Monday, October 31, 2022

The 40th Anniversary of the Valkyrie - Jetfire's Story

A Jetfire-centric Look at the Transformable 1/55 Valkyrie Figure

In November 1982, Takatoku Toys Co., Ltd. released the first 1/55 scale Valkyrie figure, the VF-1J Battroid Valkyrie, from the animated TV series Super Dimension Fortress Macross (超時空要塞マクロス), which aired from October 3rd 1982 to June 26th 1983 on the MBS network (Mainichi Broadcasting System). Through 1983 and 1984, Takatoku Toys would further release the Valkyrie with headsculpt and deco variations as the VF-1S and VF-1A Battroid, and in gift sets with additional armor as the GBP-1S Armored Valkyrie and VF-1S Super Valkyrie.

Autobot Air Commander Jetfire 
The Transformers, Hasbro Industries, Inc., 1984

In late 1984, Jetfire landed on USA toy shelves as part of Hasbro's* The Transformers toyline. Although it was officially an inclusion in the 1985 (series two) catalog, Jetfire along with Shockwave were both available before Christmas 1984 alongside the series one toys, and the two figures shared the same television commercial as well. For reference, The Transformers toyline release began in May of 1984. *Hasbro Industries, Inc. from 15 June 1972; Hasbro Bradley, Inc. from 17 September 1984 (Acquisition of Milton Bradley announced May 1984); Hasbro, Inc. from 14 August 1985.

Like all the other figures from the first two series of The Transformers, Jetfire was a product from an existing franchise in the Japanese market. Hasbro had already struck a deal with Japan's Takara Co., Ltd. to repurpose their Diaclone Real and Robo and Microman Micro Change figures for The Transformers toyline, which they had first discovered at the Tokyo Toy Show of 1983. This was the basis of the November 1983 agreement between Hasbro Industries, Inc. and Takara Co., Ltd., a relationship that has endured to this day. Not long after, Hasbro looked elsewhere for additional figures to add variety of scale, striking deals with Toybox, Toyco, and Takatoku Toys. The Valkyrie figure that Hasbro repurposed as Jetfire, was Takatoku Toys' VF-1S Super Valkyrie. Jetfire was part of the 1985 and 1986 Transformers catalog, and had notable releases in USA, Canada and Europe, where he moonlighted as the Autobot leader in 1985 while Optimus Prime was unavailable in that region.

Milton Bradley (MB) packaging (1985)

The Beginning

The concept for the Valkyrie figure originated with designer Shoji Kawamori, a member of Studio Nue. Studio Nue co-created the Macross concept with the studio Artland. Other key parties in Macross were advertising agency Big West which commercialized the franchise and Tatsunoko Productions which animated the television seriesBig West brought the project to Takatoku Toys in 1982, and after some debate the project planners settled on the Valkyrie as the focal point of the toyline. Takatoku Toys still had doubts about the design, and Kawamori, who had assisted with the design of several transformable figures from Takara's Diaclone series in the early 1980s, created a transformable paper model to show Takatoku Toys' planning manager, Takeo Mitsui. Kawamori then made a proposal to commission a prototype from a trusted workshop. The design of this model was entrusted to a company called Watanabe Giken, which had been involved in prototyping various toys for Popy and Takara. Tetsu Watanabe led this project, and within two months delivered a one-off transformable wood-sculpted prototype, which would be the basis for Takatoku Toys' managerial approval to proceed. Takatoku Toys was primarily a fabless product planning enterprise, so they approached Matsushiro Co., Ltd. who made RC cars and toy guns, to be the fabrication partner for this project. Matsushiro skillfully translated the prototype into a blueprint, and produced the injection molds (tooling), and manufactured the product.

Watanabe's painted wooden prototype
Article from Figure Oh #134 (March 2009)

The first figure, the VF-1J was released in November 1982, and was an instant hit. Takatoku Toys sold 200,000 units by the end of 1982 alone, and the combined 1/55 series had sold over 1 million units in total by the end of 1983. The figure release dates were as follows:

  • VF-1J (Hikaru Ichijyo type) (November 1982 - 3980 Yen) 
  • VF-1S (Ostensibly Roy Focker Type, however as Roy was deceased in the TV show, Hikaru was on the box) (February 1983 - 3980 Yen)
  • VF-1J (Max type) (April 1983 - 3980 Yen)
  • VF-1J (Miria type) (April 1983 - 3980 Yen)
  • VF-1A (Misa featured) (July 1983 - 3980 Yen)
  • GBP-1S Armored Valkyrie (May 1983 - 4980 Yen)
  • VF-1S Super Valkyrie (February 1984 - 4980 Yen)
  • VF-1D (Postponed - ultimately unreleased)

