Sunday, May 15, 2022

Patron Post: Is This Blythe?

It is so easy to fall down rabbit holes in the doll world, isn't it?  Well, I've fallen down another one.  A really, really big one.  Bigger, even, than I suspected the first time I wrote this review (more on that in a sec)!  It all started with my wonderful Patron Katrina's suggestion that I look more in-depth at the Blythe universe.  I haven't purchased a Blythe doll in about ten years, and I've never written a formal review of the brand, so this was an excellent suggestion!  Today's review will not address authentic Blythe dolls, though, but rather a few of the enticing imitations that exist on the market.

As some of you might recall, the first version of this review featured an imitation Blythe doll that I purchased from the shop that took over Gina Garan's old website and is named after her iconic book, This is Blythe.  The doll was lovely, but she was significantly more expensive than similar dolls that I found as I was doing research for the review.  I stated this fact in my post, including my best explanation for the price difference, but this was apparently not okay with the shop--nor was my talking about their competitors in any way.  They asked me to edit the review to remove all mention of certain other retailers.  In hindsight, their request was ludicrous.  But they seemed nice at first, and I'm never looking to upset anyone, so I offered to try and help.  I stayed up until 3:00am one night (they're in a dramatically different time zone), emailing back and forth and changing the review to make them happy.  However, when I (finally) put my foot down and refused to edit and lock the comments section, they abruptly threatened to sue me--using private information that they'd obtained from my purchases.  That's not nice.  A quick Trustpilot search revealed that they have a history of threatening similar nonsense to other customers (including a fellow blogger).  I don't like bullies, so I didn't want to imply endorsement of this shop by featuring their products.  I do not recommend this shop.  After considering my options, I decided to delete the old review and write a new version using equivalent items that I bought from other retailers.  And it's a happy ending, because I had so much more fun this time around!

I didn't want to delete the old review without replacing it, because looking at imitation Blythe dolls is an important part of a bigger series of articles that I'm planning.  This is quite an exciting (and nerve-wracking!) time for the authentic Blythe brand because Hasbro recently severed its long-term connection with Takara/TOMY (the manufacturers of Blythe dolls) and has entered a new relationship with Good Smile Company.  Good Smile has a wonderful reputation in the figurine world (they make Nendoroids), but they do not have an extensive resumé in doll making.  So everyone's been waiting anxiously to see if the new Blythe dolls will be as good as the old.

Today's review will include an in-depth look at a girl I bought from Blythe Homes (an AliExpress vendor), and a more cursory look at a few similarly-priced dolls that I found at various other places.  I'll also throw in some terminology, market observations, and thoughts about what it means to be Blythe.  At a later date, I'll follow up with a review of an authentic Takara-made Blythe doll, and then compare her to a new Good Smile Company doll.  Are you ready for a review re-do?  I hope so!  Here we go again:

Imitation DBS Blythe doll from Blythe Homes, $35.20 (outfit not included).

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf

Monster High dolls were among the very first things that I reviewed ten years ago when this blog was brand-new, so they will always have a special place in my heart.  I delighted in their strange body proportions, excellent articulation, outstanding design, intricate accessories (those shoes!), and refreshing originality.  I've reviewed a lot of characters from this line over the years, both on my own and with the help of some wonderful guest reviewers.  When the brand was retired in 2017, I had mixed feelings.  In the year or two leading up to the cancellation, I had begun to grow weary of the overabundance of dolls on the toy store shelves.  The sheer number of characters made each individual doll feel less special.  And the dolls themselves were literally less special; the quality and attention to detail had begun to decline.  For the most part, the later dolls have simpler outfits, fewer accessories, more basic painted features, and lots of trouble with gluey heads and arms (or tails!) that fall off too easily.

After the dolls were gone, though, I missed them more than I thought I would.  Specifically, I missed the anticipation and excitement that surrounded the release of new characters.  There was always the chance that one of the new dolls would stand out from the pack.  Because the thing is, even as the overall quality and originality of the brand was declining, there were little bursts of brilliance.  Avea Trotter, for example, is still one of my favorite dolls of all time.  I also thought the Inner Monster series was a huge amount of fun.  There was a limited edition Draculaura released in 2015 who is beautiful (I owned her briefly), and the 2017 special edition of Zomby Gaga is incredible, too.  She's one of the rare dolls that I'll never sell.  So even though I coveted fewer and fewer Monster High dolls towards the end of their original run, the brand still had the ability to create some absolute treasures.

Over the last few years, mostly while I wasn't paying attention, hints started to swirl around that Monster High might reboot.  For example, in 2020, Mattel released a small series of movie-themed dolls (Pennywise and the Grady twins...covet!).  There was some buzz about a new animated television show and a new movie, too.  Then, finally, the official announcement came: new dolls would be released in 2022.  Despite the mixed feelings I'd had in previous years, I got very excited about this news; it was a chance to find some new treasures!  And the reboot wave looked like it might have some gems among it.  This group includes three collector's edition dolls; Draculaura, Frankie Stein, and Clawdeen Wolf.  Clawdeen has always been one of my favorite characters, so she's the one I chose:

Monster High Haunt Couture Clawdeen Wolf, $75.