Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pokémonth: The Brick Miser: Nanoblock/LOZ Diamond Block Pokémon Bootlegs

For Part 2 of this week's look at Pokémon building bricks, let's look at some from our recently introduced friends at LOZ and their attempt at recreating Pokémon in their Diamond Block line. ...Or rather, their attempt at blatantly stealing Nanoblock designs from other companies...

Name: Pokémon LOZ Diamond Blocks
Distributor: LOZ
Model: 9136-9143
Pcs: Various

Today, we're going back into the neverending line of unofficial but insanely popular miniaturized Lego bricks: Nanoblocks. And this time, for an actual theme line.

And that's mostly going to be the norm on this site when we talk about Nanoblocks. Very rarely does a company produce a single model to represent the whole series. When there's a market for a franchise, they EXPLOIT it, churning out as many Nanoblocks as possible based on characters and locations from the selected media.

 If it's a line based on a series I like, I need as much of it as possible. And, seeing as how most models only range from $3-5, I will buy the entire set! So from now on, when I feature Nanoblocks in this blog, it's going to be several models at a time. Brace yourselves for a whole lotta knock-offs!

This post, we're going back to the most official UNofficial producer of these blocks: LOZ, and their bootlegs of Pokémon Nanoblocks. And yes, I said bootlegs. Not knock-offs, not toys inspired by the official things, but brick-for-brick exact model copies.

The original models of these came from Kawada Co.'s Nanoblock line, which is actually licensed to produce building brick models based on Pokémon... but apparently only in Japan, so they're a little harder for someone in the USA to know about, much less acquire.

They've also created a line of seemingly regular-sized Pokémon building brick sets. ...But again, only in Japan. Still, I really wish I knew about these before I went on a rant about how few licensed Pokémon sets have been produced...

Now even though I've already shown several sets on here that weren't exactly legally produced or distributed, I will go on record that I am not someone who endorses bootlegs and taking money from the original producers.

Unlicensed but original products based on copyrighted characters and franchises? That's fine.

Movies or games that have never received an official release? That's fine too.

New releases of movies/games/toys that are no longer being produced or distributed by the original company and where original copies are rare and hard to find? I'm on board with that.

Exact mold duplicates of existing toys currently being sold in stores that other companies are selling for a fraction of the cost? ...Yeah, that's where I draw the line. The other three categories mentioned are custom jobs seeking to profit off other people's ideas, but they're not intruding on another company's right to make money. Products trying to pass themselves off as the real thing but at a significantly lower cost are actively trying to steal money from producers, who are then forced to either lower their prices and take a loss to compete or raise their prices to make up for the loss at the risk of nobody buying their products at the inflated price.

 I have the same views on pirated movies, games, and music: If you like the company's work, or if you're at least going to give it your attention, then buy it from THEM! This encourages them to make more and/or devote more money towards the product's quality and quantity.

Otherwise, to recoup their losses, we're just going to get an endless supply of tent-pole films and shoddy sequels...

On top of that, it's just boring to get a mold copy. Why do I want to go out of my way to get a cheap reproduction of a set where half the pieces probably won't fit together when I can just go to the store and get the real thing, judging it the way it's meant to be judged based on creativity and design?

When I buy knock-offs and third-party sets, I buy them to see what smaller, less mainstream companies can come up with to compete against major manufacturers and distributors. So when unscrupulous companies produce bootlegs of existing sets, that's just lazy. It's like watching a Jeff Dunham show, then having some guy afterwards do the same routine using his hand as a puppet. Same thing, but half the talent.

So on this blog, I'm only going to feature bootlegs VERY rarely, if ever. Maybe I'll do a comparison between the real thing and a bootleg and maybe I'll review a bunch of boxes for bootleg sets(since that's all the entertainment potential they have anyway), but I'm trying to make an effort to keep the features on my blog creative and unique and to give credit where credit is due.

So with my stance on piracy now known, you might be asking "Well then why do YOU own bootlegs of Pokémon Nanoblocks, you hypocrite?!" ...I didn't know there were official releases at the time. When I first started collecting these, I just assumed that all Nanoblocks were knock-offs and it wasn't until much later that I learned there were ACTUAL companies manufacturing these sets. And now that I do know, I feel ashamed that I basically stole money from the company that has spent millions on designing and producing these sets only to have a smaller company copy and sell them at pennies on the dollar. ...But not ashamed enough to put off reviewing them anyway, so let's get to it!

Like I mentioned, these are more Diamond Block sets from LOZ's "iBlock Fun" line. I already went over LOZ and their box designs in my general Nanoblocks review, so let's move on to the actual contents.

First up is everyone's favorite rodent bestowed with electrical-based powers:


...Eh, who am I kidding at this point? It's Pikachu. And overall, it's ...not bad. They got the details right and the colors are in the right places... but I guess my main problem is they gave Pikachu a muzzle, making its head much larger and "spherical" than the actual thing.

The thing with Nanoblocks is that they need to recreate a character with as few blocks as possible to keep the micro-models objective going. Sometimes you get an accurate character model with little difference, but other times, they end up with these little "quirks."

