Saturday, November 15th, 2014 at 1:50pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
The Bionicle set reviews continue! Today BZPower Blog Leader DeeVee returns to the front page with his look at 70787 Tahu Master of Fire! Tahu was a lot of people's first Bionicle set and one of the most recognizable characters in the Bionicle universe. So how does this new version do in luring old fans back in and bringing Bionicle to a new generation? You'll have to read on to find out!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
By now, most of us have heard the news, but canisters and pouches are, as of now, a thing of the past. Bionicle 2015 is a reboot, and right away we set the stage by changing what was once one of the definitive hallmarks of Bionicle from 2001 to 2010.
Tahu, along with Onua and Kopaka, comes in a cardboard box that is deceptively thin. It's a rather tall box, but it has little depth, and is made of a lighter cardboard than most LEGO products. Vaguely hexagonal, the box is bright and vivid, with the new LEGO Bionicle logo and a beautiful render of the Mask of Creation adorning the top. Underneath is an image of Tahu in a familiar setting, a familiar pose, in an unfamiliar body. The lava surfing image is sure to bring back memories for those fans who first saw Tahu Mata and Tahu Nuva on the shelves, and I'm very impressed with the homage. In front of Tahu is a hovering Golden Mask of Fire, and leaping out at Tahu is the conflict-in-a-box villain: a nefarious skull spider.
The back of the box has various depictions of Tahu's functions, as well as a small mini comic showcasing the Protector of Fire and Tahu versus a few skull spiders. A longer version of this comic can be found in the instruction manual.
The bottom quarter of the box is legal disclaimers. It's been a long time, my old friend.
The new boxes require a little more thought than the usual packaging, as the three Toa thus far reviewed are larger than the other three. We've never had Toa from the same team at different price points like this before, and though it became common in Hero Factory, this is Bionicle. The box is gorgeous, and rather large, and it's going to stand out amazingly on the shelf. The range of box sizes is going to be an interesting sight, and I'm so very very ready!
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The build is rather straightfor- hold on a minute, no, no it's not.
There are parts of Tahu that will be old-hat for those who have purchased any Hero Factory set the past few years: stick the joints together, layer with CCBS shells. Easy, effective, great looking. But Tahu here isn't a Hero Factory set.
In 2001 LEGO introduced six Toa under the Technic umbrella, as they contained a gear-driven limb-moving gimmick involved in a poorly-advertised mask-removing game. (I say poorly-advertised because apparently kids and parents thought the loose mask connections were a product defect.) Several years later, and the iconic gears, no longer necessary for any sort of game, became vestigial before becoming extinct. But 2015 Tahu, and by extension, the entire Toa lineup, has decided to marry the best of both worlds. Tahu has an interesting, albeit rather simple when you get down to it, gear system that takes up the bulk of the build. Using several knob-gears and a few small-toothed gears with friction pins, Tahu is a fantastic build experience. This absolutely feels like building a Bionicle set, and the best part is that you could pick a fan from almost any era and it would still feel like a Bionicle set. The gears, the posing, the motion range, the mask! It's all there. This is seriously impressive.
When you're done building, you have before you a true Master of Fire.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
Tahu contains a neat assortment of new and recoloured parts.
In the brand new column we have:
- The red Mask of Fire
- The gold Mask of Fire
- The Skull Spider mask/body
- The Skull Spider legs
- The new armour detail add-on
- The new gearbox
- The new head
- The new eyestalk
- The new silver swords/surfboard
- The HF chest plate in primary red!
- The gold swords, which have only been available in a single Ninjago set
- The trans-orange size 4 CCBS shells, only available before in the 2014 Chima CCBS sets, not available in North America
- The gold chest add-on with Tahu-exclusive printing
And of interest but not new:
- The pin connector attached directly to a pin socket, debuted in recent Chima Speedorz sets
The new gearbox is versatile, with Technic pin holes lining almost every surface, I wouldn't be surprised to see it become a staple of Technic sets for years to come. The new mechanical detail add-on is available on Tahu in gold, and the molded piston and accordion joint are perfect additions to recall the Bionicle aesthetic while maintaining the CCBS style. I love these parts!
