Saturday, May 31, 2014

Out of the Box: Arne (LoongSoul XuanYan ver. 1)

LoongSoul XuanYan with his standard arm.
I just realized that there's a doll in my header that I've never introduced, so today's the day to remedy that. 

In an HZ uniform outfit,
with mechanical hand.
In 2009, LoongSoul (who were new on the scene) offered the first version of XuanYan, a 63cm doll with an extra mechanical arm/torso piece in a limited run of 100 (they have since created an alternate version as well).  I was quite taken with the doll, but put off buying him until seeing him in stock at a dealer during one of their shop's events (an event that saw him arrive with full body blushing and an extra head).

I was highly impressed with this doll when he arrived - when I ordered him, I'd assumed that the would come with the mechanical arm  only, so it was a nice surprise to find that he actually came with multiple arms and upper torso pieces.  The blushing was also quite well done, although over the years, the metallic grey at the shoulder of the mechanical arm has rubbed off somewhat do to friction.

The body itself is solid with a nice weighty resin.  It's well-engineered with doubled jointed knees and elbows and with fully jointed fingers on the mechanical hand.  I also admire the fact that the hands are in an active/gestural position rather than a neutral one, since that adds a certain dynamism to them (at least to my eye).  The face sculpt has a soft, neutral expression which was painted to have a certain wistfulness to it, but that's clearly specific to the faceup, because I've seen the same sculpt look very different in both version two and with custom paintwork.

Being within the standard body size for SD13-type dolls, he's able to wear a wide variety of ready-made outfits and won't require much (if any) alteration to patterns for the size.  He also has a fairly standard head size and can share wigs with most of the larger-headed dolls in this range.

A better view of the mecha-arm.

With YID Cocori
A side view (also with YID Cocori) and showing off the jointed hand.
I may have been having too much fun playing with filters on this one. ;)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Shopping for Dolls: adbarttelt/Rhinnaco for AG

Clothes modelled by AG Cécile and SewDolling Madison
I'd seen photos from Rihanna and Co pop up on Flickr a couple of times, and thought her stuff was cute so when I saw listing a decent-sized lot on eBay for a low(ish) price and thought "Why not?"

The package arrived fairly  quickly and was well-packed for shipment.  The outfits themselves were each individually packaged in clear plastic as well.

The lot included one pair of pyjamas, one skirt/t-shirt set, one skirt-halter set (which I'd actually thought was a dress based on the sales photos), a t-shirt/legging set, and a shirt/tank/legging set.  The first thing I noticed was that the items all mix-and-match well, so that's always nice to see.

Outfit #1 will be the Halter/skirt set:  the material is a light sundress-type fabric with a colourful geometric design.  The skirt is just above knee-length, has three tiers and is well sewn.  It has an elastic waist that is tight enough to allow it to sit in a number of positions on the doll.

The top is the same material (giving the outfit the look of a dress) with the neck-tie being a green ribbon.  The ribbon is a little small for my tastes (I'd have rather seen a slightly thicker one), but it's fully functional, which is the most important thing.  The top is well-sewn, but there are a few ends that needed to be trimmed off (I only noticed them after I'd already taken photos).

This was actually the outfit that I was most uncertain about (I'm not usually a fan of outfits that show the cloth-body/vinyl limb joints, but this one has really been growing on me. 

Outfit #2 is the t-shirt/skirt set.  The top is a white t-shirt with a printed yellow-and-brown animal design.  It's made out of a fairly thin material, so it should work well layered under a jacket or cardigan.  It's solidly constructed and opens completely down the back, which is fantastic for play (although less so if you're wanting to take "realistic" photos from the rear).

The skirt is similar in style (and of a similar material) to the one from Outfit #1, but is slightly shorter and uses a differently patterned fabric.  I quite like the look of this skirt, but the back is less well-finished than any other item in this lot - it's functional, so the dress will hold up to play, but it does look a bit messy when you flip it over.

I actually wish I'd thought to photograph these pieces with other items, because I think that both of these pieces work better with other items than they do together.

