Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 at 1:11am by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: ToM Dracone]
Recently we reviewed the revamped Toa Nuva Lewa. Today BZPower Forum Assistant ToM Dracone gives us a look at his high-flying Matoran partner Tanma. These Matoran are very different from those of past years, and I suggest you read on to see how!
Although the great shift in the storyline isn’t happening until next year, 2008 is quite definitely the year of change for the small sets. The Phantoka bring little that’s truly novel, but their matching Matoran are new in almost every possible respect. Pieces, packaging, price – you name it, it’s probably new.
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
I need hardly state what’s new about the box. In fact, it’s not even a box in the conventional sense. For the first time ever, the small sets have something of a canister of their own – a three-piece deal with a molded plastic bottom, hollow cardboard middle, and plastic top.
Oh, all that is bound by a plastic ribbon-thing wrapped around it, its ends glued together, to prevent the assembly from coming to pieces.
Above, the back, advertising the all-too-well-advertised fact that Tanma can ride on Lewa’s back. Plus the warnings you must all have memorized by now from having seen them so often.
Then you have the three pieces that make up the box itself. The cardboard middle needs no elaboration. The top and bottom are interesting enough, however – they’re the same mold, which is good, shaped in stalactites and stalagmites, depending on whether you have the piece in question on the top or the bottom. Unfortunately, they have no connection points for other pieces, but I’m sure MOCists will find a use for them somewhere.
They’re also recyclable. This was a peculiar thing I noticed – all the symbol actually states is that the plastic is recyclable, but one gets the impression that that fact means one is intended to dispose of the box after building Tanma.
Of course, that it’s recyclable is great – if you aren’t one to keep your canisters, it’s much better to recycle them than just throw them away. (The Phantoka canisters bear the symbol as well, but I don’t recall whether past canisters have or not.)
Now, for the packaging as a whole, there’s no doubt it’s far more eyegrabbing than previous simple boxes. The bright colors making a return to prominence this year helps that greatly, as well, especially Tanma’s lime. I do think Tanma has one of the best Matoran pictures of the six, since he’s actually doing something, and it’s a very good pose for his set.
Even before you open up the box-thing, you’ll probably notice that shaking the box produces a distinctly different sound – the sound is hollower, deeper than you’ve grown to associate with Lego.
If you didn’t already know what’s causing this, pouring out the pieces reveals why: there is not one single free Technic axle or pin in the box. Not one. Every single piece in Tanma is what the average AFOL would probably generically call "a Bionicle piece."
Which means foreboding things for the...
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
This is going to be the shortest building section I ever write, because Tanma has the simplest build I’ve ever seen since the Tohunga. Also the fewest pieces since them, at only fourteen.
The entirety of Tanma’s frame is ball-and-socket joints. I said there were no Technic pins or axles, and I meant it. His mask, swords, and pack all attach via the axles built into them – but there’s no free Technic connection piece in the set.
And that makes for a very simple build indeed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say too simple – after the innovative Voyatoran of 2006 and comparatively complicated Mahritoran of 2007, such simplicity is a bit of a letdown.
The instructions deserve mention here – they’ve returned to the folded-up single sheet of past small sets, backed with the now-familiar pictures of the Phantoka and Avotoran (if I may coin the term).
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
There’s a lot more to say here, because of Tanma’s fourteen pieces a somewhat frightening twelve are new molds.
His torso, his mask, his four limbs, his head, his jet pack, and even his feet and hands – all of them are new pieces. Yes, even his feet – you knew about the hands changing, but the feet were a surprise to me when I learned about them.
The hand is obvious, changing from the old, slitted mold to a new one based on the long double-sockets (commonly used in canister set limbs). The actual socket is also modified – on the old sockets, the "braces" were straight slopes; on the new ones, the braces are more of a tiered shape.
If you have no idea what I just said, find a socket of each type and put the two socket holes right next to each other. You’ll see what I mean.
Anyway, the Toa feet are more subtle – Instead of the smooth curve at the very top of the socket, that ends in a flat, angled top. That, at least, is easy to see when pointed out.