The swords are large, and connect to one another in the same manner Lhikan's swords did back in 2004. They are largely hollow, with an axle molded inside the quarter-oval openings. This space fits the molded Technic-connected flame parts, which Tahu pairs in trans-red to trans-yellowish orangeish. They have another axle connection on the bottom, and another at the bottom of the back end of the blade for a hand to hold. Molded with a few Technic pin holes for good measure, this part definitely feels like an old Bionicle weapon whilst also doing something aesthetically fresh at the same time. It's a delicate balance, but it walks the line brilliantly.
The chest print is gorgeous, with a small speaker-like detail on the left, and a tribal-esque pattern splashed across the front. Looking like a mix between tribal warpaint and some sort of tech-punk graffiti, the print sells the 'biomechanical being on a random island' look very well. Hard to make out in photos, but the print includes a metallic pink ribbon running along it which looks incredible in person.
The new head is molded in silver, and contains no axle or stud opening for a mouth. Instead, it has a stylish face with an opening along the top similar to the Metru head for an eyestalk. Make note, this head is NOT compatible with Metru-era eyestalks. The eyestalk is connected via a red 2-length axle, and when you push on the back, the front of the eyes pop up in order to pop off the mask.
On the side of the head are little indentions, which is how the new masks attach. Each mask has two prongs, one on each side, with raised sections molded in which slip into the indents. I find this to be a snug connection on Tahu. The masks do not fall off, even when I hold the set up by the mask.
Tahu's eyes are a vivid bright blue that offers very poor light-piping. The colour very rarely picks up the light, and the result is an empty looking eye under the mask unless direct light is shown behind them. This is a definite let-down.
But let's be real, you've made it this far, and I can hear your thoughts perfectly. "But DeeVee," you think, "what about the really important part? What about the masks????"
Tahu comes with three masks. The Mask of Fire mold in red and gold, and the skull spider mask in bright yellowish green (help me Scott).
The skull spider design is fantastic. The top of the mask is a ridged abdomen-like section, and the eyes and face are definitely based on a creepy skull. The mandibles of the spider, when used as a mask, create a grim mouth, and the final result is one of the creepiest masks ever to grace Bionicle. I love it. The colour here adds another creepy look, as the pastel colour looks almost sickly and devoid of life. It's a beautiful contrast to Tahu's vivid colour scheme.
The Mask of Fire is absolutely one hundred percent recognizable as Tahu's mask. Clearly based on the original Hau design, Tahu's new mask has undergone a few changes.
The clear masks do a better job of showcasing the new mask's lines, so I included them in the photo. They do not come in this set. The new mask lacks the heavy brow of the original, but instead has eyebrow ridges molded in above, creating a more regal sort of stern, as opposed to the implied hot-headed stern of the original. The 2001 mask is clearly more rounded, more smooth, and the new one fits the sweet spot between over-designed and over-simple, which is indeed what the CCBS system requires, aesthetically. The new mask has two cheek vents instead of three, and they've been moved down above the new ridge that lines the bottom of the mask. I think this ridge continues with the regal motif, and I think the new mask really portrays a wiser Tahu than the original 2001 mask did. Moving along, the original mask's forehead vent is present in mold, but is not open as the original was.
It seems clear to me the designers took the original mask, the masks's appearance in the Mask of Light film, and worked to make both iterations clear in the new one. I think it's a fantastic update to the original, and probably the one I think looks most thematically like the original.
Tahu is a tall set. He has friction extensions on both his hips and ankles, and his shoulder additions make for an imposing figure. (His friction extensions on his ankles are required for his ankles to move forward without being stopped by the HF chest plates). He has four swords, and the two gold blades store on his back. They can be flipped up (and indeed I prefer him this way, as this is the way he's presented in all the animations and artwork seen so far), and this looks incredible. He's dynamic and full of character. He possesses a royal sense of power and authority, as well as a presence that screams power and strength. Four swords doesn't hurt, of course!
But let's talk about the gear system.
Sure, you already saw this image, but I'm bringing it back up to showcase the way this is built. In 2001 the arms would turn when the gear on the back was turned, but if you let go, gravity did its thing and they fell back down. Well, LEGO seems to have wanted to bring back the feeling that original gear system imparted while staying true to the posing advancements the system made as it ran its course over the decade. What they've done is the best of both worlds.
