Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Figuring Out Phicen (Part 1): Finding a Head for
a Phicen S01A Pale Body

I had my first experience with a Phicen Super-Flexible Seamless body back in the winter of 2015.  Ever since my review of that doll (Leila, a stainless steel S01 figure) I've been considering another Phicen purchase.  In fact, I bought another doll while I was reviewing Leila, but I sent her back immediately because I did not like the body shading or the head sculpt.  I always assumed I'd give the brand another try, but there have been some obstacles along the way.

The first obstacle was that my older Phicen body is not holding up very well.  I was never able to get the pencil stains off her leg, and her soft body has continued to separate along the side seams.  Another hurdle is that the newer Phicen bodies do not come with heads...and Phicen doesn't sell heads separately.  In theory, I was happy to purchase a head from a different company, but it's not so easy to tell which heads will go with which bodies, and the Phicen pale bodies seem particularly difficult to match.

My mission for this review was to order a new stainless steel pale body and then find it a head.  Sounds simple, right?   However, I'm not very good at keeping track of all the different types of Phicen body (or all of the different brands of heads, for that matter).  My inexperience led to a few blunders that took me off on some unexpected tangents.  By the time I figured out what was going on, I had way too many photographs for one post.  I decided to split my discoveries into several short parts: Part 1 will be my quest for a decent head for an S01A body.  Part 2 will feature a Phicen male body (and the selection of his head), and then Part 3 will look at two of Phicen's 6th generation female bodies...and a few more heads.  It's going to be a full-blown Phicen overload.

Phicen S01A body with middle-sized breast...and no head ($74.99).
ALERT: the realism of Phicen figures makes many of the following photographs unsuitable for the workplace or for young children.

Before I do anything else, let me explain why I ordered the S01A body for this review.  Phicen experts might think this was a silly decision because of how similar the S01A body is to Leila's S01 body.  And you're right--it was a silly decision.  Here's what happened:

I purchase my Phicen bodies from BigBadToyStore.  I love this store and have been shopping here since 2004--back when my kids were into Transformers.  When I ordered Leila, there were Phicen figures with stainless steel skeletons and Phicen figures with plastic skeletons.

BigBadToyStore made the distinction between dolls very clear by putting "stainless steel skeleton" in the titles of their product descriptions.  Here's Leila's description:

From BigBadToyStore.com
The plastic skeleton Seamless dolls available at that time (version 4.0) were distinguished by not having the words "stainless steel" in their titles, like this:

Plastic skeleton doll.
(From BigBadToyStore.com)
So, a few weeks ago when I visited the store to chose my new body, I figured my decision was between the S01A body (with "stainless steel skeleton" clearly in the title):

From BigBadToyStore.com
And the newer 6th generation body which--because there's no mention of stainless steel in the title--I assumed had a plastic-skeleton:

From BigBadToyStore.com
As it turns out, Phicen doesn't even make dolls with plastic skeletons anymore--they all have stainless steel.  I missed that memo.  So--long story short--I ordered the older S01A body simply because I thought it was the only option with a stainless steel skeleton.  I was wrong.

Still, I have no regrets about this blunder.  It gives us a chance to go back in time and see what Phicen was doing in 2015.

The S01A body comes in a simple cardboard box:


All of the critical information about the body is at the very top of the box:

Stainless steel skeleton, pale skin, middle-sized bust, S01A version.
The box fails to mention that there's no head included, but this is very clearly stated on the BigBadToyStore website.

The packaging is simpler with this body than it was with Leila.  Furthermore, while Leila came with a swimsuit, extra hands, instructions, and a head, the S01A has no accompanying extras:


The body was enclosed within a two-sided molded plastic insert:


I noticed two things about this body right off the bat.  First, the skin tone is extremely pale.  I mean, it's almost blindingly pale.  Also, there's some peculiar shading on the torso that wasn't present on Leila...and my doll's shading is crooked:

It looks like an upside-down pitch fork.
Here's Leila with the S01A body:

Phicen S01 (left) and S01A (right) pale bodies.
From what I can tell, the two bodies have exactly the same design and shape.  However, Leila looks yellow next to the S01A.  I can't say for sure if Leila has yellowed over the years, or if she came this way.

She looks less yellow in person--and also looks pretty normal when she's not standing next to the S01A body:


If I compare this picture to a picture I took of her right out of the box, any differences are subtle:

Leila right out of the box (left) and Leila now (right).

The newly de-boxed Leila might have had more of a pink tinge to her skin than Leila currently has, but it's really hard to tell.  It could just be slightly different lighting.

Speaking of lighting, my grey backdrop often accentuates the yellow in objects, so I took these two bodies outside for a few quick pictures so that you see how they look in different light conditions.

