Tiana, Kumi, and May Lin. Kumi was and still is a favorite character of mine, but I digress. The trio of girls were dressed in kimono and came with accessories to match the theme. They're very pretty, well-made dolls, so what's the problem? Names. Yeah, names. The dolls have a Japanese theme and are clearly meant to look Oriental, but only one of them (Kumi) has an authentic Japanese name. Tiana's name can sort of be explained away, as it has a number of meanings and it appears to be popular among many cultures even before "The Princess and the Frog" hit theaters. Maybe Tiana is Japanese-American and wants to embrace her culture a little? But May Lin...oh my. "May Lin" is a Chinese name, period. It can't be bent or modified to fit a culture like "Tiana" can. Even more problematic is that "May Lin" is an anglicanized version of "Meilin," a stereotypical Chinese name. To add to the culturally inaccurate goofiness, May Lin's Wikia page gives her personality and it's a hot mess of Japanese references, stuff like enjoying Japanese fairy tales and eating sushi. But I think the name was what raised hackles, not the personality. And because I is ignant my hackles aren't raised much at all; I'm merely documenting the reason why May Lin was a doll that lifted eyebrows.
Due to her problematic name and the controversy surrounding it May Lin was very quickly axed. It must not have been a tremendous stink since I only learned about it years after the fact, but apparently it was enough of a stink to get May Lin canceled. Both Kumi and Tiana survived and were included in a few more lines, but as far as I know May Lin only got one doll. Said single doll got a relatively sort run, meaning that May Lin is sort of the Bratz equivalent of Mimic. She has subsequently become something of a collector's item, and thus I'm darn glad I found her for a good price. Granted, my particular doll is not NRFB and I think she may be missing an accessory or two, but I can live with that because I HATE leaving stuff NRFB. What's the fun of having something if you can't play with it a little??? Anywho, May Lin bears a strong resemblance to two of my other dolls, Jade and Maci (who are cousins, according to the Wiki).
taka shimada (worn by full-fledged geisha) and from the momoware (worn by maiko, or apprentice geisha). It has a slightly messy bun on the top...
All geisha wear hair ornaments called kanzashi, but they are particularly copious on the maiko, whose garish makeup and clothes are supposed to do the communication for her. These come in a number of shapes and forms, and they have a number of meanings. May Lin doesn't have all the kanzashi a real maiko would have as that would've been a lot more labor-intensive, but she does sport two permanently attached hana kanzashi on either side of the top bun. The word "hana" means "flower," and thus hana kanzashi always sport flowers of some sort. May Lin appears to be wearing pink hibiscus.
The right kanzashi (seen above) has three beaded dangles, while the left one has two beads that stick straight up in addition to the dangles. Hana kanzashi need not always dangle, but younger maiko like May Lin usually have some sort of part that dangles or flutters.arch across the head or be placed on other parts of the hairstyle. The right side is reserved for another of my favorite kanzashi, the bira-bira or bira-kan, which makes a pleasant jingling noise when the wearer moves about. May Lin unfortunately did not come with any bira-bira, but she makes up for it with two separately packaged kanzashi. This first one is called a "makie" kanzashi and I can't find much information about it. I do know that these are usually rounded to fit the wearer's head, which mine is not (it's flat). The painting is impeccable on this, though. I can see not a single error anywhere.
wa-lolita garb...and it has jingle bells!
Tiana. Kumi sported the full set of bangs commonly found on Bratz (but not on geisha). Not all geisha have widow's peaks, by the way, but a fair amount of them do. Also, fun fact and digression: the geisha in the linked images is the same girl at different stages of her training. Her name is Mamechiho, and the pictures were taken four years apart. Just thought I'd throw that out there and show how far she came in those four years.
Now to the iconic Bratz face we go.
very harsh on a doll. Underneath the eyebrows May Lin has heavily lidded eyes with long eyelashes and brown, nude, and mauve eyeshadow. The irises are tricolored with a brown rim, a lighter brown interior, and a gray ring around the pupil.
Sadie, nor Purple Monkfish's Hello, My Name is Jade. May Lin's face compliments the saucy but still approachable visages of my oldest dolls, Jade and Meygan...
