Every year LEGO produces a number of sets that are destined to be sold only in particular shops or countries. They are usually numbered in the 40xxx series. Their limited availability makes many of them difficult to acquire and thus, to me at least, more desirable.
40226 Birthday Buddy is one such set. It was introduced last year and I had hoped it would surface in brand stores but, alas, it wasn't to be: it seems it was sold only in Asia. I therefore had to resort to the secondary market to buy it.
Thankfully the Star Bricksnesia store on BrickLink has a large number in stock for a reasonable price ($11.90). I placed a order a week or so ago, and two arrived in perfect condition yesterday.
So, what exactly is a birthday buddy? And what inspired the design?
To find out I asked its designer Mel Caddick. She said her brief was to produce a birthday set for the Asian market that would appeal to kids.
It's thus been designed with a kawaii aesthetic: "a Japanese artistic and cultural style that emphasises the quality of cuteness, using bright colours and characters with a childlike appearance." (source)
As a cross between a cupcake and a creature with colourful attire and big eyes it is certainly cute!
It's also a pretty good parts pack, with 25 in medium azur (sic) among its 133 elements.
The set comes with stickers for both male and female eyes, and two sets of 2x2 round tiles to enable them to be switched easily. Here's the female variant:
The sticker sheet provides alternative birthday greetings for the sign, in German, French, Spanish and four Asian languages (excuse my ignorance, I can't identify them...)
Overall, then, this is a great little set that's particularly appealing to collectors of the hard-to-find. A number of BrickLink sellers have it listed but their stock won't last forever, so if this review has piqued your interest you had best order it ASAP...
Finally, an interesting coincidence: I found out on Facebook this morning that it just so happens to be Mel's birthday today, so happy birthday and thanks for all the great sets!
Other Birthday sets
LEGO has released a number of birthday sets over the years, either for gifting, for putting in 'goodie bags', or for sending out invites:
10081 Heart Birthday Pack (2004)
This is one of three Clikits birthday packs that contain everything a girl needs to invite guests, fill their goodie bags and write thank you notes afterwards
852998 Birthday Party Kit (2010)
This one includes ten invitation cards, thank you cards, various booklets and, most interestingly, unique minifigures.
40048 Birthday Cake (2012)
This polybag was sold in brand stores and was re-released in 2013 with a green base.
850791 LEGO Minifigure Birthday Set (2013)
One of six table decorations released over the years for various events.
40153 Birthday Table Decoration (2015)
Another table decoration, but much more robust that that above.
Parts are provided to construct numbers 0 to 9, but not all simultaneously.
5004931 Birthday Card (2017)
This small set, packed in an odd-shaped box, contains a minifig and parts to make a cake and present.
It appears to be available in France and other mainland northern European countries if the location of BrickLink sellers offering it is anything to go by.