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Friday, August 9, 2013

Dolls of All Nations Midori review

I've made it no secret that I love to go antiquing, and that passion is shared by my sister, my sister's boyfriend, and my mother.  Whenever we're in the Dexter, Missouri area and have some time to kill, we do it.  Such was the case on July 30th.  One of our cats (we have seven) jumped off the dining room table, landed wrong, and broke his foot.  This entailed a rush to Dexter, where our vet is.  While we were waiting for x-ray results we went to our favorite antique spot and browsed, I for dolls and my mother for furniture.  One of the items at the store was this Japanese doll, Midori.  WARNING:  some of these pictures were taken when my eyes were not fully healed, and may thus be a little crummy.  If they are TOO crummy, give me a holler and I'll change them.
Midori is part of Target's Dolls of all Nations series, a doll line that I have never heard of and know nothing about.  The small amount of knowledge that I do have came from eBay.  According to the site these dolls date from around 1995 and were reissued in 1996.  Not an antique by any means, but older than a lot of the dolls I own.  I've never seen these dolls at the local Target, so they are most likely discontinued and have been for some time.  The line had dolls representing AustriaChinaEngland, Germany, HollandIrelandItaly, Japan, KenyaMexico, North America, PolandRussia, Scotland, South KoreaSweden, and Uganda.  The dolls from Kenya and South Korea are my favorites; the Korean doll is wearing a hanbok, which I love.  I also like the German doll, of whom I was unable to find a good picture, but I was miffed when I learned that she's Bavarian.  No offense to Barvarians, but why on earth must all German dolls represent Bavaria?  There are plenty of other areas of Germany that can be represented (my heritage is Thuringian, for example).  However, I will note one thing positive about the German doll:  she has brown eyes.  Most Germans are portrayed as being blonde and blue-eyed, but this line's little gal has brown eyes.
Back on topic, I did luck out a bit with Midori in that she came in her original box.

The box has some information on Midori's life, and it helped me identify her in the first place.  She has both her parents and one sister, lives in a four-room house in Tokyo, and loves sashimi.  The box does not give an age, but her face has a youthful appearance, much like the doll herself.  That being said, let's look at the doll.  Her features are all painted.
Let's look at her eyes first.
Her eyes are brown and are angled towards the left (her right).  The upper lids have darker paint that looks like eyeshadow, but I think this may be an attempt to make her eyes look deep-set.  Her eyebrows are brown and are painted in small, short, fine strokes.

She has a broad, flat nose and full, pinkish lips.  If you look closely, you can see some detail painted onto the lips in the form of creases.  This isn't the best picture I've taken, but you can still see it.
Midori's hair is very interesting.
The hair is rooted, something I don't often see on hard plastic dolls (usually they're wigged).  It is parted in the center and braided up into a fancy updo.  It's hard to tell in both that picture and in real life, but there are two braids incorporated into the style.  The front of the style is adorned with a large bow.
The bottoms of these braids are ringed with rubber bands.  This concerns me somewhat.  Rubber bands get brittle and crumble as they age, and if that happens with this doll the whole hairstyle will come falling down.  Some of the dolls in this series had simple, easy-to-fix hairstyles like braids or ponytails, but this is one style that I definitely can't recreate if it falls!  Plus, I'm not a tremendous fan of bare rubber bands on doll hair; I think it looks tacky.  There probably was no alternative in this case, but I still don't like it.

Regarding clothes, Midori is wearing a kimono, the traditional Japanese garb.
The Japanese are often depicted in books and cartoons as wearing kimono every day, but nowadays this isn't usually the case.  Kimono are still worn, but it's usually for special occasions like funerals, weddings, and holidays.  So it is for Midori; according to the box, she is dressed up for Hinamatsuri, or Girls' Day.  Hinamatsuri is on March 3rd, and the Japanese celebrate by decorating their houses (WITH DOLLS!!!), eating and drinking, inviting friends over, and praying for happy lives for their girls.  Shucks, I wish Americans would do that!  The Japanese always put such feeling and meaning into their holidays!

Anyways, let's take a closer look at Midori's kimono.  It's bright red with orange, white, and pale blue flowers.  In the story on Midori's box, her kimono is made of silk.  This, however, is not silk.  The fabric feels synthetic and doesn't have much drape to it, but unlike silk it's very sturdy (there's no way that silk will hold up in the grubby little mitts of a child).  We can always pretend that it's silk!
Hey, I'm noticing something:  this material is the same as the stuff used for the Swedish doll's dress.  I mean THE EXACT SAME STUFF!!!

