Ninjago City (70620)
Released: September 1, 2017
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During the Democratic National Convention, I put together Temple of Airjitzu (70751). I didn’t much care for the Ninja/Pirate/Whatever line of LEGO, but this set was large and had a color palette that was nice — oh, right! And it was on sale. So, I bought the thing and immediately fell in love. The design and building techniques were intricate. The entire set is a thing of beauty. It’s going to be retired soon, but has been on sale again. If Temple of Airjitzu intrigues you, I highly recommend you jumping on it before that ship sails into the secondary market forever.
Since building Temple of Airjitzu, I’ve kept my eye on the Ninjago series. It’s a grouping of sets that have had mechs, shoddy playsets, dragons, flying-steampunk-nonsense-pirate-weirdness, and of course ninjas. For some, that’s far more than enough to be running to the stores. It’s not particularly my sort of thing, but I kept watching with the hope that they would once again try and match the majesty that was Temple of Airjitzu. Media surrounding the movie started bubbling up here and there and then the announcements for movie tie-in sets happened, and there it was.
Look at that beautiful monstrosity! Advertised as three levels of shops and restaurants and living spaces; an old city, modern city, and then a city high rise, they even include subsections that can be divided into separate levels as well.
Let’s talk about this canal for a moment. A good portion of the baseplate, especially around the back of the model, is covered in a layer of plates and wedge-plates, and then trans-colored tiles to represent multiple depths of water. It gets a little long in the tooth placing all of those pieces, but if you’re a stickler for following directions, you get a nice flow of water effect; especially a ripple effect around lily pads that get put in a bit later.
This is also the beginning of the footprint for the set. The bulk of the build lives in the front half of the 32×32 baseplate, with a secondary structure that becomes a manual elevator that spans the entire depth of the build. You get Kai, a fisherman and his solar powered boat, and a brick-built robot named Sweep (a character that isn’t included in the film). Sweep’s living quarters is fairly unremarkable compared to the rest of the set, but you also build a fish market with an awning constructed entirely of black crowbar elements, a first of a few incredibly creative ways to build something mundane out of surprisingly different parts.
Above the fish market is a tea shop. It’s not incredibly ornate or amazing, except for a topiary in the corner, using the hairpiece originally used for Sabine Wren, from Star Wars Rebels, in a green recoloring. Across from there is a small living space, above Sweep’s charging station. It includes a small low-profile bed, a chest of drawers, and a flat screen advertising Good Day Ninjago.
In front of the elevator is a station hosting a movie poster. Behind that, before you get to the guts of the elevator, is a clever hiding spot holding three more posters. Beside that is the crab shack. There’s a brick-built crab hanging over the door with claws that can be posed. Inside, the restaurant is pretty simple. The grill is the star here. A play function in the rear of the structure turns the grill under the hood, where a darker crab hides. Beside the crab shack is a multi-level comic shop. The interior is rather cramped, but the space is utilized masterfully, with nanofigurines, tradable cards, and comics on floor displays. A secondary tier houses other trinkets.
Between the restaurant and the comic shop, a brick-built ATM can actually dispense bills, using a function hidden around back. I knew about this feature in advance, and still found its inclusion into the façade surprising. On top of the comic shop, there is a much larger shop. It contains costumes, cellphones, skateboards, and other. It is spacious and colorful and fairly straightforward. There are a lot of rare elements inside the shop, including hats and helmets; and a very large, curved trans-clear window element.
On this level, you’re getting the cook at the crab restaurant, obviously a comic shop “guy,” and Lloyd. Across from there is the infamous empty living space taken over by a cherry blossom tree. To look at the tree, it appears to be chaotic, but to build it, the process is honestly one of the more monotonous out of the entire build. On the completely other side, is another living space. It is compact and so very solid. It’s a small portion of the set that uses an entire step to build (there are a full 16 “steps” to build the entire structure). This living space is packed with detail and furniture.
The rooftop sushi bar is a fun build. The conveyor belt service is a fantastic build and the function is very simple. The giant, sand green structure that you can’t help but see is both a bathroom with a fantastic sink and toilet. Above it is various radio antennae and towers. The sushi bar takes up the lion share of the final stages of the building, including all of the roof builds. Here, you’ll also build Officer Noonan, Misako, and a Shark Army Gunner for starters.
The price-to-part ratio is amazing for such a large set. As a modular structure, it is solid and transports rather easily for something so tall. The Ninjago City Set is (as of release date) the largest building of its kind. While some would argue that the Eiffel Tower wins that contest, it lacks the depth that this set has. This is more than a simple structure. It has living spaces, play features, functionality for both figures mini and human-sized. While a lot has been written about the number of stickers involved in the construction (64 in total), and it feels daunting from time to time, they are often spaced out so you aren’t applying one after the other after another and again and so on forever and ever amen.
Simply put, I’m saddened. I’d taken a long time to purchase Ninjago City, hemming and hawing about the cost. Once I had it, I made sure to take my time building, to get my money’s worth. And now that it is over, it’s something to behold that’s for sure. I’m still taking in the detail and features that I missed, having the entire thing so close to my face for so long. And now the building is over and I’m torn. I want to tear it all down and build it again and again, like reliving a book or a movie. But I want to keep it as it is, pristine and complete, so as to not sully the experience of the first time build, like when you see an amazing band for the first time. You want that set of songs, that performance to remain as is, if only for a little while. I may revisit Ninjago City. I may not. Lord knows there are so many more sets to explore and enjoy. But without question, Ninjago City is incredible and worth every little bit of space and money that it costs. It is beautiful. It is clever. It is worth all of the hype and so much more.