Here they are in the sun (where yellows tend to be stronger):

Phicen S01 (left) and S01A (right).
And here they are in the shade (where everything's a little blue and yellows are muted):

Phicen S01 (left) and S01A (right).
In person, both colors are good.  The new pale color is a bit too pale, in my opinion, but it tends to photograph better than the old color.

You can see that the pencil marks are still on Leila's legs...


...and she has several new rips in her soft body covering:

It looks like that whole seam is eventually going to separate.
This body, like the S01, has rubbery fashion feet that cannot support the doll's weight.  It's disappointing that such a posable figure can't stand on its own.  I balanced the body up against a Hot Toys stand:


Since odd-looking body shading was one of the things that prompted me to return the last Phicen doll I ordered, I was sad to see that this body has shading, too.

There's shading on the breasts, torso, knees and back.  I like the shading on the back--it looks very natural:


But the line down the middle of the belly is weird...and poorly-placed:


The knee shading also looks out-of-place to me:


The shading isn't as bad as I remember it, though, and so I decided to keep this body and persist with my mission to find her a head.

I won't go into any detail about how this body moves.  It's almost exactly the same as Leila's body (which you can read about here).  There are a few minuscule differences in the way the bodies feel and move, and I'm not sure if these are the result of a change in design, or just the random difference between two dolls.  For what it's worth: the S01A joints hold their positions a little better and the skin-like covering feels more substantial in several places.  Both of these observations are most noticeable in the knees.

I dressed the body in Leila's blue swimsuit in oder to keep the photographs a little more modest: 


The first thing I did was remove Leila's head and remind myself what the neck joint looks like:


The head has a small cylinder of vinyl inside.  This piece snaps around the stainless steel ball at the top of the body.  For lack of a better term, I'm going to call this the "neck connector piece."  Very high-tech terminology, I know.

Here's the S01A body wearing Leila's head:

S01 head on an S01A body.
The head fits perfectly, but the colors do not match:

S01 head on an S01A body.
Leila's head is yellower than the new body.

S01 head on an S01A body.
I was hoping that even if I couldn't find a head for the new body, at least I could use it as a replacement body for Leila.  I guess that's not going to happen.


For another quick comparison, here's Leila's head back on the original S01 body:

Pretty good head-hand match.
And here's a side-by-side view of Leila's head with the new body (left) and her original body (right):


Without Leila's head as a backup, I was even more nervous about finding the right head for the S01A. 

I don't know much about the other companies that make action figures or action figure heads.  I've heard several names thrown around over the years (Kimi, Kumik, Super Duck) but I have no personal experience with any companies besides Phicen, Hot Toys, Star Ace and Otaku.

I ended up selecting my heads by just going to eBay and typing "Phicen pale head" into the search window.  I was curious to see how well I could do with very little knowledge or research.

The first head I ordered is by Dreamer.  I bought this head on eBay from a Massachussets-based seller called Bubbly-Bubble.  This seller seems to have reasonable prices ($36.95) and fast, free shipping.


The description for this head was "Asian Beauty Female Head Sculpt For 12" Hot Toys Phicen Pale."  Sounds good, right?


The head came in a white cardboard box with a black plastic insert:


The head was wrapped in a plastic bag and held in place with a piece of clear tape.

Here she is out of the packaging:

Dreamer DR001 Asian female head.
The first thing I did was check the inside of her head to see if the attachment site looked compatible with my S01A body.  

It looks pretty similar to Leila's head:


The new head has a ridge inside the vinyl neck connector that I don't see on Leila's head, but the openings look about the same size:

Phicen head (left), Dreamer head (right).
The indentation surrounding the neck connector is deeper on the Dreamer head than it is on Leila's head.  This might cause the head to sit too low on the neck.

I bought this head because it was one of only three options listed as appropriate for a Phicen pale body.  I also really like the expression on this face.  She's serene and pretty:

Dreamer DR001 Asian female head.
She reminds me of Liv Tyler.

I'm going to name each head as I introduce it--just so I can quickly and easily identify everyone.  I considered the name Liv for this head, but I think I'll go with Nora.  There's a Nora vibe in those peaceful features.

Nora came with a shiny spot on her nose that's faintly visible in pictures and in real life.

She has dark eyes, pink frosted lips, and pink eye makeup:


The white accents on her lips are distracting to me.  Maybe the lips are meant to seem wet, but the white areas don't look quite right.  I wish the upper lip was as uniformly-painted as the lower lip:


Nora has long dark brown hair.  The hair certainly feels much nicer than Leila's hair, but it still has a synthetic dryness to it.