VF-1J Battroid Valkyrie (Hikaru Type)
VF-1S Battroid Valkyrie
VF-1J Battroid Valkyrie (Miria Type)
VF-1J Battroid Valkyrie (Max Type)
VF-1A Battroid Valkyrie
VF-1S Armored Valkyrie GBP-1S
VF-1S Super Valkyrie
VF-1D (Unreleased)
Toy Journal (1982.12) showcases the VF-1J Battroid that faithfully reproduces the animation's mechanism
Toy Journal (1983.Toy Show Ed.) showcases up-coming VF-1J Max/Mira and GBP-1S
Toy Journal (1983.3) showcases the VF-1S Battroid
Toy Journal (1984.4) showcases the VF-1S Super Valkyrie and coincidentally all the Takatoku releases that would eventually make it into The Transformers (Beetras/Dorvack)
Toy Journal (1984.6) by which time Takatoku Toys had gone bankrupt 

Hasbro Gets Onboard

The Super Valkyrie was released in Japan in February 1984, and on US shelves as Jetfire as early as October 1984 according to print ads. Since this was the first 'Fast Pack' version of the 1/55 Valkyrie, it's reasonable to say that this must have been the very figure that Hasbro 'discovered' and decided to bring into the Transformers line, and the party they dealt with in the first instance was Takatoku Toys. In order to protect Hasbro's interest, Matsushiro filed US patents for the figure in April 1984. Licensing was granted to Hasbro by Tatsunoko Productions, which owned exploitation rights outside Japan. Thus, one will find Tatsunoko Production logo stickers affixed to the front of the Jetfire packaging. Hasbro commissioned Mark Watts to illustrate Jetfire for the front of package art.

US Patent filed by Matsushiro Co., Ltd.
The Jetfire artwork illustrated by Mark Watts

There is a company product brief for Hasbro's 1985 product line that has character biography and sample photos of Jetfire dated 30th April 1984. Though the photos are poorly reproduced in the scans, you can see that the Jetfire sample is the pointed-nose Takatoku figure (The Hasbro release has a retooled 'blunt' nose for safety reasons*). It is unclear whether the photographs are necessarily from April, but it is clear that as of April, Hasbro already had advanced character development that would have commenced maybe weeks prior. The deco is also more advanced than seen in the TV commercial, as the nosecone is painted in these photographs. Hasbro had already decided on the sticker design, i.e., the diagonally striped feet stickers are visible, as well as the Autobot stickers on the booster armor. The instruction manual was not final, suggesting that the figure would have come with missiles (however, only a rare Canadian distribution would have missiles). The procurement of the figure samples, licensing, development etc., would have begun very shortly after the release of the Super Valkyrie in February.
It is typical for Hasbro to do safety tests/drop tests and request modifications. This is certainly the reason for the nosecone change, Mr. Morishima (product development at Bandai) confirmed that Matsushiro did this change for overseas, i.e., Hasbro. Additionally Hasbro required copyright notices stamped on the figures (Hasbro requested copyrights be added to TF toys by Takara in their contracts). This will also be why Matsushiro filed US patent in April 1984 as did Takara for their designs.

Polaroids of a Jetfire prototype, from the 1985 Product Brief
Biography of Jetfire (initially called Fireball) referencing the Valkyrie toy, from the 1985 Product Brief
Instruction manual (non-final), from the 1985 Product Brief. Note it advertises 5 missiles.

Takatoku Toys went bankrupt (with debts of about 3 billion Yen - roughly 13 million USD) on May 25th 1984, after suffering losses due to exposure on animated properties that slumped in ratings, or were prematurely cancelled. Matsushiro, which managed the fabrication and possessed the dies, became the owner of the dies, and continued development for Hasbro**. See TheLoneWolf's Matsushiro stamped Super in a Jetfire proof-of-concept package, below, which is probably the only known example of a Matsushiro figure without the blunted nosecone. This figure could not have been retooled to a Matsushiro stamp, until after May 25th.

