Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Brick Miser: Angry Birds "Sembo Block" Nanoblocks

...So, I'm in a bit of a crunch... The last few reviews have been missing deadlines, I want to get back on schedule, I don't want to do back-to-back "Knockoff Console Corners", I'm still trying to get back into the swing of doing animations, and I have a bunch of Plug n Play theme marathons I want to try. I need something quick, that doesn't require construction or hours of gameplay and I don't have to go into "deep" research to explain. ...It's time for some Angry Birds "Nanoblocks" from our new friends at Sembo!


Name: Angry Birds "Sembo Block"
Distributor: Sembo
Model: SD8023-SD8030
Pcs: Various

There's no ignoring the widespread phenomenon that is the Angry Birds franchise. Since the first game back in 2009, this franchise has seen UNBELIEVABLE popularity and profits in the form of nearly TWENTY different titles for smartphones, consoles, and PCs! Even if the games themselves are free(on their native smartphone markets at least), they have MASTERED the art of "freemium", convincing millions to spend billions on in-app purchases just to make the game go a little more smoothly!

That's not counting the four animated series, the movie, three theme parks, several attractions, an ongoing comic, multiple book series, and the COUNTLESS toys and games all also lining the pockets of the guys at Rovio!

Including several brick sets from Lego and K'Nex. ...Of which I own a few, so we'll be looking at them another time. Gotta convince Brick to get back in the game and throw some birds at some pigs. ...Not an easy feat, considering the birds and pigs are the same size he is...

 Angry Birds has joined the ranks of games like Pok√©mon and Minecraft in becoming not just a game series, but a global phenomenon! The gameplay of the core games is stupidly simple, involving just slingshotting birds at pigs and hoping the physics mechanics luck out and completely tear down the flimsy structure, but that's also a reason why the franchise has done so well. The gameplay is so simple and pick-up-and-play, and the games are available on so many devices, that it lets us admire the aesthetics, the surreal battle between wingless birds and green pigs, and how we were SO CLOSE to scoring 3 stars on that last level! It's a timeless style of gameplay that's not going to wear out anytime soon, so Angry Birds is likely to stick around in some form or another for years to come!

What do I think about the games? ...They're alright... When I got my first tablet, and later my first smartphone, the original Angry Birds was one of the first games I stuck on both of them, so I am familiar with the play and feel of the gameplay Angry Birds is famous for. ...However, I could never play more than a few levels before I just got bored and frustrated enough to decide it wasn't worth my time. The fact it was competing with Cut the Rope and my GBA emulator on my devices didn't help its chances either...

 Oddly, I found myself more attracted to the spinoff titles Angry Birds POP! and Angry Birds Epic, which I played for a good amount of time(completing the story on the latter) before I moved on to other games. Though I still, to this day, play Nibblers. ...You know, that match-3 project by Rovio that they seem to have all but abandoned, instead focusing on Angry Birds Blast, which is just a cosmetic redesign...?

My apathetic view of the franchise isn't helped by the fact that their recent games are based more on the aesthetics and humor of The Angry Birds Movie, a movie I couldn't watch past the 20 minute mark... These characters are gross, ugly, and lose all the cartoonish charm originally introduced in the series! Why can't anyone recognize that?!

Still, even I can't resist the allure of their many plushes and pillows. This isn't even all my collection. Since it's so massive, the rest is in storage. Hey, I need something for my kids to play with and sleep on. ...When I eventually have kids...

Also, there exist a few knockoff Angry Birds games for Famicom and Genesis, so we'll be taking a look at those soon.

And then, of course, I own what we have today: a knockoff Nanoblock set of Angry Birds. Obviously unlicensed, obviously released before the movie, and obviously quite nicely detailed and already put together so I don't need to worry about how long I'll have to make the accompanying video of these.

This isn't even the only Angry Birds Nanoblock set. There do exist smaller variations, as well as different takes on what Nanoblock Angry Birds look like, and versions based on the movie character variants. ...And personally, I'm happy I got models made before the movie cosmetics were a thing...

These come to us from a new distributor we haven't come across yet on this blog: Sembo, represented by their near-copyright-infringing minifigure head with an "S" carved out of it. ...Might want to get that looked at...

They also state their name on the back as "Sembo Block", which is good, because nowhere else do they tell us they're called "Sembo", and it's REALLY annoying to find bootleg brick sets with just their logo to go on...

