Friday, May 27, 2022

Mermaze Mermaidz by MGA Entertainment

Whew!  My husband and I are finally finished with our whirlwind graduation tour of the East coast.  We had some absolutely incredible moments with our kids, but now I'm glad to be back in something that resembles a routine.  As usual, I have a billion things on my mind and in my review queue, and my slow self can't work fast enough to keep up.  The other problem is that I often get distracted by new and shiny things; today's review is a good example of that.

I was happily at work on a review that features a doll from a few years ago (there are a lot of those that I need to get caught up with!), but then a mundane trip to Target threw me completely off course.  I was doing a quick sweep of the doll aisles on my way to get some hand lotion, and was stopped in my tracks by a doll with hypnotic inset eyes.  She's one of the new Mermaze Mermaidz dolls from MGA Entertainment, and her name is Orra:

Mermaze Mermaidz Orra doll by MGA Entertainment, $44.99.

I've had mermaids on my brain on and off over the last few months because of Spin Master's Mermaid High line.  I really like Spin Master (they made the Liv dolls), but I wasn't completely blown away by the Mermaid High dolls or concept--it all seemed a bit generic.  I mean, how many "Fill-in-the-blank High" dolls does the world need?   However, Orra and her friends captivated me enough that I decided to jump into the mermaid craze with both feet.

Today I'll look at two of MGA's Mermaze dolls, and then in an upcoming review I'll compare those to a Mermaid High doll...and maybe a few other mermaids.

So far there are six Mermaze Mermaidz dolls.  There are these five regular girls that retail for $31.99 each:

Harmonique, Shellnelle, Kishiko, Riviera, and Jordie.
And then Orra is a special edition doll who is more expensive...but comes with fewer accessories.  More on that later.

I was drawn to all of the dolls, frankly, but Orra, Kishiko, and Jordie stood out to me most in the store.  Kishiko is special because of her hair.  It has a matte, yarn-like texture that reminds me of mohair.  It's arranged into a very elaborate braided style:

The twist of hair on her head looks like a unicorn horn!
This Kishiko has mismatched lower eyelashes, though, which maybe you can see in this picture:

Her right eyelashes are way too long.
As much as I love the unique look of Kishiko's hair, I was slightly more tempted by Jordie's overall aesthetic, so I purchased her and Orra for this review.  I'll look in depth at Orra, and then introduce you to Jordie more briefly at the end.

Orra came an unconventional window box with a large zig-zag cutout in the lower left hand corner:


The cutout allows for manipulation of the doll's tail, which doesn't seem like a great idea to me--particularly since I know this tail falls off without much effort.


I've seen so many Rainbow High dolls with missing accessories on the shelves at this point, I wonder if there will be a lot of Orra dolls with missing tails?  Time will tell.

Other than the gap in the box, Orra's packaging is attractive.  She's displayed in a swimming position, and her beautiful face is easy to see:


With any doll brand featuring inset eyes, I like to be able to see the faces clearly when I'm shopping--to avoid wonkiness.  Orra's eyes look well placed, and I didn't see any wonky-eyed dolls in the selection at my store.

One of the things that sets Orra apart from the regular Mermaze dolls is that she comes with a case of glitter hair gel:


I wasn't very interested in this accessory.  It's designed to be used on either the doll's hair or on real hair.  I didn't want to use it on Orra's hair for fear of making a huge mess, but it might be a fun thing for kids to use in their own hair.

The back of the box has some colorful photos of Orra and her color change tail (which seems to turn pure black when it's underwater):


Orra comes with a short, poetic, vague blurb about her personality:

Like haiku, but too long.
The lower part of the box has a photo of the other five dolls in the series:


And another short blurb:


I'm not 100% sure I understand the "Mermaze" part of this brand's title.  I guess it's supposed to be like the words "mermaid" and "amaze" combined--or that seems like the most likely explanation.  But all I can think about is mazes when I look at that word, and the dolls are not associated with mazes in any way (although I wish they were!).  "Mermazing" might have worked better--at least for me.  But not "Mermazeballs," please.

There's a perforated pull strip at the bottom of the box that looks like it might help with the opening process.  This was a welcome sign because MGA boxes can be horrendous to open:  


Sadly, the strip only works to expose a small compartment in the cardboard.  This contained two sheets of paper:

Yippee.
To actually get Orra out of the packaging, I had to work my way around the edges of the box, snipping all of the bits of tape that held the sides together, and unfastening the plastic tabs so that I could extract the cardboard backdrop.  Here's the backdrop on its own:

It took about five minutes to extract that thing.
Opening MGA boxes should be an Olympic sport.

As you might expect, Orra was held against the cardboard backdrop with a zillion (really tightly-placed) plastic ties.  It was such a pain to snip all of these:

Why do you do this to me, MGA??
I've said this so many times before, but I'll say it again: I totally get the benefits of this elaborate packaging.  The lovely presentation of this doll is exactly why she grabbed my attention when I was at Target.  But oh, man.  I wish there was a way to display the doll beautifully without so much complicated, hard-to-manage, landfill-destined plastic.

