01 April 2016

Two Toa

Posted by Admin
Continuing our 2016 LEGO® Bionicle analysis, we have a review from Scott Barnick of two sets: 71305 Lewa Uniter of Jungle and 71307 Gali Uniter of Water.

Hi again, New Elementary readers! Today, following up on my brother’s review of two of this year’s Bionicle creatures, I will be reviewing the two corresponding Toa. Incidentally, these are also two of the same characters I reviewed from last year’s range of sets. 71305 Lewa Uniter of Jungle has 79 pieces (6 fewer than last year’s 70784 Lewa Master of Jungle) and 71307 Gali Uniter of Water has 87 pieces (the same as last year’s 70786 Gali Master of Water). They retail for the same price in the United States, $14.99, although their price in Great Britain has been deducted from £12.99 to £9.99 (resulting in less of a price discrepancy between the two countries). So what value do they offer in parts, or for that matter as assembled figures? Read on to find out!

New Parts

Let’s start with some of the most iconic parts of any Toa set: their Masks of Power. Last year I compared Lewa and Gali’s 2015 Masks of Power with their classic 2001 equivalents. This year, in turn, I’ll be comparing their new Unity Masks of Power and Golden Unity Masks of Power with their 2015 equivalents.

Some of the differences that stand out apply to all the Unity Masks of Power. The new masks have a crystal texture on the top of the head, which is emphasized with their two-color blends. Decorative runes also now appear on the new masks’ foreheads, including ones that old-school Bionicle fans will recognize as the symbols assigned to the original six Toa when they became Toa Nuva back in 2002. These symbols also appeared in promotional art on the LEGO Bionicle Facebook page last year, but this is the first time these symbols have actually appeared in Bionicle sets rather than just in the story. In some ways, the use of runes on these masks also echoes the runes on last year’s Mask of Creation and this year’s Mask of Control, which are said to be the source of their incredible power.

Lewa’s Unity Mask of Jungle (Design ID 24155 | Element ID 6135031) is a blend of Bright Green and Silver Metallic [TLG]/Flat Silver [BL], and his Golden Unity Mask of Jungle (Element ID 6135032) is a blend of Warm Gold [TLG]/Pearl Gold [BL] and Tr. Bright Green. It’s narrower than his 2015 Mask of Jungle, with a sharper and more pointed jawline and no air intake on the top. However, many of the Mask of Jungle’s design cues are still apparent, such as the air intakes on the sides, the segmented texture on the forehead, and the vents in his cheeks that give the impression of a wide, playful grin. The narrower eyeholes actually boost its resemblance to G1 Lewa’s classic Kanohi Miru (Great Mask of Levitation), even though the pointed chin of the new mask is a far cry from the original mask’s squared-off jaw.

Gali’s Unity Mask of Water (Design ID 24160 | Element ID 6135036) is Dark Azur at the base and Silver Metallic at the top, while her Golden Unity Mask of Water (Element ID 6135037) is Warm Gold at the base and Tr. Blue [TLG]/Trans-Dark Blue [BL] at the top. The Unity Mask has a slightly longer chin than the previous version and a narrower diving mask around its eyes. The vents to the sides of her “mouth” are removed from the new mask, and the eyeholes are lowered a bit on the face. Also, the crystal texture on her forehead (smoother due to having smaller facets than Lewa’s mask) rounds it out a great deal. However, it is still a very recognizable likeness, and suits her aquatic environment.

All six 2016 Toa have a new eyestalk in Tr. Light Blue (Design ID 24187 | Element ID 6135238), and while I don’t mind them sharing an eye color, I am disappointed that it is not a fluorescent color. The new eyestalk also sticks back from the head less, and while this makes it easier to avoid popping the masks off inadvertently than with the lever-like 2015 eyestalks, it also makes it much harder for the eyes to glow brightly. This is made even worse by the size of the Unity Mask of Jungle’s eyeholes and the placement of the Unity Mask of Water’s eyeholes. I wish the LEGO Group had instead opted to make the Toa’s eyes either Tr. Flu. Green [TLG]/Trans-Neon Green [BL] or Tr. Flu Blue [TLG]/Trans-Medium Blue [BL].

The elemental crystal motif from the Toa’s masks also extends to their weapons and armor. Lewa includes two elemental crystal blades in a blend of Silver Metallic and Bright Green (Design ID 24165 | Element ID 6150661), which he shares with 71300 Uxar Creature of Jungle, and two elemental crystal shells in a unique blend of Silver Metallic and Tr. Bright Green (Design ID 24166 | Element ID 6135119). Gali includes one elemental crystal blade in a blend of Silver Metallic and Medium Azur (Element ID 6150659), which she shares with 71311 Kopaka & Melum Unity Set, and two elemental crystal shells in a blend of Silver Metallic and Tr. Light Blue (Element ID 6150659). The color difference between each Toa’s blades and shells is presumably due to the blades being molded in polypropylene (which would make transparent colors look milky), but it is not too conspicuous due to the colors being more or less the same hue.

