Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Out of the Box: André (Dollzone tan Alpha)

If this doll looks familiar and you've seen my comments on other blogs, then it's because you've seen this doll next to my name - he's my avatar over here.

Back in 2010, Dollzone released Alpha and Aurora, two dolls that brought in the style change that the company was ushering in - still very stylized, but in a different direction than the older more anime-styled heads that they'd released in the past.  I was intrigued by the doll's appearance, but didn't seriously consider buying him since my collection had taken more of a realistic turn.

Still, I looked at the official photos every couple of months, just imagining what I might do with the doll should I ever decide to take my collection in a different direction.   And then during the summer of 2011 Dollzone announced that they were discontinuing their tan resin - and thinking that I was out of time to grab this doll in the form I wanted, I quickly put in an order, right before the deadline.

The non-jointed chest
As you might imagine, I was less than thrilled when Dollzone brought back the tan option a year later, but by that point my Alpha was home, and while he's never been my favourite doll, I was (and still am) very taken with the way he looks and the versatility of his sculpt.

Dollzone's 2011 tan had an orange tint to it, which means that his colour varies quite a bit depending on the lighting (my understanding is that the new version has more of a brown base).  His body is similarly unique amongst the rest  of my dolls - he's on Dollzone's 68cm body, which unlike most of the taller and smaller ones, doesn't have a chest joint.  This makes him more of a challenge to pose, but does mean that the sculptural details are more clearly designed for form rather than function, which just adds to the visual interest.

An alternate look

Interestingly, despite the lack of a chest joint, the torso piece is not a truly non-jointed, as there's a joint just below the waist.  This is the only doll I have that's jointed there, and while it's not a terribly functional joint (although I suppose if I were doing a photo story about an aerobics leader showing off side-bends it would come in handy) but it's another example of the non-standard style of this doll.

Proportionally, he's nearly as lanky-looking as the Dollmore giants, with legs and arms that are clearly longer than any realistic human body's (although unlike those dolls, he's still within the range of the standard SD17/70cm/"Uncle" dolls, so standard clothes and patterns from that range work for him).  Seated, he's actually not observably taller than most standard SD-size dolls: his height is all in the legs.  And while that's a stylistic choice that many BJD makers go for, Dollzone took it a step farther and gave him equally long and lanky fingers to go with the look.
In a slightly more regal style

The hands are also very nicely sculpted, and as a result I include them in nearly every photo I take of this guy - they're probably my favourite part of this doll.  The finger position is equally well-done, and the position is versatile enough to represent a wide variety of gestures.

If I have one complaint about this doll, it's that Dollzone sands all of their dolls as a matter of course.  And while for many that's a wonderful service to include in the base price (many companies charge extra for that) they also won't skip it, even if you request them not to at the time of ordering.  This means that, as with many tan (or darker) dolls that have been sanded, this one has some colour variation along the tan lines.  The sanding was done well, so it's not hugely noticeable, but undressed and in full light, it is fairly obvious.  Still, that's a fairly minor complaint to have!

Overall, for a doll that I bought without a set plan, I've been very pleased with this guy.  He's a fun and versatile doll with a unique face and body, so I'm happy to have him in my collection.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Out of the Box: Adam Jensen ( Play Arts Deus Ex: Human Revolution)

In my post about the DC Direct ME figures, I mentioned the higher quality of the Play Arts figures that Square Enix puts out, and the Deus Ex licensed line was no exception to that.  These are lovely figures with fantastically detailed sculpts and solid accessories.

The Jensen figure came with multiple hands - a pare for gripped the included gun, a pair of fists, and a pair with the blades that one uses for stealth kills in the context of the game.  For display purposes I generally keep the gun hands on him - and since everything else is in storage at the moment (along with "Federova", the other figure from this line in my collection), he's currently on display accessory-free.

With gun and an optional left closed hand.
Not an easy pose for this figure to hold
Despite the fantastic details of the sculpt, this figure is not without its weaknesses, as it's a bit top heavy, making him a challenge to have him standing unassisted.  Additionally, the sculptural details of his vest and belt, while fantastic visually, limit his torso and hip movement, which also make certain poses a challenge.