**The common understanding is that Hasbro licensed the figure from Matsushiro directly, after Takatoku's bankruptcy, and I believe this idea is due to the two most commonly facts; 1, the Matsushiro stamping on the early Jetfire figure and 2, Takatoku's well known bankruptcy. However, I will discuss later how Takatoku's bankruptcy halted their Macross movie toyline mid-production, which basically leaves a time-stamp on the last Takatoku stamped toys possibly made by Matsushiro, for Takatoku around May. The very last property that Takatoku Toys released, were the Armored Insect Corps Beetras, of which they had developed 4 figures and released three prior to bankruptcy. According to print ads, the first figure was released in mid-March 1984, so I believe Takatoku was doing just fine during the period where Hasbro started developing Jetfire. Super Attack Galbion, a TV series majorly sponsored by Takatoku Toys, was abruptly cancelled during production of episode 22 due to their bankruptcy. Episode 22 was reworked to include a brief story conclusion to the series, and aired on June 29 1984. Finally, print ads for Takatoku products still ran in the June 1984 Toy Journal. Considering lead times, these facts indicate Takatoku Toys was fully active until bankruptcy was announced at the end of May. I think the most plausible scenario is this - Hasbro contacted Takatoku Toys to license the figure, and out of that agreement (that included merchandising licensing from Tatsunoko Pro, and may have included some financial benefit to Takatoku), Hasbro was put in direct contact with Matsushiro in order to manage their specific product requirements more directly. Takatoku Toys was not bankrupt at the time, but it also didn't make sense for Takatoku to be a liaison between Hasbro and Matsushiro beyond the introductory phase, as Takatoku Toys was a consignee, not a fabricator. 

Beetras - Takatoku Toys' last project

For a brief period Matsushiro exported figures such as an unlicensed VF-1J in the UK called Space Fighter (which may have been left over inventory), and continued working with Hasbro on the development and manufacture of the Jetfire figure, but gradually fell victim to financial difficulties itself. Matsushiro therefore sought to be acquired by a big brand in the world of toys, ultimately being acquired by Bandai Co., Ltd. Matsushiro was restructured as Unix Co., Ltd., under the umbrella of Bandai Co., Ltd., and as such, Bandai took control of Matsushiro's assets, not limited to the Valkyrie, but also other figures which Bandai would also later supply to Hasbro, such as Whirl, Roadbuster, and the deluxe Insecticons that all began as Takatoku Toys' products. As the owner of Unix, Bandai also became responsible for fulfilling the Hasbro agreement.

Matsushiro stamped Super Valk in Jetfire test packaging c/o TheLoneWolf
Matsushiro stamped Super Valk in Jetfire test packaging c/o TheLoneWolf
Space Fighter, released in UK by Matsushiro (Takatoku Toys stamped)
Space Fighter, released in UK by Matsushiro (Takatoku Toys stamped)

By the time they were acquired by Bandai, Matsushiro had already manufactured an inventory consisting of completed Jetfires with their Matsushiro stamping, and incomplete or unassembled figures. Ultimately, all Jetfire packaging/manuals listed Bandai as the manufacturer, suggesting Bandai must have taken over well before any orders were completed, packed or shipped. 

Jetfire was manufactured by Bandai Co., Ltd. for Hasbro Industries, Inc, commencing prior to Sept 14th, 1984

Rubsigns appeared on Jetfire only after the Matsushiro mold was retooled to a Bandai stamping, and the rubsign was introduced in September, so Bandai must have taken over prior to September 1984. Indeed, this is why the company name is still Hasbro Industries, Inc. on the box. This changed to Hasbro Bradley, Inc. on September 14th - their merge with Milton Bradley. Bandai made some tooling changes to the original mold, such as the smooth antenna, and deco changes such as the removal of the UN SPACY logo from the wing***. Bandai tooled two additional dies of the figure, hence there are 3 molds and 4 different stampings evident for Jetfire in total across its run, and some transitional figures were assembled from mixed Matsushiro and Bandai inventory. (These details will be further explained in subsequent sections on variants.) It is understood that the Matsushiro factory continued to operate as a fabricator for Bandai. It is unclear whether they continued to steward only the original mold, or were involved with the creation/tooling of the new Bandai molds, and production from them. It makes the most sense for production-through-to-packaging to be streamlined through one factory, and this also seems to be evident when considering how factory overstock spilled onto the grey market in the following years - discussed further down. 

In October 1984, the first Jetfires were advertised for sale in the USA - together with Shockwave making a fantastic pairing of must-have deluxe figures just in time for The Transformers' first Christmas.

A 'Matsushiro painted-wing' Jetfire
A 'Matsushiro stickered-wing' Jetfire
A Bandai-Matsushiro Jetfire
A Bandai Jetfire (either TM (1984) or ® (1985) packaging)
Jetfire case from Dec 1985

*** Although not the final form as seen in his animation debut (S1:E7, Fire in the Sky), the animation model for Jetfire as of July 3rd 1984, was pretty much a toy accurate representation down to the round logo on the wing.