Study Abroad Raya, who lacks lip detail and looks spacey compared to her older compadres.
this young lady, with full white face paint and rosebud lips. But then again, full maiko face paint might have been off-putting for consumers...or it might have provided another route for MGA to make dumb mistakes. Thus leaving May Lin relatively bare-faced was probably a smart move. It is also possible that May Lin is a lot older than she looks; a proper geisha NEVER gives her age (LOL) so May Lin might be a full-blown geisha...but then that would render many her clothing details inaccurate.
Ah, clothes! This is going to be fun! This color palatte looks familiar, and I happen to remember where I've seen it. The pale pink/peach sateen has also been used on...what a surprise, an Oriental doll! Lonnie, my Descendants doll, wears a dress in this color.
Pink Lady was not. LOL, now THAT is an obscure reference if I ever heard one! Poor Pink Lady, big in 1970's Japan, but an obscure footnote in television history here in the U.S., thanks to that stupid Pink Lady and Jeff show. The only thing good about that show WAS Pink Lady, and they weren't even allowed to sing their Japanese hits most of the time. Their original material is actually pretty good (linked song is another version of "UFO"), but as usual I digress. May Lin is not wearing a black and gold flapper dress or a silver bodysuit under her garb, so I won't be showing those things. Here's what she does have.
pictures of geisha in both furisode and tomesode (both extremely formal types of kimono), but in this case I turned out to be wrong on both counts. May Lin is wearing a type of kimono that only maiko and some other stage performers wear, called a hizikuri. Hizikuri are similar to furisode, but they trail on the ground...which May Lin's kimono is doing.
yukata, the most casual kind of kimono. Moving on, this fabric is satin or sateen or something like that, smooth and soft to the touch but easy to snag on unkempt fingernails. It looks like it's made of brocade, but the designs are neatly printed on instead of sewn. Most of the exterior of May Lin's hizikuri is made of dark rose fabric with little huts and cherry blossoms printed in orange and purple.
one source only girls before the maiko stage (called shikomi) wear chouchou musubi, but I don't know how reliable that source is, nor do I know if maiko can wear that knot or not. It's a nice obi though, made of the same satin/sateen/whatever-this-fabric-is as the kimono. The color and the pattern are different, being the same floral-on-yellow as the edges of May Lin's sleeves. I thought at first that May Lin's obi was sewn to her hizikuri, but that turned out to be an optical illusion, as there is a band of pink fabric below the yellow.
I'm not sure if May Lin's obi is tied authentically or not, but I do know for a fact that it's not the darari obi that maiko often wear. Rather, it is tied in an apparent chouchou musubi, or butterfly knot, which is quite pretty and an accurate way to close a kimono...but I don't know if maiko wear this knot or not. Regardless, this particular maiko does wear a chouchou musubi, though it's not really tied. Underneath the knot is Velcro.
knots in the front are typically associated with pre-WWII prostitution. Nowadays connotations are slightly less negative, but geisha and maiko always wear the knot in the back. The obijime, on the other hand...well, it turns out that obijime can tie in either the back or the front, so the fact that May Lin wears hers tied in the front is no biggie.
narrow and wide varieties. Furthermore, the images I've found of real maiko show both, so I guess I need to just shut up and move on. Underneath the obi and the hizikuri is the nagajuban, this yellow bit here.
Unlike regular underdrawers it's acceptable for the nagajuban to peep out a little, and since maiko are supposed to be a feast for the eyes it's allowable for them to show their nagajuban a bit more than usual. Indeed, maiko are allowed brightly colored nagajuban for this very purpose. The nagajuban always shows a little when a maiko walks anyway, especially if the maiko is wearing her long-skirted hizikuri, which has to be tucked up in order for the maiko to walk. May Lin's nagajuban or skirt or whatever is an appropriately bright color, but it has no pattern on it to prevent it from clashing with the interior of the hizikuri. It fastens with...oh goody, more Velcro to catch and snag. I can think of no better alternative here since a snap would have been very bulky.
okobo, the special shoes that only maiko wear. Okobo have a huge platform and are designed to elevate the maiko so her kimono doesn't drag on the ground. They're also difficult to walk in, as is the case for many platform shoes. In addition to her okobo May Lin also appears to be wearing tabi, white socks with a separate big toe that are usually only worn for special occasions. Geisha and maiko wear tabi more often than non-geisha do, but civilians do wear these as well.