With all of the packaging out of the way and wrestled into either the garbage or the recycling, I was left with Orra, a small plastic brush, some plastic bobby pins, and the glitter hair gel.  Here's Orra with her smaller accessories:


The brush is larger than what comes with similarly-sized dolls, and is decorated with a big "M" on the back.  The bobby pins are simple and I had a hard time using them, so I set those aside:


The box of glitter hair gel feels quite heavy, and the colors are pretty but, again, I didn't end up using this:


A lot of other mermaid dolls on the market right now (Mermaid High in particular), have removable tails that reveal normal human legs.  In contrast, the Mermaidz have permanent plastic tails.  Orra's tail fin is shaped like an inverted cone, and so she can stand solidly on her own:


I love her coloring.  Her palette is relatively simple, with pinks and blues in her hair that match the pink in her painted outfit and the blue in her eyes.  And the color is balanced nicely by the dark grey in her tail.  It's all very cohesive and lovely.  Even better in real life than my pictures can capture:


The tail fin makes Orra quite tall, which is a good thing because her hair is super long!


The hair has a slight wave and falls almost to the floor:


Behind the hair, you can see that Orra's molded outfit has an open back:


Orra's hair and eyes are definitely her most striking features, so let's look at those first:


From a distance, Orra's hair looks thick and full, but the rooting pattern is on the thin side for a doll in this scale.  I could see this right away because the rooting is exposed by the pulled-back hairstyle:


The twisted section of hair reveals a patch of purple scalp right in the very front:


From the back you can see more clearly that she has a line of densely-rooted hair all around her hairline, but the plugs on the rest of her scalp are more widely spaced:


There's a rooted part along the top midline, and chunks of hair on either side of the part are pulled back and twisted into small ponytails:


Two (uneven) clumps of hair are left free from the twists at the very front of the part, and these are heavily gelled so that they're stiff and hard to maneuver: 


You can also see in the previous picture that Orra's hair twists are lopsided, with the left side drooping down more than the right.

If you look again at the front-on face shot I showed a minute ago, you can see the lopsidedness there, too:

Get your act together, Orra.
The hair is pretty messy for a $40 doll.

The thing that impresses me about Orra's hair is how many colors are in it!  There's pink, blue, purple, and white, and they're all delicately rooted in a random combination of individual plugs--not in big clumps of color:


The overall effect is beautiful:


The hair also feels nice and silky and is easy to brush--a lot like Rainbow High hair.

Orra's face reminds me a lot of Rainbow High, too.  It's just been shrunken down and laterally compressed--like a more realistic and grown-up version of the same features:


Here's a Rainbow High face for comparison:


I find the Mermaidz faces much more attractive.

She's also a bit like the Project Mc2 dolls, as one of my friends pointed out. The eyes are very similar!  Sadly, I no longer have any of those dolls around for comparison.

Orra has blue inset eyes rimmed with heavy cat-eyed liner and layers of pink, brown, and orange eyeshadow:


Her eyes have realistic iris details, and her strong eyebrows have individual hair lines drawn in:


Her upper eyelashes are rooted and her lower lashes are painted.

Her mouth has thick, shimmery pink lips that are slightly parted to reveal the white of some implied teeth:


The lips are painted a bit outside of the margin of the molded mouth, but this is extremely hard to see without a zoom lens.

Orra is serious and elegant...but I wish her hair wasn't so messy!  I'm also distracted by the gravity-defying tilt of her long earrings.  Chains don't hang at an angle like that:

Unless Orra's neck is magnetized.
The earrings are easy to remove and are molded out of metallic silver plastic.  They are shaped to look like a series of dangling chains:


Orra's entire outfit is molded to her body.  This is unusual for dolls on the market today (especially $40 dolls), but I think Orra is intended to be played with in the bath, so the clothing fits that intent nicely.

On the top of her body, she's wearing a halter top with molded scales and an ombre transition from pink to light grey:


The halter top covers very little of Orra's torso, since it angles in dramatically at the sides and has a scooping back:


Her tail is made out of a soft vinyl skin that's been layered over hard plastic.  The pattern in the vinyl is intricate, with a glittery dark grey chain-like decoration that's molded over smooth, shiny pink.  The bottom of the tail is all grey, with some smaller chain-shaped accents:


There's a defective section in the pink area of Orra's tail.  This spot has some missing paint and a trapped hair:


I really like the shape of the tail.  It's not completely symmetric, so it almost looks like there are two human legs underneath, moving against one another:


You can see in that previous photo that this doll has a small crease defect in the vinyl of her lower tail.  The crease doesn't disappear no matter how the tail is maneuvered.

Orra's articulation is mostly focused in the top half of her body, but she still has an impressive twelve joints!  I'll run through all of them quickly.

Her neck is a simple joint, so she can spin her head around, but not look up or down:


She can tilt her head a tiny bit from side to side, but the movement is so small that it's hard to capture in photographs.  It's basically a simple rotational joint with some side-to-side wobble.

Her shoulders are rotating hinges, and they can hinge straight upwards to about an 80 degree angle:


It's fun to play with the direction of the shoulder hinges, to create some more dramatic poses:


The shoulder joints also allow the arms to spin all of the way around:


The elbows and wrists are rotating hinges, but none of these joints can hinge to 90 degrees:


This limited flexibility prevents Orra from touching her face.  She can touch the side of her head, but she can't get a hand anywhere near her mouth:


This always frustrates me.  If you're going to put in the effort to make all of the arm joints rotating hinges, why not take a little extra time and shape the limb pieces so that the hands can touch the face?  It makes such a huge difference in expressiveness.  And the ability to eat.

The hands are designed to be removed, and they're easy to snap in and out:


I really like the realistic shape of the fingers, and the soft vinyl construction makes the hands pliable.


This doll has a small black stain on the thumb of her right hand.

Orra's upper torso joint can tip backwards...