Outfit #3 is the t-shirt/capri leggings set.  The t-shirt is constructed exactly like the one in outfit #2, but I found both the light blue colour and the pink and grey print to be quite a bit more appealing (some of that may be the way the colour works with this doll's eyes, of course).  The material also appears to be slightly thicker on this one.

The capri-length leggings are made of what feels like the material used in track (or yoga) pants, and are solidly-constructed and neatly finished.  They have an elastic waistband and are made of a stretchy material, so I expect that they could be worn by dolls of a wider range of sizes than some AG clothes allow.  They're also a nice solid neutral grey, so they're a great mix-and-match piece.

Outfit #4 is the tank/shirt/leggings set.  The tank is basically a plain sleeveless version of the t-shirt from Outfit #2, although it is slightly longer than the t-shirts.  The leggings are similarly a longer, black version of the capri ones - again well constructed and nicely finished.

The highlight of this set for me is the plaid shirt with front ties.  It's brightly coloured, well-finished, a nice thick material and - for me at least - very visually appealing. 

The final set is the pyjamas, which I didn't  open as they're a gift for a friend's daughter, but I'll share them here in case anyone wants to see what they look like (and what the inner packaging looks like).

Overall, I'd happily recommend these items - especially for people looking for basic items, or looking to add to a play collection.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shopping for Dolls: The Volks USA Clearance Sale

Earlier this year, Volks USA closed their California showroom and relaunched their online shop.  During that process, they had a weekend clearance event that saw their stock offered at some impressive discounts.

I tried to grab a number of outfits, wigs and dolls (the Dollfies in particular were steeply discounted), but the competition was fierce, so in the end what came home was two outfits, a random pair of wigs and some paintbrushes.  The wigs turned out to not be to my taste, but the outfits were both ones I'd been wanting, and turned out to fit larger-than-standard dolls, so that's what I'll be sharing.

Outfit number one, called "Hoodie set" is a navy blue track suit with white an lighter blue piping and strips.  It's designed for the Volks SD17 model which is a 65cm, narrow-bodied dolls, so I wouldn't have expected it to fit a broad-bodied 70cm Iplehouse EID, and yet it does.  I've been looking for a track suit for Murad (EID Chase) for years, so I was thrilled to find that it fit.

EID Chase in the SD17 Hoodie Set
The school uniform set - under layers.
The second outfit is called "School Boy Set" and includes a grey tank top, a white uniform shirt, a tie, a camouflage  jacket and black cargo pants.  It's designed for the Volks SD13 doll, which is a 60cm doll.  Being made of less flexible fabrics than the track suit, it can't fit quite as wide a range of sizes, but parts of it do work on André, my Dollzone Alpha which has a 68cm body.

The pants fit this doll perfectly at the waist but are a good 1.5cm too short.  Luckily, this is easy enough to hide with tall boots (this particular doll is quite narrow for his height, so often ready-made 70cm pants are too loose on him).  The tank top is perfect though.

The shirt and jacket are really too tight around the shoulders, so they'll be moving on to a different doll, but André did get to try them on.  All of the pieces in this outfit are of really fantastic quality, so I'm quite pleased with this outfit (and with the number of pieces included in it).

The camouflage jacket.

The shirt and tie.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Incoming dolls: Makie

I've been playing with the doll/character creator on the Makie site for years, always without ordering anything.  But when they offered both free shipping and a free rabbit toy last week, I finally decided to go for it.

The turnaround time to production on these 3D printed jointed dolls is apparently two weeks, so hopefully I'll get to see the results in less than a month!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Out of the Box: Princess of South Africa Barbie

Barbie, Princess of South Africa
As part of my quest to cut down on the amount of space being eaten up by toys in their boxes, yesterday I de-boxed my 2003 Princess of South Africa Barbie (my only Barbie, actually).

