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Review: 71305 Lewa - Uniter of Jungle
Fortune has smiled upon BIONICLE and blessed it with a second year of sets! 2016 places fan-favorite trickster Lewa at the forefront of the line. Can he unite your expectations, or is he just a big joke?
Those of you who read my reviews last year know I was decidedly not a fan of the boxes they used for every set. It wasn't so much the design, which they have replicated for this year, but the material they used was too flimsy for my tastes. I'm happy to report that they have, to a large extent, rectified this. It's still not perfect; poor Tahu was smashed to Karzahni and back, as you'll see at a later date, but the cardboard used is much thicker and resilient than last year's. While it's still not ideal for storage, it's a lot more satisfying to handle.
The design is much the same; dynamic poses on the front, your standard feature information on the back. Interestingly, they kept the comics on the packaging, which I was not necessarily expecting. Does this mean we'll be getting another series of animations this year?
You like new bits? Lewa's got the new bits. We'll see all these pieces in action shortly, but there's a nice variety to spice things up in the new year. One of the more contentious pieces is sure to be the new torso plate; for the first time since CCBS was implemented, the new torso piece has only a single connection point, and given the printing, it's very clear this piece is only for Lewa.
In terms of returning pieces, we have something not seen for a good few years; the Skrall armor piece. A curious choice to revive, but the overall shape and style meshes well with the CCBS aesthetic.
Not pictured in the new parts: a new eyestalk! I didn't even realize it was new until halfway through. It's a lot shorter, so the "action game" from last year is gone, but it retains the functionality.
Lewa Uniter kicks things off with the new torso bone... or should I say bones? We've seen this before in certain sets in BIONICLE, but for the first time the designers have given us something specifically designed around a much-requested feature: waist articulation!
It's only left-right, and the use of gear-functions here replace last year's gearbox (you'll be missed!) but it's a huge step in the right direction, and a fantastic indicator for future innovation. It's got enough friction that playability is still rock-solid, so hopefully it doesn't loosen up too much over time.
One thing you might have spotted when looking at the pieces is actually a lack of your standard CCBS bones. Lewa eschews tradition by deftly incorporating the Skrall armor bit (and a couple of those "straight Hordika necks" also introduced in 2010) to essentially improvise a leg bone. It's a bold choice; CCBS has been largely about using prebuilt parts when customizing is unnecessary. Lewa laughs at that design notion, and looks pretty good doing it. The Bohrok eye accent also works well, not sticking out as much as it seems on the box. However, the shape of the legs does force the standard 4m shell pieces to only fit a certain way, so you can see some limitations of the build.
One of the new armor pieces on the torso doesn't get much fanfare, and is in fact buried, but paves the way for back armor, another welcome sight which the developers have definitely taken note of.
Sorry, no gifs of pivoting (maybe SPI can hook us up later) but it definitely works as intended, and will make posing fun.
The new eyestalk works much the same as the old one, although it feels a bit tighter. Masks are supposed to be removable, but not loose, so it's an improvement over last year.
Arms for the poor... arms for the poor...
Again avoiding your typical CCBS trappings, Lewa again uses the Skrall armor to create a limb piece, this time the upper arms/shoulders. The one thing about the new torso is that the only ball joint connector is the head; everything else requires extra pieces and customizing. Lewa's attempt isn't perfect, and makes some posing weird, but definitely streamlines and compacts the overall figure.
And, of course, the arms are not locked in by elbow joints, which is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to CCBS. I could abide it last year, since the gearboxes demanded it, but we definitely need to start seeing more range of motion if we won't be having the gearbox in the future. Lewa is a good indicator of that. The armor on that is necessarily a bit wonky, but it works with how the new "crystal" add-on is utilized. Speaking of, I quite like this new piece. It's definitely different, and not what you'd expect from BIONICLE, but it adds a fun bit of flair to the proceedings.
Lewa caps it off with some... katana? Machete? Kachete? I think there's a specific name for these tools, but I'm blanking on it. The weapons are probably the weakest aspect of the set; while the new sword piece is nice (soon to be overused, but that's a gripe for a future review) the spinning just doesn't seem necessary, and they're a tad awkward to pose. In an ironic twist, they're the one thing this new Lewa does worse than the old one (which was a terrible set); the weapons lack a certain personality to them that would fit the character.
Continuing the trend, Lewa has two masks, both dual-color blends. One, a nice subtle green/silver, the other a slightly garish gold/transparent green blend. Overall, both work; Lewa has enough accenting transparent green on him to balance out the gold mask. I generally prefer the green, myself, but they're all serviceable. This mask deviates further from his original appearance, but has the excellent inclusion of his Nuva symbol on the top. We're in fanservice territory here, folks.
The Brass Tacks
Lewa's a blast of sheer novelty; if you were expecting these sets to be anything like last year's, you're in for a fun surprise. I do love CCBS, and it gets a lot of undeserved hate, but I can't deny that seeing quirky Technic designs for the limbs wasn't a nice throwback, and incorporates well besides. The generic weapons were a bit of an unsatisfying finish to the whole thing, but his build is inventive and new, and shows that the set designers aren't afraid to try both new and old things, which is what BIONICLE's reboot needs.
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