As well as Lego, I have an interest in all things Japanese. (1) And for people with an interest in Japanese culture, the gateway can often be anime and manga. (2)
For those of us in the west, where comics bring to mind The Beano, and cartoons mean Tom & Jerry or The Flintstones, the Japanese style can seem quite strange. Often figures seem quite deformed, with disproportionately large heads, noses so small to be almost non-existent and ridiculously large eyes.
It’s just a style.
And within that style, is a sub-genre called ‘Chibi’. This roughly translates as ‘small and cute’. Often in a story there may be a scene where a character, who may already be quite cute, will suddenly appear in ‘chibi’ form. They will have shrunk to maybe a third of their usual size, their head will now be considerably larger than the rest of their body, and their eyes will be enormous.
No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re not familiar with J-Culture, but trust me - it’s cute.
So what’s all this got to do with Lego?
Over the years, Star Wars has been a big seller for Lego. Looking at the very excellent database at Brickset.com, there are over 400 sets listed in the SW theme. Indeed, there have been seven different versions of the Millennium Falcon alone, ranging from a mini set in 2003 made up of a polybag-esque 87 parts, to possibly the most desired Lego set of all time, the 5195 part behemoth that is the Ultimate Collectors Series version released in 2007. (3)
The most recent addition to this exclusive list of Falcons is set number 75030. This lives in a Star Wars subtheme known as Microfighters. And these Microfighters are Lego’s equivalent of a chibi model. Small enough to sit on the palm of your hand, yet with a full sized minifig pilot they are very cute indeed!
Last year, Lego released six models in the series. They weren’t the first - there were five sets released, including a Landspeeder and a Slave-1 between 2012 and 2014. They either slipped under my radar or arrived during my ‘dark ages’.
But the six new sets caught my eye. Well, four of them did. Two of them, the Clone Turbo Tank and the AAT are both from the prequel trilogy, and so hold rather less appeal for me than the four sets from the original trilogy. (4)
Those four are, to simplify things, two baddies and two goodies. The baddies consist of the Star Destroyer and the Tie Fighter, while the goodies are the X-Wing Fighter and the aforementioned Millennium Falcon. They all retail for about £8.99, but it’s not difficult to find them all closer to the £6.50 mark.
At between 92 and 100 pieces, none of these were going to take long to build, so one afternoon I sat down with all four boxes and started putting together my fleet!
All the sets come with a manual and two bags of parts. I started of with the grey wedge that is the Star Destroyer, although at this scale, if the star is any bigger than about 2” across, it would struggle.
It is at this point that I have to confess that the previous page-and-a-bit was written about four months ago, and I’ve just caught up with it. So while I’d like to be able to regale you with interesting tales from the build of these dinky little sets, I am unable to by virtue of the fact that I can’t remember much about it.
What I do remember is that they were all pretty cool (although the Star Destroyer is as interesting a grey wedge can be, i.e. not very), and sat out on display for some time.
Here’s a few pictures by way of apology.
And while we’re talking about Star Wars, I may have mentioned that courtesy of the eagle-eyedness of THFourteen from Eurogamer, we were both able to pick up the Red Five UCS X-Wing at a bargaintastic 33% discount last November during one of Argos’ occasional 3-for-2 offers.
When I got back into Lego, I’d kind of got it into my head that I was going to build smaller sets to begin with and work up to the larger ones (5), but with a few days clear over the Christmas break, that went out of the window, and I spent a most enjoyable couple of long evenings building the X-Wing.
Awesome set. Probably one that - on reflection - I would have paid full price for. (6)
Write up of that particular set coming soon.
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(1) Not all things, that would be daft. I’m not interested in Japanese plumbing. Or Japanese hairdryers. But quite a lot of stuff.
(2) Anime are cartoons, manga are comics. Despite their childish connotations, both have a wide audience across all age groups in Japan. It’s quite common to see a salaryman, or office worker, reading, say, a Golf manga on the train to work. Or a housewife reading a lonely hearts-style manga magazine.
(3) I remember seeing it at the time. Why didn’t I buy it? Why?
(4) Or ‘the holy trinity’ as it’s known in our house.
(5) Which is why my first set, the 8070 Technic Supercar, is still unopened, despite having had it for nearly two and a half years.
(6) I paid £113 which was a bargain. List price was £169.99. It’s worth that. However, last weekend, I went to Nathan Sawaya’s exhibition ‘The Art Of The Brick’. The exhibition itself was excellent, but the prices of the Lego sets in the gift shop were outrageous. That same X-Wing? £260!!! I can only hope they haven’t sold any at that price.