Jetfire in the 1985 Briefing Binder

In the Series Bible, the roundel has been removed. It has also been warned to use Jetfire sparingly, due to legal reasons. Hasbro had agreed to let Takara use the Sunbow/Marvel animated series as a marketing tool in Japan, meaning the animation design would both an infringe on the Macross property, and be indirect marketing for a competitor's (Bandai) figure within Japan. Thus, the animation model would be redesigned and the name changed to Skyfire, to disassociate the cartoon character from Jetfire (by name/form) and therefore also from the Macross figure (by form), so that the animation could be aired in Japan. Also of relevance, by July Bandai would have obligations to both Macross Hi-Metal (for the Macross movie) and Transformers at the same time, and noting that the UN SPACY logo disappeared from Jetfire as soon as Bandai put their stamp on the figure, it was very likely due to influence from the licensors (Big West/Tatsunoko Pro) to ensure all parties stayed in their lanes.

Jetfire in the Transformers Series Bible
Cross Pollination

The Macross movie, Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love (超時空要塞マクロス 愛・おぼえていますか), DYRL for short, was released July 21st 1984. According to the Figure Oh article, Takatoku Toys were to about to put toys on the market for the DYRL film prior to bankruptcy. Takayuki Morishima of Bandai, was interviewed in 2008 and 2009 regarding the Macross Hi-Metal toyline he was charged with overseeing once Bandai took over (with licensing from Big West). He explained that Takatoku Toys had already made model drawings and prototypes of the DYRL VF-1S design that Kawamori would later call the Strike Valkyrie. In fact, Matsushiro's inventory included the VF-1S bodies Takatoku Toys had already manufactured for the Strike Valkyrie, and Morishima used this inventory, and concealed the fact by placing a Bandai sticker over the Takatoku Toys stamping. Morishima developed molds from the designs picking up where Takatoku Toys had left off, such as modified fast pack/cannon design that integrates with the existing armor, and introduced his own additional design updates, such as missiles attached to the wings, and a slide-on canopy cover for Battroid mode. Bandai actually decided to do these revisions shortly before the film's release, meaning that Bandai in all likelihood acquired Matsushiro during June 1984. Because the canopy innovation was ready just in time to go to market, it became a campaign offering (in reality a counter-top speed lottery) with a 1-in-12 chance for a Valkyrie buyer to instantly win a pair of red canopy covers. The reception was positive and canopy covers became a staple for the rest of the line.

Bandai used stickers to conceal or modify the toy stamp

The VF-1S Strike Valkyrie was released in October 1984, and sold 90,000 units by the end of the year. A film version of the VF-1A was released in January 1985, the Super Ostrich in April 1985, and the Elint Seeker in June 1985. While the Strike Valkyrie and the VF-1A were built from the original Takatoku mold lineage, the Elint Seeker and Super Ostrich were mostly built from Bandai's newly tooled molds, featuring the blunt nosecone originally modified for Hasbro's Jetfire. The figures featured unique armor sets as well, though some pieces were cast directly from the newer Jetfire armor molds.

Hi-Metal VF-1S Strike Valkyrie
Hi-Metal VF-1A Valkyrie
Hi-Metal VT-1 Super Ostrich
Hi-Metal VE-1 Elint Seeker

Variants

The Hi-Metal Macross line was released in Japan at the same time as Jetfire was released in the USA. During this time, three injection molds were used to produce figures for both lines, and variations are present on the figures that help to tell the story of their lineage and chronology.

In order to discuss these variations, I will consider the maker's mark/copyright stamping to be the key hallmark, and group these by the molds that they were present on:

1. The Takatoku Toys Mold

  • Takatoku Toys (© 毎日放送 • ビックウエスト / タカトクトイス) (© MBS • Big West / Takatoku Toys)
  • Matsushiro (MATSUSHIRO / TOKYO JAPAN)
  • Bandai Undated (BANDAI / TOKYO JAPAN)
2. The Bandai 1984 Mold
  • Bandai 1984 (BANDAI LOGO / © BANDAI 1984 MADE IN JAPAN) 
3. The Bandai 1985 Mold
  • Bandai 1985 (BANDAI LOGO / BANDAI 1984 MADE IN JAPAN) 

Stamps from top to bottom:
Takatoku Toys, Matsushiro, Bandai Undated, Bandai 1984, Bandai 1985

