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Sunday, June 25, 2017

More blind bags

The experience with my last blind bag haul was a relatively positive one, so I picked up another passel when I went to Wal-Mart today.  Despite my fondness for My Mini MixieQ's, I didn't get any of those.  Instead I picked up a Hatchimals blind bag and a Kitty in My Pocket set, plus two more Monster High Minis and a Gift Em's from Series 1.
I thought that Ela was from Series 2, but my memory proved to be flawed.  So the new girl will be from the same series, but there is one difference:  the new one's outer box is pink.
This time I got Kami Kong, from Hong Kong.  She belongs to the Swim category, and she's labeled "rare."
Kami comes apart in three places like Ela does, and her bathing suit is painted on.
I like Kami better than Ela.  Sorry, Ela.  The two make a cute pair, though.  They remind me of a story that I read long ago in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, a story called "I Don't Talk to My Best Friend," or something like that.  It's a story about a girl from Honduras and a girl from Norway who became close friends at an international youth camp, despite being unable to communicate verbally, and how their friendship was still rock solid years after their stay at the camp.  It was a cute story, one that's good for all ages.  Anywho, Kami and Ela make me think of that story, with them being so different and yet so alike.
The back of Kami's hovel is unsurprisingly different from Ela's.
I know no more about Hong Kong than I did Warsaw, so let's begin.  The center one is easy, being simply a tiny map of Hong Kong itself.  The leftmost picture is obviously a dragon, but when I did a bit more research I realized that it's also the bow of a dragon boat.  Dragon Boat festivals are apparently held all over China around the time of the Summer Solstice, and they have been around for over 2,000 years.  So this picture applies more to China in general than Hong Kong specifically.  The picture on the right looks like a shrine or a temple of some sort, or possibly the gate to somewhere, but four hours of research failed to help me identify that building so I'm giving that one up for now.

We're also familiar with the Monster High Minis, so I'm going to open those without much fanfare too.  For a refresher, here's my last figure.
I hope most fervently that I get a chalkboard figure this time.  And...
...bummer, I didn't.  Look how cute these are, though!  Both are Cleo de Nile; the one on the left is from the Power Ghouls category and is "frightfully uncommon," while the one on the right is a Teddy Bear Ghoul and is common.  So I've got two commons now and a rare.  That increases my chances of finding a duplicate when I try this again, but no biggie.  Duplicates are common when one collects blind bags.  These lockers hook together loosely, by the way.
Now we're treading into uncertain waters.  I've been tempted more than once to buy a Hatchimal since they look cute and have a surprise element to them.  These toys are by the one and only Spin Masters, makers of the LIV and La Dee Da dolls, and from what I understand they're quite popular.  However, I've seen and heard about folks who either couldn't get their Hatchimal to hatch or had a lot of trouble doing so, and that's made me a bit nervous about giving one of my own a whirl.  Plus, I hear the things are interactive like Furry is, and the few Furbys I've known were OBNOXIOUS!!!  So I chose a blind bag instead. 
If I recall correctly there's an egg in this bag.  And...
...sure as shootin', there is one.  Okay, I do know a bit about these; I think Miss Emily tried her hand at one.  I don't remember how to open the thing though.  Luckily there appears to be some instructions.  <pauses to read the instructions>

