According to Admiral Ackbar, the new Ninjago City set is a trap for AFOL. I’ve personally been hooked with Ninjago two years ago when LEGO released the Temple of Airjitzu as part of its big scheme to
conquer the world make Ninjago appealing to adults. As soon as I saw the first official pictures of the Ninjago city, I knew I wouldn’t wait long before buying it. So do not expect this photographic review to be objective.
Touring Ninjago City
Master Yoda and Admiral Ackbar recently went on a trip to Ninjago City. They started their visit on the highest floor of the city, enjoying some good food at the local sushi bar.
Then they headed to the lower floors and went shopping. They particularly enjoyed Mother Doomsday’s comic books store and couldn’t resist spending their money on some ninja action figures.
After shopping, they decided to spend some time outdoors. They went smelling the nice cherry trees which were all in blossom.
Before they knew it, the evening was there. They decided to stop to a nice crab restaurant.
Unfortunately, the chef was sick, so the Admiral decided to replace him.
All of this was too much good food for the Admiral who had to spend the rest of the evening on the toilet…
…Before going to bed.
Meanwhile, Master Yoda decided to visit his old friend Sensei Wu. They spent some time drinking tea while discussing how hard it was to handle young and stubborn pupils.
They finished the day on the lowest floor of the city, enjoying a nice ride on the canals.
I initially didn’t want to talk too much about the set itself and focus on what I found inspiring. But I found this set so impressive that it is hard to resist. (That said, if you want a real full review I advise you to check the Brothers Brick, Brickset or JANGBRiCKS)
The Ninjago City is big, very big. The largest LEGO set I’ve built is the Simpsons house, but the Ninjago City is almost twice its size. It took me between 12 and 15 hours, spread over 5 evenings, 3 instruction manuals and more than 750 building steps, to complete it.
It’s been almost a year since I built a LEGO set of a significant size. Maybe it’s a consequence of going back to building with LEGO after a long time, but it felt like the Ninjago City is the set I’ve enjoyed building the most. Despite its large size, the set is never repetitive and you always do something completely different. I was also amazed by all the techniques and nice tricks used throughout the construction. As the poorly skilled builder I am, I learned a lot from it.
Integration with other LEGO sets
The result is very similar to a modular building. Each level is removable so you can access the interior, and the set can easily be connected to other Modular Buildings. Even though it seems easy to integrate the set in a layout of Modular Buildings, it will require some adjustments. First, the street level is a few plates highers than the streets of a Modular Building. Then there is a canal crossing the base plate. It’s also a rather tall set (probably a good 60cm high) and most modular buildings will look small in comparison. Finally, the Asian and slightly futuristic architectural style is very different than the more traditional Western style used for the Modular Buildings. Without any major customization, the contrast between the traditional Modular Buildings and the Ninjago City will be quite harsh.
Photographing the set
Taking pictures of scenes in the Ninjago City is not always easy. First, it is very colorful, sometimes too colorful. Thus you will often find distracting elements in the background getting in your frame. Another difficulty is the narrowness of some interiors. In particular, the comic book store is very small and I gave up trying to take a picture inside.
Finally, this set suffers from the same problem as most Modular Buildings. Taking pictures of the interior requires unbuilding at least a wall. I’m still hoping someday LEGO will make a Modular Building that opens like a doll house. In that regard, the Simpsons House, the Kiwk-E-Mart and the Temple of Airjitzu were great as they require (almost) no unbuilding to take pictures inside.
A review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the minifigures. In the end, they are probably the elements the most important for us toy photographers. I won’t tell you about all the minifigures but only the ones that I find the most interesting.
As a LEGO enthusiast, I love this set. There is no doubt about that. However, as a toy photographer, I have a more mixed opinion. Although the outside is full of interesting details, the lack of uniformity really poses a challenge, particularly in terms of colors. Moreover, mixing the “City” with other official LEGO buildings is even more challenging and requires some serious customization. In the end, the parts of the Ninjago City that inspired me most for pictures are the interiors full of great details for storytelling. What’s probably the best about this set is that you don’t need to be a Ninjago fan to enjoy it. It’s a nice (slightly) futuristic Asian city that can fit the Adventures of almost any character.
It seems I’m not the only here at Stuck in Plastic who bought this set and you might hear about it again soon… I’m really curious what ideas or stories other photographers (from SiP or not…) will come up with. If you happen to get this set at some point and share photos online, you can tag them using our Ninjago hashtag #SiPGoneFishin.