It’s been almost three years since the first release of FansToys’ first Iron Dibot, Scoria, but the series is finally completed with Iron Dibot No.5, FT-08 Grinder. The leader of the group has been probably the most contentious as there already exist a few options that collectors have been using to display a full collection of five heroic transforming dinosaur robots. The original Takara Masterpiece is still a beauty and has been reissued a number of times. Then there’s the oversized and arguably improved 3rd party re-tool of it called Reximus Prime. Is there still a place for a $200 figure that’s so close to what’s already on the market?
Promotional renders and pictures of FT-08 Grinder didn’t win him a large number of fans. For my part, he was one of the least interesting FansToys products to be coming out this year, especially as I had sold nearly all of my other Iron Dibots. What? Don’t look at me like that, I just moved to another country, you try transporting those damn things across town, let alone abroad! The thing is, though, 2017 is proving to be a bit of a special year so far for 3rd party figures. Fans Hobby have put out two stunners, MMC have given us Titanika, MakeToys have delivered a gem in Downbeat and FansToys themselves created the wonderful Sovereign. I had become intrigued by what Grinder could achieve based on recent form. Stomp, the last Iron Dibot, was damn near perfect too. Hope springs.
Grinder had to be delivered to my place of work, a place where I am surrounded by similarly-minded people most of the time, people who collect their own niche items and are aware of my collection and hobby. They were understandably excited to see what was in the massive box from Asia. On un-boxing, they were clearly awe-struck. Grinder is a big, heavy, glossy-looking figure. They were impressed by the articulated fingers, the die cast, the chrome and the sheer size of a figure that made – in their words – a mockery of the Transformers they can buy today in stores (keep in mind, Iceland doesn’t exactly get Masterpiece figures in toy stores). Sometimes it takes the reaction of others to remind us how lucky we are to have figures like this to cater to our collections and passions. Having said that, I didn’t require reminding.
Sure, he bears an enormous resemblance to MP-8, and I cannot truly claim that the wheel has been re-invented here. There’s more articulation in the hands and fingers, across most of him really. There’s a waist swivel that goes about 40 degrees or so in each direction and his head can look up and around well. The wings on his back can be angled up and back. The looseness that my MP-8 is afflicted by isn’t present here. He’s really good-looking, well proportioned and I believe he fits in beautifully with the other Iron Dibots, much better than the official toy with the booster boots.
Where MP-8 was too small and Reximus was too large, Grinder is exactly the correct fit for the Iron Dibots. Despite my worries initially, the aesthetic fit is absolutely right and he carries the general consistency of the sub series successfully to the end. The constant refinement of the art that evolved from Scoria to Stomp is evident in Grinder. Weapon grip is as good as Stomp, as is quality feel and construction. The finish is none too shabby either, plus his accessories are cool. Grinder comes with sword, double-barrelled rifle (both have light-up function), a replacement robot head with red eyes, replacement red T-Rex eyes and a more sculpted dino scalp and gold king’s crown. Grinder also comes packaged with a much much MUCH improved head for Sever, new faces for Scoria and Soar as well as replacement gold thigh clips for Soar.
I really do wish that all 3P companies would get on board with the simple head/eye/face swap mechanic that recent MPs and even MakeToys have adopted. For Grinder you have to yank the head off the ball joint and attach the alternate one, just to have different eyes. Is that seriously necessary? The dino eye swap on Grinder and Stomp is much easier and what all should be aiming for now.
Back to the positives, FansToys have adopted another excellent trend I am beginning to see across 3rd party figures. Fans Hobby have nailed it on both of their releases and MMC’s Reformatted toys are increasingly heading in this direction too. I am talking about the simple, quick and intuitive transformation. I was able to transform Grinder in front of the mini-crowd in my office without any glance at the instructions. It’s even more straightforward than MP-8, and while the leg transformation is similar and less elegant, there’s no disappointment in the end result.
There is a convergence happening and I could not be happier with this development. Sure, there are squeaky knee swivels and you have to be smart in how you arrange the legs and the order in which you transform him, otherwise you will run into clearance issues for the fold-out inner leg panels and the shiny chrome tail parts, but it’s genuinely an easy conversion. The only other spot of bother I had was closing the wings to form the dino chest, as the edges of the chest can scratch against the chrome corners of the chest if you are careless. But it is hard to avoid, because to get them to clip together, they have to clear the cubic block on the dino’s back and that can take a bit of a push. It may also take you a couple of attempts to clip the rear half of Grinder. I am finding all of the above to be less of an issue – to the point of not being an issue at all – on repeated transformations.
T-Rex mode is lovely. It gleams with chrome, and honestly I have properly given up caring which other Dibot’s chrome colour it matches or jars with. The head, as I understand it, has not satisfied all collectors and there’s a suggestion that FansToys will do a replacement dino head for Grinder, I can only assume it will be more show accurate? The current proportions seem to be closer to a real T-Rex jaw than maybe the character in question’s animation or original toy model.
The dino mode may be glorious to look at, but it isn’t perfect. On my copy, there is an occasional tendency for him to not hold poses where the tail is off the ground, it can sometimes lean and flop back to the default resting position on the surface. I may have not been angling the legs as precisely detailed in the instructions though. As you can see in the pics, it is possible and it does hold, it may just not be an instant hold. Also, I am certain that MP-8’s dino head can look down more than Grinder’s can, this may affect the amount of expression and particular poses/re-creations you will be able to achieve. There is also not a large amount of sideways articulation in the dino tail compared to some of the other Dibots. In the above photos you can see Grinder with the red eyes and the more arched sculpting above his eyes compared to the earlier parts used in previous blue-eyed photos.
There is no question that Grinder is impressive, the niggles I have with him are probably as small – if not smaller – than I have with any of the other standout 3rd party figures of 2017 so far. I’m really impressed by how FansToys have put out two killer figures which tick virtually every box, back to back. Of course there was never going to be anything groundbreaking or massively original compared to MP-8, but the general feel I get online is that people expected less and got more. Articulation is improved, the headsculpt is stunning and they’ve found a nice way to cover up the inner legs where the tail is folded up. For a figure that could so easily have been over-complicated for the sake of it, to stand out, Grinder really isn’t. The simplicity is refreshing and completely appropriate. This could effortlessly pass as an official update to this character for the Masterpiece line, and surely there’s few better things that could be said for this release considering what we already had access to? I’m not sure everyone will see it as a necessity at $200 for the reasons just stated, but FT have rounded out the Dibots in style. They’ve given us the king that his team deserves.
All the best