The Takatoku Toys mold, featuring the Takatoku Toys logo and name, and copyrights to MBS (Mainichi Broadcasting System) and Big West was used across all Takatoku Toys releases, and any releases by Matsushiro after Takatoku's Bankruptcy. It was used by Matsushiro for early Hasbro Jetfires, whereby the stamping was changed to MATSUSHIRO TOKYO JAPAN, and new tooling was created for the blunt nosecone (the original tooling was retained). When Bandai took over this mold, the stamp was updated to BANDAI TOKYO JAPAN, and this mold continued to to be used for Jetfire for a period. It was then used with the original pointed nosecone to produce Strike Valkyries (once the existing Takatoku Toys inventory was exhausted) and VF-1As for the Hi-Metal line. Bandai created a new mold (Bandai 1984) and used this to produce Hasbro Jetfires. Bandai created an additional mold (Bandai 1985) and used this to produce Hasbro Jetfires, while the 1984 mold was used to produce the Super Ostrich and Elint Seeker bodies for the Hi-Metal line.

In addition to the stampings, there are visible mold changes that occur from maker to maker. This is not an exhaustive list, limited only to the readily visible features, as opposed to internal or structural variations and markings that cannot be seen without disassembly.

Variant
WingstripePainted Logo
Stickered Logo
Unbroken Stripe
Left: Original Takatoku painted logo, Jetfire painted logo
Middle: Jetfire stickered logo
Right: Jetfire unbroken stripe
It is strange that the print pad would be modified to remove the logo, only to have a sticker placed there instead anyway. However, the VF-1A was released in Jan 1985, and this had a logo-less wing stripe as well. I think that the sticker-wing Matsushiro was unfinished stock that was assembled and completed by Bandai, and it was mistakenly painted with the print pad intended for the VF-1A, hence a factory sticker added to make it appear complete. 
VF-1A (Hi-Metal)
Variant
Antenna
Ridged Type A
Ridged Type B
Smooth
Left: Ridged on Takatoku (A)
Middle: Ridged on Jetfire (B)
Right: Smooth on Jetfire
Although the antenna found on the Matsushiro Jetfire is ridged (B), it is not the same as the Takatoku originated version (A). The Takatoku version continued to be used for Bandai-made releases of Strike Valkyrie. The B-type was only used on Jetfire, and superseded by the smooth version. Note that Takatoku uses a bluish-grey plastic, compared to grey used by Matsu/Bandai.
Variant
RubsignNo (Prerub)
Yes (Rub)
Left: No rubsign on Bandai undated
Middle: Rubsign on Bandai undated
Left: Rubsign on Bandai dated (note larger circle on head)
All Matsushiro versions are prerub, so not shown here. Rubsign introduced after Bandai took over production, so undated Bandai could be pre-rub or rub, and this will correlate to other running changes that Bandai implemented - see upper leg updates.
Variant
ArmorWide Stripe
Thin Stipe
Left: Takatoku, 3 lines spaced wide on booster, leg armor
Middle: Jetfire, 3 lines spaced wide on booster, leg armor
Right: Jetfire, 3 lines spaced tight on booster, leg armor
The armor that attaches the boosters to Jetfire's back has a recess designed to match the figure's version. The recess accommodates the protruding 'fuel cap' on the thruster unit. This 'cap' is recessed on the newer Bandai versions. See also the armor chart further down.
Variant
NoseconePointed
Blunted
Left: Takatoku pointed nosecone
Right: Jetfire blunted nosecone
Variant
CanopyLined
Lined (Tinted)
Unlined (Tinted)
Left: Original Takatoku Lined Canopy, Lined Canopy on Matsushiro Jetfire
Middle: Lined Canopy on Undated Bandai with varied hues
Right: Unlined Canopy on Dated Bandai (and Undated Bandai), considered 'dark'
Lined refers to the paint application over the canopy peak and around the edge. Probably a cost-cut, the same variation is also found on Autobot Whirl which is another figure originating with Takatoku Toys.
Variant
Upper LegSmooth Leg (A, B, C)
Detailed Leg
Left: Takatoku, Smooth
Middle: Jetfire, Smooth (Matsu/Undated Bandai)
Right: Detailed (Dated Bandai)
Left: Tak/Matsu - 1 white sprue-gate, 1 grey sprue-gate (A)
Middle: Undated Bandai - 0 white sprue-gate, 1 grey sprue gate (B)
Undated Bandai - 0 white sprue-gate, then 0 grey sprue-gate (C)
Left: Dated Bandai - 0 white sprue-gate, 2 grey sprue gate
Here's a bizarre change. After Bandai took over the original mold, they have progressively cleaned up the sprue-gates on the front of the thigh, which is very useful for establishing a progression timeline on this one piece (A>B>C) which helps inform the relative timing of other changes to the mold. However, on the new Bandai molds, they left 2 sprue marks on the flex-joint (grey part).
Variant
Lower LegIncomplete Detail
Full Detail
Left: Takatoku, Incomplete detail on diecast
Middle: Jetfire, Incomplete detail on diecast
Right: Jetfire, full detail on diecast
Variant
Thruster/Tail UnitType A 
Type B
Left: Type A (Takatoku)
Middle: Type A (Jetfire)
Right: Type B (Jetfire 1984/1985)
The changes are numbered on the newer Dated Bandai molds. 1) black plastic tab, 2) detailed paint application on verticals, 3) recessed 'fuel-cap', 4) trapezoidal detail, 5) detail, 6) 'brick' pattern.
Variant
Dorsal SurfaceSimple
Detailed
Left: Takatoku, 3rd square empty (simple)
Middle: Jetfire, 3rd square empty (simple)
Right: 3rd square has 3 lines within it (detailed)
Note that all Jetfires have a tab that limits the degree that the wing can swing forward. Takatoku has full motion.
Variant
Gunpod + ClipTakatoku (Thin Clip)
Transitional (Thin Clip)
Bandai #1 (Thick Clip)
Bandai #2 (Thick Clip)
Left: Takatoku/Matsu, lines on scope support do not extend to top
Middle: Transitional, (Matsu/Bandai Undated) with thickener line on handle
Right: Bandai Dated #1, #2, (two guns can only be told apart by surface differences on the handle/trigger) lines on scope support extend to top
Left: Tak/Matsu/Undated have the thin, un-numbered clip
Right: Dated Bandai have the thick clip, either #1 or #2