When I got May Lin fully disrobed I was surprised to see that she's wearing a body stocking of sorts.
Now, accessories. These geisha Bratz came with a fair amount of accessories, and unfortunately I think May Lin may be missing some of hers. The mint-in-box dolls have little parasols, but May Lin's is missing. She has her other items, though...and the way this fan is constructed gives a possible reason for its absence. It's a pretty fan, made of gold paper with a plastic frame. The paper has a floral design printed on the front, one that matches the design on the sides of May Lin's okobo.
kinchaku, and it's made of the flowered stuff that lines May Lin's hizakuri. The drawstrings really work.
small lunchboxes, carrying bento boxes and eating utensils. Since May Lin's kinchaku functions like a full-sized one does, I use it to store her kanzashi and her little mirror. The items fit in there nicely.
a very difficult instrument to play, and that alone makes it worthy of respect.
I keep May Lin in her box when I'm not fooling around with her, so let's take a look at it briefly. The box is very sturdy, made out of buttery yellow cardboard in the shape of...of...heck, I don't know what this shape is. The front has the name of the line and some cherry blossoms and butterflies printed on, along with an illustration of May Lin herself.
*I very rarely list names as a flaw since a doll can be renamed, but if you're overly sensitive to cultural appropriateness beware of this doll.
*NOT FOR KIDS!!! Most Bratz are/were intended for children, but not this one!
*Hair is very elaborately styled and would be difficult to put back up. It also doesn't feel very nice to begin with.
*Clothes fasten with Velcro, which could be a potential nightmare for the smooth fabric the kimono is made from.
*Some of the accessories are flimsy. I'll have to do some minor repairs to that fan.
*Vere detailed. This doll comes from an era where Bratz in general were gussied up with accessories and nicely made clothes, but being a collector doll May Lin took these bits to the extreme.
*Clothes, as I noted above, are well made. May Lin's kimono is made of better stuff than my other kimono-clad doll, Midori, even though both could be considered collector's items.
*Face is well-painted and has that wonderful Bratz attitude...but not too much of it!
*Accessories, with the exception of the fan, are wonderfully made. The fan can be easily repaired, so that's not a huge problem.
*Different from the other Bratz. May Lin stands out in my crowd due to her elaborate traditional outfit, but she's still clearly a Bratz doll.
Most of May Lin's flaws are things that can be remedied or overlooked. Leave her hair alone, leave her clothes alone, treat her like the collector's doll she's supposed to be, and she'll be fine. No, the only problem I can think of really...is that name. I'm by no means a liberal pansy, but...GEISHA DON'T HAVE CHINESE NAMES!!! THEY DON'T!!! Even the Chinese women I can name who became geisha had to choose Japanese names. Hats off to Rinka for stepping up, by the way; honest-to-God geisha are becoming few and far between. It is entirely possible that May Lin is so early in her training that she has not yet picked out a name for herself. Indeed, I don't think maiko are allowed to pick a geisha name until a certain stage of their training, but again I could be wrong. Bottom line, if the name doesn't bother you then this doll would be a great addition to a Bratz collection, particularly if you're one that grows weary of all the skin/vinyl that Bratz show. May Lin's traditional garb all but covers her, and yet she still makes an appealing doll. Don't care for May Lin's color scheme? Kumi or Tiana might fit that bill!
As a last interesting little tidbit, my May Lin apparently isn't the only doll out there with that name. Once upon a time, Takara Jenny had a friend named...well, it isn't spelled the same way, but the doll's name IS a variation, Mei Len. Jenny's friend has a bit of an excuse though, as Takara has made friends for Jenny with a wide array of names from a wide array of places, and it would thus make sense that Jenny's friend Mei Len would be Chinese. Still, my May Lin is not alone in the name department.