I have finished the Ninjago City model, so one last rambling of thoughts on it. The third and top level here consists of the rooftop sushi restaurant and the radio tower.
The Sushi restaurant isn't too extravagant, because it is just sitting atop a rooftop. The edged of the curved roof are nice, with the two straight bits being made of door pieces. (One side is right hand doors, the other is left hand doors, so if you part this set out, you've have a full set of matching pairs.) There's plenty of seating up here, with nice use or rounded orange tiles filling things out, as well as a table with the menu sticker on it.
The big draw is the sushi conveyer belt, which totally works. I mean, it's not too complex; just 1x2 liftarms connected into a loop and placed in a nice slop, which uses some SNOT techniques to make a nice fit. It does get caught in a few places, and it's not secured in so if you tilt the roof upside-down (as one does with buildings) it'll fall right out. More irksome is the fact that the provided sushi dishes only fit in loosely, so a slight bump of the set and they go flying off the belt or their respective tables. There's a little table for the sushi chef to prepare the fish, but it's a little high for a standing fig, and I had to include a small stand for him for the display. (You can either refit the crab restaurant chef with a new hat and mustache and turn him into the sushi chef, or you could borrow the sushi chef from the Collectible Minifigure wave and have him man the table.)
Two of the final builds in the set are actually some of the best; the blowfish and squid sculptures, used to advertise for the restaurant. The squid makes excellent use of the small catapult arm and cheese slopes to get a striking design. (Granted, it took me a while to realize it was a squid, I thought it was just a fish design at first.) The blowfish is a bit more fragile but it's a technique I wouldn't have thought up, so it's quite impressive that they managed to design it and still pull off the look. Certainly a highlight of the model. (The last sticker of the set is also used on the green sign that hangs below the puffer fish, and is the final step to the entire set. Given how many stickers have been used, this seems fitting.)
But before you do those final designs, you have to build the big radio tower, using a fair amount of sand green elements (that look borrowed from the dragon mech.) It's a fairly sturdy structure, and the design of the hole looks pretty good from the front. The back, however, has a lot of anti-studs showing. Oh well. Not sure what all those bronze swords are supposed to represent, but they add some contrasting colors. What did surprise me was that the base of the tower has a small restroom built into it, thus being the last room built in the set. (And it's kind of needed; two residential houses, three restaurant, and a fish market... they needed a restroom somewhere.)
The figs are again less than impressive. You get a standard Ninja Jay, and although he was new to me he does appear in plenty of other cheaper sets. The Shark Army thug is the most common villain in Ninjago, so he's another repeat. Officer Noonan is slightly different, but basically just repurposing of standard police parts, so nothing special about here, really. I continue to be underwhelmed by the figs in this set.
The conveyer belt is a neat play feature, but not quite as nice as the crab grill. There are a few sushi stickers used here, as well as a couple of signs on the small black tower. (I think in the live stream, they mentioned one was a reference to Bionicle Glatorian? The top one with the circles reminds me of the Ga-Metru Kanoka disk design, although it's not exact.) This overall top level isn't quite as fulfilling as some of the others, but it serves its purpose as a rooftop restaurant and completes the model, so that's nice.
I think it's easy to say that I like this set. The build was FUN, lots of different techniques used, some felt pretty standard, while others were quite creative. Plus, the designs generally don't skimp out; they use lots and lots of useful pieces. This set would make an excellent parts pack, with a fair amount of uncommon elements and colors. (But honestly, why would you not want to build this set? Unless you bought two... in which case you're way richer than I. This set was half the cost of my rent, or rather the majority of my Lego budget this summer.) But it was lots of fun and now I'm disappointed I don't have a new section to build after work every day. Heh.
This is a big set too. The rooftop restaurant is higher up than the top of the Airjitzu Temple. The top of the radio tower doesn't quite match the height of the Ferris Wheel, my other tallest set... but if you count the fishing pole antenna, it does. And there is a lot of room to desk this out with minifigs, which is what I've already started to do.
Overall, I would say my favorite designs include the bridge, the crowbar roofing, the comic shop, and Lloyd and Koko's house, plus the squid and puffer fish sculptures. Favorite stickers are the movie posters, comic book cards, and the Kimono lady. Best action feature is clearly the crab grille, but the elevator isn't bad either. The set isn't super great as far as figs go, but the exclusive ones like civilian Kai, Ivy, Mother Doomsday, and Tommy are my favorites. (Plus, I guess you always need some average figs to help bulk your city out. And from the mindset of a collector on a budget, it's nice that there aren't too many important exclusive figs here. There's nothing quite on par with the Airjitzu Temple's exclusive Misako fig.)
You do have the issue with the modular building design, where lots of details go into the interior, but it's too tight to really play in and it's not visible from the outside while on display. Luckily, there's plenty on the outside that it looks really good on display. The movie may have been a bit of a dud, but this set is excellent, and now I want to get even more Ninjago Movie sets to deck it out. (The street lamps from the smaller City Chase set can be easily placed on the roof, and the extra civilian figs can fill out the sidewalk and restaurant seats.) It's a great set... but it's super pricey and takes up a lot of room, so if you don't have the space or cash, you'll probably have to pass on it. Or just save up a lot and decide that you don't need shelf space in your kitchen for food. (Good thing too, cause you can't afford anymore now!)
That said, I should really get back to working on those front page reviews again...
Thanks for reading.