I have another Pikachu model from a company called BOYU, which seems dedicated to making small Nanoblock models... even smaller. And they used the same design as the Nanoblock/Diamond Block Pikachu, just with 75 pieces instead of 120. So I guess it's decided across the board that this was the better design. I don't know how it would look with a flatter face... and with the pale whites of its eyes, I don't think I want to know. Still, it's a good model and recognizable as a Pikachu. Next.

 Next, we have Mewtwo. ...A very BLUE Mewtwo. ...I guess halfway through designing this guy, they found out the Smurfs had become marketable again, so they changed him to blue so we'd think he was from the same franchise? ...Because otherwise, there's no reason for him to be blue.

I have another version of Mewtwo from a different company, and THEY got the color right. ...Were they just out of light gray or white bricks that day?

And yes, we're already talking about Mewtwo. If it was up to me, I'd save this guy for last, but since we're going by the Model Numbers and Mewtwo comes after Pikachu, thems the breaks.

But besides the color, the design is actually not bad. It looks more like the Pokémon it's based on than the Pikachu anyway.

In fact, with the small stature and limited amount of bricks, it looks like a Chibi version of itself. Cute.

They also included his long, disturbingly-phallic purple tail, as well as the tube thing on the back of his head and shoulders. I was going to note that they don't make the tube stand out in any way and it just looks like an overflow of bricks here, but it's built and colored the same way they drew him for the movie, so I can't complain.

Overall, not a bad design for Mewtwo. So off you go. Go be the villain in a boring movie with confused morals and hypocrisy towards the point of the Pokémon franchise. ...Though the Geiger-esque visuals were nice.

Next up, Gengar. And this is the most impressive design we've had so far. It really does look like Gengar! The big smile, the sea of red that his black pupils are floating in, and his stubby legs and arms are all pretty accurate to the actual Pokémon. ...Though seeing as how most of the Pokémon in this line are either Basic Pokémon or in their first stage before evolution, it's interesting that they would make a Gengar, but not its previous forms Gastly or Haunter. I don't know, maybe they just noticed it had a small surge of popularity thanks to the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games and figured it was one of the Pokémon everyone was into now.

And since this one came with double, I'll mention that a nice feature of this line is that LOZ included a small plaque with their models so you'll always know who made these. I like it. It sort of gives it a "museum"-feel.

"And here we have an example of a Gengar from the Kanto Period. As you can see by the plaque, which we have doubled for viewing convenience, famed 'miniaturized versions of us' manufacturer LOZ has graciously donated this model to our museum of a spirit that could have been a Pokémon or could have been a human, nobody is sure. There are reports that it was, in fact, stolen from a larger company, but these claims are unfounded. And thankfully, the Brick Miser has been barred for life from entering this museum, because I shudder to think of what would happen if he woke THIS thing up!"

Moving on, Bulbasaur! I'm tempted to call this the smallest model of the lot, but it still has more pieces than what actually is the smallest, so I guess it's just the "shortest" of the set.

It's also the strangest. Not only did they give it angry red pupils, but they mixed these gray bricks in with the dark green. ...Which, again, it's not supposed to be, since Bulbasaur are light blue, NOT green... I GUESS the gray bricks are supposed to represent Bulbasaur's spots, but with the green tone, red eyes, and gray sections, it looks like a rage zombie combined with a regular zombie.

Maybe it and Zombie Pikachu should have a play date together! ...Or not...

This Squirtle, on the other hand, IS colored correctly. And designed quite accurately as well. I especially like the big eyes and the little arms. ...Unfortunately, since it's lacking a lower jaw, it doesn't have a smile for maximum cute factor. ...In fact, all but Gengar have that problem...

Oh, and they also bothered to design a shell for this one, unlike the Squirtle minifigure. So we lost a smile but gained a shell. ...Good trade-off.

At this point, I guess I should show you an example of what the instructions look like for these. I gave the impression that all Nanoblock instructions are designed similarly in my Nanoblocks review, but that's not entirely the case. Some are easier to read than others, and with some sheets, they omit steps or place bricks in places they wouldn't be able to fit until later! ...This is not one of those cases. It uses the same "layering" method of building, but being a smaller model, the instructions are pretty easy to follow, just a few bricks in each step.

The arrows in the instructions really help to position the bricks. I bring up what is supposed to be a common thing in building bricks because not all Nanoblock instructions I've come across have these arrows...

Same with the instruction subsets, where they show you how to build certain things that attach to the model. I shouldn't be praising instructions for including what should be mandatory, but in a market where companies are ripping each other off to the point they're basically inbreeding, you'd be surprised what they neglect to include...

Anyway, our next model is EEVEE! ...Again, I'm a little torn on the design. On one hand, I want to call it one of the cutest brick sets I've ever seen, but on the other hand, there's just something about how everything's angled and pointy that makes me nervous...

The brown is a very dark brown and instead of light brown or tannish tufts on its neck and tail, they went with white.

Combine this with the very pointy ears and it looks a lot more bat-like than dog-like.

Well, I guess that settles what it is. It's a Vampire Eevee. ...Somehow that makes it even cuter.

Geez, Zombie Pikachu and now Vampire Eevee. Did I unintentionally schedule a Halloween-themed month?