The 2016 Toa sets replace the traditional gear-driven “battle arm” functions with a gear-driven turning waist, and to do so they introduce a new torso beam in two parts. The Titanium Metallic [TLG]/Pearl Dark Gray [BL] lower section (Design ID 24189 | Element ID 6139106) has two hip joints, a hole through the center for a gear, and a snap similar in size and shape to those on the rapid shooter introduced last year or the wheel hubs on some larger Technic vehicles (however, it is not compatible with either of those parts). The Black upper section (Design ID 24190 | Element ID 6135125) has a neck joint, a gear, a lot of Technic pin holes and cross axle holes, but interestingly, no shoulder joints. Instead, the shoulders are custom-built for each set out of Technic connectors. Many fans are pleased with this since the built-in shoulder joints on the previous torso beams were left unused on so many of last year’s sets. The connection between the torso segments has plenty of friction so there shouldn’t be any risk of characters’ upper bodies flopping around uncontrollably.

The new torso shell (Design ID 24193) has been somewhat controversial among Bionicle fans for its extreme level of detail and limited connection points (just one ball snap in the back). Pistons are one of the Bionicle theme’s most recognizable motifs, but this part is decorated with a grand total of 21 pistons. That’s more than some classic sets had in their entire bodies! And it’s hard to understand what functional purpose some of these pistons would serve besides decoration. The new torso shell is about six by nine modules, rather than five by eight modules like the torso shells on last year’s Toa.

For me, the new torso shell’s most redeeming feature is the decoration on the chest and midsection. Lewa’s (Element ID 6135599) and Gali’s (Element ID 6139118) are both Silver Metallic and feature decorations unique to these characters. Like last year, this printing is evocative of tattoos or body paint and reinforces the theme’s tropical island setting. It also features the same classic symbols that appear on the Toa’s new masks.

Lewa and Gali each include the new “Unity Piece” in Silver Metallic (Design ID 24191| Element ID 6135237). This part wraps around each set’s torso beam from the back, and functions both as back armor and as a connector so you can easily unite or separate the Toa from their respective creatures.

Gali also includes two new Technic connectors. The first is a Medium Stone Grey [TLG]/Light Bluish Gray [BL] 1M Technic beam with cross axle (Design ID 22961 | Element ID 6123815) previously discussed in New Elementary’s Burj Khalifa review. Here it’s used in Gali’s torso construction and is more or less hidden on the final model. The second is a Titanium Metallic cross block with two Ø3.2mm holes (Design ID 24112 | Element ID 6135325), which currently appears in three other sets. This piece’s main function is as a hilt guard in constraction sets like 75117 Kylo Ren, and this set uses it much the same way on Gali’s spear.

New recolors from the Lewa set include eight Tr. Bright Green Bohrok eyes (Design ID 41669 | Element ID 6133135), four Silver Metallic Vorox/Skrall armor shells (Design ID 85079 | Element ID 6016585), three Bright Yellow [TLG]/Yellow [BL] 3M Technic cross axles (Design ID 4519 | Element ID 6130007), and one Bright Yellow 7M Technic cross axle (Design ID 44294 | Element ID 6097398). Lewa also includes four Bright Green 4M shells (Design ID 14533 | Element ID 6108829), which only previously appeared in last year’s version of Lewa, and two Bright Green 3M Technic cross blocks (Design ID 42003 | Element ID 6097398), which only appeared in 42039 24 Hours Race Car.

New recolors from the Gali set include four Tr. Blue 4M shells (Element ID 6139220) three Dark Azur 4M shells (Element ID 6139225), and two Bright Orange [TLG]/Orange [BL] Vorox/Skrall armor shells (Element ID 6136441). She also includes a Silver Metallic 6M chain (Design ID 92338 | Element ID 4655313), which only appeared in six sets prior to this year.

Completed Models

The completed Lewa Uniter of Jungle and Gali Uniter of Water both stand 27 modules tall, although Gali’s legs are longer than Lewa’s by half a module. As such, they are both two modules taller than the previous 2015 versions, which can be chalked up to the length of the new torso beams. Their shoulders are two modules narrower than last year’s, and both sets’ shoulder joints are one module below their neck joint (which means Gali’s shoulder joints are one module higher than last year’s and Lewa’s are one module lower). If there’s one gripe I have about all the new Toa sets, it’s the use of high-friction ball cups on their ankles, which throws off the proportions of their feet somewhat. However, it is an understandable decision since it allows them to better support the weight of their creatures and the inertia of the swiveling waist gimmick.

