Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Fangs for the Memories...

Ho hum - another day, another set from a theme that I vowed I wouldn't get involved with...

The Ninjago theme has by all accounts been fabulously popular with kids, but it didn't appeal to me at all when I saw pictures of the first wave of sets last year. I was left similarly cold when the sets appeared at retail, and I thought I was safe. Little did I know how some of the sets would grow on me over time, however... Set 2507 Fire Temple turned out to be a beauty, and indeed a spectacular bargain as many U.K. retailers slashed the price earlier this year to 50% of the RRP or even less. I also confess to have snapped up a couple of other first wave Ninjago sets as well, including Set 2509 Earth Dragon Defence.

Set 2507 Fire Temple - stunning.
When I first spied images of the 2012 Ninjago sets I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing - all those bizarre-looking, brightly coloured vehicles looked, to be frank, like a psychedelic nightmare. After the shock had worn off, however, I once again started to spy some sets of interest. My eyes were drawn in particular to Set 9455 Fangpyre Mech (below) which I saw for the first time at AFOLCON a few weeks ago.

I seem to be going through a bit of a 'mech' phase of late, probably triggered by my purchase of Super Heroes Set 6862 Superman Vs Power Armor Lex which is one of my favourite sets of the year so far. I've consequently recently found myself buying up LEGO mechs and robots old and new like they're going out of fashion, including a number of Exo Force sets, Creator Set 4508 Titan XP, and even the Hero Factory-esque Set 4529 Iron Man. Given this, I predictably couldn't resist picking up the Ninjago Fangpyre Mech set; buying it was in fact harder than I expected since it's an Exclusive set here in the UK and I couldn't readily find it anywhere except in LEGO's own stores. I therefore bagged it during LEGO's recent "Spend £50 and get a free Hulk minifigure" promotion, and it arrived a few days ago.

You can see the box above, the lurid green 2012 Ninjago branding working well (!) with the eye-searing lime green of the model itself. On the face of it, one Ninja versus a monstrous snake-faced mech doesn't seem like a very fair fight to me, but I'm sure Ninjago fans will tell me different. The back of the box highlights some of the play features of the set which we'll get to later.

Opening the box revealed 5 bags of LEGO pieces, the smallest containing just one minifigure part. There was also an instruction booklet and a sticker sheet. The instruction booklet (below) was relatively small - only about 5 inches by 6.5 inches - and quite chunky at 79 pages, with a cover very similar to the front of the box.

In addition to the actual building instructions, the instruction booklet is a veritable feast of additional content, if you like that kind of thing... There's advertising for the first wave of 2012 Ninjago sets, a 2-page inventory of parts, an exhortation to "customise your spinners" in 6 languages, cartoony images of Ninjago minifigures, and advertising for the website featuring images of Ninjago vehicles emerging from an iPad, an iPhone and a laptop screen. We also get advertising for LEGO Universe (R.I.P.) and the LEGO club, plus the now-obligatory image of a child shouting "WIN !" on the back cover which is somehow supposed to be an inducement for us all to take a LEGO survey. Not until you change the photo, guys... Finally, I was somewhat taken aback by the double-page spread in the middle of the booklet (below - click to enlarge) which highlights the multiple weapon types that feature in the Ninjago sets. We all know that the LEGO company isn't averse to fantasy violence, but even so a focus on the multitude of available weapons goes beyond what I'd normally expect.

The sticker sheet (below) was floating loose in the box; it was predictably starting to curl, but the stickers themselves were thankfully intact. The purple and red motif on the top right of the sheet is the mech control panel, the other stickers are external decoration. Note the "NAB 11" sticker which will attach to one of the mech's arms and which is derived from the set designer's username in the LEGO online community - I like it when the designers add personal touches like that.

I generally like to highlight a few parts of interest when I'm reviewing a set, and on this occasion it was genuinely hard to know where to start. Man, this set is stuffed full of interesting, unusual and colourful parts, although how excited you are by the selection below (click to enlarge) is I suspect largely dependent on how partial you are to a healthy dose of lime green...