...and forwards:


This joint also tips her body from side to side:



The movement in this area helps compensate for the fact that Orra's head can't look up or down. I found that I was always able to get her to look the way I wanted by using the flexibility of the torso.

The upper torso joint can also spin around:


But this position reveals some tiny numbers that are ill-placed on Orra's side:


Also, the halter top looks strange when Orra's torso joint is rotated since the molded patterns no longer connect.  But the top looks even more strange when the torso is rotated all of the way around until it's facing backwards!


Orra also has a lower torso joint at the intersection of her waist and her tail.  This is a pegged joint that can spin around:


Rotation at this joint is not necessary given the flexibility of the upper torso, and it doesn't look very natural:


It looks like a human torso moving around inside a mermaid-shaped box:


As with the upper torso joint, the waist joint can spin all of the way around until it's facing backwards:


Despite its full (and unnecessary) range of spinning motion, the hip joint doesn't hinge forwards or backwards at all.  This means that Orra can't sit.  I tried to get her to sit on the ground, but there's just no way:


In fact, attempting a sitting position caused Orra's tail to fall apart:

It does that a lot, as it turns out.
The detached tail highlights another one of Orra's joints.  Her tail fin hinges back and forth, and it can also split apart, with each side going in a different direction:

That's excellent for her balance.
I count the fin as having two points of articulation: the large hinge that connects the fin to the rest of the tail, and the hinge that allows the two sides to separate.

I skipped over one joint when the tail fin fell off, so let's go back and look at that.

The middle of the tail (essentially the knee joint) also has some hinge movement.  It allows the tail to bend backwards, like this:


And also forwards...which doesn't look very comfortable!

Do mermaids really bend like that?  Human's sure don't.
One good thing is that this forward movement allows Orra to sit (perch?) on the ground, which is kind-of nice, although not particularly elegant:


The tight vinyl covering on the tail puts a lot of tension on this joint, though, so it can't hold the most extreme bent position for very long before snapping back into a more straight alignment:


Once I understood all of Orra's joints, I tried to pose her and have some fun.


However, a few things about the hair were making her face hard to photograph.  First of all, that lopsided twist was making the hair look messy:


Also, the two crispy strands of hair at the front really wanted to cast shadows on Orra's face:


So, I decided to take the hair down:


It was hard to loosen the stiff strands at the front, but overall the hair is even nicer and easier to work with when it's down.



I also like the hair when it's loosely tied back away from Orra's face, like this:


For some reference, when Orra stands on her full tail, she's 14 inches tall, so about 2.5 inches taller than a Barbie like my Lena:

Mermaze Mermaidz Orra next to Signature Looks Lena.
Orra's inset eyes and head shape remind me a lot of Liv dolls, so I wanted to show a comparison of those two, as well:

Mermaze Mermaidz Orra with Liv doll Sophie.
You know I love Liv dolls, but I have to say that looking at Sophie next to Orra, Sophie looks pretty strange!  Her lack of hair doesn't help, for sure, but her eyes also look way more buggy and intense:

Orra looks very calm in comparison.
I like Sophie's overall head shape, though.  It's more realistic.  Orra's head expands quite a bit around her forehead and ends up looking like a balloon.

Maybe another reason that my brain turned to Liv dolls during this review is that back in 2015 I wrote a review of the Fin Fun mermaid tails, and used Hayden to model one of them:


The flexible Liv body allowed Hayden to strike all kinds of classic mermaid poses, and it was a delight to play with her in this setting:


(Incidentally, the Fin Fun site seems to be alive and well seven years later, which is great!)

And of course a lot of us probably think of this iconic Ariel shot when we think of mermaids:


Unfortunately, Orra can't strike any of these poses.  She can't even do a push-up:

She's like a seal.
She even struggles to prop herself up on one side.  Her tail fin snaps right off and most of the length of her tail doesn't even touch the ground:


What would Edvard Erikson say??

Public domain shot of Erikson's Little Mermaid sculpture.
The best she can do is to bend her knees in the wrong direction and prop herself up on one arm:


And this looks pretty good, especially from the waist up:


Most of Orra's posing capability is from the waist up.



Her long, dramatic hair is almost as much fun to play with as her joints!





I wanted to pose Orra in some swimming positions, too--showing at least a bit of her tail.  This one might be too literal...

Row, row, row your boat...
But these are a bit more dramatic:

My heart will go on.


And with a bit of camera trickery, I was even able to get a full-body floating shot:


Orra is an okay doll to pose, but she definitely has some limitations--especially in her tail.

Color change gimmicks are not really something that I pay too much attention to, but because Orra is a mermaid, and seems marketed as being a water-safe toy, I was interested in testing out this feature.

Some of the dolls in this series respond to cold water and some respond to hot.  Orra requires ice-cold water in order to change colors.  Ice-cold water might be perfect for a fish or a mermaid, but it's not great for a bath--or not any bath I'd want to take.

The advertising suggests that all of Orra's outfit will turn black in cold water:


And this is true, for the most part.  Here she is in her icy-cold cooking pot lounging pool:


The halter top turns dark really well, but the pink vinyl doesn't completely change to black--some of the pink is still visible, even when the tail is super-cold.


The plastic tail darkens nicely, though:


So it seems like the color change feature is easier to achieve with plastic than it is with vinyl.

Once weird thing is that the back of the tail doesn't change color at all.  The pink stays completely pink no matter how long it's under water:


Why was it so hard to extend the color change feature onto the back of the doll?  That seems really lazy, especially for such an expensive doll.