The knob gears control the motion of Tahu's arms, but the main axle that controls the central gear is capped with a small 8-toothed-gear, which runs up against another small 8-toothed-gear connected via friction pin. It seems simple, but this provides enough friction and stability that the arms hold whatever pose they are put in exceptionally well. Gears that control the arms with ease, and arms that you can move around! LEGO is doing something amazing here, guys.
That said, there are things I'm not crazy about. I understand the design choice with the HF chest plates in red for the lower legs, as they are a long piece that covers the bone while also mimicking the bell-bottom-esque look the Toa legs had both in 2001 and 2002, but from any angle that's not a 3/4 they look incredibly flat and flimsy. Unlike the other shells, these don't extend to wrap around the bones the same way, and this is exceedingly obvious far too often.
In regards to the gear system, the shoulders are attached via the ball connectors with the axle that goes all the way through. These connectors are doubled up, and the ones sandwiched between the shoulder connection and the torso are how Tahu's shoulder armour is connected, and this is a problem. Visually, this looks awesome, but there is no space on the axle for the shoulder or armour sockets to wiggle, so when you pose the arms, the axles connecting into the gearbox have a tendency to slowly work their way out of the torso. And the shoulder armour has a tendency to strike the golden swords or the parts connecting the golden sword to the body. This isn't terribly frustrating, but it isn't terribly fun, either.
Tahu is quite a bit taller than the original Tahu. It's crazy to me how similar the two sets are, even using such different building techniques and visual languages. They seem to me to be clearly the same character, but the two aesthetics are vastly different. I don't know, I think I might prefer the new one in a lot of ways.
(I feel vaguely bad about saying that!)
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
Tahu's large silver swords can combine to form a surfboard, and TLG has included two pins and a Technic connector to make the transition easier. Tahu's feet snap onto the pins, and he connects to the surfboard easily, with the connector holding the two blades together. I find my two blades from the box don't like to stay together tightly without the connector, but the two silver swords I received at NYCC stay together snugly. It's possible your mileage may vary. The gold swords on the back disconnect as well and can be used as additional weaponry.
When you push the back of the eyestalk down, as mentioned earlier, the front end pushes up and strikes the mask, popping it off. And like I said, I can hold Tahu up by the mask and it doesn't fall off, which is a fantastic connection, even though a simple purposeful tap on the back of the eyestalk will launch the mask a good foot or so. I love that this mask-knocking-off function has returned, especially in conjunction with the gear system. A lot of early-year Bionicle cues went into these systems, and it hits all the right buttons for me.
Tahu retains all the major points of articulation latter year Bionicle and Hero Factory figures contained.
The new sets have what is called a "conflict in a box", where from the outset Tahu has a little villain to fight. It may not be big, but the skull spider is creepy, and it can be used as a little spider, with the mandibles up front and the legs used as creepy, sharp legs, or as a mask on the face of Tahu.
The skull spider has five bar connectors which the new legs snap onto. Frustratingly, the box shows the legs wrapping around the new head when it connects to potentially take over a host, but it is incredibly hard to actually achieve this in real life. Take my advice and let the lower legs just hang forward.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- OMG Bionicle
- It's Tahu, guys
- New mask is undeniably Tahu's
- Amazing integration of gears and articulation!
- Three masks in one set!
- Great new molds
- Conflict in a box
- Lovely proportions
- Great integration of the old and new visual languages
- I love CCBS
- Skull spider is awesome
What's not to like?
- Bad light-piping in eyes
- Poor lower-leg armour
- Sometimes awkward shoulder armour limitations
- Might ruin your nostalgia by being better than 2001 Tahu :(
- Bionicle is back and you have to pay for it?!
- Sword connection to surfboard may be weak
I had a hard time coming up with valid cons for the list. I feel some of those are potentially important, but I can't pretend they begin to outweigh the pros. Because they don't. This is a solid set, and I absolutely recommend it. Tahu is undeniably Tahu, and I can't wait to see where this line is going!
Big shoutout to LEGO for all they've done with these sets, from the amazing NYCC panel to sending us these sets to review!
Please join me in thanking Pat for putting this review together. Let us know your thoughts on Tahu in the Talkback, and feel free to ask any questions you might have as well. The Bionicle reviews will keep coming, so continue to check back on BZPower for them and all the latest Bionicle and LEGO news!
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