Making a Better Grasshopper

A few years ago, Gakken had a short series of large mecha kits available in the bookstores in the $100 to $150 range. At the time (when I was still in Tokyo), I held off on getting the centipede because of the cost and not having room to store the finished kit. Now, of course, that I want to try making something like that, all of the big kits are out of print. However, I recently discovered some smaller kits for kids in the children’s science section at Junkudo Books. There are 10 insect kits for 1,000 yen each, one for 1,300 yen, and six 1,500 yen dinosaur kits, and one special dinosaur kit for 1,300 yen. They were all released on June 20, 2014, but don’t think they were advertised on the Otona no Kagaku site.

I wanted to have something to build, and the 1,000 yen grasshopper looked like the best bet. I’m interested in the scorpion and tarantula, so I may get those later. I really want to get the 1,300 yen Anomalocaris, too.

Anyway, the grasshopper has about 30 parts, not including the 9 bolts, 9 nuts and 2 washers. There’s no suggested assembly time, but it took me maybe 1 hour to finish mainly because the nuts kept loosening up as I tried to put everything together. There’s no real moving parts, per se. The joints are held together by the nuts and bolts, so if you want to reposition the legs or wings you can, but then you have to tighten the bolts again. The pieces are all very soft stamped sheet metal, most likely tin, if not aluminum. Which is good, because you have to fold and form the back, wings and head by hand. The two tools that come with the kit are mostly useless, you’re better off getting a small needle nose pliers and screwdriver.

Assembly starts with the abdomen, then moves to the head/chest/legs bit, and finishes with the wings and head cowling. The springs don’t do anything, they’re just there to resemble the leg muscles.

The booklet has two pages advertising the other kits, and Gakken’s lines of insect and dinosaur picture books. There’s also 3 pages of pictures of different grasshopper species and a short description of grasshopper biology. So, the booklet is educational if you want to learn more about the specific insect you’re building.

The finished grasshopper is pretty big, at 11 cm (4.5 inches), and it was fun to assemble. I can’t imagine something like this being available in the U.S. because of the small parts swallowing hazard. The edges are also a bit sharp, presenting a cutting hazard if someone was so inclined (no worse than getting a paper cut, though). The box includes a small piece of sandpaper for smoothing off the edges if desired, but I didn’t bother with that. Now, I need a place to show it off.

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