J-Dolls were first made in 2006 by Jun Planning Co, Inc. As with their Pullip cousins, manufacturing changed hands in 2009 when the Japanese branch of Jun Planning declared bankruptcy and the production of the dolls moved to Groove, Inc. In the United States, Jun Planning and Groove seem to be linked, with Groove USA a subdivision of Jun Planning USA. There were three new J-Dolls in 2012 (including this French beauty), but no releases for 2013 yet.
The J-Dolls are named after streets throughout the world that symbolize high fashion. Each doll's outfit reflects the character of the particular street she's named after. For example, Sunset Boulevard is near the ocean in Los Angeles and the doll with that name kind-of looks like a mermaid. Some of the associations are lost on me, though. The stunning Via Appia doll is named after an ancient Roman road, but she looks more like a cross between a World War 2 nurse and a pirate.
I chose this particular J-Doll because she was the cheapest one I could find still new in her box. She cost $50 and was described as the "Joseph Splatz" J-Doll, which I assumed was the name of the man who designed her funky outfit. In fact, Josephsplatz is the name of a street in Germany. Here she is:
There there are also several stores that carry these dolls. I like Pullip Style in the United States. This shop offers fast, inexpensive shipping (they'll ship worldwide) and they package the dolls very nicely. Their prices are always fair and you can sometimes score a dented box deal. You can pay anywhere from $40 to $500 for a J-Doll, but the average price is just under $100. Based on my disappointment with Momoko, and my experience with fragile Pullip bodies, I knew I didn't want to spend more than $60 on one of these dolls.
J-Doll boxes are very similar to Pullip boxes:
The front of the box has a plastic window display, and the back of the box has a photograph and some cautionary statements about the doll. These dolls are recommended for collectors 15 years old and older because of the small pieces and fragility of the body.
The inside of the box is decorated with a stylized black and white photograph. I am not sure if this is an actual picture of the Josphsplatz street, but that would be really cool.
Josephsplatz comes with a multi-piece outfit, a pink stand, a purse, boots and several jewelry accessories. Right away, I like this doll's sweet face, bright green eyes and pink hair:
All of her accessories are secured to the cardboard and easy to see:
She has funky stockings and old-fashioned boots:
The de-boxing experience is very similar to that of a Pullip doll. This girl and all of her accessories are very firmly secured to the cardboard:
|Tape, wire ties, plastic bands...it's all here.|
The stand has a plastic molded base and a metal telescoping support for the doll:
The base has a brick street style pattern:
The doll comes with two necklaces and a black knit headband:
One of the necklaces has two metal chains and a heart pendant. I like that the chains are contrasting sizes and lengths:
The heart pendant looks like a small locket, but it doesn't open:
The other necklace has strung black glass beads and a metal clasp:
The boots are packaged separately and are made out of molded vinyl. They have black painted details and remind me of Victorian spats boots:
These boots are tricky to get on and off. The vinyl is very stiff and so you have to push and shove to get them on, and then tug pretty hard to get them off...which can't be good for this doll's tiny ankle joints.
The doll looks a bit overloaded with accessories right out of the box. Her hair and joints come wrapped in plastic, which adds to her bulky appearance:
I find this doll's face very appealing. I love the eyes that Jun Planning uses for the J-Dolls and Hestia dolls. For such tiny eyes, they are quite realistic:
Pullip dolls have a movable eye mechanism (the eyes can look from side-to-side and wink), but J-Doll eyes are stationary.
The candy stripe lines in her lips are much more noticeable in these pictures than they are to me in real life. Her face paint, while stylized, is fairly subtle and natural.
Here's a mediocre picture of my Hestia doll's head for comparison. This doll has run off somewhere (maybe to the Goodwill by mistake?) and so I can't take any new pictures of her, but you can see how detailed her eyes are:
Jopsphsplatz comes wearing a purse that looks like an octave of piano keys. At first glance, the design of the purse seems classical and out-of-place with her overall look. After doing some research, I realize that the musical instrument theme (especially in black and white) is consistent with the punk gothic Lolita vibe that this doll has going on. She's like the eccentric keyboard player in a punk garage band.
Regardless of whether or not it goes with her outfit, I love this purse. It is wonderful:
The layered stockings on this doll are fun. No two socks are alike. I peeled them off to investigate each one separately.
On one leg, she was wearing a plain black knee-high stocking, a black fishnet stocking trimmed in lace, and a small purple and grey striped ankle warmer:
On the other leg, she was wearing a purple polka dot knit sock and a ripped black stocking with a peach bow at the top:
The doll's lower legs and feet were wrapped in plastic, which was a very good thing. There were heavy purple dye stains on one of the feet:
Josephsplatz is dressed in a black graphic tank top, a layered lace skirt, a matching studded belt and collar, and pink lace arm bands:
The belt is funny. It doesn't lay flat at all, but rather sits perched awkwardly on top of the skirt. Despite its clunky, heavy appearance, the belt has very little weight to it (the studs are plastic) and so the frilly lace layers of the skirt push it up:
In real life, a belt like this would be very heavy and would push the skirt down and hang low on the doll's waist. That would look great. This looks silly:
I like the idea of the belt, but I'd like it a lot more in real life if the designers had made it tighter or heavier.