Still, the level of detail really makes this figure shine, so I give the line top marks for that.

Versatile Blogger Award

A big thank you to Nymphaea of The Doll Barn for the nomination for The Versatile Blogger Award!

This award involves sharing random facts about one's self, so here are mine:
  • My snack food reviews of my new city:  I miss the unglazed cake doughnuts that are common in Canada but not so here in the USA (or at least in the DC metro), but I was thrilled to discover that you can buy Speculoos at regular grocery stores which are very hard to find in Canada (or at least in Toronto, Hamilton and Calgary). They're branded either Biscoff or "European Coffee Biscuits" but the recipe is the same.  And Speculoos Pasta is called "European Cookie Butter" here.
  • I've taught rabbits to play fetch.
  • I recently took a beginning crochet class, and did so poorly on my first project that the instructor was baffled at how I'm managed to create such a messy blob (luckily week 2 I turned things around).
  • I work from home 95% of the time and use a rotating series of VPNs, which means that I may appear on your stats list from 2 different countries and 5 different cities without leaving my desk. 
  • I have 4 valid passports.
  • My dresser mirror came out of its frame during this last move - but since the glass itself didn't break, I can't decide if that means bad luck or not. ;)
  • All of my dolls appear to have survived the move, but a couple of figure stands did not.  And  the weather change has causes a couple of BJD faceups to flake.

The nominations have been making the rounds of quite a few of the blogs I follow, so there will be some repeats here, but I'd pass the nomination along to:

Traci at A wild review appears!
Gwen at A Peek Into the Pantry
MCooper at Up to My Eyeballs in Dolls 
aprilperlowski at Of Dolls  
Barb the Evil Genius at My Little Doll Corner
Mako-chan at Jupiter's Closet  
Ms. Leo at I-Luv-Dolls
And all the folks I'm following on wordpress - my list just somehow reset itself, so imagine that they're on here as well.  I'm going to have to hunt them all down again!

Thanks again Nymphaea!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Out of the box: Grant (Dollmore Glamor Model Suntan Mettaa)

Dressed for some early 20th century conflict
Towering over the rest of my collection at 73cm (not quite the 75cm that Dollmore advertises) is this example of Dollmore's long-limbed Glamor Model line.   Supremely well articulated, they're fantastically fun to pose and to move around.

For dolls with such stylized proportions, they have surprisingly realistic faces - this guy's furrowed brow is almost a work of art on its own - and very detailed hands.  The sculpting of the veins and nails is stunning - in certain lighting they look blushed even though mine is actually blank.

My version is from the tan run of late 2010, and his colour is lovely.  He's a solid deep brown colour (similar to my 2007 Iplehouse Dk Aaron), without any of the colour variations that some darker resins can be prone too.  He has also maintained his tone for the 3.5 years that I've had him.

If I have any complaint about this doll, it's that he's almost too poseable.  The unusual chest joint allows him to be positioned into all kinds of ultra-natural positions that are impossible for dolls with a standard chest, but it also causes him to default into a slouch, which isn't always what I'm looking for.
Dressed for the modern age, with SD16 Daria
Height Comparison: He's on the far right(and slouching!)
One additional warning I would give to anyone considering adding a doll from the Glamor Model line to their collection is that they're quite a challenge to dress.  They're slightly too large for most standard 70cm/"Uncle"-size BJD clothing, but aren't as broad as the EID/ID72-types who are large enough to fit into infant clothing.  So owning one of these guys is a commitment to either sewing for them, commissioning or shopping almost-exclusively from Dollmore's own shop.

Still, they're fabulous dolls, and this guy in particular has a fantastic sculpt.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Out of the Box: The Normandy Crew (DC Direct's Mass Effect series)

L-R: Grunt, Mordin, Tali, Thane
I mentioned having unpacked one of these figures (Tali) back in January, but now they've all been put out on display - I suppose I missed them!

Unlike the higher-priced (and higher quality) Play Arts series that includes many of the same video game characters, DC Direct's Mass Effect line are fairly simple figures.  Each has a reasonably (but not spectacularly) sculpted face, a single weapon accessory and a simple black stand.  The figures and weapons are sturdy (they were packed loosely for the move and all arrived intact), but the stands are surprisingly flimsy for such simple pieces - two of my four broke in transit.