I've always had the impression that most of the "Barbie Collectibles"-labelled dolls were actually designed to stay in their boxes, so this doll managed to surprise me by looking better out of the box.  Freed from the packaging, the colours on her blanket and necklaces became that much more vibrant.  And I was able to get a closer look at her face, and discovered that her eye paint was actually quite a bit more detailed than I'd expected, giving her a soft and thoughtful expression.

The doll could just as easily been called "Ndebele Princess", because she's very obviously dressed in that style - there's none of the cultural mash-up of the "Tribal Beauty" Barbie here, and the box actually goes into some detail about the cultural elements and related ethno-linguistic groups (although a bit of it walks a rather patronizing line, I don't think the line was crossed).
In the box. 
The inner packaging is decorated with Ndebele house-style geometric patterns

The included accessories include a dress, a shawl/blanket, a staff, two headbands, ankle rings, earrings, neck rings, and three faux-beaded necklaces.  The necklaces are a little plastic-y for my tastes, but every other element is lovely.  If you've every seen a Ndebele beaded doll, you'll recognize the stylistic similarities.
With a beaded tourist doll.

 The doll also comes with a stand, which was so well-hidden in the packaging that I originally wasn't even sure that it had been included.  Being barefoot with the standard Barbie heel-feet means that this doll can't stay upright on her own, so the stand is essential.

Overall, I'd give this doll top marks for almost everything, and I'm glad I took her out of the box since that let me fully appreciate her.
A better view of the eye paint and jewellery.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Out of the Box: Star Wars - The Power of the Force Luke & Coin

In the box.
One of the fun things about moving frequently is that unpacking is a little like opening presents while one of the less than fun things is that it's easy for things to get misplaced.  Clearing out my guest room closet this past weekend (which had become a bit of a dumping ground for things that should have gone into storage), I found an example of both of these things.

I have no memory of buying this "The Power of the Force" Luke Skywalker in Endor Gear with Display Coin, and yet here he is. In fact, he's apparently an old enough release that it's entirely possible that he's made every move with me since leaving my mother's house (I suspect that was a gift from some of my old school friends, since they had a habit of buying me Star Wars toys).

The coin.
Luke Skywalker.
In any case, I decided to keep and unbox him.  He's a standard Kenner figure, but the base and coin give him enough presence that it feels like he'd be easier to display than most figures of this size.  I have a decent number of figures in this size range that I've never found a satisfying way to display, but the stand really does make this one feel substantial enough to sit on a shelf on its own.

Return of the Jedi-style Luke on the stand, with a coin

Monday, May 19, 2014

Out of the Box: The Bratz Boyz

Back: Bratz Boyz Cade and Eitan
Front: Lil' Bratz Deavon, Mikko, Colin and Lakin
When people ask me why I collect dolls and figures, I usually say something about art and/or nostalgia.  Unless they're asking about my collection of Bratz Boyz, in which case I say "I don't know; I just like the things!"

These dolls aren't particularly poseable (having only 5 simple joints), and are limited in their clothes sharing because of their sculpted shoes (which are attached with pegs).  And yet there's something about their disproportionate heads and cartoonish features that I find incredibly appealing.

Dylan and Western Cade

I picked up an original Dylan in 2010 after finding him in a clearance bin at Winners after having heard hearing that his clothing would the right size to share with Secretdoll Binu.  But after taking him out of the box I realized that he was an appealing doll in his own right, and instead of being looted for his clothes, he ended up living on my desk.

Fast forward about a year, and I found a Cowboy edition Cade in the same shop for a similarly low price.  This time, it was the hat that I wanted to pass along to another doll, and yet once again I found myself fond enough of the doll that he ended up as part of my permanent collection.

Despite being fond of them, these two didn't make the cut when I moved, and so went off to storage.  At which point I realized that I missed having their exaggerated features around - so when a low-priced Eitan showed up on ebay, and different version of Cade appeared on Amazon, my collection was restarted.