Sembo is, unsurprisingly, a company that I can find very little information about(to the point where I don't even know if this IS the name of the company, or if it's just the product name.) There's no website, no company page on AliExpress, nothing that tells us who they are, when they were established, where they're located, or what they regularly produce.

There are Facebook pages, but seeing as how one has only had one post since 2016 and the other one updates regularly with items for sale, I'm assuming they're fan pages and/or unofficial resellers.

There IS a QR code on the box, but all it does is send me to the same WeChat app that LOZ and KAZI tried to send me to. Again, I'm not interested in revealing my information to shady chat apps, so that's as far as I want to look into that.

From what I CAN find about Sembo, they're your run of the mill third-party brick developers and bootleggers. They've developed a lot of generic military sets, but they also seem to have a thing for bootleg Ninjago models and Star Wars Nanoblocks.

The major thing they seem to be known for, however, are their Nanoblock buildings, of which there are a LOT! Clothing stores, groceries, news, computer stores, museums, travel agencies, post offices, bakeries, restaurants, fast food joints, bookstores, everything you could possibly need for your "nanofig" town, they've produced!

And while they've done an impressive job of producing so many without resorting to copyright infringement, they've still dipped their toe in that pool with real names including KFC, Starbucks, and McDonalds.

That last one even has its own LINE of models, including a restaurant, a McDonald's fire engine, an outdoor stall, and Ronald McDonald himself! ...Does anyone have a spare $150 on hand?

I guess we'd better start looking at these models before I decide to use this time buying every Sembo Street building I can find. The boxes are mostly the same style and layout as the standard LOZ box and its knockoffs/variants. There's a picture of the item you're getting on the front, the company logo in the upper-left corner, and it even shares the 14+ warning a lot of other Nanoblocks state. ...However, Sembo knows that polka dots make EVERYTHING, so they've kindly dotted the entire box with these dots surrounding everything! ...Or are they supposed to be studs?

They also took a page from brick companies like Block Tech, and included a "Difficulty Index" to tell you how hard it'll be to construct these models. You put a brick on top of another brick and stare at the instructions for hours trying to figure out how everything's drawn. That's the same for every brick set. You're not suddenly going to need welding tools to put together that Death Star UCS...

On the front is something that states "S. D Originality." I have NO idea what this means. I thought it might be the parent company, but a search came up with absolutely nothing. "SD" does come before all the model numbers, so it might be an abbreviation for the actual company, but I've found absolutely nothing relevant pertaining to this use, so it could be the president's initials for all I know.

On one side is a front view of the model, so you can enjoy your Angry Birds glaring in malice at you as you do them the favor of putting them together...

 Also, they've done you the favor of telling you they've "Included Instructions." Thank you. I thought I'd have to get Raymond Babbitt for this set.

The instructions, by the way, are printed in a rather odd style. The idea is to read downward on the left side, then scroll back up to the right side and read downward from there. I really don't get why Nanoblocks and similar always need to come up with bizarre ways to get the instructions to fit on one sheet of paper, when just printing the instructions left-to-right on both sides of the page would work just as fine. One day, I'm going to find instructions that require me to use a mirror and one of those red filters, aren't I?

The other side shows some of the standard diagrams for Nanoblock bricks, while also telling you in the "Included Instructions" font "Mini world, Great dreams!" So scaled, they would basically be "normal-sized" dreams for us, right? Not as inspiring when you think about it...

But in case you still can't comprehend what a Sembo Block is, they tell you more in a little window on this side.
"sembo block is an extremely small building block. The smallest part is a mere 4x4x5mm! This amazingly small micro sized block makes it possible to create more detailed and even smaller projects than what can be made with standard sized blocks. sembo block is a stimulating and entertaining hobby material for everybody. especially for grown-ups."
Despite the prevalent formatting and capitalization errors, that's actually pretty clear and well translated! ...Therefore, I hate it, because there's nothing to make fun of.

 The back portion just has the regular symbols and warnings you see on these toys. Basically a dozen ways to tell you that it can kill you just by looking at it.

I love this quote at the bottom, though: "pictures for reference only, the actual product shall prevail." ...So you're not only telling us that we might not get what was promised on the box, but that the contents will stage a revolution against us? ...Big incentive to buy your product you're giving us...

Then, there's the standard "0-3" warning

 Despite the front telling us "14+"

Anyone between those ages is shot out of the Angry Birds slingshot BY the Angry Birds. See how YOU like it!