As an aside, if you were able to zoom out on any of the preceding photos, you'd have noticed a visitor:

Wtf is that?
That's my cat.  One of his favorite activities is to play with a glass of ice water.  He likes to capture the ice with his paw and flick it out of the glass.  So, you can imagine that an entire pot of ice water was like a dream come true for him.  It was impossible to shoo him away from this photo session.

Once I had the photos I needed, though, I let him explore.  Orra was miffed by his intrusion at first:

Dude, back off. This is my ice-cold retreat.
But they ended up being friends:

I love you, Orra, do you love me?
After her frigid bath, I let Orra dry for a while.

One thing that concerns me about this doll is that even after she'd been laying out to dry for several days, there was still water trapped in between the lip of her vinyl tail and her plastic waist.  Areas like that can build up slime and mold over time.

Let's not talk about slime, Emily.
I was really curious to know how Orra's head would look on a more conventional doll body.  She has such a pretty face, it'd be nice to expand her versatility.  I suspect there will be a lot of Mermaidz hybrids out there before too long, done by folks who are more talented than I am, but I wanted to quickly try a few options.

Orra's head came off quite easily, after some light heat with a hair dryer.  Here's the exposed neck connector:


It's strange because the neck connector looks like it should allow some up and down movement of the head but it most definitely does not.

Here's the bottom of Orra's head:


Orra has an unusual vinyl color.  There's a lot of red in it, which didn't match any of the dolls I have in my house.  I actually took one of her hands with me to Target to see if I could match her skin tone to any other doll on the shelves.  The closest I found was an OMG doll with red hair (I can't remember the specific doll), but I didn't think the petite OMG body would suit Orra's large head, and I didn't want to spend $30 on a replacement body.

Instead, I came home and tried a few of the doll bodies I already own--ignoring the poor color match.  First, here's Orra's head on a Liv Sophie body: 


This isn't a good match.  Not just because of the different vinyl and plastic colors, but also because the Liv neck is too short.  It subtracts from the elegance of the Mermaidz head.

I also think that Orra's head is too mature-looking for the Liv body.


Liv bodies are nice, though, because they fit into most Disney Store doll clothes.  So Orra can be a princess:


Not necessarily the most complimentary princess dress, but this is what I had...


Or she can wear some of the more modern Liv clothing:



It's funny how much the new body changes the look of Orra's face, isn't it?  She looks really different to me now.  And it's not an improvement.  But at least she can sit!


I wanted this body to work really badly, but it just doesn't.


Next, I tried Orra's head on a Made to Move body.  This is also a bad color match, but the proportions are better than with the Liv body:


Lena grudgingly allowed Orra to borrow her outfit for a few shots.  I think it looks great with Orra's colorful hair!


It's fun to pair the incredible Made to Move body with this beautiful head!


If I can find a good color match among the Made to Move bodies, I'll probably make this transplant permanent.



I was itching to learn more about the construction of Orra's tail.  She's a $40 doll and so I probably should have left her body alone, but without her head attached to that body, looking at me with those big eyes, I felt the freedom to cut into the vinyl and investigate the underlying structure.

With the top of the tail vinyl peeled away, you can see the rim that I was talking about earlier.  That's where all of the water got trapped:


I actually had to dry this area again once I cut it open.

Mold pit.
The vinyl is not attached to the underlying plastic foundation at all, so it peels right off.

Like a banana.
Here's the exposed plastic tail:


It's easier to see the hip joint now, and it's clearly a simple peg:


Here's an even closer look:


Another interesting thing is that the hinge joint in the middle of the tail can move a lot more without the constraints of the tight vinyl covering.  Here it is hinged forward:


And backward:


Those tail shapes are nice, and it's a shame they don't work with the vinyl covering in place, but the vinyl covering is really pretty, so it's a decent trade-off.

Before I move on to look at Jordie, here's one last picture of Orra back when her body was fully intact:


I bought Jordie for this review mostly because I think she's really beautiful (and I've become obsessed with micro-braided doll hair), but it's actually a good thing I'm including her because her body is not the same as Orra's.

In fact, there are several things that are different about Jordie.  The first difference I noticed is the price.  At $31.99 Jordie costs more than $10 less than Orra.  And for some reason, $40 dolls fall into a very different category for me than $30 dolls.  I'm much less likely to buy a $40 play doll. 

Jordie's box is mostly the same as Orra's, although it's a bit smaller:

Mermaze Mermaidz Jordie, $31.99.
Jordie's exposed tail doesn't bother me, since Jordie's tail doesn't seem to come off at all, let alone by accident.

This is the face that won me over in the store.  She has gorgeous dark brown eyes--and freckles!


An important difference between Orra and Jordie is that Jordie's fin does not allow her to balance upright.  I had to use a stand:


The other obvious difference is that Jordie comes with some fabric clothing (a tank top and a puffy jacket) and several accessories.

Not only does she have earrings and a necklace, but she's also carrying an elaborate purse and some pink sunglasses:


Jordie has a sporty theme, but I'm not completely sure what her purse is supposed to be.  It looks like a pink basketball enclosed within a vinyl chain holder:

The product description calls it a "finball."
The cool thing is that the pink ball (molded with shell-like patterns) can be removed from the chain holder and can even open!


I can't remember the last time I got a play doll purse that actually opens!  It's pretty great.

Jordie's earrings and necklace are a bit lost under her hair and puffy jacket:


The plastic earrings are odd in that they stick out of the ear for quite a ways before the heart shape begins:


The molded chain pattern also looks funny in such a rigid shape, but overall the earrings have a dramatic effect.

