This afternoon I’ve been playing with Toyworld Cosmos and the thing that has occupied most of my thoughts is how he’s such a completely unknown quantity. He’s unlike anything I’ve handled before, and it’s frying my brain. Grinder is on the exact opposite end of the spectrum. If you have experience of the Fanstoys Dinobots, you will know precisely what to expect from him.
Please don’t mistake that for criticism. The Iron Dibots series is one of the best and most consistent 3P lines ever released, and if you’ve loved all that’s come before you will also definitely love Grinder. He shares the same visual style, the same transformation beats – he’s entirely unmistakable. Plus, he may even be good enough to win over those who weren’t universally convinced by the series’ previous entries, too.
Is Grinder the best of the Iron Dibots line? I reckon there’s an argument for saying he is, yeah. I’d not like to pick a favourite myself as there are things I love about all of them, but if I only had time to save one from a fire, Grinder would probably be it. More than any of the others, he captures his inspiration – this is Masterpiece Grimlock. Except, of course, we already have a Masterpiece Grimlock, don’t we? And if I have an issue with this figure it’s exactly that.
I love MP-8. I’ve owned the Takara (who was sold in the Great Purge) and then the Hasbro v2, which I went on to replace with Hasbro v1. He’s the pick of the bunch, I think. I never had Grinder on pre-order because I couldn’t tolerate the thought of parting with the official. And as we know, I never double-dip on Masterpieces. Figures that I love have been sacrificed to this rule – Maketoys Hellfire and Wrestle, DX9 Mightron and Tyrant… sorry, what’s that over there in the Detolf, you ask? Quakewave? Of course not. A million MP-10s? NO! And yes, of course I’ll be selling Maketoys Despotron when the MP arrives. Definitely. No doubt. Pinkie promise. Well, almost certainly. Probably. There’s a chance. A slim chance. Actually, no, there’s fuck all chance. He’s a 5 Star figure and I’d sooner sell my cat. Really, please do buy my cat. Dave’s a total arse. In fact, I’ll pay you. Please.
So, having been enabled on this guy by the wonderful photos of Sixo, Maz and others (and being offered a great deal from a fellow UK forum user), the debate now for me, as it will be for many people, is which is better – Grinder or MP-8?
The short answer is they’re both terrific and you can’t go wrong either way. The long answer is a lot more complicated.
Ultimately I think much of it comes down to scale. If you’re looking to complete the Fanstoys set then Grinder really is the missing piece. Saying that, I always thought MP-8 held his own among the Fanstoys range. I know lots of folks didn’t like him in the Scoria booster boots but personally I always thought it worked. And to be perfectly honest, I do think MP-8 is the better figure overall. Grinder offers a nice, easy transformation (especially by 3P standards!) but it’s nowhere near as effortless as the official. I was able to transform MP-8 during my photo session in about two minutes while straddling a bench with a dog pawing at my leg. Grinder, while simple, can’t match that. The size and weight of him prevents it, if nothing else. Plus, aligning the legs and closing the chest compartment when transforming to dino mode does require a bit of care and attention, even when you’ve sussed the correct positioning of everything.
I wouldn’t say either figure has the better of the other in either mode. Grinder is a more imposing robot and is more posable, but I do prefer the proportions of MP-8. You know those photos of Grinder that emerged online early on and made it look as if Fanstoys had royally screwed the whole thing up? Sometimes you’ll be posing him and that’s exactly what you’ll glimpse. He looks great the vast majority of the time and thanks to decent leg and hip articulation can easily be made to pose well, but there is something fundamentally off about his proportions – and that’s not something I’d say about MP-8.
Dino mode is a similar situation. Forget any worries about Grinder’s tyrannosaurus head. Yes, it might not be 100% cartoon or toy accurate but it absolutely works in hand. There are still niggles, however. His tiny dino arms are bizarrely hard to pose, and certainly hang less naturally than MP-8. The leg joints (or arm joints in bot mode) aren’t quite as stiff as you’d like, so the whole dino can be a bit back heavy. There’s an ever so slight reluctance for both sides to clip together, too, although I would not go as far as to suggest it’s a problem. At least there’s no daft head wobble mechanism.
Also note that Grinder’s backpack in bot mode is pretty huge, meaning he’s effectively as deep from the back as he is to the front. Luckily the entire leg design is rock solid (with terrific ankle tilt) and is able to hold everything brilliantly. The arms, while satisfyingly chunky, aren’t quite as easy to pose, however, although he can just about hold his rifle with both hands. And after the joys of Phoenix’s glorious hands, the old Iron Dibot Fanstoys hand design feels a bit limited, while of course still being fundamentally sound.
Ultimately it probably comes down to scale, and while I think MP-8 works perfectly well as a Masterpiece, Grinder probably scales better overall, although this will be a completely subjective call. To my mind Grimlock should look down on Optimus and should square up nicely to Ultra Magnus, and Grinder ticks this box very nicely indeed.
There are other nice touches, too, such as the great detailing inside of what are effectively the robot’s back wings (something sorely missing from the MP) and the tidiness with which the inner calves close up. There are red and blue eye options for both bot and dino, the gun and sword do the job (and are just about held OK) and yes, there’s a crown – although it perches on top of his head rather than clipping in place. In the box you also get some metal thigh clips for Soar (only gold, mind you – although I think they still look nice on red Soar), and alternative faces for Scoria (both silver and black), Sever and Soar. Interestingly, Scoria’s new face is the only one I think offers an improvement. Yes, I like Sever’s original face. It oozes character. EAT ME.
Oh, and I will say that if Quakeblast was slated for being a rip-off of Quakewave, then I’m a little surprised few are throwing that same accusation at Grinder. Folk have argued that there are only so many ways a T-Rex can transform into a bot, but I don’t buy that. What I will say is that making Grinder any differently would have been purely in the interest of difference, as I do think the design they’ve gone for is the best solution available. And they completely nail it, no doubt.
Grinder is great and I’ll be keeping him. And I confess that MP-8 is going nowhere, either. Whoops. I had worried for a while that Fanstoys had gone off the boil but in Grinder and Phoenix they are well and truly back in the game, which is a great thing. In Fanstoys and Maketoys we very much have two 3P companies that can hold their own against Takara, especially when you consider current official Masterpiece pricing. Is Grinder a better option than MP-8? That’s a tricky one. In isolation I still think I just prefer the official Masterpiece, but our toys don’t exist in isolation, do they? They exist within a collection, and which one is the best for that job is a very tough call to make. Should a matte grey G1 coloured version of the oversized MP-8 KO (which I’ve not handled) ever get released I’d end up in a right pickle, as on paper a correctly scaled MP-8 should emerge as the champ. In the here and now, though, Grinder is a terrific send off for the Iron Dibots and every bit the triumph we’d hoped for.