No-Fly Wing-y-Thingy – The Manta Ray Bomber from The LEGO Ninjago Movie (70609)

Sand Blue is a nice color and I love myself vehicles that are shaped after underwater creatures. It’s one of those awesome things about my favorite Sci-Fi series Babylon 5 and if you know your way around it, you know that the Centauri cruise ships very much look like Manta Rays. Therefore it was nearly unavoidable that I also would have to get the Manta Ray Bomber (70609) after the Piranha Chase (70629) an Flying Jelly Sub (70610).

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Manta Ray Bomber (70609), Box

First let’s get a fundamental flaw/ shortcoming of this set out of the way. The ascribed capabilities as “flying” are a total misnomer. As someone who is into military aviation and all kinds of scientific nerdery I could go on in endless detail about the why and how, but suffice it to say that it would never take flight in the real world. Not in this universe and not under this set of physical rules.

At best this would be some ground effect vehicle hovering slightly above the water or a hydrofoil ship, but actually my preferred and by far simplest interpretation is to see the oversized engine nacelles as floating bodies and the whole thing conventionally floating on the water surface with the small-ish wings allowing an occasional jump when speed is sufficient.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Manta Ray Bomber (70609), Overview

Of the three sets in this series I have reviewed this is the least spectacular and in a way also least original. For the most part it’s a relatively simple build using a lot of large parts and the minifigures don’t really stand out, either, nor is there any specific complementary side-build of some scenery item or other small vehicle.

Interestingly enough it’s also the one model in the group that appears to be most readily available in retail stores, which thankfully is reflected in the pricing. Only recently I saw it again for around 17 Euros during a clearance sale, but you can get it for 20 Euros in most stores. Funny enough that’s one of the few cases where being patient and going on the hunt in physical stores is cheaper than ordering it online.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Manta Ray Bomber (70609), Front

The design captures the overall shape of a Manta in an okay-ish fashion, but is overall not particularly accurate. Basically everything would have needed to be proportionally a lot larger, with the way too short tail sticking out particularly much. A larger, longer wedge/ hinge element would have been nice. Normally I would consider this a non-issue, but the use of the rubber dinghy dictates a certain scale and for that the rest of the ship looks too small.

This yellow monstrosity generally bothers me somehow. It comes off way too easily as a whole and due to its lack of studs on the floor the elements attached to it come off extremely easily as well. The rear machine gun barely sticks, even less so when you add a minifigure that operates it. The bee-striped bombs don’t make too much sense, either, though at least they adhere reasonably well by ways of their hinge clips.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Manta Ray Bomber (70609), Aft

Unfortunately the float isn’t the only part that comes off. The same is true for the sideways turned mudgards and oar elements that represent the outer mouth parts and front fins (the ones that look like floppy mandibles on the real creature). The model simply doesn’t have the most stable superstructure in this area and handling is delicate.

On the other hand, the main trunk is extremely robust and the propeller parts are also attached using pins, so breaking them off accidentally is nearly impossible. It makes you wish they had used a similar approach for the little boat on the top.

LEGO The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Manta Ray Bomber (70609), Bottom

Overall this is a somewhat unsatisfying set. Its concept and premise are squandered by design issues one can’t ignore, even more so since they also affect the playability or for that matter simply holding it in your hand. Also technically very little about the construction makes sense. Bombs rolling down on top of the wings? Tell that to an Air Force safety officer and see his reaction!

I feel that for the most part all the issues could have been resolved by simply making it larger – considerably. It would have allowed different construction techniques and a more cohesive design. It also would have brought out the elegance of a Manta much better. In its current state it remains a bit of an oddity and fails to deliver on both fronts. It’s neither elaborate and pretty enough for a display model and playing with it is not free of issues as well. The only consolation is if you get it dirt cheap and can fill a rainy afternoon with building it.