Some of the hair at the top of her head is pulled back into a tight rubber band.  The hair is mostly straight, but there's a big wave running through the middle--presumably from time spent folded up in a small box:


The hair underneath the small ponytail is thin, and there's a patch of scalp exposed:


These heads tend to be made out of two pieces: a face and a rooted scalp.  The seam between Nora's face and scalp has a wide gap:


Also, her right ear is ragged around the edges.  It looks like a small mammal has been chewing on it:

Tasty.
Despite these little flaws, I think Nora has a lovely face.  Here she is with her hair pulled back:


She has a creamy complexion with lightly-blushed cheeks.  There's no painted texture or freckling on her skin.


If I ignore the white patches on her mouth, I see that her lips have a nice, full shape and some realistic lined detail:


She has a small paint smudge on the underside of her nose, but I only noticed this as I was looking at  pictures.

Nora has very dark blue-grey painted eyes.  Her gaze is a little bit wonky, but there's a lot of detail in and around the eyes--including some red capillaries in the scleras:


Here's a better look:


Honestly, I don't think that the capillaries are necessary.  The combination of those and the pink eyeshadow make Nora look like she's been crying--at least from up-close.  On the other hand, it's pretty incredible that somebody was able to paint those lines into such a tiny space.

The light rings around Nora's pupils also look odd, but I suspect that without them, the pupils would not be distinctive enough against the dark irises.

After I inspected all of the details on Nora's head, I tried to attach her head to the Phicen body.  

It didn't fit:


In these pictures, Nora is holding her own head in place with one hand.


I tried to position her hands and arms near her face so that we could get a good sense for how well the two colors match:


I think the match is pretty great.  Nora's skin tone is ever-so-slightly pinker than the body, but I can't imagine a much better match than this.

Look at her elbow, though:

It looks bruised or dirty.
That stainless steel skeleton is threatening to poke itself right through the thin skin covering:

Yow.
I'd love to keep this body free of rips and stains, but this could make it hard.

I devised a method for testing the head color that I like to call the Headless Horseman Test.  It looks like this:


This pose aligns the head with belly of the doll--where there's a lot of skin.  I'm going to declare that this test has a 5-point scale as follows:

The Headless Horseman Test
1 = Amazing fit!  That head clearly just came from that body.
2 = Pretty good.  The head can't have been severed for very long.
3 = I guess it'd work in a pinch, but there's something suspicious about that head.
4 = Not at all convincing.  That's clearly someone else's head.
5 = What??!  Freaky and unsettling.  Stuff of nightmares.

Let's look at that picture again and see how Nora rates:

That's a solid 1.
Yep.  Still looks good to me.

Because Nora's head is such a good match for the Phicen body, I made one last effort to get the head to fit onto the body.

The little cylindrical neck connecting piece actually comes out of the head:

It wasn't glued in place.
With the head out of the way, I was able to put a lot of pressure on this piece, trying to snap it down over the neck:


It didn't work.  

I decided that I'd look at the other heads first (just in case all of them have fit issues like this) and then come back later to try some modifications.  It might be as simple as heating up that vinyl neck connector to make it fit.

In the meantime, let's look at the second head that I ordered.  This head was also from the Bubbly-Bubble store.  I like that this shop includes the appropriate skin tone in their auction titles.  The head was described as a "European American Female Head Sculpt For Hot Toys Phicen PALE" and the auction photo actually shows the head on a Phicen body.  Score!

The head arrived in a plain white cardboard box:


It's marked "DSTOYS," which I'm not at all familiar with:

NOT A TOY...brought to you by DSToys.
Inside the box, the head was protected with a cushion of black foam:

She's a redhead!
It was also sealed inside a small zip bag:


Even before I looked at the face on this head, I checked the neck connector.  It looks the same as Nora's:


And it also comes out of the head easily--no glue involved:


Here's Nora's neck connector next to the new one:

DSToys neck connector (left), Dreamer neck connector (right).
I was not encouraged by this comparison, although the new piece looks like it has a slightly smaller ridge of vinyl on the inside.

Anyway--here's the head!

$38.50 (shipped).
This head has a pouty, sassy expression and wonderful red hair.  The mold is a lot like Kumik's Avril Lavigne mold:


I'm much more familiar with the Kumik name, and so I wonder if my head is a copy?  I'm just taking a guess here.  I like my head's red hair, though, and I appreciate that she was advertised as matching the Phicen pale body.  I'll investigate this further in Part 3.

As a nod to Ms. Levigne, I'll stick with an "A" name and call this head Astrid:


Astrid's hair is a great color, and I like the curls.  The fiber feels good (slightly better than Nora's hair) but I'm nervous about brushing this hair because I don't want the curls to get too frizzy.