The necklace is made out of molded silver vinyl.  It's meant to be a charm necklace, but I can't really tell what all of the charms are supposed to be:


It looks like two hearts side by side on the left, and then two different gems on the right.  I have no idea what the larger charm in the very middle is:

A banana split?
An unfortunate thing I noticed about Jordie's necklace is that it doesn't lay flat against her chest.  When the puffy jacket is gone, you can see that the necklace sticks up quite a lot on the left side of Jordie's neck:

And the earrings always look like they're falling out.
It's curious to me that Jordie has so many more accessories than Orra when she's the less expensive doll.  While Jordie boasts fabric clothing, an opening purse, glasses, and a necklace, Orra's value seems to hinge primarily on her glitter hair gel.  Is that really worth ten bucks?

Another one of Jordie's special features is her micro-braided hair. When I first saw tiny braids like these on a play doll, I was blown away.  But at this point I've seen them so many times that I'm wondering if perhaps the manufacturing challenge is not as high as I initially thought?

I still love the look of these braids, and Jordie has them in abundance:


For the most part, the braids are neat and even:


Jordie's hairstyle is accented with two twisted buns on either side of the top of her head:


These buns are a little too large and sloppy for my taste.  They don't really enhance the hair.

The other problem with the hairstyle is that two of the braids right near the front of Jordie's head are really messed up.  These might be the only two wonky braids on the entire head, but their placement couldn't be worse:


It's just really bad luck:


The braids feel smooth and full, but the rooting on the back of the head looks random and sparse:


Jordie's outfit consists of a puffy jacket, a yellow tank top, and two vinyl wrist bands.  Her tail is decorated to look like black sweatpants:


The puffy jacket is really cool, but why would a mermaid wear a puffy jacket?  It seems to me like all of that fabric and stuffing would create some real drag on Jordie's streamlined swimming efficiency.  

A more frivolous problem is that the front of the jacket tends to look messy.  The partial lining along the open edges sticks out.  You can see that in the previous photo, and also in this shot that I took later on in the review when I was re-dressing Jordie:


The jacket looks good from the side, though, when the messy middle isn't visible.  I like the iridescent sleeves, and the pink vinyl wrist bands are a colorful extra touch:


The inside of the jacket is fairly tidy.  If only the lining along the edges had been tacked down:

That would get waterlogged so fast.
Here's another look at the side of the jacket, with a pesky loose thread hanging down from one sleeve:


Underneath the jacket, Jordie is wearing a yellow tank top with "swim team" printed on the front.

This is a much more practical outfit.
The tank is small, but it's not simple.  It has yellow ribbon criss-cross accents in front, and black stripes along either side:


As an aside, the string you see sticking up out of Jordie's waist in that last picture is from the packaging.  It took me forever to pull that out of the joint.  I had to yank way harder than I was comfortable with, and I almost gave up and left it there.  MGA's packaging is ridiculous.


The tank top closes in the back with velcro:


Underneath the fabric tank top, there's a painted glittery yellow bra:


The bra has split straps in the back that look cute:


The bottom part of Jordie's outfit is, of course, molded onto her tail.  Unlike Orra, Jordie's tail is made out of hollow hard plastic, not a layer of vinyl over plastic.  This came as a surprise to me.  The hollow tail does not have an internal joint, either, so Jordie doesn't have the hinged tail joint that Orra has.  Perhaps that's the biggest reason for the price difference--it certainly makes more sense than the glitter hair gel!

Jordie is wearing molded black sweatpants with yellow accents that match her tank top:


Her fin is awesome; it's shaped to look like the laces of a sneaker!  It's really clever:

A filleted sneaker!
The back of the sweatpants is very plain, with a few molded wrinkles:


I think the molded sweatpants look great, and they match the rest of Jordie's outfit really well.  The only problem here is that Jordie can never change her clothes.  This limits her versatility because she's always stuck in her gym sweats.

Jordie's body is very slender compared to other dolls in her scale, so clothes-sharing options with other brands aren't easy to predict.

For example, the tank top is way too small for Barbie dolls like Lena:


The tank fits the ultra-slender Monster High body much better:


However, Jordie's jacket is oversized, so it actually looks great on Lena!

Lena might steal this jacket for herself...
In theory, the different Mermaidz dolls can share clothes amongst themselves, but many of the combinations will clash because of the permanent tail coverings.

At this point, I was getting a little tired of Jordie's hairstyle.  The hair at the front of her head falls into her face a lot, and those buns on top look silly:

They're like teddy bear ears.
So I took the hair down:


The hair looks good down, and the kinks from the twisted buns straightened out fairly quickly.

I put Jordie's hair into a simple ponytail to keep it out of the way for a little while:


This hairstyle makes it easier to get a close look at her pretty face:


I love the neon yellow accents around her eyes, and the spray of freckles across her cheeks and nose.  The freckles look misaligned (they're more plentiful on her right side than on her left) but the asymmetry looks realistic to me, so I'm okay with it.

Jordie's lips are a nice rich pink color, but she doesn't have the white tooth detail that we saw on Orra:


These dolls definitely have fishy lips.  My husband thinks Jordie looks like a damselfish. He might be right:

Fula negra (Abudefduf luridus), Madeira, Portugal, 2019-05-31, DD 38

Jordie also has a small black heart-shaped birthmark below her left eye:


I love her face paint, even with the freckle flaw.

I didn't really expect Jordie's articulation to be significantly different from Orra's, but it is.  Her top joints (neck, arms, and upper torso) are all the same, but the lower torso (waist) joint is different.

