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A Golden-Red Horizon


Daring Do Adventure Collection Review

Posted by Aanchir , Oct 21 2014 · 238 views
My Little Pony, Daring Do, Books and 1 more...
Daring Do Adventure Collection Review

While I was at NYCC a couple weeks ago, the Daring Do Adventure Collection arrived at home, together with some other books I had preordered earlier in the year. Yesterday I finally managed to finish reading all three books! I'm going to write a spoiler-free review.

Presentation-wise, the box set is fantastic. The box itself is shaped like a treasure chest, and has elegantly tapered sides, ornate decorations, and a sturdy design with two ribbons to keep it from opening too wide. It holds the three books and the "false book" from the episode "Daring Don't" very securely. If future Daring Do books are released, it looks like the false book could be swapped out with up to two additional books. The bottom of the box (and instances throughout) identify the books as the three newest Daring Do books, published after those mentioned in the episodes "Read It and Weep" and "Daring Don't".

The "false book" is a fantastic replica of its appearance in the show, even if its perfectly flat spine makes it hard to confuse with a real book. It has a glossy finish on the outside. The Daring Do idol figurine is just an unprinted recolor of the Daring Do figurine from the My Little Pony miniatures collections and blind bags, but it still looks very nice. It is held in a small blister pack on a dark red backing card, ensuring that it stays fixed in the center of the box, and the blister pack hinges open so there's no need to deface it to access the figurine. The box is a bit big for a single figurine, so a more cynical person might see the mostly-empty "false book" as an excuse to make the box set appear to include more than it really does. But you could easily use it to hold other My Little Pony miniatures, or other treasures of your own.

The books themselves are also elegant as far as presentation is concerned. The box set includes three books: Daring Do and the Marked Thief of Marapore, Daring Do and the Eternal Flower, and Daring Do and the Forbidden City of Clouds. Herein lies my first real criticism — there is no obvious hint on the book covers to tell you which book to read first. The order does matter, since each book references the ones before it. Thankfully, inside each book is a list of "Other books by A.K. Yearling" which lists seven unpublished books and the three in this box set, in sequential order. But people not looking for this clue might end up reading the books out-of-order without realizing it.

The books are sturdily-bound hardcovers around 200 pages long. Each book has a differently-colored cover. The front cover features a full-color illustration mimicking the design of the Daring Do books in the show. The spine features the book title and printed clasps (I don't know if this is a proper bookbinding term) featuring Daring Do's cutie mark. The back cover features a description of the book, as you'd expect from a book of this sort. There is no dust jacket, but that's just as well because the covers are elegant enough without them.

Inside the cover of each book are some lovely endpapers featuring Daring's cutie mark, followed by yet another full-color illustration depicting a scene from the story. All the illustrations for these books (drawn by Franco Spagnolo, a professional illustrator and character designer) are extremely elegant and accurate to the visual style of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. My second criticism is that the beauty of these illustrations left me wanting more. Two illustrations per book, however elegant, felt like a bit of a tease! The illustrations are not 100% accurate to the text as far as certain colors are concerned, but they're still beautiful, and accurate to the spirit of the characters and stories, if not to all the details.

The pages themselves are decorated with motifs that suit the Daring Do adventure series, such as squiggly dotted lines and Daring's compass rose cutie mark on most of the pages, carvings like those on the edges of the "treasure chest" box at the beginning of each chapter, and Daring's face by each chapter header. The text is large enough that kids should be able to read it with ease, but the text itself is not at all "dumbed down" to cater to kids. Two pages into the first book, I came across the word "inimitable", and the same book is peppered with other complex vocabulary like "decennially", "pedagogue", and "somnambular". This means the books will also be a great learning experience for young and old readers alike, not just a fun series of stories.