The running changes can be mapped out, using the manufacturer stampings to group the figures, and then relating the variations across release years and lines, starting with the Takatoku Toys Super Valkyrie in February 1984, including all of the Bandai Hi-Metal releases through to the final Bandai Jetfire release. The period when Bandai took over from Matsushiro saw figures combined from prefabricated inventory by Matsushiro, and new inventory from Bandai, and it is plausible that there are hybrids that are not charted below, but would fit between column 4 and column 8.

Jetfire Variant Timeline - note a distinction between Brand and Fabricator. Bandai is listed as the fabricator after acquiring Matsushiro and its assets, even though it is understood that the Matsushiro location continued to operate as a fabricator for Bandai. However it is unclear whether they continued to steward only the original mold, or were involved in the production of stock from the two new Bandai molds.

To further support the theory that there were 3 distinct molds, I have documented all the Jetfire armor pieces below. The two armor sets that Bandai tooled are interchangeable, and were probably used in parallel at some point, so it is not unusual to see these parts mixed on some releases. That is to say, Bandai did not keep parts from their mold #1 and #2 separated.

Left: The original Takatoku Toys armor as carried over to Jetfire and used on Matsushiro and Undated Bandai stamped figures. Pieces are L/R stamped, except for forearm-armor, which are 1/2 as they are not chiral, and no stamp for the back-piece.
Middle: The First Bandai (1984) armor set. Back-piece is stamped 1. All pieces are L1/R1, except for forearm-armor, which are 1/11 as they are not chiral. This is Bandai mold #1.
Right: The Second Bandai (1985) armor set. Back-piece is stamped 2. All pieces are L2/R2, except for forearm-armor, which are 2/22 as they are not chiral. This is Bandai mold #2.

The Matsushiro Jetfires, famed amongst Transformers collectors for the UN SPACY logo, actually feature several other running changes that are evidence of an unstable production period. Firstly, Matsushiro Jetfires are known to have come with a second sticker sheet, that accompanies a main (4 panel) sheet that is different from the standard sheet. This is typically identified by the circle sticker orientation being vertical on the Matsushiro, with some bold lines around some of the stickers on the first panel. 

The below image shows the early main sheet (Matsushiro) on the left, and the standard main sheet on the right. Stickers highlighted in white, are actually not even cut, so they cannot be peeled off the sheet. Stickers highlighted in blue, are color corrected on the main sheet from red to white. These stickers have red details that are lost if the background is red.