According to the instructions I have to warm this thing until the heart turns pink, then press near the heart to break the shell.  The bottom part of the shell is supposed to serve as a nest and indeed, I can see a perforation near the base of this egg.
The speckles on the egg are green, and that apparently says something about what family this egg is from.  That means nothing to me at the moment because I don't heterogeneous see anything that identifies families.  So let's do this.  Warm it until the heart turns pink.
Then press or squeeze the top of the egg to fracture it and peel the top away.
I peeped inside while opening it an saw a bushy tail, so I think this varmit is a squirrel.
It is indeed a squirrel, with silver angel wings in its back.
Go figure on those wings; they're cute though.  These are cute little figures, though mine has a slightly off-kilter paint job.  And true to the instructions' word, the remaining shell makes a good nest, though squirrels are more likely to steal eggs from nests rather than live in them.
The critter fits in well with my Littlest Pet Shop blind bags.
Lastly I have a Kitty in My Pocket set.  These were made by Just Play, a name that sounds familiar. 
These were available when I was a child, and I used to have a ton of them.  They were a bit larger back then, and all vinyl.  The modern figures have flocking, as this single Puppy in My Pocket will attest.
The puppy is also a blind bag figure, one that I got last year.  His series came one to a bag, while the kittens come two to a "bag" like My Mini MixieQ's and Shopkins do.  Notice that the "bag" is actually shaped like a pet carrier.  Clever.
Time to tear that baggie open!  I wonder if any of these kittens will be tortoiseshell cats?  I love tortoiseshells, but as with other blind bags I'll take what I get.  And...
...there IS a calico cat available (a boy calico, no less), but I didn't get him.  I got Mimi the exotic shorthair and Fluffy the Persian instead.  Fluffy looks blue, but she's really a pale bluish gray.  I love their little expressions, by the way; Mimi has a mischivious smile on her face, while Fluffy appears to be in awe of something that she sees.

Here's what these kittens look like from the back.  
Mimic is sitting in her food dish, something that kittens do sometimes do, especially when they're babies.  Fluffy is wearing a pink bow, as longhaired cats sometimes do (I've never dared do it with my cats).  These cats clearly have different molds, and said molds do a good job of showing the difference in fur length. 

Puppy and Kitty in My Pocket figures are the same size.
Oh sure, they may LOOK cute, but I wouldn't trust those three alone for two seconds if they were real little animals.  Mimi and that puppy look like they could be a real pair of mischief-makers.  I can't identify the dog, by the way.  For now I'll just call him "Wuppy," after one of my dad's childhood dogs.

So again, I did pretty well.  I still don't have any Monster High Minis from the chalkboard category, but I'm bound to find one eventually, right?  My opinions on the Monster High Minis and the Gift Em's are about the same as last time and I don't have any new My Mini MixieQ's to show, but the Hatchimals and the Kitty in My Pocket figures are new so let's sum those up.

*The Hatchimals Minis are nothing super-special.  Most of the fun comes from warming the egg up and cracking it open.  The figure inside is cute, but there's not much to do once you've busted him out of there.  I don't recommend these unless your a fan of the larger Hatchimals, and if you're a kid I encourage you to ask for an adult's help in popping that egg open...preferably an adult with a bit of hand strength.  Here I am at 29 and a half, and I still struggled to pop that egg open.

*Puppy and Kitty in My Pocket figures offer more play value.  The package is picked up today had two critters inside, and they're soft, cute, robust little figures.  Granted, there isn't a lot you can actually do with the figures, but I still like them.  They make fantastic little props for dolls Barbie's size and on up.  

I'll probably be doing more of these blind bag posts in the future due to my fondness for My Mini MixieQ's and Monster High Minis, and my determination to get chalkboard figure from the latter group.  I've also got some posts about Bratz dolls waiting in the wings and possibly a few more Dolly Dress Discussions, so stay tuned.  June still has a week to go!

Love and kisses,

Ari Hauntington vs. Spectra Vondergeist

Lavender's blue, dilly, dilly, lavender's green...LOL, this post is going to deal heavily with the color purple, and I don't mean that infernal book, either!  It's also going to be a long one, so put in some eye drops or your eyes will explode from staring at the screen.  Apparently Mattel has decided that ghosts go fairly heavily on the purple.  No biggie; I like purple.  Anywho, since Spectra had a fairly recent movie and doll line centered around her, I'm taken just a little aback by her apparent disappearance from the main Monster High line.  I guess I shouldn't be too surprised since ghosts do appear and disappear, but I am just the same.  My conclusions may be just a bit hasty, but lately I've seen less and less of Spectra and more and more of this new character named Ari Hauntington, who appears to be some sort of pop goddess.  Excuse me, but isn't that the THIRD pop musician that Monster High has had???  Catty Noir is a musician, as is Casta Fierce.  Whatever, my desire is to first compare Ari to Spectra, and THEN harp about the lack of originality.  So here they are.  Ari versus Spectra.  Draculaura's idol versus the gossipy pain in the posterior.