Mordin: Probably the best figure in the series

The quality of the figures themselves varies: Mordin and Grunt look solidly like their in-game counterparts and can pose fairly naturally.  Tali is reasonable, but is painted with non-game colours while Thane is well-sculpted, but awkwardly posed, and isn't articulated enough to compensate for that awkwardness.  There were several other figures in this series that I passed on altogether because they were both poor likenesses to the characters and awkwardly posed (I had the opportunity to buy the Miranda figure for $5CDN and still stayed away).

Grunt and Thane, with weapons
If these figures hadn't been released more than a year prior to the Play Arts line, I probably would have skipped over them entirely due to the poor quality of all but a handful of the figures (and in retrospect, I should have skipped buying the Thane figure).  But ultimately this is a case where my fondness for the franchise overcomes my dislike for the actual products in question - I keep the toys on display because I more because I loved the game series than because I consider the figures to be works of art on their own.  Still, the ones I have do work as talking pieces, so at least three of them will be staying on display.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Out of the Box: Samantha and Cécile (American Girl Mini Dolls)

My American Girl mini dolls are a bit of an accidental collection - I didn't intend to bring them home, and yet here they are!

Mini Samantha came first, a gift from my husband (then boyfriend).  I'd joked to him, as he was heading to NYC on business, that he should visit the AG store and buy me "stuff", thinking that he wouldn't have the time or the desire.  He surprised me by actually going in ("I had to stand in line with hoards of housewives and little girls!") and picking up this doll (he also surprised me by actually recognizing it as the mini version of my larger doll - we weren't living together at the time, so he'd only seen big Samantha once or twice at that point).

Mini Cécile
Mini Cécile arrived just this past month - I picked her up (along with the book series) as a gift for my niece who would be visiting during her school holidays.  However when the niece arrived, I discovered that she had zero interest in either dolls or history and a huge interest in wildlife, so she ended up picking out some zoo souvenirs instead.  Which means that mini Cécile is now here to stay.

As for the dolls themselves, they're very reasonable copies of their 18" counterparts.  They have the
same plush bodies with vinyl limbs and heads, and their outfits are near-identical to the full size ones - fewer details, and with somewhat messier closures on the back due to the small scale, but still decent quality overall.

Mini Samantha
Unlike the larger dolls though, the minis have almost no neck, which makes them seem a bit strangely proportioned over all.  It seems to gives them a broad shouldered appearance that seems a little out of balance with their tiny hands and delicate outfits. 

Unlike the bigger dolls, they have painted eyes (although I understand that the very first versions of the mini dolls from the 1990s had glass eyes) which gives them a somewhat less neutral gaze.  I alternate between thinking they look shocked with thinking that their expressions are just vacant.

As baby dolls for an SD16
Despite the decade's difference in production times, my two seem to be fairly similar in quality overall.  The one exception is the footware on Cécile - while Samantha's plain plastic shoes may be less impressive to look at, the unevenness of the faux-leather of Cécile's boots means that it's near-impossible to get her to stand on her own.  Still, that's a small complaint for a doll that's probably meant more for play than display.

Overall, they're cute little dolls that make a nice accessory for their larger counterparts (and other large dolls), and they're a fun little addition to the doll posse - even if they weren't a planned one!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Live from Mayonaka Arena! (Taito's P4U Kanji Tatsumi)

"C'mere, Take-Mikazuchi!"
I've never been a big fan of non-articulated PVC figures; I've always felt that if I want a stature, I'd rather it be made of something other than plastic.  But then I saw Taito's Persona 4  tie-in series (Full title: P4U The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena - they're designed around the spin-off Persona 4 Arena fighting game rather than the core RPG) and I was ready to make an exception to my rule.  I was tempted to pick up 5 of them, but cooler heads prevailed (They seem to range in price from $28-$50USD, depending on the source) and I started with the one that had the lowest price (although admittedly it was only lowest by less than $1).

