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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Throwback Thursday review: Little Apple Doll Mirari

Ever since my high school years I've nursed a healthy fondness for items that were unusual, offbeat, maybe a little twisted and macabre...okay, maybe a LOT twisted and macabre.  That love occasionally intersects with my love for dolls, and that is the case here.  I used to belong to a Facebook group that focused on Gothic dolls, and one of the people on there had these mysterious dolls with blank, white faces and black, cat-shaped eyes.  Long story short, I learned that dolls these were Little Apple dolls.  With my interest piqued, I picked my favorite one, was horrified by the prices (some of which were outrageously inflated), put the search at the back of my head...and found my favorite doll again for a price I could afford.  Normally here is where I'd give my newcomer her debut picture, but today I'm feeling a little ornery, so y'all will have to read my intro first!  Little Apple Dolls were first created by a group called Underground Toys, and then by the creator herself under her own company, Screaming Matriarch.  The creator is a British lady named Ufuoma Urie, and it's my understanding that the Screaming Matriarch dolls are of better quality than the Underground Toys dolls...but I don't know that for sure.  I do know that Screaming Matriarch is apparently proud of these odd little poppets; go to the site and you get a message that says "We make the Little Apple Dolls.  Visit the official site here."  I did just that, expecting to get either a dead link or a redirect site to a dead link...and I promptly learned that the Little Apple Dolls are not a dead dolly line like I thought they were!  No sirree, they're alive and kicking, and the latest line is gorgeous.  Normally I reserve Throwback Thursdays for doll lines that have been discontinued, but Mirari hasn't been available for well over a decade so why not?

Anyway, Mirari was a Hot Topic exclusive from 2005 and apparently an Underground Toys release; the Little Apple Doll website has a list of the Screaming Matriarch dolls and Mirari is not pictured among them.  Most of the other Little Apple Dolls I found on eBay were dressed in red, black, white or some combination of those colors, so finding Mirari clad in blue (my second favorite color after green) was a pleasant surprise.  As usual, I don't remember what drew me to Mirari over the others; it may have been her blue dress, the thrill of chasing a store exclusive, or a combination of both, but either way this one is the one I wanted.  If I were to pick a second favorite it would be Sanem, who wears a big bonnet and has trickles of blood painted on her arms, legs, and face.  Or maybe it would've been Vates, who has handprints on her dress and limbs.  It's hard to go wrong with these dolls aesthetically, though, because they're all interesting.  I think the two plainest ones may be Erro and Mentis, and even they have something to make them special:  creepy little masks!  Mirari doesn't come with a mask, but she does come with her outer box...which I wasn't expecting to receive.  The eBay listing mentioned box damage and showed the doll semi-out-of-box, so I assumed that the box was MIA.  Getting it was a pleasant surprise.
The box does have some minor wear around the cutouts...
...but the doll isn't going to stay in that box so no biggie.  I do want to keep this box as nice as possible though, because it's a well-made box.  The front of the box opens up like a book, revealing a sheet of white tissue paper covering the doll and a story on the inside of the flap!
The story is illustrated by this bizarre-looking little girl named Kook Headcage, and her cronies Charles (the bird) and Little Apple Red (the apple that is dangling from Charles' beak).
I can already tell by looking at the box that Mirari was intended to be different from Miss Emily's doll, Erro.  Erro came in a silver box with illustrations of the other dolls on the back, while Mirari has come in a matte black box.  The back looks plain, having only the Little Apple Doll logo and the Hot Topic logo on the back.
The story on the inside flap is hard to photograph, so I'll type it out.

Welcome to The Inbetween Place...
I am Kook Headcage.  Charles and Little Apple Red are my friends.  So glad you could join us.  Charles says he is not pleased to make your acquaintance.  Little Apple Red says Charles is one step away from delirium and should be ignored. 

