I must confess to knowing very little about Grapple (the character), his distant cartoon appearances eluded me and I struggle to recall any memorable storylines he was involved in during the Marvel UK Comics years. I do recall however seeing him on the toy shelves along with his red counterpart knowing that I wanted him, but it wasn’t to be and it would not be until adulthood that I got to own him (and Inferno).
Bringing us firmly to the present day and no one would have questioned the possibility of a Masterpiece Grapple following the news that Takara were to release Masterpiece Inferno, we all know that Takara love the double dip so it was inevitable.
At the time I recall thinking will there be any changes implemented to the mold (other than the crane arm), would it be just a straight up repaint or would some redesign work be involved. Well, time to find out I suppose so here is our look at Masterpiece Grapple …
Packaging & Accessories
The box continues with the standard Takara Masterpiece style and format, larger box dimensions to incorporate the figure (in crane-truck mode), basically the same as for the prior release of Inferno.
Opening up the box and Grapple is contained in the clamshell along with a selection of accessories, a baggie also contains the instructions, collector card and design schematics for the solar power tower.
Also included (as was with Inferno), is a small none pose able die-cast mini-figure, this time it’s Ultra Magnus. I won’t go into too much detail on this other than to say that I’m still as yet undecided about these. In fact I believe I said, in my review for Inferno, “They are useless enough to warrant a space on my shelf … “.
Instructions are easy enough to follow as always and include nice glossy images of the figure from differing angles in both modes. Complimenting this are the usual images and information we get from the varying scenarios the particular character found themselves in from the cartoon series, of course highlighting the included accessories. No sticker sheet this time, sorry folks.
The collectors cards continue to impress, I really like the stylised artwork we are getting. These interpretations for me imbue the character with personality, much like the box artwork of the G1 line.
Looking closer at these accessories they include:
- Arc welder rifle
- Chromed arm nozzle
- Animation style cab facia
- Solar power tower (from the episode The Master Builders)
- Claw style crane attachment (from the episode Auto Berserk)
- Shovel style crane attachment (from the episode Auto Berserk)
- Alternate headpiece
- 3x extra face sculpts
- Solar power tower blueprints
- Die-cast mini-figure of Ultra Magnus
Out the box and Grapple is a chunky piece of orange plastic, there is no denying that. At a quick glance he looks pretty much identical to Inferno. Now that’s not an unreasonable assumption to make considering but when you look closer then you’ll find the variances.
I won’t say that Grapple lacks the detail of his counterpart but he does appear to have less; gone are the hose pipes and round circular detailing just behind the front wheels, the front grille has less chrome to it and there are some changes to the panelling which make up the arms that I’ll cover later. Parts that remain unchanged are the stabilising arms, sirens, horns, wheels and overall general body shape. There is the addition of the hazard paint to the crane arm and rear section, the obvious colour change and of course the crane.
Takara impressed the collecting community (and myself) with the ladder engineering on Inferno so would they be able to pull it off a seconds time for Grapple … well, I’d have to say … maybe ?
I feel that what let the ladder down also lets the crane down, the lack of overall movement and limited range.
The crane is anchored to the main body by a piston and as such does not allow for any rotation or great vertical lift. And due to the collapsible gimmick for transformation we are left with a rather stunted length, this proves problematic when wishing to utilise some of the crane attachments as posing is limited to just above the cab area. If you unclip the arm from the base then you can move it considerably forward but it looks very unsightly.
I like the addition of the crane attachments, more often than not most accessories are geared towards robot mode so this make a nice change. The facia on the front of the cab swaps out for a more animated look and a panel on the roof of the cab flips up to allow the rifle to be placed in, something which I missed / omitted from my Inferno review.
There are no tabbing issues as such but one or two flaps don’t quite line up and I’ve noticed one or two paint scratches to my example here in hand, overall it’s not too shabby and before I forget; he’s slightly shorter than Inferno.