Left: (Matsushiro) main sheet
Right: standard sheet

Because the sticker sheets were already printed and passed through the die, instead of re-doing them, an extra sheet was produced to supplement the error sheet. The additional Matsushiro sheet doesn't address all of the errors, that is to say the Matsushiro sticker set in its entirety is not equal to the standard sticker sheet. The extra Matsushiro sheet covers 17/19 uncut stickers, and provides color corrections for 2/10 (or 4/12 including uncut) stickers, with 5 duplicates.

Additional Matsushiro sheet covers some of the errors on the main sheet

This Hasbro Standard card was discovered inside an employee owned Matsushiro Jetfire, and kindly provided by Chris A. It contains information about forthcoming deviations from the standard, including changes to the antenna (to 'straight out'), canopy material (to 'softer material'), and indicates the 'instruction sheet will be combined', which we believe to mean the sticker sheet will be combined into one. The card is dated September 1984. Based on the Takara agreement(i) Every month Buyer may place with Seller a firm order for the PRODUCTS to be purchased from Seller containing exact models, quantities and prices of the PRODUCTS to be shipped within three (3) months from the order acceptance date., we can presume a similar fulfilment schedule would have been agreed with Matsushiro, meaning these Matsushiro Jetfire's arriving in Pawtucket in September would have been ordered from them in June 1984, shortly before their acquisition by Bandai.

Hasbro Standard card identifies a standard reference model

Some Matsushiro Jetfires arrived in an error box, where some front of box text was illegibly printed in white against an almost white background, then quickly changed to black. The packages were both printed by Bandai, indicating that existing Matsushiro inventory was put into Bandai packaging while running changes were made to the box. You could find a painted-wing Matsu or sticker-wing Matsu in either an error or corrected box. Or in other words, it wasn't a typical linear packing line where freshly made toys went into freshly printed boxes in the order they were made. These toys had been piling up for a while before being packed.

Left: Error box
Right: Corrected box

Some Matsushiro Jetfires are known to have arrived in foam trays with cutouts in the bottom. This suggests that some packaging may be left-over from Takatoku-era inventory.

Left: Takatoku foam tray from the Super Valkyrie
Middle: Foam tray seen on some Matsushiro Jetfires
Right: Standard 

Now that we are more familiar with the figure variants, we can see which figures were used in various marketing materials.

In the 1984 television commercial, we can see a very early mock-up of Jetfire, still with the pointed nosecone, so this may be a hand-painted prototype of a Takatoku or Matsushiro figure. The nosecone has not been painted red, but all the decals have been finalized. The UN SPACY logo is clearly visible, but on the right wing instead of the left. The reason for this is the video has been mirrored - this is evidenced by Shockwave having the cable on the wrong arm, as well as Jetfire holding his gunpod in the left hand instead of right in the 4th frame where you can see the logo on the right wing.


On the packaging itself, we can see that it is a hand painted prototype, using a Takatoku figure. The key giveaway is there is no tab to restrict the sweep of the wing, which was first added by Matsushiro. Even though the figure is almost entirely recolored, the gunpod is the tell-tale blue-grey of the Takatoku Super Valkyrie release.


In the 1985 pre-Toy Fair catalog, the figure photographed is a Matsushiro version in an error box.


In the 1985 Toy Fair catalog, the figure photographed is an Undated Bandai with striped canopy. A rubsign is advertised but not present in the photography.


In the US 1985 catalog, the figure photographed is an Undated Bandai with striped canopy. The same photograph is used in the 1986 catalog. This is a prerub figure, although all toys packaged with this catalog had rubsigns.


In the European 1985 catalog, the figure photographed is also an Undated Bandai with striped canopy (prerub).


Another interesting variant is the Jetfire that was released in Canada, which was the only release to come with missiles. The most common understanding is these were available through Consumers Distributing, a catalog store that operated in Canada and USA until 1996. It's hard to say whether these were exclusive to that store, as the instructions themselves state the figure comes with 5 missiles.

Canadian version I purchased on eBay

Specimens that appear with missiles are usually the late 1985 Bandai variant. This is actually a late stage Jetfire, and the gunpod that accompanies it does not have a spring and cannot fire the missiles.

Two Canadian versions with missiles found via image search

The more contentious question is whether the gunpod ever fired. According to this forum discussion, a firing gun was found with a Matsushiro version sold in Canada.

