LEGO NINJAGO 70638 Katana V11 review

70638 Katana V11 is a notable addition to the NINJAGO line, combining great value with fantastic design to create a LEGO set that offers genuine inspiration

Price: £14.99 / $19.99 / €19.99 Pieces: 257 Available: Now

70638 Katana V11 is the cheapest System set from the 2018 winter wave of NINJAGO releases at £14.99 – a point worth highlighting before we discuss how great it is.

As NINJAGO heads into road movie territory for the latest adventure in the TV series – the first to hit the small screen since The LEGO NINJAGO Movie’s release – it’s somewhat strange that one of the most striking sets in the corresponding winter wave of releases would be a boat. Yet it is, and for more than just a vibrant colour theme that cleverly interweaves Kai’s dominant red with hints of orangey-yellow, for a fiery expression that pops when set against its beautifully designed box art.

LEGO_NINJAGO_70638_Katana_V11_review_mainOnce built, that colour selection is just as impressive, but what the images on the box can’t get across is the extraordinary juxtaposition between the model’s smooth finish and variety of angles – the design for this boat is at once both sleek and jagged, soft and piercing. To build it is to better understand some tricks with the bricks, to complete it is to better understand NINJAGO’s long lasting appeal.

Probably. It’s still a kids’ show, but credit to the writers, and the set designers, for consistently moving the story along, season by season, developing the characters, expanding the world’s locations and providing ever more intriguing vehicles and scenarios for the heroes and villains. As someone who is persisting with The Walking Dead in spite of its most recent two-and-a-half seasons of increasingly stagnant storylines, the skill with which the LEGO Group continually advance NINJAGO as a show and as a theme has a new appreciation from me. If they brought in some zombies next season, maybe I’d even have a new favourite undead show.

70638 Katana V11 is a prime example of a new vehicle design that feels both highly familiar to NINJAGO fans, and refreshingly new for its structure. Kai is satisfyingly buried yet visible in a central cockpit, enveloped by folding wings that when down allow for clear access, and when up, completely change the look of the boat. The long, sloping front end is more than just for show, with a hidden storage compartment underneath suitable for Kai’s two katanas, and even perhaps the spare spring shooter missile. The back end’s engine section is suitably big, with a main exhaust port and large flame element supported by two smaller ones on top.

Perhaps, though, the best aspects to the boat’s design are the hidden dual side pods that fold out for an attack mode that reveals two spring-loaded stud shooters. Designers are becoming increasingly adept at building these projectile play features into the models in far more intricate ways, and this has to be one of the best of the 2018 winter wave, because they do not feel out of place at all as part of these solid-looking side pods. And eight-year-old me would probably be launching them like there’s more than just one spare.

The side pods cap off an aerodynamic delight that may barely count as a boat, but so wonderfully gets the mind’s imagination going. The LEGO Group twice refer to this set in their product description as a cool toy, and indeed it’s cool to look at, it’s cool to hold in your hands, and it’s cool to play with. It is a cool toy.

Also included in 70638 is a street bike in the form of the most recent LEGO motorbike mould, back in black after 2015’s Marvel Super Heroes range. It’s driven by character Luke Cunningham, who like most of the villains in this wave, has embraced the 1980s road movie feel more so than Kai, who like the rest of the ninja, takes influence most definitely from The LEGO NINJAGO Movie. Fashion choices of minifigures aside, the tricky stickers needed on Luke C’s bike are the only issue to even consider in 70638 Katana V11 – it is otherwise pretty awesome for £14.99.

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Rob Paton

As one half of Tiro Media Ltd, I mix a passion for print and digital media production with a deep love of LEGO and can often be found on these pages eulogising about LEGO Batman, digging deeper into the LEGO Group’s inner workings, or just complaining about the price of the latest LEGO Star Wars set. Make a great impression when you meet me in person by praising EXO-FORCE as the greatest LEGO theme of all time. Follow me on Twitter @RobPaton or drop me an email at [email protected]

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