Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 at 10:23pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
Another day, another Bionicle 2016 set review! Following up yesterday's creature of fire, today we're looking at 71308 Tahu - Uniter of Fire! Blog Leader DeeVee once again shares his thoughts with us all, providing insight into our favorite fiery hero. Will Tahu burn up the competition or will his spark be snuffed out before you can get him home? Read on to check out our video and text review to find out!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
Tahu - Uniter of Fire comes packaged in a similar box as his 2015 predecessor did. Across the top is the 2016 BIONICLE logo, with the green background, the new circuity styled lineart, and the Mask of Control, bursting through the wall. The new logo is visually distinct from the 2015 header, and should make seeing these sets amongst the 2015 leftovers a little easier.
Tahu himself mixes into the fiery background a little too easy, as most of the box is shades of yellows and oranges, including Tahu. Why, there's just so little red on this here Tahu to set him apart!
In the bottom left is the gold mask on a pedestal, akin to the floating masks from the first reboot wave. On the back are a few images of the Uniting function, as well as quick advertisements to showcase Tahu's functions, the swiveling waist and the extending sword blades. There is also a quick comic as there was in 2015, which you can see in the above embedded video review.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
I think a lot of people like to think that all CCBS sets start to get routine, and that they need something "extra" to make them distinct in the building process. I thought the gear functions that married the Technic-based gear systems with the CCBS building was intuitive and enough, but others have often disagreed.
This build is for those people.
While a lot of Tahu is the standard fare (the limbs, unlike some of the other sets this wave, are standard CCBS skeleton and shell), the torso showcases how the designers at LEGO have attempted to spice things up. Gone is the torso beam with the ball sockets attached, and gone is the arm-swinging Technic construction. Instead, Tahu has at his core a "piece of unity" that wraps around the CCBS skeleton (a new one with the gear molded into it, "yay" and "boo", respectively). This piece has a plethora of pin and axle connections, and the main torso bits are all connected through it.
It's not a difficult build by any means, and honestly, I think the "oh my goodness, look at the complexity!!" comments are a little off-target. It didn't strike me as any more complex than the 2015 gearbox was, and many of the additions (such as the bohrok eyes) are simply ornamental, much as the gold swords I miss so much from the 2015 version were.
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 comes with a lot of new things to talk about.
- The new torso shell in gold with red/dark azure printing
- The skull villain add-on in gold
- The piece of unity in gold
- The new crystal add-on in gold and trans-orange
- The new torso bone with the molded gear
- The new hip connector in titanium metallic ("gunmetal")
- Red 6-length CCBS shells
- Dark azure Bohrok eyes
- A shortened eyestalk in a trans-light blue
- The new crystal blade in silver/orange
- The CCBS small bone with the ball connection in trans-orange
- The CCBS long bone with the ball connection and pinhole in trans-orange
- The new mask in red/silver and also in gold/trans-orange
The recoloured elements (the Bohrok eyes, the skeleton add-on, the CCBS bones, and the red 6-length CCBS shell) are a welcome sight. The bones mean that trans-orange has a larger variety of parts to build with available all at once, which is great! The skeleton add-on is available for the first time in a colour that is not titanium metallic, and I love that a lot! The dark azure Bohrok eyes are simply beautiful, and the red CCBS shells in size 6 is a welcome view for anyone who has a hundred size 5 red shells. Now let's get them in size 4, okay LEGO?
Moving on to the new molds, the silver and orange blade is a beautifully crafted design. I love the crystal blade, and the difference between it and the more mechanical design of the hilt is fantastic. But I'm not a huge fan of the solid-orange melding with the silver. While the orange looks okay, in the places where the silver and orange meet the colours react a bit funny to one another, and they start to look rather ugly.
Not pictured is a new three-length axle with a flat stopper in reddish brown. It exists! I did not have it in the photo because I am a fallable person and I'm sorry. I point it out in the video!
The torso skeleton is interesting, lacking any arm ball connections for the first time in CCBS. What it gains there, of course, it loses in the molded-in gear, a sight which I knew I'd see, but was still disappointed was there. I can't help but feel that any versatility that could have existed there is gone. The new hips fit inside in a manner similar to the stud-shooters from the Protectors, but these CAN BE removed, unlike those. I echo my fellows when I say I'm not sure these are designed to be removed frequently, but they do come apart with force. When I first put the set together, the gear function here was so friction-heavy it squeaked, but after taking the hips out a few times, the set has considerably loosened in this connection.