First up is Matilda, the Angry Bird with a heart of gold, who passes an egg as big as her and the stress literally kills her afterwards. But let's be fair, that's what we wish on most hippies anyway...

They did a pretty good job of giving her an egg-shaped body, especially since they had to build it out of rectangular bricks. I guess if you ever need a giant egg-shaped Nanoblock statue, you can just buy this set and leave off all the features.

It'll go great with your Mr Egg Yolk Nanoblock statuettes! ...Yes, these exist.

Despite being a "happy" Angry Bird, Matilda here doesn't seem to be particularly happy or angry... If anything, she looks like a dog who's just been caught chewing up the couch, with those oversized eyebrows and big sad eyes mournfully staring up at you... Maybe she's just realized she's about to be thrown through several layers of wood, glass, and stone, only to meet an exploding end, and is silently pleading with you not to do that to her. ...Sorry, lady. You knew the risks when you signed up for this. You really should have asked more questions before volunteering to be launched out of a giant slingshot...

Or maybe she's upset that they replaced her head tuft with a giant cactus. Maybe a little of both. Either would upset me...

I guess I should explain the yellow patches on this character, as you'll see more of them on the others. I put these together around the same time as the Dr Star Halloween Nanoblocks, and back then, I was using a more rubbery superglue instead of the plastic-type I normally use. As you can see, this stuff doesn't age gracefully... So I'm just pointing out that the yellow splotches is just glue to try to keep these together for as long as possible. I'm not in the habit of giving my brick sets golden showers. ...Regularly...

Next up is Bomb, who's built almost exactly the same way as Matilda, but with different features and slightly less-rounded sides. Personally, if I was designing this, I'd make him BIGGER than all the other models, but I'm not a knockoff brick set designer, so I guess I'm simply not qualified to make these choices...

 This is a much less detailed model compared to Matilda's. Besides missing a tail, his "fuse" plumage is a simple pillar with a yellow tip. Couldn't we have at least gotten some flames to show he's ready to blow?

 See? Two seconds.

Still, they did remember to give this guy some angry eyebrows, so you know THIS guy's an Angry Bird! ...Though they strangely went with a different design than the other models, since they gave him red stacks of bricks instead of the smooth arced bricks the others have.

Maybe it's their take on how his eyebrows slightly extend past his body? ...Eh, that's probably giving them too much credit. They probably either had several teams independently creating models, or they stole the designs from different sources. I mean, they're bootleg companies, so that automatically means they couldn't come up with an original idea if it bit them in the face. ...Right?

One final touch I like is the line across the beak, like his mouth is slightly open. I know it's just a straight line, but from a certain angle, it looks like he's smiling. He knows what's coming up and HE. IS. READY! BRING IT ON!

Next up is Red. His name's the color and the color is his name! This would have been the model I'd start this look with, but, since we're going with the model number sequence, they listed this guy third, so third he is.

Just LOOK at that face! THIS is an Angry Bird if you've never seen one before! The slanted giant eyebrows, the black bars under the eyes, the pupils shrunken to dots, the scowl on his face of pure malice, this is a bird that's going to fire HIMSELF out of the slingshot through pure hatred and rip those pigs apart with his teeth! ...You know, the teeth that birds are known for having...

I really like how they designed his plumage and tail. They're a bit more spindly than his game counterpart, But they add dimension to the figure, making it a more "realistic" 3D model, as opposed to a traditionally animated character that's been stretched a bit. It gives him a bit more personality, is what I'm saying.

Heck of a lot better job than the movie's abomination, at least...

Since this is a smaller model, they also included a slingshot to give it the same value as the larger models. Honestly, this is absolutely perfect! What else could you package with an Angry Birds model that would be more fitting or useful?!

You can even get Red to pose on it, ready to fire at a moment's notice!

This IS the last thing you'll see before you die!

On the subject of birds ready to murder something, next is Chuck, the hyperactive member of the Angry Birds. ...And the less said about how the same guy voiced him in the movie and played a part in the disasterous live-action Beauty and the Beast remake, the better...

...Yeah, he's not looking as goofy and cheerful as he usually does, is he? He's not as angry as Red, but he does look ready to bash some pigs in the face, doesn't he? With his big, red eyebrows narrowed in loathing, you'd better keep Wilbur away from this guy...

