Monday, February 27th, 2023 at 1:39am by Jason, BZPower Reporter
I picked up 31208 Hokusai - The Great Wave at the beginning of the year and thought it was really neat. Since it is an art piece, it doesn't quite have the same style as most of the sets I review here, but I still thought it would be fun to give it a quick look. Read on for the photos.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The set goes for $99.99 USD and has 1810 pieces, and that makes for a big box. My copy actually had a mini box inside a box to help separate the pieces out a bit. You get a lot of white, medium blue, dark blue, tan, and light nougat elements mixed in. (White really has the most variety though, especially with the wedges, leaves, and birds.) Still, some of the bags felt deceptively small because even though they had many parts, they were all very small parts. And then there were duplicates of some bags that had the really big parts! I wouldn't necessarily count this as a parts pack, but it wouldn't entirely disappoint in that regard.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
The build is always an important factor in LEGO sets, but more so for Art sets where the finished model is entirely a display piece. There were three main stages to building this one. First, you put on the ground layer of plates and tiles on the six big, sturdy baseplates. A lot of this involves placing round tiles on, similar to other Art / Dots mosaics, but there was a fair amount of dark blue plates that went down too. And there's a certain satisfaction when placing wedge plates and having them line up just right!
The second stage has you adding the various details to the wave and boats and such. Given the complexity of the model, I feared this bit would be incredibly tedious, but the instructions maintain a good flow with the wave, as it were. It felt like a natural progression as you went across the board adding new details, and then for some you'd cycle back and add another layer of details to the top.
The final section was perhaps the dullest, which involves you building the frame. The frame is much larger than it is in other Art sets, so it includes a lot of bulky pieces and a lot of repetition. It has a solid, sizable feel to it, but it does lack the creativity of the wave designs as you focus purely on structure. It does include some technic axles that lock the main wave design to the frame; clicking them together was extremely satisfying.
And then, it all comes together and forms a cool recreation of the classic Hukusai painting, The Great Wave off Kanagawa . I should mention, like with most Art products, there's a podcast advertised, where they presumably talk about the history of the painting and how they designed the set. I unfortunately did not listen to it when I built it, so I couldn't tell you how worthwhile it is to listen to. (Previous Art Podcasts were interesting, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.) You should be able to stream it here, where you can listen to it while you build.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
The round tiles make up the background, showing off the light nougat sky with plenty of clouds. Below that are the dark blue tiles of the water, although a white triangular representation of Mount Fuji is included in the background at the base of the wave. The water has good colored layers, with dark blue in the back, medium blue in the middle, and white spray on the top. Bow wedges were included, but only the right ones. This won't help for collectors who want a full set of both left and right wedges, but it did make it simple to place them without having to worry about which side they were. The white leaf elements were also spread out across the wave, and do a great job at representing the spray of the ocean. The birds are more limited to the crest of the wave, and gives it an interesting texture when viewed from the top. These were some clever design concepts indeed.
Honestly, while I knew of the original painting, I was not overly familiar with it, and seemed to have glossed over the fact that there were boats in the water. (I guess I always assumed they were the land the waves were crashing upon?) But the original Hokusai work did have boats, and people on them too. Tan and dark tan wedges were used to recreate these boats, and some interesting stud math was even utilized to get some of the angles just right. The men are represented with blue printed tile heads on 1x2 round plates, which allow for some of them to be angles a bit with their boat. They're a fun addition. (And I may have made a few modifications to some.)
The frame is basic and large. It does allow for some of the wave details to reach off the canvas and overlap the frame, which is a neat trick. But honestly, I feel like the frame is just too large. Could you have squeezed off $20 by making the frame 2 studs wide instead of 8? It seems just excessive. But perhaps I'm just missing the artistic importance of the blank space; some people like it apparently. I suppose it's also useful in case you want to create your own art piece and use these pieces to frame it.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Great depiction of the classic piece of artwork
- Layered texture gives it an interesting 3D look
- A decent number of interesting pieces, like the leaves and birds
What's not to like?
- Only right bow wedges included
- Frame feels overly large
- Expensive (and also hard to find, it sold out quickly)
This is an excellent art piece, which interweaves standard mosaic designs with some textured sculptures to capture the wave's details and make the whole thing pop out a bit. It is for display only, so it's aimed far more for adults, but the build is still a pleasant one. (Although it might bore younger children, thus why it is likely not advertised towards them.) Although I'd recommend it more for the build, the parts are still good (and I already borrowed a few from my set for a MOC I'm working on; let's see if you can spot the differences!) Hopefully it becomes more widely available later in the year, allowing those who want to pick it up another chance.
Thanks for reading, and stick around for more BZPower Reviews. I've got a lot of 2023 sets from various themes and nothing better to do than post them to the front page, so expect more soon!
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