Monthly Archives: November 2005

MisaQa’s Advent Calendar

I recently begged MisaQa to add an adorable pug to the collection of lovely LEGO dogs on MisaQa responds:

Well, it’s not a pug, but…

From today, December 1st (Japan time), through December 24, I’ll be revealing a new bird-themed MOC every day as part of an “Advent Calendar” event:
Brickshelf Gallery

I would be very happy if you enjoyed them as well.

MisaQa’s first creation is a “Mute Swan:”

Fantastic work as always! I’m really looking forward to another 23 days of great MOCs.

Ozumo by Nelson Yrizarry

Nelson’s new vignette Ozumo seems the perfect transition from posts over at Pan-Pacific Bricks back here to my original blog. He’s Photoshopped a very nice magazine cover to showcase his yokozuna:

Chiyonofuji (千代の富士) was one of the greatest yokozunas of recent history. (A yokozuna is the top-ranked wrestler, followed by ozeki.) Chiyonofuji was active throughout the 70’s and 80’s, along with the Hawaiian wrestler Konishiki (小錦), who became an ozeki and paved the way for many of the current wrestlers from outside Japan — including Akebono (曙), the first foreign-born yokozuna.

Nelson’s action scenes are also great:

Finally, another shot of the yokozuna without the magazine text, showing how he created the kesho-mawashi, or ceremonial belt:

Incidentally, the building technique Nelson uses for his sumo wrestlers is called BrickFa, a building style recently developed by Mike “Count Blockula” Crowley. Between this technique and the technique developed by Moko, we’re really starting to see some interesting designs that add additional posability to the traditional minifig.

Exo-Force aka トクシュブタイ

LEGO recently announced a new theme to be released in January 2006. The official Exo-Force Web site on lists the products, and includes an online comic.

It is important to remember that this is not a licensed theme like Star Wars or Harry Potter. This theme was developed by LEGO on their own. However, the theme is clearly inspired in no small part by Japanese animation (“anime”), including the sort of shows that feature people riding around in big giant robots, or “mecha,” like Gundam and Evangelion. The hero’s names are all Japanese, and a variety of Japanese characters appears on the mecha. The place names identified in the comic are also clearly Japanese, such as “Tenchi Bridge” (“tenchi” most likely means “heavan and earth”).

The official Exo-Force logo features four Japanese kanji characters, 特殊部隊, behind the English “Exo-Force:”

Seven katakana characters, トクシュブタイ, also appear on the red bar beneath the logo. The terms 特殊部隊 and トクシュブタイ are just two ways of writing the same thing — both are pronounded “tokushyu butai.” But what does “tokushyu butai” mean? Instead of creating a unique name in Japanese that corresponds to “Exo-Force,” it appears that LEGO is using the generic term for “special forces” (Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and so on) as the name for this new theme. (Incidentally, 飛行部隊 also appears on the right side of the red bar at the bottom of the page. Pronounced “hikou butai,” this means “air corp” or “flying squadron” or something… Similarly, the characters that appear on the mecha are essentially meaningless out of context.)

Reaction among English-speaking LEGO fans has been mixed, as the lengthy discussions on both FBTB and show. In Japan, several bloggers have featured Exo-Force and commented on this new theme.

mumu remains fairly objective, but people who commented on this post question whether this theme will be popular here in the United States. On LegoWheels, muu wonders whether English-speakers will know what “tokushyu butai” means and states flatly that he won’t be purchasing these sets. Azumu (also of Brickshelf fame) calls the theme “half-baked,” saying, “Why not just go all the way and make Transformer or Zoid LEGO? … But I’ll buy them anyway — for the hair, dangit!”

Finally, Edge compares this theme to Manga Spawn and writes:

On pages 74 through 77 in issue 94 of Figure King, there is a special color section. I was shocked to find an interview with LEGO Japan! Apparently, this theme was developed in Denmark with the participation of a Japanese development staff member. (Despite that, the quality of this line…) They seriously want this line to be popular among Japanese AFOLs. LOL!

Other bloggers share Azumu and Edge’s sentiment. One blogger even called the use of all the Japanese text “idiotic.” They think the line is a bit dumb, but they really, really want the hair. A few Japanese bloggers certainly don’t represent the opinions of an entire market, but it’s interesting to see how closely the online reaction of Japanese AFOLs mirrors that of English-speaking AFOLs.

Announcing “Pan-Pacific Bricks”

UPDATE: Pan-Pacific Bricks is now part of The Brothers Brick, right here at

As Bruce noted in his VignetteBricks post “Blogsplosion,” there are a lot of LEGO blogs out there — the majority of them Japanese. As a bilingual LEGO fan, I’d like to provide English-speaking LEGO fans with a window into the world of their Japanese counterparts.

To that end, I’ve created a second blog, “Pan-Pacific Bricks.” (Many thanks to Nelson Yrizarry for the name suggestion!)