Before getting into the meat and potatoes of this post, I should probably point out that this is strictly a comparison of appearance and construction.  Ari is the budget version and my particular Spectra is a first wave doll so there's quite a difference in what the two came with.  Unfortunately that difference is symptomatic of a direction Mattel has chosen to go with their products...one that may do Mattel more harm than good.  Here's our first glance of these two together.
They're VERY different!  It's fairly obvious from the color scheme that they're both supposed to be ghosts, but these two have a lot of differentiating features.  Let's start at the top.

Both dolls have two-toned purple hair, and it's about the same length.
The fiber and styles are different though, as are the shades.  Spectra's is hanging loose and parted on the left.
According to online sources, Spectra's hair is made out of kanekalon.  It certainly feels like it is.  It's soft and manageable, and it has a bit of weight to it.  It's nice fiber.  Some other Spectra dolls have waves or curls, pigtails or ponytails, but my doll's hair has been minimally styled.  It does have a bit of coloring work done to it in the form of a peekaboo, but that's all.  This color difference is best seen from the back, but it can be seen from the front as well.
On top Spectra's hair is an indigo shade, while the lower layer is more of a lilac tone.  The lilac peeps out a bit on the right side of Spectra's head.  So this is nice hair, one of the nicer heads of Monster High hair that I've encountered.  I only have two other MH dolls with hair like this, so it's not something that was done often.  I love the way it looks and handles, but I'd hate trying to do any advanced styling to this hair.  Look what happened to this poor chick's Spectra!

There's a little more to talk about with Ari's hair, because it has an actual style.  Most of it is worn loose, but two bits of Ari's hair are pulled back into a braided crown of sorts, like so.  The rest of Ari's hair is parted in the center and hangs down in loose waves.
This is a style that I love because of its simplicity.  I've already had to redo the style once, and due to the simple style resetting it was a snap.  Ari's hair feels like saran.  It's not as stiff as Spectra's hair and it takes to a style easily, but it also tangles easily.  I ran a brush through Ari's hair as soon as I got her home and she already had dozens of tiny little knots that I had to ease the brush through.  The good news is that these knots haven't returned; sometimes doll hair likes to spontaneously kink up and be spiteful like that, but not this time!

Regarding color, Ari has apparently gone for a more subtle color job.  I ended up requiring the assistance of Google images for these colors.  In the very front of her head Ari has these silvery lilac highlights.
The rest of her hair is made up of magenta and mauve.
Ari has a nice mane of hair.  The colors are great and the style is timeless.  You can't go wrong with a simple set of pinned-back braids.  However, this fiber is the type that likes to tangle if not cared for properly.  Ari's head is not hard, so I don't think any hair woes will be exacerbated by the leaking glue that has plagued many a doll in the not-to-distant past, but I'll keep my eyes peeled just the same.

All of Monster High's ghosts are rendered in soft, muted pastel shades, and these two are no exception.  Spectra's head is made of opaque white vinyl.
My doll is one of the ones created before parents started complaining about body image (again), thus her cheeks are hollow and her cheekbones high.  I always liked this style of face, because it shows a fair amount of bone structure.  It also adds a lot of originality to the old character; before Spectra was released all MH dolls had full faces.  I'd go as far as to say they were a little chipmunk-cheeked!  It was nice to see a new head put into play, particularly one that added an extra little touch of "ghost" to my old Spectra.

Spectra's features are boldly painted and provide a good contrast to her white vinyl.  Her eyebrows are done in a shade of paint that matches her hair nicely, and her eyes are some of my favorite Monster High eyes.  As usual there's a lot going on.
Spectra's sclera are painted in an unusual blue-gray shade, done (I assume) to emphasize her ghostly transparency.  Her irises are pale blue, which adds a further touch of faux transparency.  For makeup Spectra wears a pale shade of teal for eye shadow, plus what I suspect is a fair amount of mascara.  One doesn't usually get eyelashes that thick naturally...though it DOES happen.

