Originally released in Japan in 1983, the Crane Robo doesn't have the most exciting history - later that year, Tonka released it unchanged as the Renegade Crain Brain, and that's about it, aside from a red/white version coming out in the fourth and final 'Best of Machine Robo' boxed set in Japan. And the name, as per the Gobots card, is Crain Brain (no idea why), though if looking for one on ebay or the like check for Crane Brain too.

The figure was deleted after a brief run during the first series of Gobots, and is one of the harder early small figures to find (not even being released in Europe). Glasslite did release him as Ergor in their Brazilian Mutante series, though, so it's not all bad, what with Mutante figures being so common. The Japanese version, incidentally, has a pair of prominent stickers bearing the legend 'CRANE ROBO' on the crane arm itself.

Crain Brain made only two fleeting appearances in the TV series, confined to cameos in the opening brace of mini-series. He did manage to have two different animation models across about five seconds of screentime, though. A knockoff with yellow arms and legs but red painted parts can also be found.


Crain Brain's mobile crane mode, based on a Unic K-200B is pretty nice. Despite only being a couple of inches long (indeed, one of the smallest Gobots in vehicle mode), like Dumper scale is expressed through the small wheels and carved doors, and the design itself is rather nice. I much prefer Crain Brain's alt mode to that of the Transformers toy Grapple, as not only does it look better-scaled (Grapple always seems to be in scale with the other Autobot cars, and thus small for a crane, even though he isn't), but it's less like a crane stuck on top of a fire engine. Grapple was no doubt modelled on an existing crane truck, but in my mind Crain Brain is what a mobile crane should look like.

He's surprisingly well detailed, with some good work done on the cab, but it's not overdone. The arms blend into the back nicely enough, and the painted diecast cab (a touch I find improbably cool) and rear panels blend nicely with the plastic. The split cab does ruin the look a little head-on, however. The crane part actually works to a degree, rotating through 360° and raising, though you'll need a stiff, shiny carded version to get this to stay in place as the base of the unit wears. The arm can extend too, which means he can be set up to lift tiny things into the back of Dumper. If Dumper's back wasn't covered and they weren't mortal enemies in the West, anyway.


Transforming Crain Brain is simple but satisfying, with the early Gobot knack of making the robot seem much bigger than the vehicle mode, though he's still only about 2½" in height. The robot mode is well-proportioned and pretty impressive - I love those feet, which basically swung me towards hunting for the guy, and the extending arms are a nice touch. There's a good use of stickers and a respectable head design (though this is again very close to Dumper - one of the problems with taking the toys for your sentient robot civil war storyline from a toyline where all the robots are heroic mechs on the same side).

There's the usual arm articulation and no real faults beyond the old Machine Robo/Gobots problem - there's nowhere to stow the removable crane unit in robot mode, which is a shame. It also means the thing is missing from a lot of loose examples. The Revenge of Cronos anime had a character model for the guy with the crane still clipped in place at waist height and the jib extending 90° from the stomach, but this looks rubbish and is near-impossible to achieve without a very tight crane assembly.


Despite a couple of minor problems, Crain Brain is a very impressive little figure, looking superb in both modes despite his small size, and being typically well crafted. The way most of the robot is neatly hidden away in crane truck mode is fantastic, the transformation is fairly unique, and he's durable. However, Crain Brain won't be especially cheap, especially when the lack of storage means the crane arm is effectively designed to get lost. He's worth the price range he tends to dwell in, though it's a shame about that awful, awful name.

[Corrections? Let me know!]

1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-24: Crane Robo
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 24: Crain Brain

1 x crane jib

Knees, base of jib