akira and the slow decline of lego

posted 2019年 8月29日

isn’t the title of this post just so… ambiguous and misleading? that is to say, titling something akira and the slow decline of lego definitely gives the implication that i’ll be talking about some sort of causation (or at the very least correlation) between what appear to be apparently unrelated topics.

spoiler alert: even if i was writing about some correlation between lego and akira, i have little doubt that it would be any more than hindsight bias and imagined significance coupled with taking events that had a global effect and using those to link the two together. people do this sort of thing all the smegging time and sometimes it can sound pretty convincing.

but no; i’m just going to briefly touch on those two things separately from each other but in the same blog entry.


i don’t think i’ve mentioned akira yet, and i only have this year to say what i currently want to say about it.

no, not this. everybody knows this already
no, not this. everybody knows this already

the thing about akira is:

first of all, doesn’t this look lovely and peaceful? a few seconds later a big boom decimates tokyo
first of all, doesn’t this look lovely and peaceful? a few seconds later a big boom decimates tokyo
31 years after the (beginning of, end of, or really short) third world war
31 years after the (beginning of, end of, or really short) third world war

that’s the image i wanted. akira is a masterpiece and a hugely influential and significant film (especially in the world of anime), and it takes place this year! so if you haven’t seen akira yet, this year is a great year to finally watch it! and if you have seen it before, just rewatch it, ok? no big deal. in fact, make an event out of it. turn off any unnecessary lights, crank up the volume, and fill your belly with whatever gets you pumped (popcorn or pizza for food is pretty standard, and to drink i’d say either beer or coke because they sound like pretty standard choices as well).

also the guy shown in this final screenshot says a weird mix of things i agree and disagree with, and it’s hard to know how much of his ideology i actually agree with, but this line is gold:

lego, why did you do it?

i am and always have been a pretty huge lego fan. however, lego used to be better. and by this i mean the sets lego made were more fun to put together (and gave you better pieces to work with later), the series/themes used to be more creative, and everything used to be more universal/uniform. there used to be raised base plates that came with the big sets that were just fun af to build on. minifigs didn’t all have unique faces and body parts. and don’t get me started on when they began making film-based legos with that pseudo-skin colour.

this is an example of one of those base plates you can’t find anymore:

pop quiz!

how many current and recent lego themes can you name?

were most of them based on films? were they? i mean, you have collector sets, generic bricks sold in tubs severely lacking in brick shapes if you want to build something other than maybe multi-coloured enclosures or whatever, city of course (unless it’s called something else now), the friends (?) sets (you know, the ones marketed to girls with the scary looking minifigs), ninjago, probably a medieval themed one, and about 10 or so different series that exist solely as cross-marketing tools between mainly film/tv franchises [star wars, disney princesses, marvel this, dc that, harry potter, you get the idea] and legos.

what i see as the beginning of lego’s downfall from its glory days can be clearly identified, and was very memorable. it was the disaster known as jack stone. i remember seeing jack stone legos on the shelf for the first time and wondering how an idea so off-putting made it into production. and apologies to anyone who was fond of jack stone or “flesh-coloured” minifigs (which i’m getting to).

jack stone legos started in 2001.

also in 2001:

lego alpha team is introduced. i remember thinking how cool it was that the alpha team lego minifigs were all unique (by which i mean that alpha team legos seemed to be an actual team of the same unique minifigs, which was cool and new). i did not expect them to make it the normal thing to do for all lego sets, and that the days of generic and easily swappable minifig designs would actually end. at least i can say i much prefer the alpha team approach over the jack stone approach to making minifigs worse.

how is this appealing in any way?
how is this appealing in any way?

and speaking of making minifigs worse, the “skin-coloured minifigures” began just a couple years later, in 2003. 2004 is when a lot of the colour-swapping happened, making life as a lego collector just that much harder (although compared to the minifig changes, colour-swapping bricks and tiles is nothing).

did you know?

lego’s ceo up until 2004 had always been a member of the family. looking at wikipedia’s lego timeline, it shows that someone by the name of jorgen vig knurdstrom became the first non-family ceo of lego in 2004. what year does it say knurdstrom started at the company? 2001. apparently stepped down in 2017 iirc. i’ve only been looking at references for parts of the time i’ve spent writing this, and i’m basically just monologuing (as advertised) in a random rant so forgive me if any of my facts are off. in any case i couldn’t decide whether to make a joke by implying that lego not going in the direction i would have wanted was some sort of conspiracy and knurdstrom’s fault or say that i feel bad for the guy having to be in charge while the company went downhill ^^’ so take your pick.

also sorry i lied about these being “brief”. i wrote that thinking it would be.

until next time,

stay tasty o/