Little Apple Red says once upon a time he was an ordinary apple, small and plain and red.  He grew from a tree in an orchard.  There were many like him.  He says the fate or ordinary apples is grim:  sometimes it gets lonely up there.  Sometimes fallen apples are left to rot.  Sometimes they are used as target practice and if you're real lucky...at sun up they come get you and make you into a food stuff.  But Little Apple Red was to take another path...he is protector of Sine the Keeper's soul.  Sine is the Keeper of The Inbetween Place.  The children who live here are wandering souls.  Little Apple Red says the children of the Inbetween Place are lost and lonely and need protecting...

Little Apple Red was chosen and marked and that's why he looks the way he does.  The Keeper makes this so for all the fallen apples.  Pins in this world are a sign of the damned--they could be used to hurt people if the user so wished but pins Inbetween Places are a sign of the chosen:  friends and protectors.

Let me introduce you to...

Mirari made the most wondrous things.  She could make something out of almost anything and other things out of nothing.  Her greatest work of all came from a gift her father gave her.  Little Apple Red says you cannot be sure of what you see and even if you choose to trust your eyes, it may lead you to a darker fate...

Mirari found herself in the Inbetween when her dreams and her waking life became one and the same.

I don't think I'll ever look at an apple the same way.  Basically if what I just read (and typed) is correct, Mirari and the other children in the Little Apple Doll line are caught in some sort of limbo between the living world and the world of the dead.  Which world of the dead are we discussing, I wonder?  Heaven?  Hell?  The underworld that the ancient Greeks believed in that is neither good nor evil?  None of the above?  It certainly does make one wonder, and maybe that was Ms. Urie's intention, to make folks wonder and cast conjectures.  Either way, Mirari is caught in a spot that's neither living nor dead, and she's under the guidance and protection of an extraordinary apple.  That's quite an elaborate backstory, far more original and creative than I could've dreamed up on my own, but it's a bit open-ended.  Little Apple Dolls usually come with books (Circe and Sine of Souls have parts of their stories available online), and the website says that all Little Apple Dolls have a book, but I see no suggestion or mention of one with Mirari...yet.

Now, let's peel off that tissue paper and see if I can get a good picture of Mirari through the plastic.
Mmm, not bad, but not great either.  It doesn't matter much whether I can get a decent shot through that plastic anyway, because Mirari is coming out of there.  Miss Emily had no trouble deboxing Erro due to some possible dishonesty on behalf of Erro's seller, so let's see how I do with Mirari.
That wasn't a terrible experience.  Mirari was held in place by a plastic tie around her neck, and by a twist tie around each ankle.  Cut the plastic tie, untwist the twist ties, and Mirari's free! 
Erro's hair was wrapped in tape, but my little Mirari's hair is only bound by a single rubber band.  I took the band out and saved it for a rainy day.
Little Apple Dolls are based heavily on Japanese culture, so it surprised me to learn that Mirari is actually a Spanish name meaning "miracle."  Perhaps the Hebrew spelling, "Merari" would've been more fitting for a doll from this line, as that name can mean "bitter," but that name happens to be a boy's name so there's that option out.  "Mirari" is a unique name for a doll though, not one that I expect to run into again.