The hair feels thick, but the rows of rooting are spaced about a half inch apart.  This leaves some bald areas at the back of the head:


As we'll see, though, this is actually pretty nice rooting for an action figure head.

Astrid has a tight, clean seam between her face and her rooted scalp:


Her ears are very realistic with no chewed edges:


In the eBay pictures, I thought this head looked moody.  In person, though, I really appreciate her personality.


She has dark blue eyes and coral lips:


The precision and detail in the eye paint is amazing.  I especially love the delicately feathered eyebrows:


In profile, the eyes look like they're bulging out from under the lower lid, though:

That makes me uncomfortable.
Astrid does not have as much lined detail in her lips as Nora does.  The bright coral color is not my favorite shade of makeup, either, but it looks good with red hair:


Astrid's skin has some faint freckled texturing.  It's not on the same level as Hot Toys' Rey by any means, but it's a really nice touch:


The freckling is hard to photograph, though.  Maybe this angle shows it better?


I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Astrid's neck connector piece fits onto the Phicen body:


I guess that internal ridge was just small enough to allow the piece to snap on.

However, I don't think Astrid is a good match for the Phicen body:


The head is noticeably darker than the body, for one, but the head also seems too small for the body.  Now I'm really curious about the size of Kumik's Avril head because I know that copies tend to be smaller than the original.

Even the volume of Astrid's hair can't compensate for the small head size:


Also, underneath all of that hair, the fit of the head on the neck is not perfect:


There's a gap between the bottom of the head and the start of the neck:



Here are a few picture with Astrid's hands and arms posed close to her face so that you can see the color contrast:


The pale body brings out the green in Astrid's complexion...and this is not flattering.


Toy Box Philosopher

It's not a terrible match, but it looks like Astrid's head is always in the shadows.  It's not.  It's just darker than the body.


And finally, here's the Headless Horseman Test:

That's a 2.  The head's been severed for a while.
Here are Nora and Astrid together:

Dreamer head (Nora) and DSToys head (Astrid).
I like both of these heads on their own.  I like Astrid a little better than Nora, though.  She has red hair, for one, but she also has some life in her eyes and a lot of personality in her mouth.  Best of all, her face paint is really well done.  She's a higher-quality head overall.  I'm a little sad that Astrid's coloring and size was not a good fit for the Phicen body.

On the bright side, I was able to use Astrid's neck connector to attach Nora's head to the Phicen body...and she looks great!

review

The head lines up with the neck, too.  There's no gap:


Happily, the deep indentation around Nora's neck connector does not cause the head to sit too low on the neck.  It's a great fit.

Moving along, here's the next head that I found on eBay:


This is a Super Duck head:


She's packaged much the same way as Nora was, with a black plastic insert and some tape securing the head:


This head's neck connector has a very prominent ridge that makes me nervous about the fit:


I'm also not quite sure what to think about the head itself:


The eyes look more alien than Asian to me.

I bought this head on eBay and it traveled all of the way from China.  It cost $37.98 with free shipping.  I bought it because the description read: "Asian Female long Hair Head SDH001-B For 12" Phicen Pale Body."

She looks a little bit like Keira Knightly to me for some weird reason (but has no association).  I think I'll name her Kiley--to remind me of Ms. Knightley:

Super Duck SDH001-B head.
Kiley has medium-length brown hair that--like Nora's hair--is set into a large wave because of the confined packaging:


This hair fiber is synthetic and a little rough.  The rows of hair are widely-rooted and there's a large bald patch near the top of the head:


This hair is not as nice as Nora or Astrid's hair, but it's still better than Leila's hair.

Kiley has a well-fitted seam between her face and her hair:


And her ears are very realistic:


I wanted to like this face more than I do.  The eBay pictures are quite beautiful.  In the end, Kiley's wide-set eyes and open mouth create a more goofy appearance than I'd have predicted.

Toy Box Philosopher

Because Kiley was made by Super Duck, I keep thinking about Duckface from Four Weddings and a Funeral.  That's not helping.


It's hard to pinpoint what the problem with this head is, though. The partially-open mouth is well-painted and the lips are very realistic:



The dark brown eyes and eyebrows are also well done, with no defects and a lot of excellent detail:


I think that's actually the best eye paint of all the heads that I've bought so far.  It's a gorgeous eye.  Perhaps the eyes are just too large?

Or maybe my lukewarm reaction to Kiley's head is because it didn't end up fitting on the Phicen body...and looked ridiculous in the process of trying:


The skin tone match is pretty good, but the fit is terrible:



I could not get this head to snap onto the Phicen neck.  Also, the neck connector is glued in place, so I couldn't just pop it out and replace it with Astrid's connector.