In the back of each book, there is a glossary of characters, plants, artifacts, and miscellanea specific to the Daring Do stories. The back of the first book also features ten pages for the reader to make field notes and sketches from their own adventures. Like a lot of the activity pages in G.M. Berrow's other My Little Pony chapter books, I will not likely be making use of these. It pains me to mark a book that is not strictly an activity book in any way, and those times I have done so in the past have usually been followed by regret. But perhaps to others these pages won't feel quite so superfluous.

The stories are full of world-building for the universe of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and details on Daring Do's friends, foes, and previous adventures. They are not the easiest reads, due to all the lore and vocabulary, but they are exciting enough to make it worthwhile. Daring is well-written: definitely not a carbon copy of Rainbow Dash, but still a character Rainbow Dash could identify with and admire. Popular culture references (especially to the Indiana Jones franchise) and horse puns are of course present, but not so much that they become distracting or overwhelming. Best of all, the final book seems to set up for many future Daring Do adventures, which hopefully G.M. Berrow and "A.K. Yearling" will be bringing to us in the future!

Overall, I'm very glad that Little, Brown and Company has been such a fantastic partner to Hasbro. Every My Little Pony book they've published has been extremely elegant in terms of presentation, and this box set turns that elegance up to eleven. The quality of the stories is also fantastic. I thoroughly recommend this set to any fans of the My Little Pony franchise, particularly its adventure stories.

The biggest drawback is the price tag. The box set's RRP is $75 USD, an extraordinary sum for three adventures less than twenty chapters long — even in hardcover. That elegant presentation certainly isn't included for free. Thankfully, Barnes and Noble still has it on a considerable markdown, just as they did when I preordered it (the link at the top of this post goes to this site). If you still can't afford it now even at the discounted price, perhaps you might wait and see if the books are published individually or in paperback form in the future, or see if used copies become available at a lower price.

Source: Official My Little Pony topic


Some thoughts on the TTV Podcast

Posted by Aanchir , Oct 19 2014 · 483 views
LEGO, BIONICLE, community and 1 more...

Seriously, let's stop the hate. They do things fast to get content. Sure, they could've waited til the sets are released to do reviews, but they just wanted to get it out to fuel the excitement and show what the set is generally like. It can definitely be inconvenient when they get incorrect ideas out there, but blatantly hating them for it does nothing good for anyone. I wish they would be a little more cautious with how they output info, but let's relax. Rude is rude, no matter who it's being directed towards and for what reasons.

Let me make this clear: I do not hate TTV. I do not enjoy the TTV podcast (mostly just personal preference — I do not enjoy getting my news in video form when given the choice), but I respect them for what they do — and I reserve the right to be disappointed when they do it badly.

If a BZPower set review made similar mistakes, praising or criticizing features that do not exist when the set is built correctly, then I would want them to be held accountable as well. In fact, I have vocally criticized instances when I feel like BZPower set reviews have fallen short of expectations, such as when a Legends of Chima set was criticized earlier this year for a building mistake made by the reviewer, or when reviewers poorly "estimated" the piece counts of those and the summer Hero Factory sets, despite the official piece counts already being publicly available from several reputable sites.

"Fueling the excitement" is not necessarily an honorable goal in and of itself. Even excitement ought to have real substance behind it, or it devolves into tabloid-level sensationalism. But even if it were unquestionably honorable, having honorable goals does not mean freedom from criticism. People DO make mistakes, and when they make mistakes they should be held accountable. And a mistake by a well-respected YouTube channel with hundreds of viewers is not the same as a mistake by a random dude on a message board. The wider and faster misinformation spreads, the more of a mess it is to clean up.

I do not criticize TTV or try to correct misinformation originating from them because I enjoy taking them to task. To be honest, I'd rather I didn't have to. I'd like to be able to just trust them completely to keep people informed. I'd rather not feel a sense of apprehension when I see they've "reviewed" a set months before its release. But if I see them saying something untrue and see others repeating that information, I feel like I'd be amiss if I didn't correct it.