With the name discussion out of the way, let's get this review started.  Mirari is smaller than I thought she'd be, being fourteen inches tall.  Here's how she compares to my Make it Mine doll Hailey, whom I very recently reviewed.  I also threw in a Barbie, since just about everyone knows what size Barbie is.
To my great surprise, Mirari is VERY close in height to my old Hearts 4 Hearts doll, Mosi.
Not all Little Apple Dolls are Mirari's size; I've seen a few that are eight inches tall rather than fourteen inches, including two that are available right now.  One of the current small dolls, Edidi, is dressed in blue and thus might make a nice companion for Mirari.  Having read her box and looked her over, there's just something about this face that begs for a companion.
There's not really much to this face, which is the norm for Little Apple Dolls.  It can convey a surprising number of emotions, though I have to do this with lighting and camera tricks.  Once in awhile one might encounter a doll with other painted features (Sanem, Oriri, Praeses, and the recently sold out Argennon are some examples), but most of them have a blank white hard vinyl face with two black hollows for eyes.
Mama and one of my coworkers thought that these faces could be drawn on, but...no.  That would be the What's Her Face dolls.  Some people DO customize Little Apple Dolls to have faces, but I digress.  I thought these eyes would just be spots of paint, but they genuinely are hollows.  Here the depth of these hollows is a little more visible.
Oh yes, Mirari also has a protuberance for a nose and a less prominent protuberance to simulate a chin, but that's it!  There's not even the merest of implications that these dolls have mouths.
Maybe these kids don't talk in the Inbetween Place?  Maybe they can communicate telepathically and don't need mouths?  They ARE undead, after all, and being undead would mean not having much use for a mouth; no need to eat or breathe, or even speak, really.  Regardless of Ms. Urie's reasoning, Mirari has no mouth.  She doesn't have any ears either.
Not that being earless matters much; even if Mirari did have ears her hair would cover them.  The vast majority of these dolls have black or white hair, with two exceptions. Atrium had no hair at all, and Oriri, being a 10th Anniversary doll, had pink in her hair.  Mirari though...well, she has plain black hair.  The front is cut in simple bangs...
...and the rest falls to her lower back.  In this picture you might already be able to see the main problem with Mirari's hair.  Notice the uneven ends...
Two bits of Mirari's hair are held in place with these blue pompoms that appear to be made out of yarn or acrylic of some sort. 
Each pompom is in turn attached to an elastic band and to a long white satin ribbon that runs down the full length of Mirari's body.  These blow around in any breeze that comes, including the breeze that comes from a ceiling fan, so I have to keep Mirari far, FAR away from my cats!

Now...remember those uneven ends that I mentioned earlier?  Turns out they were a symptom of something else, a much bigger problem than an uneven chop job at the factory.  When I undressed the doll to look at her body, THIS happened.
In case y'all are scratching your heads and saying "What's that?," that's a handful of Mirari's hair that just...fell out.  I wasn't pulling or yanking or even TOUCHING her hair, and all that fell out.  In the words of SplatterCat, that's pretty weak.  Mirari doesn't look any different than she did, but I'm still not happy about this...and guess what else?  IT'S STILL FALLING OUT!!!  I ended up with another large pile of hair while trying to find out what the problem was, so I guess it's either leave Mirari be or run the risk of making her bald before I've even had her a fortnight.  This is a type of problem that I'd expect from a Dollar General knockoff, not a doll that I paid forty bucks for and probably should've paid more for.

Now to the body...let's try to forget that hair for the moment and look at Mirari's body.  The body is made of the same white vinyl as her head.  Notice the random loose strand of hair blowing over her shoulder; that hair will not allow itself to be forgotten.
There isn't really much to say about this body.  It's rounded and unisex, with nothing to determine gender or age.  Well...okay, I take that back.  Mirari is lanky enough to be firmly out of the toddler stage, but she isn't developed enough to be a teenager, so from looking solely at her body I'd estimate her age to be between four and eleven years of age.  Regarding joints, Mirari has the five joints that all dolls usually have:  hip, hip, shoulder, shoulder, neck.  She has simple rotation in these joints, being able to sit...
...turn her head...
...and move her arms.
Strangely, Mirari has nicely sculpted knees with little kneecaps visible.  This surprises me since most of these Little Apple Dolls wear tights or long dresses that cover their knees, and also since the rest of the body doesn't have much sculpting.
Mirari's hands remind me a little of scoops or spades (the gardening tool, not the playing card).  The left hand is facing inwards towards her body, while the right hand has the palm facing out.
Some of the newest dolls have a left hand that grips a small accessory, but Mirari's arm is plain.  The outward facing palm has a purpose, as we'll see when we discuss accessories.  First though, a few more details.  Mirari has nice little knees, and she also has sculpted nails on her fingers...
...and toes.
Oddly, despite the nails and knees, Mirari doesn't have a butt crack.
Let's briefly hearken back to my Living Dead Doll review (doll shown is Milu, whom I never reviewed).  Living Dead Dolls have a build similar to Little Apple Dolls, with a rounded, unisex body and short limbs.
Both the Living Dead Dolls and the Little Apple Dolls are supposed to be display dolls rather than play dolls, but Milu's posing is superior to Mirari's.  She has ball-and-socket shoulders, hips, and neck that enable her to cock her head and wave her arms in an "I'm gonna getcha" sort of pose.
But then again, Mirari's stiff limbs suit her personality.  Her blank face suggests a rather static and passive sort of character, not one that would run around scaring the bejesus out of the living like Living Dead Dolls supposedly do.