At a slight disjunction with Spectra's bony face are these lips.  They're quite full.
These are Bratz-caliber lips, y'all!  They're a deep, opaque shade of royal purple with a slight iridescent sheen.  They're great lips.  I find their placement interesting too; when viewed head-on Spectra's lips line up with the shadows created by her cheekbones.  This gives her a bit of a Glasgow smile, something not often seen on dolls for reasons that become obvious when one researches the Glasgow smile a bit.

Now let's take a look at Ari.  Her head is rendered in this gorgeous translucent vinyl.  I don't know how Mattel achieved this look, but Ari's face has a purplish mother-of-pearl tinge to it.
This vinyl plays a lot of tricks with the lighting, so I imagine painting Ari and finding a good makeup scheme must've been tricky.  Unfortunately that's where this doll starts falling flat.  Her eyebrows are extremely problematic.  The paint is translucent and tends to wash out under my camera's flash.
Y'all may have noticed in the post's first picture that Ari looks eyebrowless.  Shame too, because like Spectra, Ari has eyebrows that match her hair well. 

As for eyes...oh Lordy, Ari has those after-the-reboot eyes.
I guess technically there is no after-the-reboot look for Ari since she was released WITH the reboot.  Nevertheless Ari does have the same aesthetic as the new Frankie and Draculaura, with rounded eyes and light, fluffy lashes.  Notice also that the lower edges of Ari's eyes are painted in a faded blue shade, rather than black like the upper edges.  I think that's a cute touch, though not as ghostly as Spectra's eyes.  So Ari's eyes get the job done, but nothing to write home about.  The lips are painted with a rather thin layer of paint, which the flash goes right through.
I'd call this shade of purple "orchid."  It goes well with her makeup and it's nice and shiny, but it's also semi-translucent.  When Ari's head is backlit you can see right through the paint.  It's a sight!  The edges are also rough; my picture isn't the greatest quality, but the edges aren't as crisp as they could've been.  In short Ari's paint job is adequate, but it's not on the same level of quality as Spectra's.  The paint is thin and makes Ari hard to photograph, and it's less dramatic than Spectra's.

The two dolls have the same body shape...or so I thought.
In truth Ari has a torso that is slightly wider and shorter than Spectra's.  I think her thighs may be wider too.  The type of plastic used is different as well.  Spectra is solid white all over, except for her legs from toe to mid-calf...
...and her arms from fingertip to mid-forearm.
This was what I loved the most about Spectra; her lower limbs are clear, and the top part of each lower limb is painted in a white gradient to simulate the effect of her being semi-transparent like ghosts are commonly depicted.  Spectra has been this way from her first-wave incarnation (seen here) all the way up to her apparent last appearance in Ghouls Getaway.  BUT...I did find one exception in the Getting Ghostly line, which has an opaque Spectra.  I find that surprising since several of the other dolls in the Haunted Student Spirits and Getting Ghostly lines had translucent or transparent limbs.  Look at River Styxx from the Haunted Student Spirits line for an example of this.
River's arms and legs are both see-through, revealing...holy crap, she's got visible bones in there!!!
Have I mentioned that I adore River Styxx?  She's just as creative as Spectra once was, AND she's the daughter of the Grim Reaper.  My dream of being a mortician has sadly become unreachable, but my fascination with death will never leave me so River is a very special one.  However, it surprises me that a Monster High line that was focused on Spectra would make such a change to her body.  There's not even anything that suggests translucency or transparency on Getting Ghostly Spectra.  The other Getting Ghostly dolls have shading on their faces, hands, and feet that imply this attribute.  My example is Getting Ghostly Twyla.
I bring all this up because Getting Ghostly Spectra looks a lot like...well, a lot like Ari!  Ari is not even semi-transparent anywhere, and to my surprise she has no shading like Twyla either.  Her head (and makeup) have translucent qualities, but her body is 100% opaque.  It has a purplish opalescent sheen to it that's quite pretty, not unlike Malie Tasker's body.
It doesn't show up too well in that picture above but trust me on this one!  Ari is colored like the interior of a shell.  I like Ari's pearly skin, but I like Spectra's clear hands and feet better.  They add a final extra pinch of "ghost" to Spectra's overall appearance.  To me Ari looks more like Mattel's interpretation of a moon creature than she does a ghost.