Anyway, now Charmander's on the scene! ...And I never understood Charmander from the series. Ash took great care of Charmander after he saved it from a storm, then Charmander evolved into a Charmeleon and then a Charizard... and right away rebelled against Ash. I mean, was its memory completely erased with evolution? When a puppy grows into a dog, it doesn't immediately forget its master and start peeing on the floor and biting people again. If they set up that it wanted to remain friends with Ash, but Ash couldn't handle training a stronger Pokémon, THEN it rebelled, that would have made more sense. Maybe I missed an episode or two that explains this, but, seeing as how Ash has this (contrived)ability to get rogue Pokémon to trust him in no time, it really makes no sense... ...But I digress...

Anyway, the structure's very nice and accurate to the original design. It has little claw feet and hands, a round head, and a pale yellow belly.

The transparent bricks for the flame at the end of its tail is a nice touch.

And for some reason... they gave it purple eyes... ...I'm not familiar with Charmanders or any of their evolutions having purple eyes. Maybe one of the witches from Witches accidentally took a draft of an early version of the brew and the witches scrapped that recipe because they couldn't easily kill anyone with that form. ...That movie was messed up...

And it looks like they intentionally chose that color, since that's the eye color present on the box. ...Maybe Alexandria's Genesis occurs more often in Pokémon than humans?

Speaking of the box, I've only just noticed that the LOZ logo is missing from most of the boxes. It's present on the top of every box, but only the Pikachu and Charmander models have it on the front of the box.

Also, the Charmander and Pikachu boxes advertise "14+" for their models, while everything else uses "9+" for their age recommendations. There's no copyright data on these(obviously), so I can't tell if one model was made before another. Earlier release, or bootleg of a bootleg? YOU make the call!

And finally, at the end of the line, we have Charizard. ...Who is actually one of the first Nanoblock statuettes I ever purchased. I bought the last one in the line months before the others. Isn't it ironic? Don't cha think? ...Yeah, probably not.

Charizard is also the biggest model and the one with the most pieces. Most of those pieces probably went into his wingspan and the flame tail.

 ...Which were very painful to put on.

But of all the models we've seen so far, I think I like this one the best. The wings, the flame, the fangs, all match the character. And again, thanks to the proportions, it looks like a Chibi version of itself. It's like one of those Funko Pop figures.

...Which Funko Pop might need seeing as how the only Pokémon figure it has is a custom Ash Ketchum. ...Seriously, Funko? You make bobbleheads off obscure 60s cartoons and character variations that only appeared once in the entire series, but Pokémon is off-limits?

And that's the lot. And on the whole, I'm impressed. Using only a small amount of bricks, they managed to recreate some of the most iconic creatures in gaming and anime. Some versions were more accurate than others, but I didn't find any that I outright hated. I really wish that I could have reviewed the real versions from Nanoblock, and we WILL be looking at an official Nanoblock line in the future, but since these are direct copies of the real thing, I'd say we're in good hands with the company this license went to.


Quality: The bricks are standard Nanoblock quality, relatively solid but still bendable enough to give way when pressure is put on them. I found a few problem bricks, but, as they give me a tremendous amount of bricks with each set, there were plenty of spares to use. A few were a little bent, and, as I mentioned in my Nanoblocks review, they may end up warping in a short time, but for now, they work.

Design: All the models look like the characters they represent, but there are some that do it better than others. I thought the Charmander, Charizard, Gengar, Squirtle, and Mewtwo were the most accurate, while the Bulbasaur was the strangest of the bunch and everyone else fell somewhere in between. But with all of them, there was a clear love for the characters or, at the very least, someone took pride in their work. I'm not giving any credit to LOZ since this is a straight-up copy of an official product, but if this is what we're getting from Nanoblock, we can expect a much more faithful product than Ionix gave us...

Creativity: Again, no credit on LOZ's part, since they stole these designs. A little less credit than I gave the general Nanoblocks as well. Since these were official products, they probably had a team of designers and a lot of money behind these models, as well as input from the Pokémon Company, so creating accurate designs based on two-dimensional images was probably not as hard for them. Still, they did have to create original designs for these and they came out alright, so I'll give them a bit of credit.

Readability: The instructions are pretty good, very straightforward and clear as to what you need to do. I'm not a fan of the "single sheet" version of instructions, but since these are relatively small sets, the pieces are obvious and don't try to cram an insane amount of detail onto one frame. I think that pretty much anyone who reads these will know what goes where.

Packaging: It's the exact same thing as the LOZ boxes we saw in the Nanoblock review. I find it weird that some boxes have the logo and some don't, but that doesn't really affect anything.

Compatibility: They work with other Nanoblocks, but since I compare things to Lego in this category...


They're not perfect, but they are a lot of fun to collect and assemble. I'm impressed with how well they managed to recreate 8 Pokémon in Nanoblock form and with a relatively high amount of quality as well. If you've ever wanted to put together Lego and buy a Pokémon statuette at the same time, then check these out. Great for kids, great for collectors, great for anyone who loves Pokémon. ...Just buy the real thing and not the bootleg, please.

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