I got out a sharp kitchen knife and shaved a little bit of vinyl away from the ridge that's just inside the neck connector.  This took about 10 seconds and...

review

The head fits now!  I repeated this procedure with Nora's neck connector.



It's clearly not a perfect skin tone match, and the head seems a little small for the body, but it's not a bad option overall:

Toy Box Philosopher


Here's the Headless Horseman Test:

I'd call that a 1.5 or 2.
Here are Nora, Astrid and Kiley all together:

Dreamer head (Nora), DSToys head (Astrid), Super Duck head (Kiley).
To summarize: Kiley is a better skin tone match for the Phicen S01A pale body than Astrid is, and her head size is also slightly more appropriate for the body (though still a little small).  I like Astrid's face mold better, though.  Nora is the best skin tone match so far, and her larger head goes well with the body.

Nora and Kiley's neck connectors did not fit the body right out of the box, but it only took me seconds to shave a bit of vinyl out of each neck connector to make it fit.

This next purchase was a little random.  In my search for pale heads, I encountered a new face from VeryCool that I thought was quite beautiful...and looked pale in promotional photos.  Here's a snippet of the VeryCool promotional picture so that you can see what I mean:


She looks gorgeous and very pale, right?  I took a chance and purchased this head on eBay for $43.  

The head actually comes with its own VeryCool FX04-a body:


This body is almost identical to the Hot Toys Rey body.  It just has larger (strange-looking) breasts, bare feet, and different coloring.


I was only interested in the head, though:


I had no reason to think that this head would fit a Phicen body, let alone match the pale skin tone, but the face looked so gorgeous online, I wanted to try.

The neck connector looks like it might fit.  Good start:


And the face is very pretty.  Maybe not as amazing as it looked online, but certainly pleasant and carefully-painted.

VeryCool Asian head sculpt.
I will call this head Mina (remember when I got this name from a random name generator during a Sunday Surprise?  I really like it).

The hair is great--very silky and smooth.  Definitely the best hair fiber of the bunch so far.


The rooting is sparse, though.  There's a huge bald area at the top of the head:


Mina's mouth has a slight underbite in profile, but the seam between her face and hair is excellent:


She has nice ears:


I like Mina's calm eyes and the hint of asymmetry in her smile.  Her features look very familiar to me, but I can't place the resemblance.

Toy Box Philosopher


She has thick lips with no molded detail.  The lips are a natural shade of apricot-pink:



It's a little hard to see in the photos, but Mina has some painted freckling on her skin, too:


In fact, it looks like a few drops of freckle paint got into the whites of her eyes by accident:


There's no way those little specks are visible from a distance, though.  For the most part, the eyes are expertly painted with warm, dark colors and some shading to create the illusion of depth.  The little band of peach paint at the top of the eye is the only thing I would change.  This area stands out from a distance and doesn't look quite right.

Mina has an attractive face.  However...

...that face does not work on a pale Phicen body at all:

review

It's not even close.


The head snaps onto the body easily (and fits pretty well)...


...it's just too small and several shades too dark.  The coloring is also in the wrong spectrum.  

Furthermore, I feel like the ill fit just makes Mina's serene face look startled and confused:

Toy Box Philosopher

As for the Headless Horseman Test?

I suppose it could be worse, but that's a stolen head.
Solid 4.
Here are all of the heads together:

Dreamer head (Nora), DSToys head (Astrid), Super Duck head (Kiley), VeryCool head (Mina).
The last head that I bought for this part of the review was an Emma Watson head...Emma Watson 2.0, apparently:

New and improved Emma Watson.
Again, I had absolutely no reason to think that this head would work on a pale Phicen body.  In fact, I felt pretty sure that it would have a suntan skin tone.  However, the auction photos clearly show the head on a Phicen body of some kind, so there was a small possibility that it would work.

With so much uncertainty, why did I buy this particular head?  Well, let's just say that Emma Watson will feature prominently in my next little series of reviews, and I thought this realistic head might offer an interesting contrast to the alternatives.  I'll leave it at that.  Those of you who know my tastes will, certain as the sun, know what I'm talking about.

This version of Ms. Watson is from eBay ($39) and is not identified as coming from any specific company.  I think it was made by Modular Art:


The neck connection site looks familiar:


I'd say that this head clearly resembles Emma Watson, but I don't love the color choices that were used in her face-up:

Modular Art Emma Watson 2.0 head.
In particular, the paint around her eyes makes her look buggy and vacant.

As an aside: Star Ace has a new 1:6 teenaged Hermione Granger figure coming out soon (or eventually--there have been a lot of delays) and so I'm very curious to see how this head mold will compare to that one.

