FansToys, like BadCube and MMC, are doing the G1 Insecticons. FT-12 Grenadier is the first of FansToys’ Masterpiece-scaled Insecticons and is their version of Bombshell, the evil beetle. Grenadier comes in two versions, one with a purple toy-accurate chest, and one with a grey cartoon accurate chest. The figure itself contains Generation 1 toy and cartoon style parts that are interchangeable. Grenadier is, by my reckoning, a fantastic return to form for FansToys.
Grenadier comes with a solid yellow chest flap reminiscent of the animation model as well as a clear orange replacement to mimic the original G1 toy’s appearance. Immediately noticeable when in hand, Grenadier is bigger than imagined. This is not a stumpy little Decepticon, he has great proportions and plenty of bulk for a figure of this size. The silver and black across his body (including paint and chrome) is broken up beautifully by the purple toy-accurate – not to mention die cast metal – chest. I’ve witnessed in person collectors changing their mind on the spot about which chest to opt for, nearly everyone I showed Grenadier to at Auto Assembly 2015 agreed that the purple of the toy style deco won them over ahead of grey chest a la toon.
So many features to discuss with Grenadier’s robot mode, let’s start with how articulated his arms are. There are no fewer than seven points of articulation on each arm from shoulder to fingertip, including double jointed elbows, an opening palm, wrist and bicep swivel. There is a waist swivel, knees, ankle tilts, thigh swivel and heel spurs. The neck is articulated on Grenadier but there is not enough up or down movement for my liking. This is made up for with a superb head sculpt that can still be expressive from behind the mouthplate. The smaller antenna on his head can also be raised or lowered. The chest compartment does indeed open up, allowing one to slip in an Energon cube (from G1 reissue sets) or a Diaclone driver. The weight of Grenadier is surprising thanks to the aforementioned chest and also the diecast in the ankles. Weight is not synonymous with quality, but Grenadier sure as hell feels rock solid.
In fact, just about the only complaint I have with the robot mode is the insect leg kibble along the back, and even then if you’re not picky about a completely smooth and flat robot back, it’s never going to bother you. This is especially true of the G1-style less articulated legs because they’re more linear and can fold away in a symmetrical fashion, giving the whole thing a neater look. The insect legs that fold up behind the robot calves can be a little tricky too, either they point downwards and stay very much in view when posed, or you fold them up along the back of the thighs to make them less visible, but potentially obstructing a pose. I have them pointed downwards. You can also fold the bug antenna in a way that it points downwards along Grenadier’s back, maintaining the suspension of disbelief seeing as how it will be invisible from the front of robot mode. Even though Grenadier has a cheat robot head antenna, I preferred to point the main antenna on his back upwards, regardless of the visual clash of two antennae.
I am inexplicably toy-centric when it comes to Insecticons. I had zero appreciation for the Combiner Wars efforts or their TAV counterparts. If the original G1 Insecticon attributes of weight, die cast, shiny chrome and translucent chest parts are not respected, I find Insecticons to be too beastformer for my liking. Grenadier positively milks inspiration from the original Insecticons, in a way that I suspect only BadCube’s Collector’s Edition Bug Corps will manage, by hitting all of those irrational and pedantic needs I have in a modern Insecticon. OK the robot thighs are not chromed, but there’s so much gloss and shine on show with Grenadier that you’re won over before even touching him. Significant improvements in FansToys’ design work compared to the Iron Dibots and Tesla include better leg proportions allowing a proper kneel to be achieved, and a rock solid gun grip. Finally.
Removing the screws and replacing the six insect legs, or the chest piece, is a refreshingly easy task on Grenadier not featuring any of the frustration of Tesla. The replacement bug legs feature more points of articulation expected of modern day animal-formers. I did find them infinitely more difficult to stow away in robot mode, I always felt they were more visible and intrusive upon the overall robot silhouette from most angles. I am not the kind of collector who will remove parts completely in order to facilitate a more accurate looking robot mode either.
People have joked recently on the back of UT Siegfried and GigaPower Guttur that solid test shot integrity should not be used as a comforting standard to measure a final product by, seeing as how final production versions have occasionally been a step backwards. I have not found this to be the case with FansToys generally, both Soar and Sever showing improvements in the production release. So, where Grenadier has a slightly loose waist swivel and one loose hip joint allowing the leg to swing free when dangled, I’m not worried about the final product. I do wish they would stop moulding insignia-shaped sections into key areas, though, because they are not always the same shape as the reproduction stickers on offer. A flat surface would be fine by me. A minor nitpick, Grenadier is impressive from head to toe. Most importantly, he’s FUN.