Since Mirari is dressed in blue instead of black, I was surprised to find that she's still stained in a few places.  She's got a yellow line going around her waist.
I knew to expect stains like this from my experiences with the Living Dead Dolls, but I had no idea that THIS dress would stain!  It's not even black...but then again, neither is the stain.

Great time to discuss the outfit!  It's a lot more elaborate than meets the eye...and it's also obviously not meant to come off...not often, anyway.
Ms. Urie stated that she prefers her dolls to be dressed in antiquated little girl styles or in clothes that emulate death shrouds, and Mirari's state of dress fits that description...fairly well.  I'd expect high button boots to go with this Victorian-flavored getup, but Mirari got simple little mary-janes.
Miss Emily had a devil of a time removing Erro's shoes so I was expecting a pitched battle to get Mirari's shoes off.  To my great surprise these shoes came off with very little struggle.  They're ordinary little shoes, but they have a nice texture that prevents them from being too shiny.  Somehow I doubt The Inbetween Place has many shiny objects.
The soles aren't smooth, but they don't have treads either.  They look a lot like plain shoeleather.
When I looked at stock photos of Mirari I assumed that her shoes had the white pompoms, but they don't.  Her tights do.
I ran into problems here, because these pompoms fit through the gaps that the shoes' straps make.  When I removed the shoes I was afraid that I'd rip the pompoms clean off the tights.  I've since learned that in order to get this footwear off without damaging anything, I have to treat sock and shoe as a single unit and just gently slide them off together.  In order to redress Mirari I'll first have to put the feet of the tights inside the shoes with the pompoms properly positioned, like so.
Then I once again treat the whole shebang like one unit and gently slide it back onto Mirari's legs.  It's a fiddly process, but it decreases the chance of me ripping off a pompom.  Such a stunt would be disastrous for the tights because they're knitted, and a hole in knitwear means a run.
Erro wore cream-colored knee-high socks that didn't match a thing about either herself or her dress, so I wasn't terribly surprised to see that Mirari about so has cream-colored tights.  These tights have an elastic waistband, which I suspect is what stained Mirari's waist.
And lastly, the legs each have three black bows running down the backs.  They are the only other black bit of this ensemble.
I really have conducted this review in a bizarre fashion, haven't I???  Usually when it's time to discuss clothes I start with the main garment and work my way down, but not this time!  Here's Mirari's dress in all it's glory.
I'm no expert on old-timey styles, but this definitely has the aesthetic of a Victorian or Edwardian dress.  It's blue all over (obviously) with a box-pleated skirt and elbow-length sleeves.  The sleeves are trimmed with lace ruffles, making them appear even longer.
Oddly, these are the only bits of lace on the dress.  The neckline is plain, with not even a collar to show...
...and the waistband is plain, though there's a reason for this.
The waist is plain because of this ribbon.  It's just a plain blue satin ribbon, but it feels nice to the touch and makes a pretty bow.
It goes around Mirari's waist like a sash.  Normally I'd tie the bow in the back, but stock photos show the bow on Mirari's right hip rather than in back, so that's how I tied it.
The skirt has three blue roses attached to three gathers in the skirt.  There's one in the back and two on the front.
These little gathers raise the hem of the skirt up a bit to reveal a white tulle petticoat underneath.
The dress itself fastens in the back with Velcro, which I'm not deliriously happy about.
This is the old style of Velcro with real plastic teeth.  That's good because it'll stay fastened, but bad because it could catch on the tights or the sash if I'm not careful about redressing this doll.