Moving on now.  The sleeves are long and wide.
Judging from the style of these sleeves, I'm guessing that this kimono is supposed to be a furisode, the most formal kind.  I could be completely wrong, though; I am unsure if young girls are allowed to wear furisode.  If any of my readers are Japanese or experts on Japanese fashion and culture, please give me a holler on whether I'm right or wrong here.

The neck has a second layer showing.  It is the white part that you see peeping out from under the main kimono.
I assume this is supposed to represent the nagajuban, the undergarment commonly worn with kimono.  Nagajuban can be white or they can be very ornate, but white is the most common choice for formal occasions.  Midori is really going all out for this Hinamatsuri!

The obi, or sash, is blue with multicolored flowers on it.  It has a tan woven cord, or obijime, sewn to it.  The cord does not go all the way around; on a real kimono it would.
The obi fastens in back with Velcro, which surprised me.  Normally this type of doll has sewn-on clothing, but the obi appears to be removable.  Covering this Velcro is a bow...or at least, what I'd call a bow.
Obis can be tied in many different knots.  However, since Midori is a child she is probably wearing a tsuke obi, which is commonly used for children and is pre-tied in what the Japanese call a "butterfly knot."  That's what this looks like.  The edges of the bow are not hemmed, by the way.  It's a little raggy in places.

Tucked into the obijime is Midori's fan.
It is made of plastic and is sewn to the obi so it won't fall off.  Kudos to the folks who designed these dolls; they knew kids (and klutzy adult collectors) pretty well!  The stitches are a little clunky, though.

Topping off the look are these shoes, called geta.  They're made of plastic and have string ties.
Surprisingly enough Midori is not wearing tabi under these geta; as formally as she's dressed I would've expected that (tabi are formal or semi-formal socks, by the way).  In fact, I'm surprised that she's wearing geta at all, since certain types of zori are more commonly worn with formal kimono.  Oh well, can't have everything.  Besides, tabi would've made those shoes slide around even more than they already do.  The shoes don't stay on Midori's feet at all; they're held on with plastic twisty-ties.  They're pretty obvious in the above picture, but here's another image, just for laughs.
I think that looks tacky, but it's better than having her shoes fall off and get lost.  Nothing irritates me more on a doll than shoes that won't get on and stay on.  Ties like this were what kept Midori lashed to her box, by the way.  She had a tie on each wrist and one around her neck.  I don't like these because they tend to leave marks if there isn't something between the tie and the doll; this is especially true of vinyl dolls like this.  I don't see any marks on Midori yet, but I have yet to look at her body.

That brings me to...what a surprise, it brings me to her body!  Midori's obi and kimono turned were indeed removable, so I took those off...and was surprised to find that Midori has little white drawers on underneath!
I also found that the bottom edge of Midori's kimono is not stitched or hemmed in any way.
You can see the loose threads hanging off there.  I found this odd, since Midori's sleeves are hemmed nicely.

And lastly, I found THIS!!!
This gave me a tremendous LOL.  The Japanese and the Chinese aren't the best of friends, and the Japanese are very particular about who makes their kimonos.  A formal kimono would likely NEVER be made in China!  Costumes, yes, but real, formal, honest-to-God kimono, never.  The tag is inside, so Midori's dirty little secret is safe with us.  But that part still gave me a laugh.

Anyway, back to the body.
Midori is made of some type of hard plastic, rendered in a shade of tan that has a definite Oriental look to it.  Her build is definitely that of an older child, maybe ten or eleven.  Her legs and arms are long, but her torso is round and her chest undeveloped.

The body has five joints:  both shoulders, both hips, and neck.  Her neck is of similar construction to my Living Dead Dolls' necks, with the head and neck being separate from the body.  The mobility of this joint is good; Midori can turn her head left and right.
And she can tilt her head in almost any direction. 
The shoulder and hip joints are pivot joints only.  They move up and down but have no sideways movement.
Midori can be posed in a convincing walking position, but she has to be propped up against something in order to stand in a walking position.  I used the wall as a brace in the picture below.
When I was manipulating the head I noticed that the wire ties had indeed left a shiny line on Midori's neck.
Her wrists, which were also tied down with those infernal ties, were unscathed, and it was during this examination that I gained an appreciation of the detail on Midori's limbs.  Her hands are nicely sculpted, with little nails and creases on the palms and knuckles.
The fingers are all one piece; the only separate part is the thumb.  There are no gaps between the fingers whatsoever.  The same can't be said for Midori's feet.
Most of my dolls only have indentations molded onto their feet to suggest toes and nails, but Midori has ten well-defined little toes.  Each of them has a little nail and some creases on the top.  The soles are flat, most likely to help her stand.