The actual gunpod itself is the transitional variant that came with Matsushiro and Undated Bandai versions. I also have one of these gunpods that fires, and it is the same variant. The most plausible explanation in my opinion, is that Consumers Distributing received early stock from Hasbro, Canada. As the Canadian release was always slated to have missiles, the initial stock was packed by Bandai with spring-loaded gunpods, because if the client wanted missiles it would make sense to launch them - wouldn't it? However being a safety concern, the error was corrected, and possibly stock was recalled back to Hasbro. Thus, the spring-loaded versions are considered Consumer Distributing exclusives and extremely rare, whereas in general missile-bearing Jetfires considered more broadly a Canadian market exclusive, and include later figure versions.

The End of an Era

Presumably, the Macross Hi-Metal line sold in Japan through 1985, and Jetfire was released through 1986. Macross had lived out its first iteration, and its creators moved on to other projects. In 1986 The Transformers began using toys designed in-house, specifically for the franchise. It is reported by Mr. Morishima that Matsushiro went bankrupt, implying this part of the Bandai business (Unix) had served its purpose, and was dissolved. When Bandai looked to restart the Hi-Metal line with a series of reissues in 1990, the Valkyrie tooling was taken to Bandai's Tochigi factory. Given several years of neglect, some parts required a complete remake such as the head, and other parts were re-worked for safety or cost, such as a removal of the spring-loaded landing gears and replacement of the steel wheels with plastic. The upper legs were reduced in parts, and the tail assembly received mold changes. The figure became a hybrid of all the molds, mostly a 1984 Bandai figure, with the 1985 armor, and the Takatoku gunpod, clip and nose cone. Ultimately, what is considered the first reissue of the VF-1S Super Valkyrie, was a kind of aberration, poorly received, and has not been repeated since. Even the post 2000 era reissues (2001/2008) harkened right back to the original design. A VF-1J and VF-1A were also planned, and heads were prototyped, but ultimately only the Super Valkyrie was released, the first and last of the 1990s.

Hi-Metal Super Valkyrie (1990)

After this, remaining 1980s inventory was liquidated in various ways.
  • Strike Valkyries were matched with Jetfire armor (Takatoku type) and sold in Strike packaging
  • Elint Seekers were matched with Jetfire armor (Bandai type) and sold in Elint Seeker packaging
  • Jetfires with their matching armor sets were sold in Strike Packaging
  • Jetfires reassembled from surplus/QC parts were sold without armor in Yoiko No Omocha packaging by KS, and may be the only Japanese domestic release of the toy, albeit incomplete and unlicensed
It is not unfathomable that given the high production run, and factors such as the acquisition of previously manufactured inventory, as well as quality control, would result in asymmetries in the surplus or not-quite-right inventory remaining at the end of the respective releases, particularly with regard to the matching of figures to their armor sets. These mismatched sets were sold at discount to retailers outside Japan, and have often been viewed with suspicion by collectors. The various components indicate inventory from Takatoku-era through to Bandai-era, which suggests all of this inventory was sourced from the Matsushiro factory warehouse, and Matsushiro indeed handled all of the fabrication - every figure for every brand. Other inventory that has appeared in the after-market in great quantities are Takatoku GBP-1S armor sets, Bandai Roadbusters and Deluxe Insecticon (Beetras) accessory packs (Transformers), further corroborating a liquidation of the Matsushiro warehouse.

Jetfires and Strikes with Jetfire armor in Strike packaging
(Tatsunoko Pro Sticker instead of Big West, implies this was sold outside Japan)
Jetfires and Elint Seekers in Elint Seeker packaging (missing Big West Sticker implies this was sold outside Japan)
Online auction image for Elint Seeker with Jetfire armor
Online auction image for Strike with Jetfire armor
Online image of Jetfire in Strike packaging (Tatsunoko Pro sticker)
 Strike w/Jetfire armor in Strike packaging (Tatsunoko Pro) c/o Cory H.
KS brand よいこのおもちゃ (Yoiko No Omocha) Jetfires. The generic packaging is reminiscent of discount toys and games sold in Dagashiya (駄菓子屋) - stores specializing in sweets and toys.
Because these figures are mixed assembly - a combination of Bandai and Takatoku originated parts, they are not suitable to be paired with any armor sets. These figures have a rubsign, and are missing the Autobot sticker on the nosecone. Some figures have the Autobot logo. They are both 1984 Bandai upper bodies, with Undated Bandai legs.

Acknowledgements: 
Macross World Forums - for invaluable user discussion and documentation of rare/key artefacts
Robot Obsession - for Figure Oh #134 text
Tamashii Web: Finding the Origin of the 3rd Origin of Valkyrie (Part 1) and (Part 2)
Nap - for the Hasbro Product Brief
Roboplastic Apocalypse - for finding and sharing everything Transformers