So please, if you see me (or anyone) criticizing TTV, don't assume it's because I have some kind of petty grudge against them. The fact that I have high expectations of news outlets like BZPower News or TTV means that I care about what they do, and consequently, about how well they do it.


New York Comic Con Wrap-Up

Posted by Aanchir , Oct 13 2014 · 218 views
This past week has been a real adventure for me! I have already talked about a lot of what happened but I wanted to put all my thoughts in one place for future reference. On Wednesday my twin brother and I took the train to New York City for New York Comic Con. I stayed with my mom's camp friend Carson, whom I had previously stayed with back in 2012 when I attended New York International Toy Fair. Once again, she was an extremely hospitable host.

The reason for going to New York this time, of course, was that my brother and I had won two invitations to New York Comic Con on behalf of the LEGO Group. The invitations included not only one-day admission to the show itself, where LEGO had set up a beautiful booth promoting the new BIONICLE sets and story, but also admission to two special invite-only events. The first of these was the LEGO BIONICLE panel at 1:00pm, at which the theme’s creative director, art director, marketing director, and U.S. brand manager talked about the process of creating the sets and media for the new theme and showed off some of the sets. Those wanting to see this panel in video form can see it here on BZPower News, and those just wanting to see the presentation slides in clearer image form can see them here on the LEGO BIONICLE Facebook page.

As amazing as this was for a die-hard BIONICLE fan like me, it was just an appetizer. The main course came at the second event, which was held at the new LEGO store in the Flatiron District (which didn’t officially open until the next day). Upon entering the store, not only were the sets and 14-karat gold masks shown at the panel on display, but the bins that LEGO stores normally fill with basic System and Duplo bricks for kids to play with were instead filled with parts from the six new Toa sets. For an hour and a half (an hour, in my case, since I arrived late despite my best efforts), we were free to play with the parts to our heart’s content. To top things off, we were able to keep whatever we built! I had thought even coming home with one of the new sets would have been a pipe dream, but coming home with my choice of their amazing new parts was arguably even better!

In between the two LEGO events, I had some downtime when I got to plug my phone in and upload some of the photos I had taken at the BIONICLE booth and panel. Taking so many photos (not to mention trying to keep up with Twitter while waiting in various lines) really took a toll on the battery. In the meantime, my brother checked out the Artist's Alley and got a sketch card of Unikitty illustrated by Katie Cook, one of the writers and illustrators for the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic comic series by IDW. We then got to attend the Legend of Korra panel, where last week's episode of the show was presented a day early and the creators and some of the lead voice actors talked and joked about their experiences working on the show. This was to be their last big event while the show was still airing, so in some ways it felt a bit bittersweet, but on the whole it was a great reminder why the show and its universe are so great.

Navigating New York could be exhausting. As I mentioned, my brother and I arrived a bit late to the LEGO store event in the evening. There are a couple reasons for this. First, we stopped to eat beforehand, which took a bit longer than we anticipated. Second, Google Maps very nearly directed us to the wrong LEGO store. We knew the new Flatiron District LEGO store was on Fifth Avenue, so it seemed like it was sending us to the right place. But we realized shortly before it brought us to (not) our destination that both the LEGO stores were on Fifth Avenue (but very, very far apart), and that Google Maps only knew of the Rockefeller Center store's existence since the new Flatiron District store was not technically open until the next day. Thankfully we were able to navigate to the correct store and only arrived half an hour late, which gave us plenty of time to enjoy the event.

The next couple days I had hoped to do some shopping in New York City (for instance, visiting the Toys 'R' Us at Times Square, either of the two LEGO stores, or the Nintendo World store at Rockefeller Center). But after this whirlwind experience on Thursday, not only was I fatigued from so much walking around and navigating, but I had gotten behind on following the various LEGO fan communities that were now ablaze with discussion of the new BIONICLE theme. Plus, my brother and I were already coming home with more amazing loot than I anticipated — getting MORE stuff was hardly a priority! We each had a custom BIONICLE hero built from the parts of the new sets, a BIONICLE 2015 T-shirt, two exclusive transparent BIONICLE masks, a BIONICLE Skull Spider, a BIONICLE 2015 T-shirt, and two BIONICLE posters. So I spent most of Friday and Saturday online, reporting on my experience and helping to clear up people's unanswered questions.