Emma has light brown hair that's styled in long layers with a side part.  The hair fiber feels very good--smooth and fun to play with.


The rooting is reasonably generous on this head, too.  It's certainly denser than the other heads I've looked at:


The seam between Emma's face and hair is wavy.  This is probably more realistic than a straight line, but I don't think it looks very good on a plastic head:


Also, there's a large gap in this seam along the left side of Emma's face:


Notice the blemish along the top of her left ear, too.

The right ear looks better:


I like the expression on this face (it's very true to the actress) but it's the lowest-quality head that I've looked at.

Toy Box Philosopher

There are scuffs and imperfections all over the vinyl--some of them only visible under the magnification of the camera lens.


The asymmetrical smirk is wonderful, but I don't like the peachy-orange color of the mouth:



The lip color isn't that bad, actually.  I think I react negatively to it because the same color has been used to line the eyes...and this does not look good.  The pink-rimmed eyes make Emma look like she's having an allergic reaction something...or has a bad eye infection.


Also, the paint brush strokes around her eyes are large and crude compared to some of the other heads we've seen:


And several of the painted eyelashes have smudges at the tips.

Keep in mind how small these heads are, though.  While the eye paint looks sloppy up close, it's much more convincing from a distance.

Emma's neck connector didn't snap easily onto the Phicen body:


So I borrowed Astrid's neck piece again...and then the head fit perfectly:


As predicted, Emma's head is quite a bit darker than the Phicen body:



I like this head better when it's on a body, though.  The personality of the face really comes alive on a dynamic body:

Toy Box Philosopher

The size of this head is a good match for the S01A body, too.



I can't purchase any more Phicen bodies right now, but I would love to try this head on the S02A (suntan skin tone).

I think Emma gets a 3 on the Headless Horseman Test:

Definitely suspicious.
I got out my very smallest paint brush and tried to paint over the bright pink parts of Emma's eyes--first with white paint and then with brown:


It's ridiculously hard to paint something this small without magnifying glasses.  I did a terrible job, but I might come back and try this again later.  I think it could help:

Maybe if I use a dark pink color?
So...here are all of the heads:

Dreamer (Nora), DSToys (Astrid), Super Duck (Kiley), VeryCool (Mina), Modular Art (Emma).
I've arranged these heads with a few different rankings.  In each category, 1 is best and 5 is worst.

Hair (fiber quality + rooting)
1. Emma (Modular Art)
2. Mina (VeryCool)
3. Astrid (DS Toys)
4. Nora (Dreamer)
5. Kiley (Super Duck)

Quality of face paint
1. Astrid (DS Toys)
2. Mina (VeryCool)
3. Kiley (Super Duck)
4. Nora (Dreamer)
5. Emma (Modular Art)

Face mold (realism and personality)
1. Emma (Modular Art)
2. Astrid (DS Toys)
3. Mina (VeryCool)
4. Nora (Dreamer)
5. Kiley (Super Duck)

Quality of head construction
1. Mina (VeryCool)
2. Astrid (DS Toys)
3. Kiley (Super Duck)
4. Nora (Dreamer)
5. Emma (Modular Art)

Here's another lineup that includes Leila--my Phicen head:

Toy Box Philosopher
Phicen (Leila), Dreamer (Nora), DSToys (Astrid), Super Duck (Kiley), Modular Art (Emma), VeryCool (Mina).
And finally, the most important ranking of the day...which head fits the Phicen S01A body the best?  Here's my verdict:

Phicen S01A body compatibility:
1. Nora (Dreamer DR001)
2. Kiley (Super Duck SDH001-B)
3. Leila (Phicen S01)
4. Astrid (DSToys D-005)
5. Emma (Modular Art Emma Watson)
6. Mina (VeryCool Asian)

Here are the top three new heads, in order:

Dreamer (Nora), Super Duck (Kiley), DSToys (Astrid).
So, the winner is Nora!  She is now the proud owner of a Phicen S01A body:

Toy Box Philosopher

I think this head looks great.  It's not the best head I looked at, sure, but I'm still really happy to have found it.


I lavished a bit of extra attention on Nora after all of the comparisons were over.  First, I removed the rubber band from her hair and brushed it out:


As I suspected (from the bits of scalp peeking through the hairstyle) the rooting density is low, especially at the top of the head:


The hair is thick towards the front of the head, though, and that bald patch doesn't show very often.