Yes, fun. The transformation on Grenadier is enjoyable, completely intuitive and infinitely repeatable. There’s a step where the two long vertical clips that sit between the robot back and antenna have to be placed behind or in front of the antenna (depends on direction of transformation) that requires a bit of fiddling, but otherwise it’s as solid as the original G1 Insecticon conversion. Good sense of finality to all movements, especially how the whole bug chest section closes up and clips in, the way the bug legs clip onto the outside of the robot arms and how the robot legs snap together to form the rear of the beetle, even extension of the main antenna is satisfying. So that’s every step of it, basically. This is precisely what I would expect an official Masterpiece version of Bombshell to transform and feel like were it to have been made by Takara Tomy or Hasbro. And be die cast. With chrome.
It’s true that with Masterpiece Transformers we can let certain alternate modes that aren’t exactly real world accurate slide (such as Dinobots) compared to licensed motor vehicles, and the Insecticons should be on that list. So the G1 style legs are not exactly what you’d call organic, nor is the general bulk of the body and overall shape reminiscent of a living beetle. G1 Bombshell, and therefore FT Grenadier, look like a box on legs/wheels. So, to accommodate those who are bothered by this, FansToys have included the above set of articulated insect appendages.
I love how Grenadier’s hand weapon can be stored at the back of bug mode, two rectangular holes on either side of the accessory allow the leg halves to peg in and keep it secure. Looking at the last pic above, the size of Grenadier in bug mode can be seen compared to a standing MP-11 mould Masterpiece Decepticon plane. The articulated legs allow his bulk to actually be raised and suspended on them, impossible with the G1 style legs. I like it, but I see Bombshell swooping in like a boxy jet, not scuttling along like Blackarachnia. You may see it differently, and to you this may look like the optimum configuration. Good that they gave us a choice, right?
What I hope the above photos will demonstrate is that FansToys have created a gorgeous amalgam of an oversized Generation 1 Bombshell (and therefore Diaclone Insecter Robo Beetle Type) and the cartoon Bombshell, not surrendering completely to either aesthetic. There’s every chance that this will irritate people more than impress them, depending on how desperately they craved a 100% toy or cartoon Bombshell. To me, Insecticons have always been about the aesthetic and colour scheme in the following image…
…so Grenadier ticks every box going, in terms of construction materials and looks. It takes an old fashioned insect robot with a signature Decepticon colour scheme, and brings it successfully into 2015 with posability that rivals anything they’ve put out so far.
If Japanese collectors genuinely prefer good guys and Takara Tomy take this as a sign to release as many Autobot Masterpiece Transformers as they can in the short term, companies like FansToys, BadCube, MMC, MakeToys and KFC are going to repeatedly capitalise on the distinct lack of signature Decepticons in the season 1 and 2 Masterpiece collection lineup. I SAW Grenadier turn the heads of long time official-only collectors at Auto Assembly, even non-Masterpiece collectors. I saw resolute defiance start to chip and crumble in the face of what is a standout quality product from a company that has signalled a welcomed return to top form.
FT-12 Grenadier is not perfect, there’s a very serious cheat going on with the antennae meaning properly old school Bombshell lovers will resent the fact that the large antenna cannot be pointed over his head from his back like with the G1 toy (strange, this one didn’t dull my appreciation at all, it should have, it did others). Having said that, the show was not 100% consistent, check out the following TFWiki screen grabs showing a toy style Bombshell with the antenna being back-mounted, and then a Grenadier-style image with it clearly on his head:
The latter is far more prevalent, giving Grenadier’s head the show accuracy point. He also has a significant amount of back kibble that does not have a definitive and satisfying storage arrangement despite the teeny pegs that kinda sit in small grooves above his waist. However, the longer Takara Tomy take about giving collectors the villains they crave, the more time companies like FansToys have to perfect their formula and get the composition of materials, proportions, aesthetics and QC right, leading to more and more collections looking like this:
And on that bombshell, see you next week.
All the best