Review: Official Set 40581 - Tahu and Takua
After a near 7-year hiatus since its last cancellation in 2016, fans of the Bionicle theme have been waiting for LEGO® to release a new addition to the theme. In 2023, LEGO® released a Bionicle Gift with Purchase set to be included in purchases of $100 or more, which was limited to purchases of City, Classic, Creator 3-in-1, Dots, Friends, Ninjago, and Monkie Kid themes. The set features two of the theme's most iconic characters in Tahu, Toa of Fire, and Takua, Matoran of Ta-Koro and (Spoiler Alert) eventual Toa of Light. This set was only available as an eligible Gift with Purchase offer between January 27th and February 9th of 2023.
The packaging we receive in this set does a fantastic job of mimicking the original 2001 Bionicle box style with the flat gray base with a few peek-throughs at the set and environment. The front of the box indicates that this set is intended for ages 18+, which personally I find funny. The idea behind this must be that the set is targeted for this age, obviously it's not a case where the build is too complex for younger ages.
The back of the box gives us a few different looks at the two figures included in this set, Tahu and Takua. Takua was absent from the front of the box so this gives us our first look at him. My favorite part of this packaging, and probably set, comes in the form of a small graphic in the bottom left that recreates imagery from the 2001 instructions where the Toa are shown broken apart with their full-assembly next to it.
Those images were one of my favorite Bionicle memories, and to see the callback here is truly special.
The Tahu build ended up being a bit smaller than I thought it would be, it's certainly a bit smaller than the 2001 version of Tahu. That being said it does a nice job of replicating the different Technic parts in brick-form, but overall feels a little too smooth. The curves are very sleek and certainly are appealing, but it loses the detail that we had with those 2001 Technic parts. Those parts felt so mechanical and expansive beyond just the single arm piece, whereas this version doesn't leave much to imagine beyond just an arm being an arm and a leg being a leg. It's just an overall less robotic and more organic look.
The head was my favorite section of the model to build. It incorporates the light gray head and the pink eyepiece that were included in the original Tahu set. Anyone who's built those 2001 Toa sets knows how iconic that eyepiece is, especially once you snap it into the headpiece and essentially locked it in place for good.
The only other gripe I have here with Tahu is the mask solution used in this set. It's a gift with purchase set, I understand that, but the marquee thing with early Bionicle was the masks. They literally sold mask packs as their own item to try and collect them all. The printed slope mask piece really diminishes that and gives the model more of a face rather than a mask that had certain abilities and character.
When it comes to articulation, Tahu has more than I would have anticipated. Ball joints are all over the figure from head to toe, even in the middle of the torso, which makes this set extremely posable and customizable. It gives me a sense of "man, imagine what 2001 Tahu would've been like if he had this level of articulation".
Plain and simple, Takua is my favorite part of this set. While again smaller than the 2001 McDonalds promos, it perfectly replicates the overall look of those sets. To be honest it's an upgraded version that makes me think of the Mata Nui Online Game version of the Matoran. They even included his backpack, which is a nice easter egg reference to that game.
Takua's head is dark gray, which is yet another small attention to detail as the 2001 McDonalds promos featured dark gray heads versus the light gray ones seen in the other 2001 sets.
A single black disk piece is included with Takua, which is a clear callback to the original 2001 Bionicle sets where the throwing disk was the main gimmick included for the Matoran.
As was the case with Tahu, Takua has great articulation. Ball joints are present at the head and legs, while hinges within the arms allow them to seamlessly rotate up and down.
Rather than just leaving us with two standalone figures, this set does incorporate an appropriate base for display purposes. Tahu snaps onto a lava board via two pins & holes on the bottoms of his feet, which then sits atop a lava scene. The lava board feels like it's on a bit too much of an angle, and also looks like is propped up too high above the lava.
The lava display was an enjoyable build, and I really like how they designed the black ring. The hinge plates at each corner make it feel a bit more prestigious than if they were to go with a smooth black edge all the way around.
Takua is shown on the box art to be on Tahu's back, but there is no clear indication as to how this is supposed to be achieved. I was able to do it by positioning the arms out and snapping the single stud on Takua's torso to one of the plates on Tahu's back. It was a bit finicky to get everything to stay in place, but I really like result.
Also included in this set is a micro display of the Mata Nui and Makuta stones, which were used heavily during those early years of Bionicle in animations, visual art, and the Mask of Light movie. The part choice here is simple, but perfectly reflects how they looked in those animations, just a little extra bit of nostalgia for me.
What Does This Set Mean For the Future of Bionicle?
This promotional set achieved exactly what it was supposed to, which was to be a nice tribute piece to the Bionicle theme. The fact that this even happened in 2023 is a win for me, and to be a solid set on top of that is just icing on the cake. I don't foresee anything in the future for Bionicle, to me that would be an unrealistic expectation. That being said the models are simple enough that the remaining Toa and Matoran/Tohunga can be built through MOCs with a few substitutions here and there based on color availability. The mask parts are of course the biggest hindrance, but that's nothing some graphic design and sticker printing can't fix.
While I don't see anything in the future for Bionicle, I do think this is a really great solution should The LEGO® Group pursue another reboot using system bricks instead of Technic elements. The only strong recommendation I would make though, if this were to happen, would be to figure out how to incorporate actual mask pieces, not just printed slopes.
Overall, this a good set that I wish anyone could just go and pick up off the shelves, it's unfortunate that it's wrapped up in a very specific gift with purchase deal. If you’re a Bionicle fan, or you grew up with Bionicle, you need to get this set. At the time of this video it’s going for about $40 on Bricklink, which isn’t an awful price, and that’ll probably only go up as time goes on. The $40 price on Bricklink also gives you the option to get the set for cheaper if you were headed to The LEGO® Store just to get this promo.
For me it wasn't so much the Tahu build, but the Takua build that made me feel like a kid again. The disk and mimic of the 2001 design is just so nostalgic. I can't wait to try to make more of these.