When we got home Saturday evening, not only did we get to show our family what we had gotten (and share some of that loot with our younger brother, who was not able to make it due to school), but also I was greeted by two boxes containing books I had preordered from Barnes and Noble earlier in the year: The Daring Do Adventure Collection by G.M. Berrow, The Legend of Korra book two art book, LEGO Ninjago: The Visual Dictionary, and "Shouldn't You Be in School", the third book in Lemony Snicket's ongoing series All the Wrong Questions. So I have those books to look forward to reading in the months to come!

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that my experience Thursday was the experience of a lifetime. Comic Con was definitely fast-paced and hectic, but getting to meet so many LEGO employees and be one of the first to experience the new BIONICLE sets and story for 2015 was more exciting than I had even dreamed. I also got to spend not quite as much time as I would have liked with a lot of the great folks from here on BZPower. I'm not quite through with this experience just yet — I'm in the midst of writing about and taking photos of my new BIONICLE parts for The New Elementary. Also, I have to get back to "real life" responsibilities like visiting the Zolo studio and putting together some new Zolo creations for their Facebook page. But throughout all of that, I will have some very memorable experiences to look back on, and many great new experiences to look forward to!

For those who want to see Thursday's events from my own perspective, I have a slightly disorganized photo gallery here with photos from the BIONICLE booth, panel, and LEGO store event. Enjoy!


On Fleas and Flick Missiles

Posted by Aanchir , Oct 01 2014 · 254 views
LEGO, Hero Factory, Sets, Weird
I was just in my room playing with Breez Flea Machine, a set that I got at the LEGO store last week. It's been on my wish list since before it came out, because I really love its design. The LEGO Group really showed great creativity with this year's Invasion from Below sets and I think it totally paid off. Generally the set meets all of my expectations.

Non-traditional design? Check. Its tripod build and heavy use of Technic really help it stand out from previous Hero Factory sets. It's also helped by its bulky leg armor and tiny feet, which give it a very nimble look (though with only three legs and such a tiny footprint, it can't hold TOO many different poses).

Great parts? Check. The Bright Yellowish Green square shell detail pieces are great. It DOES have a lovely printed shell like the other machines, though it's a different size and color than usual. The mini-heroes in general have great designs, and Breez is no exception. I'd be amiss if I didn't also mention the cool new cocoon petals!

Awesome functions? Check! At first I was a little bit disappointed with the claw, because it snagged every time I tried to flick it so I thought I'd be forced to extend it manually with the "Hand of God". Laaaaame. But then I realized that it was just the winch that was getting caught. If you unwind the winch before firing, it works like a charm! Then you can use it as a grappling hook, and the set even includes a zip-line piece that came out during my childhood, so Breez can slide down the cable to traverse a gap! It also works nicely for grabbing and retrieving the cocoon.

Plus, she even comes with a click-shooter — the first one I've gotten in a set, though I bought some from a vendor at Brickfair back in August. For those who aren't aware, these are tiny handheld shooters that fire a 1x1 round plate with surprising distance and power when you press the trigger. Considering how bulky, obtrusive, and difficult to integrate many previous LEGO shooters have been, this thing feels like a dream come true! The variations on the concept coming out next year will hopefully have similar efficacy.

But then there's something else. A regular flick missile launcher. And when I was playing with the set earlier, I couldn't help thinking this was probably one of the set's least impressive functions. Don't get me wrong, I love flick missiles! Or I did, back when they were one of the most compact, least obtrusive, and most versatile launcher designs. This year the LEGO Group introduced lots of amazing new launchers, including the click shooter. With a basic click shooter already in the set, I thought a pair of flick missiles would be kind of pointless and superfluous. It's not like they'd even work that well just slapped on the side of the set like that, right?