This girl has plenty of hair:

Toy Box Philosopher

I gave Nora's hair a quick boil wash to see if I could remove the wave:


The hair fiber is stiff, but I think it looks better without a big bend in the middle:


After Nora's hair was dry, I re-dressed her in a black Super Duck gown:


This gown came with a small gun for some reason:


I'm not much of a gun person, but the dress really suits Nora:


The gown came with shoes, too, but they don't fit over Nora's squishy feet.  I really wish that this body could stand on its own.  It would have such incredible posing capabilities!



Toy Box Philosopher

Well, that brings us to the end of the first part of the Phicen saga.  I'm delighted to have fulfilled my mission by finding a head worthy of the beautiful S01A body.  

I don't have many comments about the body itself.  There are a few differences between the S01 and the S01A bodies, but I'm not sure how many of these are incidental and how many are intentional.  The S01A color is lighter and less yellow than the S01 color.  The S01A also has some contour shading on the body that the S01 does not have.  Those are the only concrete differences I can point to, though.  The other things are more nebulous--like the fact that the S01A joints feel tighter or that the skin covering seems a bit thicker and more durable in some places.  I really can't say for sure if these things are noteworthy or just the manufacturing differences between two bodies.  Admittedly, I'd been hoping for a few more changes and improvements in the Phicen design, but I'm still happy to have an unstained, un-ripped version of this gorgeous body.

I really enjoyed looking at the different heads in this review.  Even though Nora won the privilege of taking over this particular Phicen body, several of the other heads will remain in my collection.  The Astrid head is probably my favorite of the bunch.  I love her sassy expression and wild red hair.  I also think that--despite some flaws in quality--the Emma head has potential.  This is the head that I would most like to see repainted.  Emma has beautiful hair and a face mold that does credit to Ms. Watson and all of the memorable characters she has portrayed.  Last, I'm happy that Mina, the VeryCool head, came with her own body.  I think she'll make a lovely figure--she just needs to keep her head away from my Phicen bodies.

As much fun as I had with this part of the review, I feel like I'm left with more questions than answers.  First and foremost, I want to know what the newest Phicen bodies look like...and whether any of those skin tones match the heads I've purchased.  I also want to know if the new bodies have any significant design or quality improvements.  My exposure to the heads in this review has also prompted a fascination for action figure heads in general, and an interest in the companies that are making (or copying?) them.  I realize now that this post probably should have featured at least one head from Kumik and Kimi (two of the bigger action figure names)...especially since my Astrid head is similar to Kumik's tribute to Avril Lavigne.  I'll remedy these omissions in Part 3.

I've fallen down the rabbit hole with this review.  By that, I mean that I've become transfixed by a doll subculture.  It's taken over my brain...and I love it.  To me, this is the most exciting thing about doll collecting.  No matter how much I think I understand about a certain small segment of any doll or action figure community, there's always another level of depth.  I know I won't be able to find the answers to all of my questions, or reach any kind of complete understanding about Phicen or any other action figure company...but for the next two segments of this review, I'm certainly going to try.

Toy Box Philosopher

26 comments:

  1. I would have probably just stopped after the 3rd head and went with Nora, I felt like she was/is the best match after I seen first seen her. The Nora head is really pretty though her face shape is a little too pointed to me. I can't believe the Emma Watson head though! It looks alot like her! I can't wait to see your up coming Emma themed review *wink wink* been hoping for one from you.

    Looking forward to seeing the rest of your phicen reviews, though I'm not totally a fan of the brand. It is interesting to look more into that side of collecting. Also, you got a new doll/figure you could look more into the VeryCool brand, the body did look a lot like HotToys maybe it's just as fun? Did look interesting and it was very much of a let down that the head wasn't as pretty as in the promo pic. I hate when that happens! The promo pic must have been of a customized head.

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  2. I think the Mina head kinda looks like Jessica Alba. My favourite is the Astrid head, I hope yo can find a body for it.

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    1. That's exactly who I thought too! It really does!

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    2. That's what I came to comment!

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  3. Awesome review! I agree with you, Nora is definitely the best! In fact, I'm the last photos in looks as though that is the her(the body's) original head!

    As a side note, would you potentially elaborate on how you do the boil wash? I would love to know how!

    Thanks for another great review!

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  4. Such a great, thorough review! And to me, Mina resembles Olivia Munn.

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  5. This is a really fantastic review! I honestly knew very little about these dolls, but your pictures were very in-depth and interesting! I'm quite fond of Nora, but maybe that's just because her personality shines through so much with the body match. And personally, the Mina head reminds me quite a bit of Scarlett Johansson, feature wise.

