So here is Ocular Max (AKA Mastermind Creations) Perfection Series 05 "Girder", otherwise known as a 3rd Party interpretation of Masterpiece Autobot Grapple. This mould has already been used by Ocular Max for their Not-Inferno "Backdraft" and since the release of PS-05 Girder we have had a show exclusive "Road Crane" version of Hauler. Forgive the lack of gorgeous packaging in this review, I had to leave it in the UK!
A quite lovely vehicle mode indeed, much like Backdraft. Ocular Max may have taken a slight departure from the G1 truck mode with the arms being covered by the slide out panels, but they have recreated a very faithful truck cab, and they have colour matched the G1 Grapple toy much more closely than MakeToys managed with their Re:Master Wrestle.
But as with Backdraft, I find that virtually all aspects of Ocular Max Girder create conflict for me. There are things I love and I feel he does better than MakeToys and the official sculpt (for Inferno currently), and there are others that are just a crying shame which detract from his overall score. Looking at Girder from the back, he has nice detailing on the rear chrome bumpers and a believable back end compared to the almost Lego look of the official MP Inferno, and yet you can see the issues with alignment he has. The pegging of that rear section is definitely worse than Backdraft was. I have not once been able to get everything pegged properly at the back and have it aligned. Also, a little peg inside the right bumper half broke so that bumper bit falls off regularly now.
A real shame about that, because it's such a gorgeous vehicle, right down to the detailing on the chromed sections under the crane, the grille features, the pull-out stabilisers and the articulated hook. The crotch section now features the improved moulding so it stows away better and the wheel that was too tightly pinned on Backdraft is much better here. So improvement in some instances, regression in others.
The transformation, same thing again, such conflict! I really enjoy transforming the legs on this toy, I think they're super satisfying and I love how the panels fold up around the calves. The crotch is a funky design too and now it tabs into the waist perfectly. Arms and cab are good too, I like that bit, but I find opening the doors on the left side of the cab very tight and tricky. Do remember to slide the arms forward so that you can close the panel behind them. Unfortunately, due to the crane moulding, closing the cowl on his head is a real trick. Even when you remember to flatten the crane arm against his pack, and then pull the assembly out (a step missed in the instructions), the cowl halves on mine do not fully shut. One of the small cylindrical pegs just won't go into the hole. Again, regression from the Backdraft release. Having said that, there are some online who have managed to make that hood close flush on their Girder.
On the other hand, look at him. he's beautiful. A lifelong Grapple fan, seeing him with this level of articulation and an athletic body silhouette with excellent height and proportions, well it is a delight. Not only does he come with the orange and black helmets that resemble the G1 cartoon head sculpt (think Care Bears), but he comes with an improved toy head for Backdraft. Now since I have Wrestle in cartoon configuration and will have MP Grapple like that too with an orange head, this seemed a perfect opportunity for me to create a G1 toy Grapple. Therefore, my Girder sports the improved Backdraft's toy head. Perfect re-creation of G1 toy Grapple.
There is a lot of posability and expression available to Girder. The individually articulated digits are great, and he still has the iconic crane down the back that MP Grapple has sacrificed for ingenuity's sake. Here you see him with his orange Care Bear helmet, which is more akin to the cartoon Grapple than toy version. I do wish he had a chrome missile arm like Backdraft, though. There's that sense of conflict again, however, as gun grip is woeful. It just does not tab in securely enough. He cannot do the run convincingly because of the prodigious weight of him (die cast content), the distribution of the weight and lack of outward ankle tilt. He can probably do a convincing kneel like Backdraft, but the upper pivot of the double-jointed knee is supremely tight so I gave up trying.
Alongside MakeToys Wrestle and the Generation 1 Grapple, you can see how closely Ocular Max have gotten to the original shape and aesthetic of the vintage toy, and the colour matching too. The proportions on Girder, when next to Wrestle, really stand out as more lithe and faithful to the original too, but unlike the way Backdraft really put Hellfire in the shade visually when stood together, I don't feel Girder does the same to Wrestle. For a start, the chunky look works for Grapple, and the orange helmet sculpt on Wrestle looks better to me, as does his missile arm. But...then...Girder has chrome where Wrestle has white paint. In the last picture above, I finally mustered up the interest to fit the toon-mould black helmet, easily the weakest of the three he comes with in my opinion. Girder also comes with a stickersheet, but I think unless it says "Diaclone" on it, for this character/mould I'm not too fussed about adding further decoration.
Spending time on the forums, and having an emotional investment in all three options for this character (eventually), I've been interested to see that quite a number of collectors really like the Ocular Max Backdraft/Girder mould and will not be going for TakaraTomy's highly cartoon-accurate Grapple or Inferno. The heavy weighting of the official Masterpiece towards detail-shy cartoon aesthetic has made Ocular Max's offerings just that much more likely to survive the collection culls that often precede an MP release. There's genuine choice for people in their choice of Grapple to fit in with the season 2 official Masterpiece toys...or unofficial depending on how things progress from here.
Different collectors will look at the group shots above and feel different things; we're told choice is a good thing and we certainly have that. I just wish that choice could be purely based on aesthetics and not little niggles with transformation, tabbing (Girder), snapping waist parts (Wrestle) and the like. I am still more likely to pick up Wrestle to transform than Girder but that's not going to be the case for everyone. In a way, thanks to TakaraTomy's decision to go full metal cartoon with Masterpiece, Girder could be one of the real survivors of the official MP roll-out as far as 3P offerings are concerned. He's certainly pretty enough.
All the best