If you have Inferno then you will be familiar with most of Grapples transformation sequence and changes are, as you would assume, to the crane section and his lower leg area. Familiarising ones self with the instructions will guide you through these changes and will help immensely when going back to truck from robot, mine almost went through the window, but to be fair I wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time to be buggering about with it so live and learn.
For the most part he has a solid enough robot mode, good articulation with some nice tight joints.
I say good articulation as there are one or two areas that let him down; firstly his butt flap prohibits any meaningful waist rotation and secondly the collapsed crane base on the back of the lower legs restricts the ankle movement. The ab-crunch remains (which can alleviate the waist rotation issue) and in a change from Inferno the upper legs are designed to move independently from the crotch flaps, now this does not allow any extra movement but the way I see it is it’s more due to the mold changes rather than an intelligent design choice. Also of note is as in truck mode Grapple is shorter than Inferno in robot mode, this I believe is down to the upper legs.
Pose-ability is again good but I think somewhat less than his mold brother, the changes implemented seem to me to have hampered this figure slightly.
Nice sculpt on the hands, clearly defined fingers (fused with single point of articulation) with the trigger finger just slightly forward of the others, good for when holding his gun but a pain in the arse when trying to get him to hold the screwdriver. This is a little unfair as it’s more a tight tabbing issue rather than any fault of the fingers or hand design in general. A tab on the solar power tower allows Grapple to hold it aloft, again by tabbing into the hand but keeping the hand wide open. The right forearm has the ability to store the screwdriver.
Grapple shows some of those detail changes more in robot mode than in his truck guise; the shoulders have a raised circular design to them, the upper arm has a molded square as opposed to a white circle, the upper legs are a narrower looking style with an orange fin to the rear, the lower legs have the collapsed crane base as mentioned and the front of the foot has a square line detail to it. To the rear of the figure is that grey butt flap and the head surround a little narrower and steeper in line with the cartoon. Head sculpt is different too with no “toy” looking headpiece provided, alternatives are supplied and the ones from Inferno will also fit. I like how simple and effective this swap out feature is, no fiddling around with small screws and such. However, with the concept being based off of friction to hold in place I wonder how long it will hold up under repeated usage.
Before moving on, I had an issue with the right leg outer panel, it wouldn’t stay closed. After looking at it further I was able to remedy it by trimming a little paint overspray that was on the inner side, it now closes and holds as it should. One other thing that bothered me was because the joints are so tight the shoulder would pop out whenever I would try to move or rotate.
It’s tough you know when you have a figure in front of you that tempts you to plunder so much from a previous review, such is the closing of this review.
I recall saying in my Inferno review, “ … for me it lacked that immediate “wow” factor”. And I’m going to stand by this in my summary of Grapple. This may seem a little on the negative side and maybe it is but I don’t intend it to be, I’m just not feeling it from Takara at the moment. It is a good quality figure with a good design and as close a likeness to his animation model as currently possible. And I think that’s where Takara maybe loosing my enthusiasm, as good as it is … it feels and looks like a toy and not a collectable. I know, I’ve used this term before but you cannot help how you feel or view things.
If I may I’ll bullet point some Pro’s & Con’s as I see them;
- Good animation likeness
- Tight joints
- Solid construction
- Reasonable articulation
- Good selection of accessories
- Good paint application
- Official product for those that held off from a 3rd Party option
- No toy accurate headpiece
- Not enough extension or movement to the crane arm
- No die-cast
- Limited articulation & over stiffness to some joints
- Paint application a little thick in areas and some marking & chipping
I do believe I have been spoiled by having had time with MMC Girder prior to Grapple, the former for me represents a collectable more than the latter. But whilst Grapple is not my favoured representation of the character I still find him pleasing to the eye and a place on my shelf is assured if for nothing more than it being an official release.
Grapple is a welcome addition to the ranks of the Official Masterpiece line, he fits in well with the more recent Takara releases such as Inferno, Ironhide and Ratchet. The mold panders more to the animation than toy which is a welcome direction for some and if you have not already got a masterpiece style Grapple than I can recommend him … but I still like Girder !
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