The fact that the sockets were changed at all is still a bit puzzling to me, since to my knowledge no socket but the long double-sockets had a history of common breaking. Maybe these are designed to be sturdier; I don’t know – Tanma is very sturdy, but my Antroz and Chirox are weaker than the old joints.
Above, some legs: Toa, Nuva, and Avotoran, not in that order. An “old and new” picture, if you will – the original Toa legs, juxtaposed with their modern equivalents, the Matoran legs. Tanma’s are actually the longest piece, but Lewa and Lewa Nuva still have longer legs by virtue of their hip sockets. Whew. Tanma’s legs are closet to Nuva legs in shape, while his arms are something like the new original Toa legs, only bent as much as the ’04 Matoran’s.
The new torso pieces for the Matoran leave me with mixed emotions. For the first time since perhaps the Toa Nuva, we have a Bionicle set with truly human proportions, which is wonderful. Tanma’s shoulders equate to the standard male human shoulder width – the shoulders themselves are, in Lego terms, one stud wider than the hips on each side. The pistons in the lower half also make the torso a fairly consistend width, which is also good proportionally.
The back of the torso, however, leaves much to be desired when not covered by Tanma’s jet pack: it’s pretty empty, and the fact that the hips are a stud behind the shoulders becomes very clear.
On the other side of reactions, the fact that his torso is one solid piece is very disappointing to me – it’s a single piece with five ball joints on it, which gives it (and the other Avotoran torso) the dubious distinction of being the most specialized Bionicle piece to date. That I can think of, at least. I for one would have preferred something more assemblable – say, a separate piece/pieces for the hips, then the head attached via socket like the canister sets or Mahritoran have.
Regardless, Tanma’s construction means the Avo-Matoran truly are miniature Toa. With the exception of elbows and knees, they now have all the points of articulation as Toa – and now the same style for each point, thanks to the socket-on-the-limb design. (Contrast with the Mahritoran, whose sockets were part of their bodies.)
The head is another piece that provoked much curiosity, and also the first head to have a socket built into the actual piece. It’s transparent, so for once the Matoran actually have eyes. (Which is why the pictures are dark; that makes the features show up better.) It’s reminiscent of the original Toa head, though in the shape of the Metru. Its eyes, however, are less prominent than either’s – simply because these eyes are just a flat “sheet” of plastic, whereas the solid plastic construction of the original eyes amplified a light source behind the head and made the eyes actually shine. However, there’s only so much you can do in a single piece.
The neon green looks great on Tanma, but I think slightly less so on Solek and Photok; as a group yellow (of the shade of Gali’s eyes, with that slight orange tint to them) might have looked better. However, for Tanma’s purposes alone neon green is excellent.
One problematic thing: although every post-2003 mask, even those with visors, fits on the new head just fine, the original Kanohi and Kanohi Nuva can’t. Bit of a disappointment there.
It’s also a very long piece – the socket is a stud further back than the ball was on the Metru head, which means Tanma’s head sticks out very far forward. That also requires his mask to be longer to cover it all; in total volume Tanma’s is about as big as the Tryna or Faxon. Which is rather large.
As for the mask itself, it’s a pretty good shape, I think. Clearly designed as a Matoran version of Lewa Phantoka’s Miru Nuva, but aside from that I think it looks rather like a hypothetical noble Kaukau Nuva – mainly the cheek vents and "nostrils."
I did discover that you can fit a visor under it very neatly, even if not perfectly. Unfortunately, this arrangement makes it impossible to put the mask on any head, but it’s still a cool possibility.
All in all, when you put all those new and semi-new pieces together, you get a very nice design. The proportions are great, all the molds work together stylistically, which is excellent, and his color scheme is well done, achieving good balance between the grey and the lime. He looks very good all on his own; the only problem is his enormity by comparison to other sets.
As we know, Av-Matoran can change their colors, but I personally would have liked Tanma to look at least a little more like a Matoran of Light than just a Le-Matoran. You know, maybe some white, or some gold, but still plenty of lime to make him the green Matoran of the lot. Just some thoughts I’ve had – there’s nothing wrong with him as he is, but that’s one thing I think could have been taken advantage of.