Not that Midori needs much help standing.  She has this.
The stand is made of brown plastic and appears to be in two pieces.  The instructions that came in the box show that there was also a crossbar that held the doll up under her arms, but there was none in Midori's box.  The stand fits nicely up inside Midori's kimono, so the crossbar is not really necessary.
Having studied images of some of these dolls online, I'm lead to believe that not all dolls came with this crossbar.  For example, the Austrian doll appears to have a stand just like Midori's.  But the crossbar is clearly visible in the Russian doll's box (see the links above).  These dolls came in at least two waves (1995 and 1996), so it is possible that the stand varied from year to year.

So...would I recommend Midori to a child?  Lemme see...

*This doll is not a toy that's meant for rough play.  She's meant to be displayed and collected, though some gentle play would be perfectly alright.
*Plastic ties left shiny marks, though this probably would not bother a child.
*Hair is elaborate and could get messed up.  The rubber bands look bad and could break over time.
*Clothes are not hemmed in places.
*Not very poseable.  The head can be posed and made to look cute, but the arms and legs can't.
*Shoes won't stay on without help.
*Doll line is DISCONTINUED!!!  :-(

*She feels sturdy.  Her body and clothes are both of high quality.  She won't break if knocked off a shelf (hey, accidents happen).
*Clothing is accurate for the most part.  The informal shoes don't jive with the rest of the outfit, but they're still models of real Japanese shoes.
*Clothing can be removed, though I don't recommend it.
*Lovely colors.  Some of the other dolls in Dolls of All Nations line are a tad muted, but Midori commands attention in that red kimono.
*She has a sweet little face, not overly made-up or vampy, and not caricatured like ethnic dolls can sometimes be.
*There's a lot of learning potential in this doll.  The information on the box reveals a little about Japanese culture and could inspire a girl to dig deeper and learn more.
*Good for pretending.  Though Midori is not cut out for the abuse that some dolls can take, she can still be an honored guest at Raggedy Ann's tea party or give the La Dee Da girls some pointers on how to design new fashions.

I have only recently learned of the Dolls of All Nations line, so the goods and bads that I listed are for Midori alone.  I'm willing to bet that most of the things listed above can apply to the others, but I'd like to see a few more in person before I give a final word on the overall line.  Midori is a fine little doll and I highly recommend her, especially for that little girl that is fascinated with foreign cultures (like I was when I was young).  I would also recommend this doll to older collectors such as myself; she's a toy, but she's a nice enough toy that she'd fit into an adult collection with relative ease.  The only honest-to-God bad thing that I can see about these dolls is the fact that they are discontinued.  Certain characters are easy to find on eBay (Midori is one of them), but the prices can get pretty steep.  If you aren't an eBay fan but you're still interested in bringing one of these dolls home, I recommend that you browse through your local antique marts, junk shops, consignment stores, and Goodwill.  I saw a second Midori during one of my more recent shopping sprees, so keep your eyes peeled.  You never know what you'll turn up.

Very truly yours,

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Repeat offense

Doll collecting has few set rules; it's often up to us to make our own rules...and then break 'em as well!  So it is with me.  One of my rules is to buy the doll first, see what clothes fit her, and then hunt up clothes that will work.  Go figure; it's just a hangup that I have.  I'm just not a huge fan of spending money on an outfit and then being unable to find a doll that can wear it.  That's the situation I found myself in the LAST time I broke that rule.  You may recall from a post last November that I purchased a B.F.C. Ink outfit without ever having seen one of the dolls in person.  I thought it might fit my old Crissy, but it didn't.  So now I have an outfit that's been lying around my room for almost a year, and still no B.F.C. Ink doll to wear it.  The folks at the local Goodwill stores have gotten to know me quite well, though.