First-wave Spectra came with a complete, multilayered outfit that matches her personality and her fashion choices.
In her bio Spectra claimed to be fond of silk and metal, and her outfit sticks to that aesthetic fairly well.  Her top is a tight corset-style top.  It's made of pleather with a "silk" panel and two "metal" chains draping the panel.  The sleeves are two satin ribbons, one black and the other purple.
It closes in back with Velcro like so many doll clothing items do nowadays.  The skirt is elasticized, and I assume it's supposed to simulate silk.  It's not silk, however; the bottom layer LOOKS like silk, but it's purple stretch knit.
The top layer is black tulle.
The two layers are cut in a jagged manner to suggest...a tattered hem, maybe?  Tattered clothes are a thing I associate more with zombies, but I guess it's appropriate for ghosts too.  Alternatively, this skirt may be attempting to simulate one of my favorite looks, the handkerchief hem skirt.  Tattered hems do have their place in the doll world, but in Spectra's case a handkerchief hem makes more sense, as tatters are something I associate more with zombie dolls than ghost dolls.

Spectra's shoes are cute, very typical of Monster High shoes.
They are translucent fuchsia plastic with high tops and high laces.  The heels, however...the heels are shaped like the stereotypical ball and chain that prisoners once wore, and they're painted as such.
That's a cute touch.  Spectra admits in her journal that she's a lightweight being, so she'd definitely need footwear like this to keep her from being blown about.  Even cuter are the earrings; they're balls and chains as well.  Very simple, but very clever. 
These are the Monster High earrings that I tried on Maxie, by the way.  They looked cute on her too.

Buried in my storage box was Spectra's belt, which she apparently has not worn for some years.  It's made out of silver vinyl and has eye bolts molded on...but no chains.
Spectra also came with a purse an a pet, but God knows where they went.  Probably under my bed, where brown recluses sometimes hide.  No way am I sticking my hands under there, not without gloves!

I've also got the brush, the stand, and the diary in storage somewhere.  I never use the brush, but it's still nice to have all those extra bits and bobs along.  Such items added to the completeness of the whole set.  Someone cared enough to match all of Spectra's accessories to her, and to write out a journal that revealed part of her personality.
Now let's look at what Ari's got.
Ari has a one-piece dress that's done up in shades of pink and purple, with some black accents thrown in.  The top part of her dress is ringed with a bluish-purple strip of material that's gathered into a ruffle.  Parts of this ruffle are sewn into off-the-shoulder sleeves.  Notice that the fabric is printed with piano keys.
The rest of the dress is done up in this geometric print in shades of purple and black.  Or rather, I thought it was a simple geometric print.  It turns out that there's a lot more going on here than I originally thought.
What I thought was a muted print of nondescript black and gray is actually a subtle reference to Ari's profession and...well, her "race," if monsters have races.  The gray bars are chains (remember how these ghost dolls are always depicted with chains), looped and twined around diamonds that are made of black lines of music.  Each corner of the diamond has a treble clef, and their are a few music notes between each clef.  The centers of these diamonds are purple, some hollow and some solid.  And to think I was about to write this dress off as a generic print that had no references at all to either her career or her identity as a ghost.  The dress's hem is cut at a stylish angle and is trimmed with black tulle.
The dress as a whole is very fitted, and it's a little humdrum when compared to Spectra's more elaborate outfit, but not as humdrum as I originally thought.  The slightly-dizzying print is broken up by this belt, made of silver vinyl.
The belt has two dangles made of chains and tassels, and the main part of the belt has more music notes molded on.
I can remember a time when these music notes would've been painted.  Let's look briefly at Ghoulia Yelps's stock belt, which follows a similar music motif.
Ghoulia was my second Monster High doll, purchased shortly after I moved home from college back in...2011???  Has it been that long already?  A lot has changed since then!

Gee whiz, me and my tangents!  On her feet Ari wears dark pink high-top boots.
The tassels on the ends of the belt are echoed by tassels on the sides of the shoes...and also by small balls and chains, faintly visible next to the tassels.
They're a nice color and they've got cute details on them, but they're pretty plain for Monster High shoes.  The details are not painted and are thus hard to see.