Lewa is in my opinion the best of the 2016 Toa (despite having the fewest pieces), and the only one who came out better than his 2015 incarnation. His proportions are lean but aggressive, using the Vorox/Skrall armor shell creatively and to great effect on his upper arms and lower legs, and despite the unconventional builds of these parts of his body, he poses quite well and has very tasteful proportions. His new dual Razor Crystal Blades echo his swords from last year as well as Lewa Nuva’s Air Katanas from 2002, though unlike those, the new weapons have no alternate mode (besides swiveling on a friction pin to switch the smaller and larger blades). Lewa’s elemental crystal armor functions well as protective elbow guards. And while he lost the contrasting Flame Yellowish Orange [TLG]/Bright Light Orange [BL] shells of last year’s Lewa, he is no longer the only Toa not to use a transparent color as a major part of his color scheme, and he also gets some good mileage out of the contrasting Bright Yellow cross axles and torso printing. I would still like it if he had MORE Bright Yellow, as Uxar does, but there’s enough of it to make a statement.

Gali doesn’t fare quite so well. The asymmetrical shapes and colors of her armor are balanced quite tastefully, and the Bright Orange contrasts with her Dark Azur primary color even better than last year’s Bright Yellow. The addition of Tr. Blue to her color scheme is also quite nice, since it gives her a transparent color that is distinct from Kopaka’s Tr. Light Blue. However, I have some grievances with her new proportions. Namely, her thighs are two modules longer than her shins, which coupled with the gappier armor shells on her thighs makes them look much less solid and streamlined than last year’s. Her new Elemental Blade Spear of Water, while a decent evolution of her Power Harpoon from 2015, is a little bit more cumbersome than it or Lewa’s blades, since she can’t carry it convincingly in one hand. Like Lewa, she no longer has an alternate weapon mode, and while the addition of a spinning blade/propeller function might help make up for it in a small way, it doesn’t impress me quite as much. She is still a good design, but not quite as satisfying all around as she had been as the Master of Water.

Toa & Creatures United

The “unity modes” of Gali and Lewa are among the most elegant and functional for the entire year, and go a long way to redeem whatever faults the sets might have. Uniting Lewa with Uxar grants Lewa Uxar’s Sonic Crystal Wings, which retain their flapping function. Although the instruction manual shows Uxar’s legs spread out much like his wings, I prefer to have them wrapped around Lewa much like the harness-style shoulder armor he had in 2015. Uniting Gali with Akida grants her Akida’s torpedo weapons, which continue to work like a charm. She also gains fins that make her seem even more agile and graceful in the water than before. If these “unity modes” have one fault, it’s that the tails of their respective creatures make the gear to turn the waist difficult to access.

Pictures of the united Toa and creatures consistently show the Toa with their Golden Unity Masks of Power. Some people have criticized this on the three smaller Toa (Gali, Lewa, and Pohatu), on the grounds that their creatures’ silver heads don’t match. However, I actually feel like the combination of gold masks with silver creature heads is MORE impressive than with the gold creature heads of the larger Toa. The contrast makes the creature heads feel like an elaborate helmet or headdress, rather than just an oddly elongated forehead. Of course, last year the golden masks were likewise criticized for not matching the armor of the smaller Toa, which I also disagreed with. In my opinion, the golden masks look so impressive on these Toa BECAUSE they stand out, not in spite of it!

Final Thoughts

Overall, I feel like the designers of these sets had a difficult challenge in trying to update Toa as well-designed as last year’s with a new, fresh look without losing what made them so excellent. I wouldn’t say that the new Toa in general meet or surpass the quality of last year’s designs. Even Lewa only barely comes out ahead on account of his extremely coherent and creative design. However, they are still great Toa designs in their own right, which easily measure up to many G1 Toa designs in terms of looks and functionality. Furthermore, the elemental crystal motif helps unify and enhance the Toa’s new designs, and the “unity modes” are perhaps the most elegant way of teaming up a Toa and a smaller character to date (far more so than the “power up” modes of 2008 or 2015). Whether this is your first experience with Bionicle, you’ve been faithfully collecting sets since the theme returned last year, or you’ve been a Bionicle fan for years, I would definitely recommend picking up at least one of these new Toa!

Stay tuned for my brother Andrew’s review of the Toa’s new adversary, 71310 Umarak the Hunter, and how this vile villain plans to use the power of the elemental creatures to his advantage!

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1 comment:

  1. Lewa looks fabulous! Gali... I really like her armor and coloring, but her proportions are very awkward.

    Great review Aanchir!