The new crystal add-on looks great in gold and trans-orange. The simple pistons on the side marry the original G1 aesthetic with the CCBS add-on look well, and the crystal spikes look great in trans-orange. And unlike a lot of the CCBS add-ons, this one sits flush on the shell! Words don't express how happy that makes me! This said, the overall rounded shape of the part hurts the visual look on most of the sets it appears on, in my opinion.
The new eyepiece is shortened to not interfere with the creature uniting gimmick, and the light-piping suffers from it. You will not see these eyes glow ever. The knocking-off-the-mask function is intact, as there is a small lever built into the back to press and pop them off with.
Now lets have at the controversial aspects of these sets.
The piece of unity is a more visually complicated piece than many we've seen in CCBS before (the Ordeal of Fire shell with the mechanical detailing and exhaust segmentation is one of the few parts in the CCBS history to come to mind with similar levels of detail). But I think the complexity and jarring nature of this piece has been overstated due to the heavily contrasted CG images we've seen prior to in-hand photos.
While I'm not fond of the long side segments that allow the part to wrap around a bone and connect from behind, the part isn't as off-putting, on its own. It has a very classic, almost art-deco or art-nouveau appearance, marrying the simple geometric lines with a bit of ostentatious visual appearance. I one hundred percent expect to see it on some steampunk inspired builds. The part itself is a terrific piece of work, with the cooling lines required for the part to function properly adding the most visually distinct designs to the piece.
Of course, where one piece is less bad than I expected, another is worse.
The chestplate is, well, very busy. Containing only a single connection point in the form of a ball-snap on the inside, this is a large, mostly useless feeling piece. The elaborate printing is beautiful, and I don't think I can overstate how much I adore the red and dark azure over that gold. It is a stand-out design, and I wish desperately it was appearing on a superhero chest piece connected to another torso plate so I could buy a dozen and use them on so many MOCs. It's just so beautiful.
But the gold sections underneath. Oh. Where the piece of unity has been described as distracting and jarring, the new chest piece is more. There are so many pistons. I appreciate the way pistons harken back to the G1 feel, but it feels like someone in Denmark decided they were the only visual cue G1 ever had. Where the 2015 piston add-on faithfully mirrored the G1 design language, while updating it for the CCBS aesthetic, I feel that this piece fails in every regard. I'm not opposed to pistons or detailing - I like the skull villain add-on and I like the 2015 piston add-on a great deal. Those found the correct balance in bringing the two design languages together, but these are superfluous and over-the-top. It's weird to say that such an over-detailed piece "doesn't feel like BIONICLE," but in this case its true - it feels like what an armchair set designer complaining about lack of detail would decide is BIONICLE turned up to eleven.
Speaking of parts that echo G1, we come now to Tahu's mask.
Tahu has two versions of his new mask, one in red/silver, and the other in gold/trans-orange. I like the gold one significantly better, as I wish the red/silver one was simply red. The silver shows through on my copy in the injection molding center in the mouth, and it looks pretty bad. Which is a shame, because the mask mold is amazing. It brings the original G1 Hau, the Hau Nuva, and even a bit of the Mask of Light Hau Nuva all together, and then somehow makes it a faithful update of the 2015 mask as well. Where 2015 Tahu's mask was sort of cross, this mask is downright stern, which will always feel more like Tahu. Even with the crystalline design-work along the top, this mask just oozes Tahu. The designers nailed it with this one, and I think I like it better than the 2015 mask.
Tahu 2016 is, well, a lot of things. And that's sort of the problem. I love the addition of the dark azure in the bohrok eyes and the printing, but there are as many pure red parts as there are dark azure ones - two. And those red parts are almost entirely covered by the new crystal add-on, which makes Tahu's mask this weird blob of red and silver. The chest piece has an awkward neck slope, and so Tahu has that weird blob sitting atop a matchstick neck. The piece of unity that makes Tahu's torso attempts to slope into it, but due to the piston-designs they are two small lines covered by hollow space.