In terms of rarity the standout parts are the 4 x 4 wedge in the middle of the cluster of lime green parts above and the pearl gold wing with pinhole, both of which are unique to this set. The very cool-looking two-tone green spike (actually a modified 1 x 2 plate with angular extension and lime green tip) at the top of the picture has only appeared in one other set to date, which is also the case for the dark green 2 x 1 x 2/3 slope with slots and the lime green 1 x 2 x 2 panel. A number of other parts including the sand green modified 1 x 2 plate with clip on top and the dark purple curved 2 x 2 slope have perhaps featured in just 3 or 4 other sets to date. I assume that the only reason we get the sand green modified 1 x 2 plates in this set is because this part doesn't actually exist in lime green. So lots of interesting pieces not readily found elsewhere, then - nice. And a banana. I'll admit I can't come up with a credible explanation for its presence in this set; maybe Mark Stafford (lego_nabii) who designed this set was just messing with our minds....

The set contains two minifigures, Kendo Cole (a goodie) and Fang-Suei, a snake-faced baddie. Cole's elegant Ninja robes are covered by the armour he's wearing, which is a shame as his armour looks cheap and ugly. Still, you can always remove it.

You can see Cole all tooled-up below. The pearl gold scythe I kind of get, even if it is unfeasibly large. The banana remains a mystery, however - is it for sustenance, or does it have a more sinister purpose ? Even its ownership is shrouded in mystery - the side of the box and publicity shots for the set show it being wielded with intent by Fang-Suei, but it's under the stewardship of Cole in the instruction booklet. Would someone just put me out of my misery and explain what on earth it's doing in this set ? Please ?!

I thought Fang-Suei was a way of arranging objects to bring them in harmony with the environment, but apparently thats feng shui... You can see the snake-faced villain, who has appeared in 3 sets to date including this one, below.

And so to the mech... You start out by building the cockpit of the beast, followed by the legs. The head comes next, and this is an extremely clever build - the sculpting of the head looks fantastic, and the use of vehicle wheel arches to seamlessly form the upper and lower eyelids is particularly cool. When the head is complete and has been attached to the body of the mech it's time to constuct and attach the arms, one of which features a flick-fire missle. Finally the tail, which is the weakest part of the model, is built and attached. Pics below - click to enlarge.

The model has multiple articulation points allowing it to be easily posed. The head lifts and lowers, the body swivels at the waist, the legs articulate at the hip and ankle, the arms articulate at the shoulder and elbow, and the pincers at the end of the arms can grip objects. The tail also articulates, and there's even a frame atop the cockpit which can be raised and lowered.

I have to say I really like this model. It's a good looking mech, particularly the superbly-realised head, it's fun to build utilising some clever building techniques, and it has lots of moving parts and can be easily posed. It's also full of interesting pieces, particularly if you like lime green... OK, so the colour scheme certainly won't be to everybody's taste but I've learned to like it. On the downside, the minifigures aren't particularly interesting, and Cole's armour is a bit rubbish. Also, there are a few stickers to apply. But that's it, really.

Set 9455 Fangpyre Mech is currently available online from LEGO shop@home and from LEGO brand stores.  I also spotted it for sale online at Smyths, and it may well be available in-store too. At £19.99 / $24.99 for 255 pieces it seems reasonable value for money; I even paid RRP for it, which is unlike me... Definitely a thumbs-up for this one.

"Fight, Fight, Fight !" - Lex Luthor and Fang-Suei resolve their differences...


  1. Anonymous30/5/12

    I suppose the banana is a kind of dagger...

  2. James Orpin30/5/12

    Or a boomerang

  3. Paul H30/5/12

    Mark was meant to be explaining the banana at AFOLCON

    I don't remember this actually being mentioned, though.

  4. Anonymous1/2/13

    The Ninjago character encyclopedia says the banana belongs to Fang-suei. He was said to be a master of weapons a banana is supposedly deadly in his hand.

    1. According to the Ninjago Character Encyclopaedia, Fang Suei is always hungry, but being so battle focussed he can turn anything into a weapon - even his lunch ! Glad we got to the bottom of that one, then....