I prefer how the doll looks without the belt:
The ruffled skirt is made of three tiers--two pink layers and a black overskirt. There is a metal snap closure in back:
The doll is wearing little pink lace arm covers that add some nice balance to the pink layers of the skirt:
The tee shirt is poorly printed (it has some black smudges and areas where the iron-on is wrinkled), but has a fascinating design:
The shirt's graphic seems like a random amalgam of pop references. It says, "smashing head"on the top. Maybe this is a take-off on the name of the band The Smashing Pumpkins? But then, the picture on the shirt is a skull with butterfly wings and the words "The Burtterfly Effect" at the bottom, which I assume is a drunken attempt at "butterfly." Smashing Pumpkins have a song called Bullet With Butterfly Wings, but there was also a movie called The Butterfly Effect with a poster design that is similar to this shirt. There's also an Australian band called The Butterfly Effect. Hm.
|It's certainly chaotic.|
The overall effect of the shirt is good, and I like the fitted cut. The black knit fabric left a few faint stains across this doll's torso.
Underneath her clothes, Josephsplatz (who I think needs to be nicknamed "Jo," or maybe "Splat?") is wearing a pair of high-waisted black lace underpants:
The underpants are a bit bulky, and they also left some faint stains on her body.
|Black lace isn't always sexy.|
J-Dolls have either a type 3 or type 4 Pullip body. This particular doll has the less desirable type 3 body:
The type 3 body has 21 points of articulation--if you count the double joints. Here is a chart I posted in my Pullip review that gives an overview of these two Pullip bodies:
*An important addendum to this chart is that the type 4 J-Dolls can move their heads up and down in addition to having full neck rotation.
The type 4 bodies are considered better overall. In particular, the type 4 wrist joints are much more mobile and less prone to breakage, and the type 4 hips are more flexible.
There are three very prominent screws in the back and neck of this doll:
She has a neat two-toned butterfly tattoo on her right upper arm that matches the theme of her tank top graphic:
The upper arm movement in the type 3 body is great. The shoulders have rotating hinge joints, and there's an additional rotating joint just above the elbow. The elbow itself is double jointed and moves well.
The wrist joint is awful. It is a simple non-rotating hinge joint, and it is incredibly fragile. I am afraid to pose the doll's arms because of this joint.
|Talk to the hand.|
Both of my Hestia doll's wrists came out of the box broken and she had the type 3 body, too. This doll's right wrist is chipped and very stiff. It won't last long:
The body has good side-to-side and rotational torso movement, but very little front-to-back flexibility.
Her lower torso joint can rotate a full 360 degrees...
|...but probably shouldn't.|
The hips are not super-flexible. This is the best front-to-back split she can do:
|That's about my level of flexibility.|
And this is as far as her hips flex to either side:
The knee joints are funny. They are double-jointed, with a knee cap piece in the middle. The knees on this doll are very stiff and hard to move. She can kneel, though:
And she sits in a chair pretty well, although this position highlights how shockingly long her thighs are:
|Holy femurs, Batman.|
Many of the seams on this doll appear to be on the verge of splitting. It's hard to tell if they'll stay put or become a problem over time.
I love the way this body looks, but it is fragile and not anywhere near as flexible as a body with this number of joints should be.
Here's Jo next to Pullip Mir (type 4 body) and Pullip Shinku Rozen Maiden (type 3 body). Jo made the large-headed dolls a bit insecure.
|Psst...Shinku...what's the deal here? Do you see the size of her head?|
I assumed that my Momoko doll would be the closest match to a J-Doll. Indeed, Jo and "Mo" are very similar in height, Momoko's head is just slightly smaller:
|Hey, bighead, see if you can bend your wrist like this...|
Momoko's clothes are loose on Jo, though:
These two dolls have similarly stilted movement for their high level of articulation. They wanted to duke it out in a posing contest, and I could hardly argue.
Mo wins the forward split category:
Jo wins the sideways split category:
Jo also wins at making a very strange pose look good:
|We call this, "Dance of the Smashed Burtterfly"|
They both fail at the backwards bridge:
But they both win at this, whatever this is:
|Egyptians on Ice.|
The posing is comparable between these two dolls. What sets the J-Doll apart, in my opinion is her face. Poor Momoko's face does very little for me, while Jo's face is intriguing enough that I find myself forgiving many of her significant flaws:
I couldn't find any dolls that are able to share their wardrobe with Jo. Liv clothes are too big:
Barbie clothes are also too big, but this Barbie Basic dress fits Jo because it's super-stretchy and ultra-short. Next to Poppy (aslo wearing a Barbie Basic dress), you can see the size difference between these two dolls.