Since accessories are crucial to the presentation of Little Apple Dolls, let's look very briefly at what this particular doll came with.  Mirari came with that accessory that all good Little Apple Dolls come with:  Little Apple Red.
Little Apple Red is made out of firm but soft foam, firm enough that he holds his shape without a fuss, but soft enough that I can still squeeze him a little.  The paint jobs on these apples varies quite a bit, with some being red all over and some having yellow or green added.  My particular apple has quite a bit of green on it, not unlike my favorite apple to eat, the Fuji apple.

There is also this bag of pins.
Remember Kook saying that pins are a sign of friendship and protection in the Inbetween Place?  And that Little Apple Red was "chosen and marked" before he began his guardianship over the children of the Inbetween?  Yeah...these pins are what Sine of Souls used to "mark" Little Apple Red.  Here's what he's supposed to look like.

When Miss Emily said she once thought these dolls looked like they were practicing black magic on apples, she wasn't lying!  Indeed, when I first started seeing these dolls online I thought "Oh look, those little dolls have their own voodoo figures."  Now that I know the full story it makes more sense.  Little Apple Red was not an easy creature to "mark," by the way; he's soft and smooth, the pins are blunt, and it took me thirty minutes to get all the pins in.  My thumbs were still sore the next day from pushing, in fact!  It's worth the effort to get the apple marked though, because Little Apple Dolls are supposed to hold Little Apple Red in their palms, hence the outstretched right hands.  Indeed without the apple Mirari reminds me of Little Miss No-Name, who also had an outstretched hand...but nothing to go in it.
Little Apple Red has no way of staying in Mirari's hand permanently, by the way.  Every time I move her the apple tumbles off and I have to grab it before the cats get to it.  I tried putty, the same putty that holds ball-jointed doll eyes in place, but that didn't work; oddly, the putty stuck to Mirari's hand, but not to Little Apple Red!  If I want to get the apple to stay put I either have to leave Mirari alone (which I probably should be doing anyway), use glue (which I DON'T want to do), or use double-sided tape and pray that the glue from the tape doesn't stain Mirari's palm.

Last but not least, what should we have but a book.  Yep, Mirari came with a book, which delighted me because I was dying to know more about this bizarre little character.
The story (written by Ms. Urie, of course) fills in some gaps that Kook left in her description on the box cover.  It reveals the gift that Mirari received from her father and what she did with it.  Spoiler alert:  the gift helped contribute to Mirari's current status as a denizen of the Inbetween Place.  The book also reveals that Charles the crow has a proper surname (Carrion), and a little about why the children look the way they do.  These stories imply that these children were never fully of this world to begin with, though one has to read both Mirari's story and Circe's to see the connection.  In short, Mirari's tale is a tragic, romantic tale of forbidden love, abandonment, and the resulting insanity, one that I'm not going to give away here.  I will however show some of the illustrations, which are deceptively complex and quite pretty.  In addition to writing these stories Ms. Urie apparently also illustrates them, and I have to say that I'm impressed with her skill!  These are the first and last illustrations in the book, by the way. 
Inside the book was a little slip of paper inviting the doll's owner (me in this case) to become "Furenzu of the Inbetween."
The Japanese influence is alive and well here, as the word "furenzu" means "friends" in Japanese.  I'm pretty sure that this slip is out of date now, but on the back are instructions to mail in the form for exclusive deals from Underground Toys.  Pretty nifty, actually; I definitely would've filled this out and sent it in had I received it in 2005.

That, I do believe, is it on a stick.

