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.

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 sniped 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...and suspicious.  But 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 two fellow bloggers).  I dislike bullies, so I didn't want to imply endorsement of this shop by featuring their products. I would advise avoiding this shop at all costs.  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.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Ruby Red Fashion Friends

It's pretty safe to say that the one doll brand that's been recommended to me the most since I started writing reviews again is the Ruby Red Fashion Friends.  I wish I could individually acknowledge everyone who brought these little dolls to my attention, but my memory isn't that good.  Nevertheless, I'd like to express my gratitude to all of you who thought I might enjoy taking a closer look at the Fashion Friends.  You know me well.

The Fashion Friends are 14.5-inch vinyl dolls that were first released in 2019 and are still going strong.  The brand was founded by Ruby Ho, hence the Ruby Red part of the name.  Some of the face molds were sculpted by Ms. Ho herself, and some of them (including the dolls in this review) were sculpted by Dianna Effner.  All of the faces are beautiful.  I'm a big fan of Ms. Effner's work--as you might have gathered from my Maru and Friends, Mini Pal, and Little Darling reviews--and so I'm always excited to get my hands on another one of her creations.  Ms. Effner's death in 2020 was a huge blow to the doll world (as if 2020 wasn't bad enough) and it made me cherish my Effner dolls all the more.

I actually pre-ordered the dolls for this review back in October--before I'd even started blogging again. My brilliant idea was that by the time they were released (around Christmas) I'd have the blog up and running and I'd be able to present you with a review of two brand new releases!  That went well, didn't it?  Sigh.  Instead, I got distracted by a million other things and now find myself reviewing Christmas-themed dolls when it's 70 degrees outside, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing like they're in a freaking Disney movie.  I'm silly to have waited so long to write this review, but at least I'm finally here, sharing my Christmas girls with you.  First, let's meet Jennifer:

Ruby Red Fashion Friends limited edition doll, Jennifer, $169.99.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Sunday Surprise: Capsule Chix by Moose Toys!

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with vending machines.  The big displays outside of the grocery store were the biggest temptation, with so many mini-sized toy and novelty options.  There were even a few machines that had a special prize like a watch or a necklace mixed in amongst more ordinary fare.  I was rarely given the chance to use a vending machine when I was young, though, and so I overcompensated for this when I became an independent adult.  Not only did I get toys from these machines for myself with more frequency than I care to admit, but I always indulged my kids when they asked for the money necessary to get a treat.  When we moved to Maine, I even bought my own old-fashioned capsule vending machine and set it up in the basement.  I kept my eye out for interesting small toys, and so the machine was always full of new stuff.  All of my kids' friends could use the vending machine (once) every time they came over.  Younger brothers and sisters would often tag along to pick up their sibling from a play date, clutching their own quarter in their hand and hoping for a turn at the machine.  It was a big hit.

Back in February, when I wrote the first part of the L.O.L. Surprise review (the second part will come eventually, promise!), Gabby asked if I'd ever heard of the Capsule Chix.  These are small surprise-themed dolls that come in, wait for it, vending machine packaging!  How cool is that?  It's exactly the kind of thing I would have gone bonkers for when I was young...and, frankly, it's the kind of thing I still go bonkers for now.  I found a few sets for about $13 and stored them away for a future review.  Then, a month later, Amy asked about the Capsule Chix on one of my Patreon reviews, so I figured it was high time to get the sets I bought out and learn more about these intriguing blind box characters.

Capsule Chix dolls are assembled from several parts (head, hair, torso, legs, and some extra clothing bits like skirts and shoes).  Each part is wrapped inside of a vending machine capsule, and then the capsules are packaged into a box that dispenses the capsules one by one.  Every set is guaranteed to include the parts you need to make one doll, but the parts in each box are randomly assigned, so you're very unlikely to get a matched set; everything's mixed up.  You can either be happy with the mix-and-match doll you receive, or you can buy more of the sets hoping to find the parts you need to build a specific doll.

I knew these dolls and their fancy packaging would involve tons of waste, which is one of my least favorite things in the doll world right now, but I absolutely could not resist the idea of the vending machine box.  So here we go!

Capsule Chix Giga Glam doll, $12.99.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Catwalk Kitties by Lanard

And now for something completely different!  Today I'm going to share the wacky world of Catwalk Kitties with you!  This is a discontinued brand of anthropomorphic play dolls that was introduced in 2005 by the Hong Kong-based company, Lanard.  

The Catwalk Kitties were not very popular in their time, judging by the fact that they were released in 2005 and discontinued in 2006.  I'm interested in the Kitties because there's speculation online that these fashion felines might have been Mattel's inspiration for Monster High, which debuted a few years later in 2010.  However, Mattel explored cat fashion themselves back in 2003 when they released the Lounge Kitties--a group of Barbie dolls clad in cat suits.  Regardless of who was inspired by whom, there have been some fascinating animal-themed play dolls in the past few decades.  In this review I'll focus mainly on the Catwalk Kitties, but I'll also do short comparisons to a Monster High cat and a Lounge Kitties doll--and I'll throw in a little Pinkie Cooper to keep the dog lovers happy.

Before I get started, I want to acknowledge two good friends and their roles in this review.  First of all, even though I mentioned the Catwalk Kitties briefly in my Pinkie Cooper review, I never would have remembered them if it wasn't for Katrina.  She sent me an excited message through Patreon when she found one of these dolls on eBay, and that's what got the ball of yarn rolling.  I also want to thank Darcy, who suggested that I review something vintage and strange.  What could be more vintage and strange than a big-headed fashion cat from 2006?  Also, Darcy loves cats more than anyone I know, so--Darc et al., this one's for you:

Catwalk Kitties Sienna, by Lanard ($114 on the secondary market).

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Nendoroid Doll: Little Red Riding Hood (Rose), by Good Smile Company

I have to start with a little piece of business this time because I've heard from many people that it's become difficult to know when I've posted a new review.  I'm really sorry about that!  Blogger changed their set-up last summer so that email notifications are no longer being sent.  I don't have a great workaround yet, but I always post a quick link on Twitter (@TBP_emily) when there's a new review, so that's one option if you're interested in getting a heads-up.  If Twitter's not your thing, my kids are encouraging me to get a TikTok account, which is tempting.  We'll see what happens there.

Thank you so much for the fun and informative comments on the previous Nendoroid review!  I found it really interesting to hear more about the brand and learn how your Nendos compare to Link.  I'm suddenly very caught up in the whole chibi figure world and am excited by Rachael's suggestion to compare the Nendoroids to a similar type of figure called Cu-Poche.  I also got very caught up in the Legend of Zelda world again, and had to hold myself back from spending the rest of the week playing Breath of the Wild.  I galloped around Hyrule for a little while, I'll admit, but then got right back to work because I'm very excited to talk about this next doll!

Most Nendoroids on the market right now are 4-inch tall PVC figures like Link.  However, there's a newer line of Nendoroid Dolls, and these have some important differences to the standard figures.  First of all, they're taller (about 5.5 inches tall), and they also have different articulation with not quite as many removable parts.  I think one of the best things about these dolls is that they come dressed in removable, fabric clothing, and so they can easily change outfits and adapt to a variety of different styles.  The selection of Nendoroid Dolls is nowhere near as extensive as the array of standard figures, but there are several cute options available.  I chose Little Red Riding Hood: Rose, who was easy to find and cost well under $100:

Nendoroid Doll Little Red Riding Hood: Rose, ($65.99).