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  6. This was a really interesting review. Though I only want to collect in playscale and am not going into the action figure direction, it's good to see what's available for those who prefer that. It's disappointing that Phicen doesn't just sell heads to go with bodies but Nora looks good on the body you have.
    (I think Riley would look better with her hair brushed back and a bit teased to balance out the size of her face.)
    The Phicen body is beautifully realistic but because of the issues you're having with them I'm thankful that I can settle for jointed doll bodies that are more basic like those given to Liv dolls.
    I'm curious though; why are action figure dolls so realistic? Do collectors use them in animation or to recreate scenes ?
    Looking forwards to the next Phicen review :).

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    1. They are so articulated so people can set up/reenact scenes, they are more realistic, and usually people will want a perfect replica(including the movements). They are also sometimes used in animation or stopmotion.
      -Genya

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    2. Thanks Genya, I figured that since there are so many clothes and accessories sold for those dolls they were likely doing more than just standing on a shelf but I wasn't sure.

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    3. No problem ;)
      -Genya

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  7. Hi there! I was shown this blog on Reddit through a thread about people who like to browse lesser-known websites. I always have loved fashion dolls, so I've been reading your blog during downtime in my night class.

    I got to your Miraculous doll review and I'm just starting it, but I wanted to let you know that in America, Miraculous has been moved to Netflix; Nickelodeon has dropped it for reasons unknown. (It was getting great ratings!) Nickelodeon just seems to hate any show that isn't SpongeBob SquarePants, it seems.

    Thanks for your time! :)

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  8. Those hints towards a future review! I'm very excited! It's no wonder that her name means beauty...

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  9. I'm impressed with how natural the Phicen bodies look! Have you been able to find shoes for poor Nora?

    I find something incredibly endearing about Kiley's face. I guess maybe it's her expression. She just looks so charmingly goofy and adorable!

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  10. Personally I feel that all of the heads are a touch out of scale. They all look a tad too small to compared to a normal human. Nora seems to be the biggest head and even hers is a touch too small. Maybe a 14" doll head would look better on the body?

    I am excited to see the generation 6 body! I have been following the company for years but never bought anything from them. If the Gen 6 body gets your stamp of approval, one will just have to join my doll collection :)

    Also, the Mina head is giving me some very strong Jessica Alba vibes.

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    1. Yes, i agree with you-- they all seem too small. I thought Jessica Alba also but then I doubted myself and looked at images of Scarlett Johansson's mouth. I went back to thinking Jessica Alba when I focused on the whole face. As for Emma Watson, I don't see a resemblance there. Between this and the Disney Belle mold her features seem to pose a challenge for sculptors.

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  11. Kiley's upper eye liner is throwing me off for how thick it is.

    Mina looks like a cross between Lea Salonga and Jessica Alba.

    "Well, let's just say that Emma Watson will feature prominently in my next little series of reviews"

    Oh boy. The dolls that have come out so far have been startlingly ugly. I've seen some in person, and can't make myself drop the cash. I'm also extremely disappointed in some of the confirmed changes to the story.

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  12. I-is it just me or is one of Emma's eyes lower than the other?? I can't stop seeing it and it's really ruining that head for me D:
    But this was a super interesting review and I can't wait for the other parts!!

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  13. Very interesting review! I actually like the head with the open mouth quite a bit. I'm not satisfied with how the eyeballs are done on most of these types of heads, unfortunately - I'd want to have the eyeballs repainted, probably. But most of the eyebrows, and eyelashes are lovely - as are the freckles. I'm not thrilled with the heads on the bodies, for some reason...maybe they just look too different from fashion dolls - the heads sit down far on the neck in an odd way. I think I'd need to have it in front of me and to play with it, to decide for sure how I feel about it. For her not being able to stand - get her a pair of really solid lace-up boots - even ankle high would probably do the trick! I'm looking forward to the next two parts! :>)

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  14. I was hoping you'd look at the infamous Belle doll! Hooray!

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  15. eek, too valley of the uncanny for me. All those decapitated heads... *shudder*
    gonna haunt my nightmares lol.

    Interesting variation though, nice to see so much variety in features and hair colours and such. And you gotta admire the engineering of a seamless body.

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  16. I'm glad you have found the right head for your headless body.

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  17. So interesting project! Thank you for share it with us.

    Have a great day.

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  18. I was on eBay and found a listing using one of your doll photos. I'm 99% sure it's not your listing. Just thought you should know. Here's the link:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/232250439024?ul_noapp=true

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  19. I was really excited to see another Phicen review! I'm always interested in dolls that have good posing abilities and your review of the first body fascinated me.

    On another note, I thought you might be interested in these dolls (and I'd love to see a review): http://www.herstorydoll.com/

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  20. I think the black dress and gun are supposed to be a copy of the Angelina Jolie outfit from the Mr and Misses Smith movie.
    Tali

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I value and welcome all opinions, but comments with abusive or offensive language will be deleted.