As I await to acquire more bricks for the 6080 King’s Castle, I’m continuing my write-up of a recent visit to Japan. There are still a couple of J-LEGO installments to go.
The LEGO Click Brick store I visited in Odaiba sold many harder to find LEGO accessories and sets, including brick-built 850423 Minifigure Presentation Boxes, 852998 Birthday Party Kits, 853340 Minifigure Wedding Favour Sets and for Valentine’s Day, the 40004 Heart. Just a few examples, there were many more. What was most interesting, though, were the small own-creation variations on sale – something that you don’t usually see in stores that sell LEGO. Indeed, I’m not sure the LEGO Group would normally approve at all, but this is Japan, where things are rarely normal.
While there were many customer MOCs (my own creations) on display at the store, thanks to the competitions and exhibitions they run, one particular stand caught my attention with the words: Odaida Shop Original. Above the label, in a display case, were a few variations of the 40004 Heart set. Underneath was an assortment of plastic bags featuring photographs of these model variations. Upon closer inspection the plastic bags contained, in addition to the MOC picture insert, one or more regular 40004 Heart sets, depending on the amount of hearty bricks required for the particular MOC. In effect, the store was selling pre-packaged MOC ideas/instructions with parts packs.
I wanted to buy one as a souvenir. Many of the designs were quite large, I think up to three 40004 Hearts were included in some bags. I finally settled onto a smaller one, based on just one 40004 Heart, with a minifigure sitting inside. When I took my purchase to the cashier, she led me to the second part of the adventure: the in-store minifigure station. Apparently the pictured minifigure was not pre-packaged in the bag, instead I’d get to build my own to take home. There were a number of pre-built minifigures on a shelf, as well as few containers with various heads, torsos, pants and hats. Here you could make and buy your MOC minifigure separately of any other sets too.
So, there I sat on an undersized stool (by western standards anyway) pouring through minifigure parts like it was Christmas. I was tempted by some of the pre-built designs made by other customers, but finally decided to build my own. Some of the torsos available were quite weird and for a while I was thinking of going a bit crazy with the design, but seeing the classic 1980s LEGO firefighter torso there got me all nostalgic and I went ahead with a vintage fireman. I couldn’t find a black helmet for him, so I had to settle for a modern white one. Nevertheless, this was a fun excursion.
Back home I opened the customized packaging. Inside was indeed one 40004 Heart in it’s regular plastic bag retail packaging, as well as the photo insert. There were no real instructions for the MOC, just normal 40004 Heart building instructions and the MOC photo – although some of the larger MOCs did include more than one photo for added clarity. This particular MOC was basically implemented by removing few bricks from the middle of the heart and placing the minifigure inside. It is easy to deduct from the photo which bricks to leave out and which to move around.
I built both the 40004 Heart and the MOC, to see how they compare. The MOC was pretty ingeniously constructed by moving just a few bricks to different places (and leaving out the 2x4s and the 2×6), yet creating a very different look and feel. Heart inside a heart almost. It is quite fragile, though, and my firefighter with his helmet ended up being too high to properly fit inside the modified heart. The base, even without the 2×2 plate that was moved upwards, turned out to be very sturdy in the new configuration as well – just don’t press and push the top part too much, it bends easy.
The Japanese text on the photo insert reads: LEGO Heart & Minifigure. The custom heart cost 590 yen, the minifigure 200 yen (they were priced separately on the receipt).