Still, since this was the only outfit that came even remotely close to fitting, I had to snap a few more pictures:
I haven't said anything about this doll's amazing pink hair. First of all, I love the antique pink color and the crimped style. The hair is wigged, and the rooting is appropriately thick for such a small doll. It's not especially soft hair fiber, but it handles well. It doesn't feel great, but it doesn't feel bad, either. It doesn't even really need to be brushed--it just looks good most of the time. It's a nice balance between voluminous and tame:
The hair holds its position in a way that allows it to add to the posing potential of the doll. For example, you can pull it out to one side as if the doll was running, and the hair will stay in place like that. It's almost like having another limb to pose:
Here are a few more pictures of Jo in her original outfit. I don't think the headband does much for her face or hair, but I tried it anyway:
This is how I like her best--with no collar, no black necklace, no belt and no headband:
Bottom line? This one is relatively simple. The type 3 Pullip body, despite its numerous joints, has a poor range of motion and some very fragile areas. The wrists on this doll will not last and the knees are very stiff and prone to falling apart. The head articulation is disappointing because the doll cannot look up or down at all. I would recommend choosing a J-Doll with a type 4 body instead. The type 4 body has rotating wrists, a head that can look up and down, and a more attractive knee joint.
Aside form an ill-fitting belt, stiff shoes and some darkly colored items that will stain the plastic body, the clothing on this doll is interesting and well-made. It isn't my favorite J-Doll outfit in terms of style, but it has creativity and some fun pieces. The purse, heart pendant and mismatched stockings are especially appealing.
My assessment of this doll would be almost identical to that of my Momoko doll if it weren't for this girl's lovely face and whimsical hair. Her large, realistic eyes and sweet expression prompt an emotional reaction in me that makes it much easier to overlook her flaws. I find myself reasoning that if she is displayed on the shelf and not posed too often, her wrists will be fine. In certain poses, she looks like the most flexible doll in the world, right? And why does she need to look up and down, anyway? Basically, I've been charmed into making excuses for her.
Like their large-headed Pullip relatives, the J-Dolls compensate for underwhelming bodies by having intricate, overdone outfits and fascinating faces. You can tip the balance of good and bad in your favor by finding a type 4 bodied doll with an outfit that you love. If the price is right, you'll have something pretty special. How do I know? I took my own advice. Here is my second J-Doll, Vasterlanggatan ($60, eBay). She has a type 4 body, a dress I adore, and another gorgeous face:
Her outfit is a short, flirty, multi-tiered wedding dress. The skirt has layers of satin, tulle and lace, while the bodice has an exquisite asymmetrical design that reminds me of an orchid or a lily:
She comes with a white purse and a sprig of white flowers.
Her hair is a zany mix of gravity-defying curls and twists. It is a little messy in places, but the total effect is great.
She is dramatically more posable than Josephsplatz.
This doll is a keeper.
15 and up, per the box. Fragile doll with lots of small pieces.
The price I paid seems fair. I would give Jospehsplatz an ideal price of $40 (I would give Vasterlanggatan a higher value at $60-100).
The doll’s face is beautiful. Realistic inset eyes and nice face paint. While the wigged hair isn’t extremely soft, it is very easy to manage and looks great. Her outfit is creative and fun and is made fairly well. It leaves some dark staining on the doll’s body. The type 3 body is frustrating. Despite 21 joints, the doll can’t pose very well. Her wrists are chipped and extremely fragile. She can’t look up and down. Her knees are stiff.
Overdone. The doll and all of her accessories are very securely attached to the cardboard. It takes a while to de-box these dolls carefully.
Yes. Some of the J-Dolls seem to be rare and increase in value. Don't always trust the eBay price, though.
A J-Doll with a type 3 body is best for display and limited manipulation. The type 4 body offers much more posing potential, although none of these dolls are intended for young children or for play. I did not find a reliable source of extra clothes--some Momoko, Barbie and Liv items will fit, but are baggy. The clothes are a big part of a J-Doll’s artistic statement, so perhaps there’s little need for redressing.
I would cautiously recommended Josephsplatz (for the right price) because of her lovely face and cute outfit, but her body is almost a deal- breaker. I feel more confident about recommending J-Dolls after purchasing Vasterlanggatan. If you love a particular outfit and the doll has a type 4 body, she could be well worth $60-80. J-Dolls offer a nice option for collectors who admire Pullip’s body and quirky fashions but are turned off by that enormous head.