Unlike Orra, Jordie can bend from side to side at the waist:



This joint also allows her to tip forwards and backwards:


Although this joint does not tip backwards nearly as much as it moves forward:


The waist does not twist around, though, which of course was the only movement Orra had in this area.  I don't think rotation is necessary at the waist, though, since the upper torso twists so well:


Unfortunately, the back-and-forth movement at Jordie's waist still isn't enough to allow her to sit on the ground:

She does better than Orra, at least.
She can't strike the classic mermaid pose, either:

That's a decent push-up, though!
And she's even worse than Orra at lounging on her side, since there's no articulation in the tail: 

The levitation pose.
I had some fun playing with Jordie's articulation:



But that initial ponytail was too messy, so I took her hair back down for a minute:


I really love her hair!


The hair still falls into Jordie's face a lot, though, so I put it up again into a high, thick ponytail.  This is my favorite style for her, and it allowed me to add the earrings back:



Update: I got lazy with the first version of this review and failed to test out Jordie's color change features.  Lurkins rightly called me out on that oversight, so I went back and took a few more photos for you.  I'm actually glad that I went back and did this because the color change is pretty cool.

First of all, Jordie's white tail fin gets some pink detail when it's dunked in ice water:

It looks even more like a sneaker now!
And the front section of her black tail turns off-white when it's dunked in hot water:


I used hot tap water for this, and it worked really well, so this is a feature that would actually be fun in the bath.

The only issue I noticed is that when Jordie was submerged in the pot, her entire tail filled up with water.  I had to drain her for a long time after I got her out, and she still made a big mess.  But the color change is great.  It's more impressive than Orra's pink-to-black change.  Thank you so much for the reminder, Lurkins!

Here are a few last photos of Jordie in her puffy jacket:



Bottom line?  It's always so exciting to browse the toy aisle and find something new--especially when it's something as romantic and beautiful as a mermaid.  And I think MGA Entertainment did an amazing job of making their Mermaidz look gorgeous and tantalizing in their boxes.  I literally fell in love with three of the characters the first time I saw them, and had all of them stacked into my cart before I added up the price (over $100--ack!).  The dolls don't disappoint when they're out of the box, either, for the most part.  But of course I always have some details that I wish were different.

First of all, the packaging is ridiculous.  The tails are exposed (Orra's can fall off), there's way too much plastic, ten times as many plastic ties as are necessary, and Jordie had a string stuck in her waist that I thought would never come out.  So basically exactly what we'd expect from MGA.  They refuse to evolve.

Another thing that's sitting on my mind is that all of the dolls are very expensive, and the discrepancy in price between Orra and the other characters is hard to parse.  Orra's not necessarily the better doll, but she's certainly different.  Most notably, she has a different body design.  Her tail is made out of jointed hard plastic that's covered with a decorative vinyl skin, while the regular dolls have hollow plastic tails with no internal joint.  Also, Orra's waist joint can only spin around while the other five characters have waists that can bend forwards, backwards and side-to-side...but can't spin.  Last of all, Orra's double-jointed tail fin allows her to stand up on her own, but it doesn't look very realistic.  It also falls off way too easily.  In contrast, Jordie's tail fin has a realistic shape (and the sneaker design is very creative) and doesn't fall off, but it cannot support her at all.  I like the extra joint in Orra's tail and the stability of her fin, but Jordie has the superior waist and a better-looking fin.  Orra and Jordie also have strikingly different accessories.  Orra's outfit is completely molded to her body, and she comes with earrings, a few small hair clips, a brush, and a box of hair glitter.  Jordie comes with two pieces of fabric clothing, earrings, a necklace, wrist bands, a purse that opens and closes, and a pair of sunglasses.  It's really hard to say which is the better deal here.  For me, since I have no interest in the hair gel, I find Jordie's accessories to be more versatile and fun.  All differences considered, Jordie is my favorite of the two dolls.

The articulation on both dolls is pretty good--at least from the waist up.  However, they can't touch their faces and their heads can't look up or down.  The torso joints are great, though (especially Jordie's) and the arms have enough movement to be quite expressive--especially with the detailed hand mold and flexible hands.  One big disappointment that I have with both body styles is that the dolls are unable to sit--or even recline.  They have very few posing options that involve their tails.  This might not be a big deal if the dolls are used primarily as bath toys, but for posing them on dry land, the stiff tails are very limiting.  I keep thinking how great these girls would have been if they'd been given jointed teddy bear armatures in their tails (like what you'd find in a My Twinn body).  That would have been so much fun.

What MGA did really well here is the aesthetics of these dolls.  Their faces are beautiful, with realistic inset eyes, rooted eyelashes, pouty lips, and excellent face paint.  It's also refreshing to see all of these features on a smaller head--something that has become rare from this company over the last few years.  As with many dolls, it's best to shop in person to avoid the occasional paint defect or wonky eye.  A really important feature of any mermaid doll is the hair, and I think both Orra and Jordie have nice hair.  Orra's hair is silky and long, with a complex mix of carefully-distributed colors.  Jordie's hair is a mass of sleek micro braids that would have been perfect if it weren't for the sparse rooting at the back of the head and the two messy braids right at the very front.  What I found especially fun is that no two dolls in the series have the same hair; there's a creative mix of styles, textures, and colors.  Last of all, the outfits on both dolls--whether they're molded or fabric--are attractive and well conceived.  The simple drama of Orra's pink and grey design struck me immediately, and I love Jordie's sporty and modern mix of molded and fabric clothes.

