The time “between the years” is surprisingly busy this year, with many of the LEGO-related magazines having slipped their publishing dates to this slot, so there’s going to be quite a bit to do for me on this front. For starters let’s have a look at the Friends magazine for January 2023.
LEGO Friends “celebrated” its tenth anniversary this year with very little fanfare. If the various blogs hadn’t written about it, you wouldn’t know. There was never a specific celebratory set or a special edition of the mag to make you aware on a broader basis and in particular outside the AFOL bubble. However, you might have noticed the different design for the 2023 sets. Apparently the company figured it would be time for a refresher of the series. This is not just affecting the visual design of the packaging and other marketing materials, by extension including the magazine, but also allegedly is supposed to modernize the Heartlake City world with new characters.
Of course half of that is just the usual marketing BS, as I don’t really believe much will change. They’re still going for the same tropes and stereotypes and just having a few more boys, more characters with colored skin and a few special needs people doesn’t really mean much when it’s so diluted that some things are barely noticeable. They still aim for girls of a certain age range and overall it’s too harmless to really advance matters like disabilities and diversity. Anyway, they’re throwing a ton of new names out there and this issue is filled to the brim with short bios and background info on those. Whether or not you can keep them all straight or don’t care much is an open question. I’ll probably not remember most of those names.
The poster hammers this home as well with a group shot of some of the new gang, but if you prefer there’s also a shot of some kittens in a basket on the back side.
The extra is a small cat castle/ cat scratching tree. It’s not that special, but overall done well enough. The more interesting aspect of it is the little black kitten. I tried to look it up on Bricklink, but it’s not yet listed there, so it must be a very new version of this creature. Even more surprising is the fact that I could only discover it in the upcoming Cat Hotel (41742). That would mean we’re getting a new animal version before it even appeared in a proper set. Could this be true? It’s certainly interesting to observe. If you don’t plan on buying that package, here’s your chance to get the little guy!
With everything being new again I didn’t mind the usual shortcomings of this mag as much, but truth be told of course the comic is still terrible and so are a few other things. I guess once we get used to the new Heartlake City inhabitants it will be back to boring, but at least in this first issue getting acquainted to the new characters adds a bit of excitement and distracts from the less great parts.