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?
I might as well begin this section by noting Tanma’s size – he’s huge. Really huge. Well, tall rather than massive. If you want tall and massive, find Kirop. At any rate, his sheer size does have some effect – a negative one – on his playability.
See, he’s almost as tall as Lewa...
...and is, in fact, taller than Onua. Which might serve as a good measure that the small sets are no longer truly small, when they become bigger than one of the original Toa.
While we’re at it, a picture of all the green Matoran. Hahli’s there to represent the missing ’03 Le-Matoran. Tanma is... tall. There’s no way around the fact.
In terms of articulation, Tanma (with the other Avotoran) is the most posable Matoran so far, thanks to his longer limbs. (The Metru limbs’ shortness was somewhat restrictive.) However, those long limbs are a bit of a double-edged sword: they allow Tanma to stand more naturally and strike various spread-legged poses, but mean he can’t assume ones where the legs would be bent, like crouching. (The length of his legs is also what makes him so tall.)
His arms bent at 90 degree angles have the reverse effect: they’re constrained to more action-based poses, and look slightly awkward when he’s just standing there. Essentially, anything people have complained about pre-bent limbs in the past applies here.
The result isn’t bad, though. Not only are the limbs in proportion on Tanma – the arms are shorter and thinner than the legs – they also look reasonably good overall, provided one takes the small amount of time needed to give him a flattering pose.
Of course, you can’t have a Nuva-sized green set holding twin katana without assuming Lewa Nuva’s quintessential pose: legs back, head forward, katana used as gliding wings... And Tanma takes it on well.
It’s either the greatest irony or the greatest tribute that, in the year Lewa Nuva returns, it’s his Matoran counterpart who carries the Air Katana and can strike the old flying pose. I’ll let you decide which it is.
You all know Tanma and Lewa Phantoka were designed to go together, and in their case the result might look the best out of the seven duos. Tanma’s position riding Lewa’s back looks more realistic than some others’, and the connection between the two – Tanma’s chest, Lewa’s back armor – looks natural on each.
However, I don’t have Lewa, so you’ll have to make do with a standoff against Chirox.
... That looks painful.
(One of the many nice things about having so many axle and pin holes on Tanma is that you can do things like this.)
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Sturdy and well-designed
- Good color scheme
- Excellent proportions
Things you might like, might not, or might be indifferent to.
- A dozen new pieces
- Able to ride on Lewa Phantoka’s back
What's not to like?
- Very simple build
- Pre-bent limbs cause some posing problems
- High price for few pieces
On that last one, I didn’t get to mention it yet – Tanma and Co. have a suggested retail price of $6 USD. That’s a dollar more than the Mahritoran, for fewer than half the pieces. This is an understandable increase, given that the Mahritoran had one new mold and these have eight, plus their pseudo-canisters,and are huge, but it’s still one I’d rather had not happened.
As one BZP member wisely said, if you buy two Avotoran, you pay more than you would for one Phantoka, but even combined you don’t get half the pieces. If that’s an exchange you don’t mind, go right ahead, and the increased price really isn’t unreasonable. But it still gives you an odd feeling – the Matoran have become almost as big and expensive as the original six Toa were.
That, however, is really the only reason I would list to actively not buy Tanma – or at least wait until he’s on sale somewhere. His size is problematic relating to everyone but the Phantoka, but in and of himself he looks great, both in build and colors. There’s something spunky about him, I’ve always thought. In fact, in many ways he embodies what I loved about the original Toa, only made in the modern Bionicle style.
One might put it this way: if you liked the Toa and Nuva at all, you might very well like Tanma. The Toa feet help that resemblance. In fact, that might be why I like Tanma so much – he’s something of the early Toa reincarnated.
Be sure to thank ToM Dracone for yet another great review. Keep checking back as we showcase more 2008 sets and cover the latest Bionicle news. Next up on the list is the Makuta-Matoran combination of Mutran and Vican!
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