One last thing about these dolls is that they can't convert into humans.  I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing; I actually respect the decision to make them unapologetically mermaids.  However, having the clothing molded to the tail is a limiting decision.  For example, what if Jordie wants to dress up and go out some night?  She can change her top and put on a snazzy jacket, but she's stuck permanently in her gym sweats.  One of the big differences between these dolls and Spin Master's Mermaid High brand is that the Mermaid High girls have human legs underneath fabric tails--a lot like the Fin Fun concept.  That might make them more versatile, but does it also make them more generic?  Which one is the better mermaid?  Which one is the better doll?  I'll explore these questions (and more) next time when I compare the Mermaze Mermaidz to their biggest competitors.

25 comments:

  1. I was SOOOOOOOO hoping you would try the hair gel—-on yourself. 😁 I have such mixed feelings about these dolls. First, the packaging is creative, but there are going to be a lot of dolls on clearance with missing tails. They obviously didn’t learn from the Rainbow High packaging fiasco. I’m personally really tired of the excessive plastic ties, and one doll I recently got, I believe it was a low-end Barbie, actually had some of her ties sandwiched BETWEEN two layers of cardboard that were glued together. Can you imagine what Christmas would be like with an impatient child? I’ve also had packaging that I literally couldn’t figure out how to open. But I digress...

    I’m always a sucker for inventiveness in design and the little details in the molded parts, like the lacing on the tail, or the tail being used as a stand—that was genius! But as far as articulation—-we have seen through your blog that it isn’t rocket science and to make a doll with greater mobility doesn’t automatically translate into a significantly greater price. Dolls that can’t sit straight because their hips can’t accommodate the movement or limited shoulder rotation—much less the neck joint...well...IMO, this is just laziness when one is paying 30$-40$ a doll. The articulation just seems all over the place (or not) here.I just think these gals are overpriced for what they are.
    All that said, I do love their faces and hair; ditto to Emily for her love of micro braids 😁

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  2. Do you have any tips for removing plastic ties, especially from doll heads? I got into Monster High thanks to your blog and a lot of the NRFB dolls have those horrible things stuck in them.

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    1. Take a pair of small pliers, and clamp down on the exposed part of the tab(try to avoid clamping hair) and give it a twist like you’re winding the tab around the pliers. Makes the tab pop out most of the time and doesn’t result in cut hair. If it snaps use a pin/thumbtack to push the bit fully into the head to avoid scratching.

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    2. Thanks so much! I'll give it a shot. :)

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  3. You could try a Peach Top or Purple Top Made to Move Barbie. Purple Top is pale and somewhat yellow, but Peach Top has a warmer pink undertone.

    Loved the review as always Emily! Your cat looks really cute, "wtf is that" was my exact reaction. I had just seen these dolls on Veni Vin Vidi and now I know so much about them! They remind me of Liv dolls, but I can totally see the Rainbow High face in them

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  4. Oh wow, I never saw Orra before and I think she is beautiful, like an evil siren :) it seems that she‘s USA exclusive, cause I can‘t find a place here that sells her. But I‘ll keep my eyes open :)

    I also bought Jordie and Riviera. The unpacking is terrible, isn‘t? I nearly cut my finger while trying to remove that evil string on her hip joint. Oh my…

    While I love Jordie, I had my problems with Riviera. Her hair is a mess, a huuuge mess. It‘s shedding like crazy, purple curls everywhere, and it‘s cut so uneven, I had to cut 1/3 off to get it to an even lenght for all the hair.

    Thank you so much for your review ❤️

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    1. PS: My Jordie has the same freckle flaw :)

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  5. A sphynx cat! I remember you saying y'all had a cat in the house and wondering how you worked that with your allergies. What is the cat's name?

    I think I'll pass on these mermaids. They're tempting and attractive, but they're kinda one-trick dogs too, being a mermaid and all.

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  6. Great review! Personally, I feel very conflicted about these dolls. Out of all the Mermazeballs girls currently available, Orra is probably my favorite looks-wise, closely followed by Kishiko. But right now there are just too many things holding me back from actually purchasing them. They don’t come with stands, they can’t sit well, there’s no human leg option, no leg/knee articulation in the regular dolls and the color changing aspect seems a bit unnecessary to me (as a kid I probably would’ve loved it, but it’s still not executed well, with the water just sitting in between the joints and it being ice cold or way too hot for bath playtime). And then there’s the price. To me, Orra is definitely not worth more than the others, but all the dolls actually seem a bit overpriced (especially considering international prices). Compare them to Rainbow High dolls and the choice between the two seems very easy when it comes to getting value for your money. Still, though, I can’t deny that their faces and hair (textures, colors, styles) are very attractive and have a lot of potential. I’ve sneakily been eyeing Kishiko online, hoping for a dramatic price drop. I think MGA still has a lot of work to do, but if they listen to all the feedback doll collectors have been given them, Mermazeballs can certainly hit it out of the park. Look how far Rainbow High has come since the first series!

    For the next series I’m hoping to at least see articulation changes, stands, better packaging (you’re not the only one who struggled, especially with that tie stuck between the hips) and a more diverse color scheme. It was a bit disappointing to see that everyone but Jordie turned out to be pink, purple and blue.

    Also, your cat is the cutest!!