Cade and Eitan
And having bought one, other Bratz Boyz started showing up on my recommendations lists on both sites, which is how I discovered the smaller Lil Bratz line, and brought home the "Nighttime Style" set of four.  Like their larger counterparts, these dolls have simple joints, sculpted shoes and cartoonish faces.  And like their larger counterparts, I think they're fabulous.

Deavon and Mikko

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Out of the Box: Monster High Jane Boolittle

She's purple! 
Who doesn't love a purple doll, right?
Just a short post today, but remember when I said my Clawd Wolf would be my lone Monster High doll?  Seems that was a lie (or at least an overly optimistic view of my collecting self-control), because somehow Jane Boolittle and her pet sloth have found their way onto my shelf!

I won't go into too much detail, since she has the standard MH body and style, but I will say that I'm very impressed with the bright colours they used on this one, and on the detail of her accessories.  She came with a staff (which doubles as a pen), a very cute purse/suitcase, and her adorable squishy sloth.  The sloth itself is probably what sold me on this set.

"Needles" the sloth

The girl and her sloth

Friday, May 16, 2014

Clothes shopping for MSDs: Guess Doll

Two outfits spread out over 3 dolls.
One of the added money-sinks of getting into ball-jointed dolls is that the relative price of ready-made doll clothes tends to be proportional to the price of the dolls, which is to say high.  That tends to be offset by the fact that these guys are large enough that sewing for them is less of a challenge than it is for smaller dolls, so it does even out on that front.  Unfortunately for me, my sewing machine broke when I moved, so I've been watching for alternative clothing sources.

One clothing line that caught my eye was Guess Doll.  I've primarily seen the clothes sold through the dealer Denver Doll Emporium - shipping costs from them had turned me off when I was on the other side of the border, but now that I'm based in the US, I decided to order a couple of outfits and hope for the best.

The two outfits sets that I ordered ("Casual Affair" and "Cagey") were both in the $50-$60 range, which is quite reasonable considering the number of pieces included (two tops plus jeans in the first, and three tops plus jeans in the second).  I wasn't hugely impressed with the darker jeans from the "Casual Affair" set, which seemed a little thing and with only basic detailing, but everything else exceeded my expectations.  In fact, I would say the the quality is almost on par with some doll clothes that I've seen listed at twice the price.
Lumedoll Atik in the "Cagey" jeans and hoodie.

Withdoll Aiden in the "Casual Affair" tank and jeans.
These jeans were my least favourite item in the bunch.

JID Boris in the "Casual Affair" overshirt

SDC Miko in the "Cagey" t-shirt
SDC Miko in the "Cagey" jacket and t-shirt


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Out of the Box: Zed (Angel Street Zazean)

Angel Street Zazean
Back before June of 2010, my familiarity with BJDs was limited to a tiny handful of companies.  I had two large scale ball-jointed dolls, and while I was regretting having missed another (YID Cocori), I thought that I wouldn't really want any more than three dolls of this size.  Famous last words, right?  That was the same spring that a doll-collecting friend pointed me in the direction of a couple of popular BJD forums, and suddenly the number of dolls that I "needed" multiplied.

One of the things that especially caught my attention was the existence of some of the lower-cost options.  I was also debating picking up an elf doll, and thought that this guy, Angel Street's Zazean, would be a good choice.  One of the dealers happened to have one in stock, and while in many ways I wish I'd pre-ordered instead (the in stock doll was the introductory LE one, so he cost significantly more than the standard, and the in-stock version was in a cream white resin, which doesn't really fit with my other dolls), that did mean that he was home within the week.
Zed was actually the first doll that I
photographed outdoors.

The first thing that I noticed upon taking this doll out of his box is his lightness - he weighs significantly less than any other doll of this size that I own.  This is one feature that I've found most of the lower-end BJDs to have in common, and is one thing I try to mention when people ask if there are actually quality differences between the dolls.  That lightness isn't necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it is a difference that I think is worth pointing out (I was surprised - although not necessarily disappointed -  at how light he was because I'd had people insist that there was zero difference in resin quality/type across the price ranges).