The design is cluttered. The different textural elements fight for attention and none seem willing to win. The smoother CCBS shells are perfect for allowing detailed parts to narrate the sets visual story, but the hyper-detailed torso conflicts with the crystal motif, and the colours are all so vibrant and bright that it all fights with your eyes and brain for control. It's unpleasant.
Tahu has been described by some as having a heroically exaggerated build, with the wide chest atop the V-shaped torso leading into the legs. I understand the idea behind this, but Tahu's broad shoulders aren't the issue. The set is flat, and the legs are bubbles. Where the top is jagged, the bottom, even though it is textured with crystals or the piece of unity, are round. It's not consistent and it can be very jarring. And while yes, lanky was a common part of G1 set design, especially in the later years, just because it was around then doesn't make it okay now. Those proportions were ridiculous then, and that same sort of feel here is as well.
I feel like the "this reminds me of the G1 proportions and feel" arguments sort of ring true to me, but I'm less a fan of that in a lot of ways. It contributes to making Tahu feel more generic, instead of more familiar and welcome. Like a film that relies solely on references and allusions and outright plotpoints from prior franchise films to attempt to grab the nostalgia, instead of taking those things and doing something different but welcome with them. It's a fine line, but I think LEGO ended up on the wrong side of it. There is nothing distinct, nothing truly unique about this Tahu. If you had only his silhouette to go off of, he could be a number of BIONICLE or even HERO FACTORY sets over the years. In 2015 he had the swords on his back and the often-hated wide legs, but here... nothing.
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 has two built in functions. When you turn the black gear on his lower body, the waist swivels. As I mentioned above, there is a good amount of friction there in the beginning, but it does wear through pretty fast. He holds poses just fine, but I wonder if this will be an issue later on.
His swords have black gears connected to Technic builds that allow the swords to extend. This is... odd? It looks very awkward, with the big black Technic connections, but you know what? It's incredibly fun. I wanted to dislike it because of the look, but I've had so much fun absentmindedly turning those gears that there is no way I can hate it. I love it.
One of the swords has an axle protruding from the bottom, which allows Tahu to have an incredibly massive double-bladed staff, which helps with the waist-swiveling action. He basically becomes a Rahkshi.
Being a modern constraction set, Tahu has a range of articulation, though the friction extenders on both his hips and ankles can make posing a pain. He continues the mask-popping function, allowing for roleplay with the two masks. He looks better in the gold one!
Of course, if one also owns Ikir, there is something else...
It's hard not to feel like a lot of the shortcomings, and there are a lot, melt away when united with Ikir. It is very clear these sets were designed to work better together than apart (no matter how much I adore Ikir on his own!) Tahu looks many times better with Ikir attached. The wings look great, and they add a nice balance to his overall appearance. Ikir's feet do get in the way of the gear function, but his wing flapping function is still fully active on Tahu's back. Even with the friction extenders on Tahu, though, Tahu tends to try and fall over. Ikir is heavy!
The creature head fits well over Tahu's mask, though it's not perfect and it can be tricky to get it to align properly. It just sits on top, so there's no connections or guidelines to keep it in place. The biggest downside here is that if you move Tahu's head you have to separately move Ikir's. Also, why is his head sitting on top of Tahu's head? That's weird.
I can't help but think that if it was "Tahu and Ikir Unity Set" instead of Kopaka and his beast, that this would be a different set review in a lot of ways. Tahu and Ikir are one of the best combination models, and Ikir is one of the best creatures, but Tahu is far from the best Toa. It's a bit frustrating.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Great Tahu mask design
- Love the gold/trans-orange blended pieces
- Plentiful recolours and new molds
- Neat Unification mode
What's not to like?
- Visually messy
- Is Tahu red?? Or???
- Very generic feeling
- Bad chestplate
- Relies on unity gimmick to create a cohesive character
Overall, I have a hard time with this one. I love the mask, I love a lot of the new pieces, but I don't like the set itself. I have a hard time saying "go buy it!" for anything but the new parts. And I don't like that!
Thanks again to Pat for putting together this review. If you found it informative and entertaining, let us know in the Talkback! While you're there, leave any other feedback or ask any questions you might have. There's still a few more 2016 Bionicle sets for us to review, and they'll be coming up soon. So keep checking back for them and more, right here on BZPower!
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