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    1. I'm still laughing at this comment, Tali. You had to run with Mermazeballs, didn't you? ;D

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    2. I couldn't resist! hahaha

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  7. Great review!! I definitely have my own reservations on the line - they look great BUT I definitely have sticker shock with them value wise, especially when compared to other MGAE products for sale at similar price point. For that same $30 or so dollars you can get either a pacific coast rainbow high doll with extra legs & lots of accessories OR a doll from either the rainbow high or shadow high lines with two very detailed outfits.

    I don't think they need to convert to humans to be valuable BUT the lack of any decent articulation from the bust down - they can't even sit properly - is very hard for me to swallow and I agree on the permanent tail types. Also, the color changing paint on the regular girls - Orra is their special edition doll, hence the price hike - only is used on the front/top of the tail which also seems like a strange choice. Even so I'm eying Harmonique but only when these pop up on sale.

    Eagerly awaiting your comparison review as well. I'm not sure which of the Mermaid High dolls you grabbed but I'm hoping it's either series 1 Finley, either of the Oceannas or the Spring Break Searra!

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  8. Your cat was the nicest surprise of this review! My cats love to help unboxing too. I'm not into mermaids at all, though I like their heads. I have several Barbie mermaid heads on regular bodies, but this won't do for the Mermazes - they are way too expensive for just a head. The fact that they can't sit, I think, is the worst oversight. Besides stardolls, I can't think of any doll that can't sit at all. That's fine for collectors, but kids will be disappointed and many dolls will probably end up broken from bending attempts. I'm curious how they compare to other mermaid dolls, as I don't follow any mermaid news.

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  9. My mermaze can use the tail as a stand by itself, although it takes a bit of maneuvering. I was happy with the detail, although I had to seal harmoniques tail to stop the paint from chipping. She's the only one who has that problem too, so I'm not sure what the problem is. I also seem to have gotten lucky with the quality on mine, since QC seems to be hit and miss with this line.

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  10. Great review, thank-you Emily! I really wanted to like this doll but the combination of her not being able to be a bath or pool doll since she doesn't dry out and her lack of poseability make me wonder who this doll is meant for. The fact that the tail colour change occurs in ice cold water instead of warm is also strange to me. Wouldn't bath water temperature be more appropriate?

    Love your cat. I didn't realize that breed came in any other colour but beige.

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  11. Great review. Honestly, despite the fact that the tails don't come off, these aren't mermaid ENOUGH for me, in my opinion. I love mermaids, but I find myself wondering why these dolls are mermaids at all. If you showed them to someone who'd never seen them before a picture from the waist up, with the exception of possibly Orra, I'd doubt they'd ever guess they were mermaids at all. And I really can't stand the way the tails are meant to look like clothes- Jordie's sweatpants-tail is my least favorite by far. Just my thoughts.

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  12. Hi Emily 👋 another great review. These dolls kinda looks like Dojacat the pop singer! Especially Jordie. Can you put a comparison photo?

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  13. But you didn't show Jordie's color change tail! Did it work as well as Orra's? What color did it turn?

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    1. I'm sorry! You're right. I got lazy. ;) I went back and added some pictures for you. Her tail changes in both cold and hot water! Works very well.

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    2. Oh, great. I wondered why a doll you're expected to bathe with would only have the colour change feature in cold water.

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  14. I like how far apart their eyes are compared to normal play dolls, mimicking the look of a real fish. It's a neat touch.

    Also at this point "I took her hair down" may as well be the unofficial motto of this blog :p

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  15. About Orra not being able to touch her face: I have found this problem frustrating with many larger doll brands such as American Girl. The closest they can get is raising their arm straight up to brush their bangs. In fact, this spawned a sort-of inside joke between my siblings. Talking for the doll, we'd say, "Bangs, can you eat this for me?" Ha! As far as Jordie's necklace goes, I immediately saw the middle charm as a crown silhouette. Finally, when I first saw the car in corner of that picture, I thought he looked really creepy! But it's just that he's a hairless cat. He's pretty funny-looking, and I always appreciate the little pet updates you give, like Pakeen the healthy parakeet. Keep them coming!

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  16. I've really enjoyed reading all these new reviews, and can't wait for the next one. ❤
    By the way, do you remember the VIP Pets dog you reviewed some years ago? The one with brushable hair? Well they're back and have been updated a lot! It would be amazing to see you review the new pets and hear your thoughts about how they compare to the old ones! I know you probably have a loooong list of things to review already, but at least you can have a peek at them online for your own curiosity. :)

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  17. I’m actually very excited for your comparison review between mermaze and mermaid high, especially considering mermaze was (allegedly) made to compete with mermaid high. Many people believe the dolls were rushed into production soon after information leaked that spinmaster was making a mermaid themed doll line, and that MGA reused and recycled their ready made assets for the dolls (an unused head mold for a Who’s That Girl fashion doll line that never made it to production, project mc2 eyes, and a body mold that was going to be used for their unreleased Lady Gaga dolls) So I’m super interested to hear your take is on which doll line out swam the other!

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  18. I also like that these dolls are unapologetically mermaids! As a kid, I really wanted a mermaid doll whose tail was permanent. A doll whose tail was made of removable fabric didn't feel like a real mermaid to me, but rather like a human character in a costume!
    These Mermaze dolls are interesting, because to me they kind of seem like a juxtaposition in terms of what they're going for. Are they meant to be higher-end collector's items? The price, inset eyes, rooted eyelashes, luxurious hair, and detailed face paint would suggest so, but on the other hand, if their articulation is so poor for dry-land posing, and one of their primary selling points is the colour-change water feature, then... that implies that they're meant to be bath toys for kids.

    I don't know :0 maybe they're trying to corner both markets??

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