In the coming weeks and months, look for posts on the latest goings-on in the Japanese AFOL community, as well as the occasional article on differences between English-speaking and Japanese culture, and how those differences influence LEGO creations and the AFOL community. I’ll continue posting my own creations and interesting creations from other builders here, but I’ll post all my Japanese-related items there instead.

Through this new blog, I hope to play a small part in breaking down the language barrier. LEGO pictures are great, and pictures may be worth a thousand words, but hey, I’m a writer! :-)

New Name

So, I haven’t been too happy with “Dunechaser’s Guide to Japanese LEGO.” The name is way too long, and I’d like to involve other contributors, so “Dunechaser’s” just doesn’t work. I’ve been bouncing e-mails back and forth with Nelson Yrizarry in Hawaii the last few days, and he suggested “Pan-Pacific Bricks.” Short, simple, meaningful. Fantastic! I’m very much obliged.

In the coming weeks and months, look for posts on the latest goings-on in the Japanese AFOL community, as well as the occasional article on differences between English-speaking (well, at least American) and Japanese culture, and how those differences influence LEGO creations and the AFOL community. I’ll continue posting my own creations and interesting creations from other builders in my original blog, but I’ll post all my Japanese-related items here instead.

Stay tuned…

自己紹介 (Personal Introduction)

(The primary form of online communication between AFOLs in Japan seems to be blogs instead of forums — something I’ll be writing a piece on shortly. I’ve already introduced myself in the English forums I post in, but I haven’t really introduced myself to the Japanese AFOL blog community, so this post is for them.)

日本のみなさん、初めまして。ぼくのレゴ関係ユーザー名は Dunechaser ですが、実名は Andrew Becraft 「アンドリュー・ビークラフト」です。通常、日本語では「アンディー」です。31歳。天秤座。既婚者。ワン子好き。米国シアトル存在。

親はアメリカ人ですが、僕は東京で生まれ、15歳の時まで日本に住みました。ランドセルを背負って近所の日本語の小学校に… 父は頻繁に転勤したので、東京以外にも札幌、姫路、横浜、千葉にも住みました。いくつもの転勤のせいなのか、外人だったせいかわかりませんが、日本人の子供と友達になるのが難しくて、レゴのミニフィッグが最高の友達になりました。ちょと惨めな我の人生。(涙)

職業はテクニカル ライター(ヘルプ・マニュアルなどを書く)ですが、たまに日本語関係の仕事もします。米国任天堂で二年間勤め、英語版の「ルイージマンション」、「ピクミン」、「どうぶつの森+」などテレビゲーム開発に活躍したのが一番自慢です。

皆さんのブログを読んで楽しんでいますので、英語を話すレゴ ファンのみんなに僕と同じ楽しさを通じさせるのを期待してます。


The LEGO King Championship (LEGO Event)

The latest buzz in the Japanese LEGO blogosphere is a TV show called “TV Champion.” Recent episodes have included a LEGO championship, in which AFOLs build on-camera. It’s a Japanese show, but it’s filmed at LEGOLAND Billund. The studio audience (about 100 people) judges the creations, and the winner is crowned the “LEGO King.” Ironically (I guess), a woman named Sachiko Akinaga walked away with the title.

The theme for this the champioinship round was to build “LEGO surprises” — creations that open up to reveal an interesting interior. Here are some screen captures from last night’s show, the championship round:

Pics from Sachiko’s building process:

And the finished creation:

EDIT (12/3/05): TV Tokyo keeps reusing its existing directory structure and file names for new TV Champion shows. This makes it impossible to link to some of the images and pages. (Haven’t they ever heard of perma-links?!) If I’d known this, I would have downloaded all of the screen captures and posted them on Brickshelf (copyright issues aside). As it is, I have to take down Sachiko’s picture (now replaced with an old guy who was the Champion Tuna Fisherman) and the links to the other creations. Oh well…

EDIT (5/28/06): And of course the images themselves are broken at this point. Typical.

The Wonderful World of Japanese LEGO

From vignettes to mecha, many wonderful LEGO ideas have originated in Japan. Several of the most respected builders, such as Sugegasa, MOKO, and Takeshi Itou are Japanese. Although LEGO fans throughout the world can enjoy each other’s creations by looking at pictures, language remains a barrier. My purpose in creating this blog is to break down the language barrier and give English-speaking LEGO fans a view into the world of Japanese LEGO fans.

Highland Berserker by Anthony Sava (with Moko’s Legs)

Moko recently posted pictures of a new idea for articulated legs on a minifig:

Classic-Castler Anthony Sava has combined this building technique with a Viking head and torso, Ron Weasley’s hair, and grill pieces in just the right colors to create a highly amusing Highland Berserker:

Well, he’s pretty small, so it would probably be fairly easy to take his life (just pull his head off with your fingers), but I imagine taking his freedom would be a bit more challenging…