Their take of the hairstyle(featherstyle?) on Chuck is even better than Red's. I love the surreal Cubist take, with the jagged lines and feathers going every which way to match Chuck's crazy personality. ...I don't like how much glue had to go into KEEPING Chuck's style this way, but it looks nice nonetheless.

Chuck's accessory is a trophy. ...Which is something I'm pretty sure wasn't in the actual game. This is more of a Candy Crush type of game feature, as the Angry Birds games revolve around Stars, as far as I know.

There was an Angry Birds Jenga set called Trophy Cup Challenge that was shaped like a trophy, but that one was designed more like an egg than the standard trophy shape, so I don't know where they pulled this design from.

Then again, it doesn't matter. If you're capable of launching from a slingshot and hitting armored pigs off a pedestal, you DESERVE a trophy!

Next up are The Blues: Jay, Jake, & Jim. No accessory with these guys, but there are three of them, so we'll let them off this time.

The angry faces on these guys just seems out of place. I've always seen these guys as the little mischievous members of the flock, as well as the smartest problem solvers, so with how angry they look, especially with their rosy cheeks and orange highlights under their eyes, and how, unlike the other birds, they don't usually have eyebrows, it looks more like they're wearing Halloween witch masks than actually being pissed...

Maybe their next prank involves dressing up in the same getup as Lucy from Peanuts and scaring Red off a cliff? ...If only THAT was in the movie...

And yes, they are separate models, so you can stack them any way you want.

...Except this way. Angry Birds may have had a few incarnations based on other franchises, but the last thing we need is a The Human Centipede take...

Moving away from the main bird cast, next we have two Bad Piggies. Yeah, they're both technically the same, so might as well tackle the two at once.

Ok, they're both more than just generic Minion Pigs. The one on the left is a Foreman Pig, while the right is a Corporal Pig. However, they're the same models, just with certain bricks added/removed. ...Though I did have an easier time putting the one on the right together...

There are a couple screw-ups with the designs as well. Foreman Pig has black eyebrows, despite having a brown mustache

While Corporal Pig seems to have the helmet straps UNDER his ears. ...Or did they think this pig actually had brown locks?

Both pigs come on different pillars, the left looking like a candy cane, and the right much more of a Greco-Roman design. ...Cubist surrealism? Greco-Roman design? Maybe my true calling is as an art critic?

And, as I've shown earlier, you can knock them off their platforms, and technically shatter the pillars to bits if you haven't superglued them like I have. ...You know, if you WANT to spend the next 3 hours combing your rug for each piece and putting the microscopic bricks back together again.

And finally, we have the big bad himself: King Pig. King Smoothcheeks* if you're nasty...

*I'm not kidding. That's his other canon name.

 This is clearly based on the game version, as it's just a generic pig model with a crown and both ears on one side of his head.

I guess I'm just so used to the Toons version of the king, that this design is throwing me off a bit. Hey, they've proven they know how to make squash-shapes with Chuck. Why not just take that model, color it green, and put some pig features on it to make the cartoon version of the King? ...Gotta remember that for later.

And geez, can this guy's expression get any goofier? ...Well, it can, again, Toons version, but what is even this facial configuration? He looks like he was just given the key to Big Rock Candy Mountain and stabbed in the back at the exact same time! There has never been a face filled with more goofy surprise since Goofy was surprised!

 I do like the design of the crown, though. It's a standard crown-shape, with some colored bricks acting as jewels. It's simplistic, but it works, and it fits the model just fine. Just remember to superglue it separately so you can use it with other models.

However, for being the king, this guy got shafted in the platform department. These look more flimsy than the first platforms you encounter in the game! They look ready to fall over at any minute, turning King Pig into canned ham!

Yeah, like that. Now who's wearing the crown, king-a-ding?

And that's a look at Sembo's Angry Birds Nanoblock line. I gotta say, a lot of them exceeded my expectations! All were really detailed, I could tell what each of them were, they clearly had some idea of who they were designing, and a good variety of bricks was put into each model! There were a lot of fun to put together and a lot of fun to pose throughout the review!

