, but I always loved the design of the Macross mechs, as well as Jetfire in the Transformers comic. I've come to absolutely love this toy, for reasons I've mentioned. Not only is it a fantastic toy on its own right, when it comes to design, function, playability. But it's also a toy with a great history, and it ties together two of my favorite concepts: Transformers and Macross. Based on this, it's safe to say that Jetfire was a grail of mine. It was a toy I was dearly looking forward owning when I became an adult who could afford vintage toys.


But you may have noticed... My Jetfire is worn, the box is beat up. The toy is slightly yellowed (well everything is yellowed next to the brand new Bandai VF-1. Jetfire was never that white to begin with. Mine isn't badly sun damaged, but it's slightly off white. It's also got some sticker wear, and even a few missing stickers. It's got all parts and nothing is broken. Most of the joints are tight, but as you can imagine.. This is not a worthy condition of my Transformers grail.

That's right. Taped in place, never opened, never removed from its styrofoam box. It's exactly as it was in 1984.

That is a condition worthy a grail.

Enjoy your weekend, people!!

1 comment:

Brian Brandelli said...

G1 Jetfire way better then the rendition. I can understand why they changed & updated the vehicle appearance when trying to recreate the G1 transformers. Jetfire's jet mode of the 80's is head & shoulders above the new leader class jetfire. The only thing l would of changed is the head mold to resemble the G1 cartoon.