Rounding out Ari's accessories are this slimy-looking bracelet, made out of the same plastic as the boots...
...and this heavy purse, also made out of the same plastic as the boots.
The purse is depicted as being transparent in stock photos but don't let those pics fool you.  This purse is slightly translucent at best.  It's got a great design though; the bottom part is fringed, and the body of the purse is decorated with more molded-but-unpainted chains and tassels.  The handle is a chain too.  Ari's purse is heavier than Spectra's and not as well-painted (it's not painted at all, in fact), but I love the design.  It's very like something I carried myself once, in fact!  The bracelet and the purse are all that Ari came with, though.  No brush, no pet, no diary, no earrings, no stand.

When I had this post cobbled together in draft form I'd intended to end it here and go into the next segment...but I've got another Ari that complicates matters somewhat.  Meet Electrified Hair-Raising Ari.
This doll has the same body and the same head as the budget Ari, but she has a few things that are (in my eye, anyway) done a little better.  Her hair is great, for one thing.
It's thick, it's shiny, it feels interesting to the touch...these fibers remind me a lot of Butterfly Art Barbie's hair, in fact.  The colors are fantastic:  deep purple with electric blue streaks.
The style is a bit more elaborate than the first Ari's hairstyle is, being pulled back on both sides.  The right side of the doll's hair is secured with a rubber band, and the left is secured with this headband.  One side is done up in a treble clef, and the other side has...more tassels!  Does Ari like dangly things???  I need to look up her bio and find out.
There's a lot of chains in this ensemble, y'all!  The belt has them too...
...as does the dress.  This dress is more of what I've grown to expect from Monster High dolls.  It has music notes and chains printed on it like Budget Ari does, but this print is loud and proud and in your face rather than the subtle geometric print of the budget doll's dress.  I like this color scheme too; the dress is black, and most of the accent colors are pastel shades, but there are a few mustard-colored touches in there that make the whole thing pop.
There are also some electric blue bits that tie outfit to doll; these can be found at the neckline and in the very conspicuous ruffle on the skirt.
Shoes are meh like the first Ari doll's; same plastic and everything.
Face paint however...Electrified Ari is a little ahead of budget Ari there. 
Key words:  a little.  Electrified Ari's paint is translucent like Budget Ari's is, and she subsequently looks washed out.  That makes me wonder if this vinyl isn't difficult to paint, being partially see-through itself.

I thought that this post would end with me picking Spectra over Ari and leaving it at that, but during the course of this post I discovered that Ari's budget self can hold her own pretty well.  No, her hair's not as nice as Spectra's is, and her face isn't as striking, and in my opinion she doesn't look as ghostly as other dolls do.  But her outfit, simple as it is, is covered in the little details that Monster High dolls are known for.  These details are deceptively subtle, but they're there, hiding in the print of the dress and waiting for a closer look.   Discovering the detailed print in Budget Ari's dress gives me some encouragement, as that suggests that Mattel still gives a little bit of a crap, but I still had to look closely at that dress to see such detail.  The subtlety is a surprisingly nice change, by the way.  Most of the Monster High dolls that I own are very up front with their outfits and their hairstyles, and there's usually something that screams the doll's identity.  I like that nonverbal outspokenness, but I also like Budget Ari's toned-down approach.  Her dress reveals who and what she is without screaming it.  However, I'll have to admit that of these three ghost dolls, Spectra is still the strongest, with Electrified Ari coming in second, and the budget Ari coming in third.  Electrified Ari has nicer hair, her face is ever so slightly better painted, and her outfit is more eye-catching.  And neither of Ari's incarnations are as well-executed as Spectra.  Back in the days when Spectra was a first-wave character, these dolls came with pets, stands, diaries, the whole nine yards.  Though the Ari Sisters are perfectly acceptable little playthings, their lack of accessories, thin face paint, and simple outfits show how far Mattel appears to be letting things slide.  So overall I feel a little bit ambivalent about Ari.  As cute as she is I just don't think she cuts the mustard in the ghost category like Spectra does.

They're still cute dolls, though!