The Ninjago theme has always been a bit hit or miss for me. I’m of the wrong age demographic to be enticed by the generic ninja fantasy, but the constantly changing sub themes have allowed LEGO to release some creative lines. The current wave of sky-pirate sets hits just right with the junker/dieselpunk aesthetic. The flagship set is a kind of flying pirate aircraft carrier and I just couldn’t resist.
It’s a good-sized set and it has the contents to match. Six numbered bags, a bag of larger elements, and cardboard backed bag with the instructions and sticker sheet. What isn’t in the picture is a dark stone gray 8×16 tile (which got itself stuck in the box and I didn’t find it until later). A lot of rusty tones in there and more technic than I would have expected.
The latest version of Lloyd is in bag one along with an odd metallic monkey. Since I don’t watch the show, I really don’t know what the story is, but it is good to see that old monkey fig. I suspect there will be some grousing that a pearl silver monkey with mismatched limbs isn’t very useful, but I still think it is a lot of fun.
The main thing that is new about Lloyd is his outfit, as the ninjas seem to get a new look for every story arc. The design is great and the printing is great, with a slight luster to the golden dragon image on his chest.
Lloyd has a winged version of his symbol on his back, but no alternate face.
The build for the first bag is a green and gold flying machine for Lloyd. The colors look great and I like the overall look a lot. There are some interesting technic techniques inside to achieve the angled wings. I also enjoy the use of the spinner element to tie back to the fighting top gimmick of the theme’s roots. This type of referential design element just adds a nice bit of nostalgia.
Unfortunately, this flying machine just feels unfinished. There are no engines. If you look at it from anywhere other than the front or above and the technic under-structure is glaringly obvious and out-of-place. The assemblies that hold the big golden swords are a bit floppy and don’t seem to do anything but menace the operator. Maybe a kid wouldn’t mind while they’re swooshing it around, but I felt let down.
I should note that there isn’t an extra pearl gold hook. I didn’t put the string in the winch assembly under the flyer (since I would rather save if for later), so I simply laid the hood aside.
In bag 2, I get my first taste of the bad guys. The odd mismatch of pirates and aviators works way better than I would have thought. I especially like the big mustache and the dark green epaulets. There is fun face hiding under the mustache, but I’ll leave that as a surprise. The mismatched colors on the limbs will probably limit their reuse, but works well for the intended character.
A nice print on the back of this pirate’s torso, maybe a parachute. The mismatched limbs seem more obvious from this angle. I’m struck by how common this kind of thing has been with recent themes (the ghost warriors in the last Ninjago wave and the ice tribes at the end of Chima come to mind).
The next build is a pirate ultralight flyer. Some more nice techniques here. I like the tail assembly a lot. The pilot’s cage is constructed with handlebars and light saber hilts and seems like a great example of AFOL building styles being adopted for official sets. This kind of cross-pollination is definitely part of the appeal in official sets for me.
After the little flyer, we start building the bottom deck of the bigger vessel. A lot of technic here for structure and not much in the way of adornment. I like the use of palisade bricks as a textured alternative to regular bricks. Even in less visible parts of a model, those little details can help build the overall look.
A lot of extra minifig elements here, which is always appreciated. I like the new sword that they’ve introduced here, a jagged cutlass with a skull-motif hand guard. They come in two different colors in this set.
Another pirate in bag 3. This fellow has a great face, an obvious update of the classic pirate look. I like the gold teeth and crooked mouth.
Another back print. This looks more like a pair of stick grenades.
Bag 3 finishes out the bottom deck, adding side panels with a haphazard, scrappy look and the structure that will support the upper deck. I like the fold out cannon platforms.
In the fourth bag we get a new Jay, the blue ninja. This version of Jay loses the cowl, but gives him a dour expression and an eye patch. This is also the first time I’ve gotten my hands on this new sword holder. I like having the two sword in parallel and the shoulder pad on the opposite side.
Jay’s back print is a lot like Lloyd’s, with a winged version of his symbol. He has an alternate face too, with an expression that seems a bit more in character.
Bag 4 starts the upper deck and the tail. I really like that the tail struts are built using mast elements. There is also a gear box in the center whose purpose will become clear later in the build.
The last of the ninjas makes his appearance in bag 5. This version of Kai is in line with the other ninjas, though he is the only one to be wearing his cowl in this set and his swords are pearl silver.
Nothing surprising here either. I do like the way that the red and gold symbol stands out so nicely on the black.
The ship is coming together now, with bag 5 building out the wings and the cockpit. There are disc launchers built into the wings that will get hidden in the next bag. The skeleton on the prow is a nice touch, but the connection is loose, so he flops off kilter. The pilot’s cage is cool, with scimitars used to create a nice sweep.
I’ll take a moment to mention the wealth of swords in this set. There are six different types of sword (eight if you include color variations) in this set, with numerous extras.
The last minifig in the set is this wave’s main bad guy, Nadakhan. Well, what isn’t to love about a four armed orange genie? Ninjago has definitely been getting a lot of use out of these ghost bases and it certainly works for this guy. I like the absurd hook hand for an extra dose of ‘pirate.’
From the back it is obvious that he is just constructed with a sort of secondary torso. I think it is a bit odd that they didn’t give both torsos back printing. The face is pretty great though (this isn’t the alternate, I just wanted to show it without the mask).
Bag six finishes out the top of the hull and adds those big engines. Lots of great detail here and I love those dark orange cement mixer elements!
This is was a fun build. I really like this crazy ramshackle look that works great over the top of a sturdy technic frame. Lots of play features too, with shooting cannons and disc launchers and big engines with a lever activated tilt. The price per piece is a bit lower than I would like, but not bad when you factor in all of the large elements in the set.
Two thumbs up for this one!
Keep building and enjoy!