However, before we go, I feel that I need to point out every minor difference between these models and the real thing. Now, if you'll scroll back up to Matilda, you'll see that her gray eye shadows are actually a lighter shade of-



Quality: Standard Nanoblock quality, though maybe a litter higher than normal. The colors are more vibrant, there's quite a bit of variety in the brick shapes, and they fit together with not as much sliding and cracking as most other Nanoblocks I've come across had. The plastic was decent, everything fit together fine(not counting my stupidity in some areas), and there wasn't anything that constantly threatened to fall off if you so much as stared at it. Overall, nothing to really complain about. ...Nothing to praise either, but with knockoff sets, you're lucky they pay this much attention to what you get...

Design: I think they captured the structure and essence of what the Angry Birds and Bad Piggies are REALLY well. Everyone's to scale, the colors are correct, and their takes on the plumage and tails of each bird is really well designed for a 3D take on 2D characters. I sometimes have problems recognizing characters and items they're trying to replicate due to a lack of detail, or I'm just left wondering why they thought that a certain direction was where they wanted to take their versions... Not the case here. Everyone was recognizable, down to the smallest detail, and each model was unique. I'm especially impressed that they actually gave two of the pigs slight additions to make them more than just generic Minion Pigs, and they actually knew what a Foreman Pig and a Corporal Pig were! And BOY are the birds angry! They've done such an expert job of capturing pure hatred on Red, Chuck, Bomb, and The Blues' faces, with their scowling eyes, their gritted teeth, and their look of readiness and determination as they throw themselves into battle to take back their eggs from the pigs! The accessories included with Red, Chuck, and the pigs are a nice bonus as well, as they do match the Angry Birds aesthetic and can be used with the models to capture the feel of the game! Especially since, if you're careful, you CAN position the birds on the slingshot! I guess where the designs fall short are the faces on Matilda, The Blues, and King Pig. Matilda doesn't have a face of anger or joy, the two emotions she's associated with, she just has this worried, near apathetic look to the whole thing, which kind of kills the mood. The Blues also look TOO angry, especially given their personalities and how they don't officially have eyebrows. And the goofy expression on King Pig is TOO goofy, rather than some expression of determination or mockery like they have in the game. Maybe I'd buy it if he looked like he does in the Toons version, but as is, he doesn't even look like he knows what year it is... Or what a year is... Still despite some minor hiccups, I'm impressed that they managed to recreate these Angry Bird models in such great detail and with mostly square bricks. Even Lego and K'Nex had to resort to custom modeling to make their characters. ...Though that's not exactly a bad thing...

Creativity: They're characters that have been unofficially recreated from a popular game series, so no points for originality here. I guess it's creative how they decided to portray these birds and what facial expressions they gave them, but for a game series called Angry Birds, I don't think it took too much effort to figure out what to do. I can also give props to the trophy they included with Chuck, since that's not actually something from the main series, but it still fits in with the puzzle-solving, competitive nature of the franchise. Besides those additions, these are exactly what you'd expect them to look like. Large birds to toss at large pigs.

Readability: The instructions are legible, despite the strange format. I don't get why I need to follow the instructions downward once, then scroll to the top of the page and do it again, especially when most other Nanoblock sets have the steps side-by-side as they scroll down the page. However, they do have something that most other instructions like these lack: a list of parts needed for each step. This makes putting these together a LOT easier, since I'm not struggling to tell what a certain block in the step is and I don't end up putting the wrong brick on the wrong peg, which happens often when I'm dealing with models and bricks this small. Also, previous steps are grayed out, so all bricks included in this step are clearly marked. So despite the layout, these are some of the most helpful Nanoblock instructions I've come across! ...If only they were easier to read without having to constantly move them around...

Packaging: Standard Nanoblock boxes that we've seen with LOZ. There's nothing particularly funny or creative about them, except maybe for some slight translation awkwardness. They're boxes that show you what you're getting, who made it, how many pieces there are, and a short summary of what a "Sembo block" is, which is pretty informative, despite the formatting issues. Again, they're just boxes that do their job. No more, no less.

Compatibility: They're Nanoblocks, so I'm giving my regular rating to how well they fit with most other building bricks.


These are some pretty well-designed three-dimensional models based on characters that are usually traditionally animated. The colors are vibrant, the details are spot-on, the exaggerated facial expressions add a lot of personality to these characters, and there's a clear understanding of what the franchise is about. Or at the very least, they know how to use Google Images. There's not too much of a gimmick to them, and they do take up a lot of space given their size, but they are fun to put together and look at afterwards. If you're into Angry Birds, and can find these, check them out. ...Just don't throw them at actual pigs. They hate that, and you'll probably get sub-par bacon as a result...