Well, it turns out I was wrong. Maybe I've been wrong for the past five or six years of my life, in fact. Maybe everything I know is a lie. Because just on a whim, I flicked that missile, expecting it to fly maybe eight or ten inches. And instead, like some kind of miracle, it sailed three or four meters, over my twin brother's bed, and landed in the far corner of the room. I actually thought it had misfired and gone straight into the ground before I heard it land on the other side of the room.

I was flabbergasted. Flick missiles aren't supposed to work that well. Not from my experience. Probably not from MOST people's experience, judging from all the hate I see for them in reviews. Surely this had to be some kind of fluke, right? After I found the missile, I returned it to the launcher and decided to try again. This time, I kind of screwed up. Instead of launching one missile, my finger accidentally hit both. Great, another misfire, I thought, before I heard yet another click of a tiny plastic missile hitting something hard on the far side of the room.

I found the first of the two missiles in the closet, about as far away from where I launched it as the previous launch had taken it. I still haven't found the second. Maybe I could get a blacklight to help look for it, since it does have a convenient fluorescent green tip. It didn't land in either of the trash cans over there, so it will have to turn up eventually.

But wherever it ended up, today I learned something amazing. Discounting the possibility of witchcraft, or the possibility that the last hour and a half of my life has all been some crazy dream... my flick game is surprisingly strong.


Reboot vs. Continuation

Posted by Aanchir , Sep 23 2014 · 296 views
I made the following analogy in a BIONICLE-related Facebook group I'm in, and my twin brother Lyichir says I should post it here as well, so here goes.

Think of BIONICLE as horse racing. LEGO is betting on a horse race for the first time in five years. If they win, they will have enough money to bet on future races (future waves of the theme). If they lose, they give up on betting on horse races forever, because it's no longer worth their time and money. There are many, many horses (potential customers) in the current race that are young, fit, fast, and enthusiastic, just like past winners have usually been.

Then there are a small number of older horses that were regular winners years ago, but they were already getting old the last time LEGO bet on a race, and haven't raced at all in five years. They are by now becoming too old for racing, they run slowly (in this analogy, don't tend to buy sets as regularly), and they have every intention of jumping the track the minute they get the sense that they don't like how the race is turning out.

Which horses do you think LEGO should put their money on? Remember that this is their only chance to get this right. If they lose, they quit betting on horse racing (in other words, give up on BIONICLE) entirely. As Greg said on the LEGO Message Boards, this is something that LEGO only really has one shot to get right.


I'm going to Comic Con?

Posted by Aanchir , Sep 09 2014 · 172 views
I'm going to Comic Con. And since Eurobricks is graciously providing two passes (one for me and one for a companion of my choosing) I'm bringing my brother Lyichir along. I'm honestly somewhat grateful that it's only going to be for one day, because this is going to be a VERY new experience for me and I'm sure having to plan for three or four days on such short notice would be incredibly overwhelming.

I also realize that I haven't blogged about BIONICLE's return since the initial leaks back in July. Honestly, I'm tremendously excited based on what I've seen of the new BIONICLE. So if the NYCC new theme reveal happens to be the new BIONICLE, it will be amazing to be one of the first people to witness the official reveal! Of course, if it turns out to be something else, I'm confident it will still be an amazing experience. After all, I'm generally very impressed with the quality of modern day LEGO designs, no matter what the theme — even if it's a theme I don't personally intend to collect.

This might also be good practice for BronyCon 2015 (which I'm also registered for, yay!). Brickfair is the largest fan convention I've ever been to, and it's a lot different than your typical pop culture convention, so learning how to plan and maneuver around the inevitable crowds should be helpful.