*HAIR IS FALLING OUT!!!  I'm still not over that!
*Clothing might be fragile, especially those tights.  If you must undress this doll, use extreme care with the pompoms on those tights.  Take the tights off first so that Velcro on the dress doesn't snag them.
*Body is white and stains relatively easily
*Little Apple Red is hard (but not impossible) to pierce
*NOT A TOY!!!  I think the box said "Ages 15 and up," and I'd say that's a fair age bracket.

*I absolutely LOVE this concept!  I never would've thought to come up with an idea like this!
*Hair, sadly, is soft and smooth.  Such a shame that it's falling out in big clumps.
*Blank face is a blank slate.  A wide range of emotions can be projected onto this doll, depending on the lighting and the angle of the camera.
*Stock clothes are gorgeous.  I've heard that some Little Apple Dolls can have low-quality clothes, but Mirari avoids that problem.
*Might be able to share clothes with Hearts 4 Hearts dolls, though I didn't try this.

I'll have to admit that this was one of my more enjoyable and revealing reviews.  Mirari arrived in the mail just as I was gearing up for Cami's review last week, and there were times when I thought Mirari would steal the show.  At the same time, this review negates part of Cami's, the bit at the end where I said I always ended up giving my dolls a stamp of 100% approval.  That will not be the case here.  Mirari is a swell doll, no question; she's unique and she's original, her clothes are of excellent quality, her simplicity makes her a blank slate for a whole host of personalities...but that hair.  That...that HAIR!!!  I was loving it!  It's smooth and it's soft...and it's falling out.  Every time I try to even the stuff out I end up pulling another handful of fibers out.  At the moment Mirari is in no danger of going completely bald, but if you could've seen her in person before and after her hair started falling out, you'd notice that it has thinned some.  I don't know why this is, either, whether the hair was poorly rooted, or whether it's brittle from age and breaking off at the roots...no, it doesn't act like it's doing that.  When I look at the empty plugs I see clean, empty holes with no broken ends or anything of that sort.  This doll's hair has to have been poorly rooted, and that's that.  Based on the hair problems, possibilities of staining, and on the fact that this doll is more of a collector's item than a toy, I advise extreme caution when seeking out an older Little Apple Doll.  Mirari's thinning hair may be an isolated thing (I certainly HOPE it is), but better safe than sorry.  If you do want one of these, take care with that hair and treat the outfits with respect as well, as a lot of the clothes are made of fabric that can snag or tear if mishandled.  As for me myself, I'm going to put Mirari among my other Gothic dolls and handle her hair as little as possible.  If it all falls out she'll need a wig, and I don't want to have to buy a wig anytime soon, especially since I've only owned this doll two weeks!

Much love,


  1. I wonder if you could use a small clear rubber band with the ends looped over a pin on each side to hold Little Apple Red in Mirai's palm? That might be just enough tension to keep him in place without marking up the doll.

    1. That's not a bad idea! I've got tons of those rubber bands too! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this informative review of the Little Apple Dolls. I've never heard of them before. Interesting doll style and story.

    1. The pleasure's mine! It was a fun review to do, despite that hair being a constant problem.

  3. Hi :) I got one of the first Irae for years now! I've kept her in a box but since 4 months, I'm actually playing with her a lot and brushing her hair. I've already seen a case of the falling hair on instagram but my doll is actually fine. Her hair isn't nice quality, tho, and I will work on it. Clothes are holding on well but she has a lot of stains, even on her face! (From the hair?) I think the bottom clothes used to be white but they became cream with time, didn't they?

    Anyway, thanks for the review! It's always useful knowing a doll line better :3

    1. The pleasure's mine! I'm sorry your doll doesn't have nice hair, but I'm glad it's not falling out in clumps. I guess stains must just be par for the course for these dolls. That just seems to be a problem with pale dolls, since my Living Dead Dolls all have stains of some sort too except for Milu. Thanks for the input!