His current wig
He's also single jointed, which is a negative for some people, but I've found that it means he can stand more solidly unassisted.  His features are more simply sculpted than some, but on a doll with such an angular, elf-eared head, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Additionally, I think those simple features make it easier for him to pull off ridiculous hair colours and detailed outfits.

Even though I've been on the fence about this doll since the beginning (whenever I talk about thinning the herd, "I suppose I could sell the white elf" is where I start), this doll has a certain something to him that means he's stuck around, and probably will continue to stick around.  He just has that much character (and looks that good in elaborate fantasy outfits!).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Arrival: American Girl Cécile

I think I've mentioned before that while I'm an admirer 18" play dolls, I'm not really a collector of them, so I was happy to own just two, my old AG Samantha and then my more recent SewDolling Madison.  But with the Samantha in storage I found that I missed having an AG around, and with rumours of the retirement of a couple of the historical dolls floating around, I decided to pick up a Cécile.

Having just been looking at my sister's old AG's a little over a week ago, I immediately noticed that this doll is much smaller (or at least less plush) than the old ones.  She also seems to have better hip mobility in that she can sit with her legs more-or-less out in front of her rather than with them splayed to the sides, which I think is a lovely feature.

In any case, I've talked about these dolls before, so I won't go into too many details expect to say that I'm quite pleased with this girl!
Cécile up close.
In modern gear.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Out of the Box: Play Arts Commander Shepard

The Play Arts Commander Shepard
I've posted before about the DC direct Mass Effect figures and the limitations of that line, so this figure makes an interesting comparison piece, since it's a character from the same franchise produced by a different company.  To be fair though, this figure is in a larger scale and at a higher price point, so it goes without saying that the smaller, less costly figures are going to suffer by comparison - this toy is simply superior in almost every way: sculpt detail, paint work, articulation and accessories.  It does lack some of the charm that a few of the less detailed figures had (namely the Mordin figure), but some of that is simply due to the fact that this is a human character.

I actually hesitated in picking up this figure originally as I'm not generally a fan of default character figures from games that allow for character customization, but ultimately I decided that the default Shepard was iconic enough that I wasn't really bothered by the fact that he doesn't particularly look like my version of the character.
The Box

The figure is packaged in a standard cardboard package - all sided, but with a book-style flap that's secured with Velcro.  The box art is quite attractive - it actually looks quite similar to the game's box art, but with the action figure front and centre. I actually took longer than usual to de-box this figure specifically because I was so fond of the look of the box that I considered keeping him on display inside it.  Ultimately though, my desire to save on space (and to handle the figure) won out.

With the flap open.
The figure comes with a solid set of accessories: two firearms of different sizes, a second set of hands (posed to hold the weapons - the default hands are fists), and an omniblade (the orange dagger/personal computer/communicator device from the game).  The details on all of the accessories are top notch, although I found it a little challenging to fit the fingers of the gun-hands around the guns.  I was also less than thrilled that the omniblade can't be slipped onto the figure without first removing a hand.  It seems like it would have been simply enough to add a slit to the straps, and I may end up modifying it along those lines (depending on how I decide to display this guy).

Standing on his own.

In terms of balance, the figure is nicely symmetrical,  but not to an unnatural degree.  He's also very well balanced and can easily stay upright without the assistance of a stand and without too much fiddling with the pose.

In terms of articulation, the figure is well-jointed and can move through a variety of poses.  I'd expected the head movement to be somewhat limited by the collar on the armour, and it is, but not nearly to the extent that I'd feared. 

The only issue I had in terms of joints was in removing the figure's left hand - although one only needs to take off the hand itself to swap hands, I found it a little too easy to take off the wrist piece along with it.  That may be an issue unique to this particular piece though, as the right hand worked perfectly, and I've not had the same problem with other Play Arts figures with option hands.

Imagine some waist-high cover here. ;)
A closer view of the armour
Overall, I'm very pleased with this figure.  His posing is solid, the details of his paint and sculpt are spot-on, and the accessories are nearly perfect.