It's too early to plan out everything I'll see. My pass is only good for Thursday, October 9, and includes admission to the con itself, the 1:00 p.m. LEGO Group panel, AND the evening event when they'll be announcing a new theme for next year. But since the main NYCC schedule is not posted yet, I have no idea what I'll do for the rest of my day there. I guess I'll have to keep a close eye on that in the weeks to come! In the meantime, I will be enjoying the rest of Ninjago Month here on BZPower — glad to see another of my favorite themes getting some much-deserved recognition. All things considered, I have a lot to look forward to!


70162 Infearno Interception Review

Posted by Aanchir , Aug 25 2014 · 262 views
LEGO, Ultra Agents, Review and 1 more...
A little over a month ago, Tim Johnson (owner of one of my favorite LEGO blogs, The New Elementary) approached me asking if I'd like to review some sets for his site. I jumped at the opportunity, and today I can announce that my first review for TNE is now live! Click here to take a look at this amazing set and the many interesting LEGO elements it offers!

I am very proud of how this review turned out. I am already working on another review for the site, and will share it here when it is complete!


The serials and their function

Posted by Aanchir , Aug 22 2014 · 171 views
I was just reflecting on which BIONICLE books I liked most and least, and I got to thinking about something. While the serials are often heavily criticized for being bloated, aimless, and an obstacle to new BIONICLE fans, I'm starting to get a sense of why they were introduced in the first place (other than as a free online method of story dispersal).

The books in the year 2006 were among my least favorite. At many points felt like the characters were rushing from one battle or crisis to another without pause, and the characterization in these books (in my opinion) was very weak. Subsequently, Prisoners of the Pit ended up being one of my favorite BIONICLE books because it got to explore the Toa Mahri, their relationships with one another, and how becoming Toa had affected them much better than the 2006 story had done for the Toa Inika.

What changed for the BIONICLE storyline in 2007? The biggest change was the introduction of BIONICLEstory.com and the first story serials. And I think that while their own quality may be contested, they helped to relieve some of the bloating that the main story had undergone in 2006. Instead of the main story having to make room for minor characters from the sets like Umbra and Irnakk or combi models like Protodax, Botar, and the Kardas Dragon, the story serials could deal with these kind of characters (as seen in Dreams of Destruction, which focused on the store-exclusive characters Lesovikk, Karzahni, Sarda, and Idris, or Brothers in Arms, which focused on the store-exclusive characters Mazeka and Vultraz). Instead of the main story having to keep tabs on fan-favorite characters from previous story arcs like the Toa Nuva, Roodaka, the Rahaga/Toa Hagah, the Order of Mata Nui, and the Dark Hunters, the story serials could keep tabs on their adventures (as seen in the Toa Nuva Blog, Federation of Fear, Destiny War, Dark Mirror, and Dwellers in Darkness).

These things freed up the main story as told in the books to focus on the characters who actually mattered most: the current Toa team, their current allies, and their current enemies. The books could spend more time on characterization and world-building. They didn't have to do so much jumping around between spatial and temporal settings. They didn't have to have so many characters who got in the way of the Toa just because there was a set or combi model to promote and the designers didn't give a lot of thought into how to fit those characters or situations into the main storyline.

I can't tell you for sure whether the serials are every bit as bad as people remember them. I just skimmed through the 2007 ones to remember what they were about specifically, and the writing is weak compared to the books — in some cases, weaker than I had remembered. The fact that my memories of the later serials were not fond enough to even go back and skim them is telling. Perhaps part of the reason the serials got more tangled and bloated as they went on is because, with more and more characters being introduced to the story and fewer and fewer books to fit them in, they started to suffer the very same fate they were meant to save the main story from. In any case, I definitely don't think that the serials are themselves redeemed by the purpose they served, but perhaps I still owe them some thanks for what they were: a pressure release valve of sorts to reduce the out-of-control expansion the main story was losing the ability to deal with on its own.