Despite the lack of pose-ability, what attracted me to this series is the sense of action that these static figures manage to convey.  The figure that I picked up is Kanji Tatsumi, and he's posed in the stomp position of his final combination attack move - knees bent, coat flying up, necklace whipping back, the whole bit.  It may be a permanent position, but it conveys movement well and is such a perfect replication of the in-game pose that it makes me smile and quote taglines whenever I walk past him.

The windowless box
The figure was well-packed for shipment, with the three separate pieces all wrapped in bubble wrap inside a solid cardboard box (a very colourful cardboard box, I might add!).  I was surprised that the box was solid.  There have been figures from the main Persona 4 game, and when I've seen them in shops they've always had a plastic window on one side, so the change for this series is an interesting choice.

The sculpt is well done and reasonably well-painted (there are some missed bits in a couple of places - noticeably on top of his head), but overall it's an attractive figure (and it looks exactly like the character).  The chair (which he uses to deliver beat-downs) comes off, and while it feels flimsy it's been solid so far (and I did have to force it into his hands when I put it together).

"Now's our chance for a beatdown!"
The stand is a thin plastic, and is the part of the whole that I'm least impressed with - it really seems cheap in comparison to the rest of the figure.  That said though, it's an eye-catching even yellow, which is in-line with the game design and the feet of the figure fit into the pegs well.  It's also of a design such that the stands of the other figures could fit together like puzzle pieces.

Overall though, this is a great figure.  Even though I'm still on the fence about the static pose,  I'm seriously considering picking up another one or two figures from this series (maybe Chie and Yu.  And Naoto.  And maybe Yosuke...).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Out of the box: Neela and Leyla (Girls of Many Lands)

As a non-American fans of the American Girl line, my sister and I were thrilled when the Girls of Many Lands line was introduced in 2002, imagining all the world-history type adventures that would be possible.  Unfortunately the line only lasted for a couple of years, with only 8 dolls released during that time, but such is life, and they were awesome while they lasted.  I snagged Neela when the last stock dolls were discounted when the line was first discontinued, and then found Leyla on ebay several years later after kicking myself for not buying her on release.

  Like the main AG historical line, each doll had a set character and history, but these ones had a single, longer novel rather than a series of illustrated books, and the girls in these stories are slightly older, presumably to appear to the slightly older target market.

The dolls themselves are half the size of the AG play dolls and were designed more for display than play as they have minimal articulation and clothes that aren't designed to be removed.  As display pieces though, they're quite lovely - nice faces (the work of Helen Kish) and nicely detailed accessories, clothing and hair.


 Neela is an Indian character whose story is set in 1939 (Random trivia:  did you know that 2002 was also the year that 23rd March 1931: Shaheed was released?  It was a good year for pop-media about the Indian struggle for independence!).  The doll has long hair in a single plait, and is dressed in an orange sari with silver embroidery.  She doesn't have shoes, but has a silver bangle on each ankle.  She also has a set of gold-coloured bangles on each wrist as well as a chain necklace and similar earrings.  She also wears a second smaller necklace with a pendant.
Neela's hair from the back

Her face is evenly painted, and has an expression that manages to be fairly neutral without being vacant.

Her hair style is simple, but has the added detail of a flower at the top of the plait.

My other doll from this series is Leyla, a Turkish character whose story is set in 1720 (if you've seen Dutch or Flemish paintings of Istanbul, they were probably be from this time period).  I'm especially fond of the setting from her book, since she ends up living in Topkapı Palace, which is one of my favourite places to wander in Istanbul.

The doll's face is very similar to Neela (and obviously the same body), but that's where the similarities end because there's nothing simple or ordinary about her outfit.  Her first layer of clothing is simple - harem pants and a white blouse, but everything else is incredible detailed.  

Her kaftan (overcoat) is patterned and has gold trim and a lovely sash, over which is draped beaded necklaces with a jeweled pendant.  She wears gold-coloured bracelets, caries a feathered fan and even her shoes are embroidered.  Her headware is also interwoven with gold chain

Leyla's braids
Her hair is styled in braids, several of which (front and back) have pearls woven (or braided) into them.

As you may have guessed, she's a particular favourite of mine!