So after that incident I swore I'd never buy another outfit before getting the doll first.  Now, fast-forward to August eighth.  I've done it again.
My odds of finding a doll for this dress are far better this time around, because this dress is for a Novi Stars doll.  It's the blue dress that the packaging refers to as a "galactic gown."  Hmmm...I thought ballgowns were long???  Oh well, doesn't really matter.  It's a cute dress, regardless of the length.  Anyway, I've spoken of the Novi Stars in past blogs and I think they are extremely cute.  Originally there were four characters, and my favorite was Una Verse.  However, the fact that she had no leg joints was off-putting (Stardolls are/were that way, and the lack of leg joints made them virtually impossible to play with).  The Toy Box Philosopher made another interesting observation when she reviewed Alie Lectric; she initially considered Una as well but dismissed her, citing the possibilities that the water in Una's body could either dry up over time or find a way to leak out.  I wasn't overly impressed with the rest of the dolls, but I knew that new Monster High wave often introduced new characters, and we ALL know the fierce competition between Mattel and MGA Entertainment, so I decided to wait and see what MGA would do with the Novi Stars.

The wait was well worth it.  The first Novi that I really fell for was Sila Clops.  This is her; her eye lights up and she sports a wig.
Online response to Sila was mixed; some loved her, and some dismissed her as "ugly" or "creepy."  They also weren't huge fans of her darker color, which I personally like (I think it sets her apart).  I also like the fact that she's glittery, but in a different way from other sparkly dolls.  Some dolls have the glitter painted or glued onto them, but Sila appears to have glitter directly molded into her plastic.  The glitter gives her a rough feel, but I could live with that.  Since she's the first doll in the line that I truly loved, I may come back to her.  Una is cute, but I didn't see her and think "OMG, she's so awesome!  I've gotta have her!"

As much as I like Sila, I haven't bought her.  I may eventually, but right now my eyes have been too dazzled by the Novis that waiting in the wings.  Thanks to them, it looks to be a very interesting fall.  There's the Invasion pair, Ina Ferna and Anne Arctic.  Ina's hair lights up, and Anne's legs are filled with water and "snow," similar to Una Verse's gimmick.
There's these hair play dolls, dubbed Curl and Coil dolls.  Their individual names are Roe Botik and Tily Vison.
The prototypes of these Curl and Coil dolls were super cool, by the way.  These are nice, but the prototypes were even BETTER!!!  They had joints.  

And lastly, there are the Super Novas.  These are my favorites.  These girls are named Vera Tabray and Mimi Merize.  Vera's wings flap and Mimi's eyes spin.
Odds are that the doll I choose will be one of these.  Vera has glorious silver eyes, and Mimi is eye-candy for this hippie at heart.  Mimi also has a slightly creepy vibe about her...check out this picture if you don't believe me.  I have a special fondness for dolls on the creepy side, especially those that aren't intended to be creepy in the first place!  Lastly, in some pictures Mimi appears to be wigged; Vera may be as well.  If these dolls are wigged then that's a great feature.  No extra wigs are available for Novi Stars right now, but a little girl who has Sila Clops or Mae Tallick (both of whom are wigged) can swap the hair around to get different looks.  We'll see how that little idea flies.

I'm not sure when these newest dolls will hit the shelves; Flickr already has some owner pics, so I know that they're already available in some places.  However, I live in an area that could be considered a "dolly dead zone."  Abbey Bominable and C.A. Cupid didn't start showing up in the local Wal-Marts until a year after they were released, so I guess patience is a virtue here.  I'm going to behave myself and wait until these dolls pop up in stores, then I'll examine them in person and make a final decision.  In the meantime, I'll get those other two outfits!

Now, my usual end-of-blog subject change.  I got my eyes zapped on August second, developed complications on August third, then got them fixed and got a clean bill of health on August fourth.  The experience itself was terrifying (I spent much of the time reciting the Hail Mary), the immediate aftermath was painful and somewhat messy (my cheeks looked like Niagara Falls, my eyes watered so much), and the recovery has been interesting.  The overall ordeal required three 234-mile round-trips to and from Marion, Illinois.  I still am not 100% healed; everything I look at has a hazy halo around it, and I still can't see the stars clearly when I look up at night.  BUT...I can see the stars without my glasses!  And I can read the road signs without having to squint!  And I don't have to worry about my dog slobbering all over my glasses!  And...I could go on forever.  Bottom line, I'm extremely pleased with the results so far, and I'm also pleased with the service I got.  The doctor was so intent on giving me the best possible results that he came to the office on a Sunday (the clinic is usually closed Sundays).  One of the techs even held my hand during the procedure; yes, I'm that big of a pansy!!!  That was BEFORE I started praying aloud so she must've just known I was nervous.  Either way, I thought it was very kind of her.

I have a review in the wings.  Stay tuned!

Yours somewhat-blindly,