Dolls coming home in 2023
About the dolls I've bought/will buy this year.
Buying new (or new-to-you) dolls is such a central part of this hobby, and everyone grapples with the lures of the new shiny release and impulse buy. I'm by nature a slow buyer and small-collection person, and I don't like buying dolls only to turn around and sell them. But I'm not immune to the new shiny either, as I quickly realized when I returned from hiatus at the end of 2022, and discovered so many new artisans making interesting BJDs. The hobby has diversified by leaps and bounds since the late 00s/early 10s, it's like a new land of plenty! Several times I caught myself on the brink of an impulse buy, but was able to step away. So much to look at, so much temptation!
After I completed Halcyon, I decided to cull my burgeoning, "interesting dolls that caught my eye, maybe I want to own them" wishlist into a more purposeful shortlist to seriously spend money on. My original shortlist for 2023 was 1.5 dolls, but I ended up going on a resin-buying binge at the start of January, and am now waiting on 2.5 dolls, with a third still to be ordered.
This means I'll be receiving dolls throughout the year, which is nice. So I'm gonna ramble about them while I wait.
Seira: the white stag
Vings (Dollvings) is a Chinese artisan. (Taobao store, Instagram)
This is the "1" in the 1.5 shortlisted dolls, and one that got away from me.
I encountered Vings through Instagram in November last year, and was initially intrigued by the 68cm male body. Although it was outside my preferred 57-65cm size range, I liked its appearance, and some research showed that it was good at posing. Vings had also released two boy sculpts: Reiki and Seira.
Reiki was fine enough, but Seira caught my attention. It was love at first sight. If I look at both sculpts objectively, neither are hugely different from other dreamy, feminine, 70cm+ boys with a roughly Chinese aesthetic. (I'm pretty sure I can find a bunch of Ringdoll, Loongsoul and/or Chinese artisan sculpts that resemble Seira.) It might've been the faceup and styling in the promo pictures that hooked me. Whatever it was, I looked at Seira long enough that a character stepped out of the sculpt and into my imagination.
Seira is a tall boy approaching my hard 70cm height limit. I might've let this go, if I hadn't been attracted to both his head sculpt and his 68cm body. Plus, the sculpt gave me a character practically upon first sight. I'm also a slow creator of OCs and have strict worldbuilding for my doll characters, so I've been using character creation as a "gatekeeping" method. If I can imagine the sculpt fitting into the worldbuilding and amongst my existing dolls, it's no longer just a pretty but meaningless face, and I'm much more likely to buy it in the end.
Image source: product page on Vings' Taobao store.
It so happened that I discovered Vings in the last few days of a preorder window. The preorder was open through a couple of dealers and Vings' Taobao store. For financial reasons, I wanted to buy Seira through Taobao. I basically had 3-ish days to make a decision, sign up for a shopping service and learn how it works, move funds, and place the order. Which is what I did -- way quicker than what I'm comfortable with -- and I thought I'd secured the purchase. But it turned out I missed on paying an additional shipping fee, and when I finally saw the notice and paid it, the preorder had closed and my proxy wasn't able to order the doll.
I was surprised by how very upset I was. Usually I take such things in stride: BJDs are luxury products, I can definitely let a missed opportunity go and be content with the dolls I already have. But I felt crushed at missing out on Seira, and for several days kicked myself over my mistake. I think it's because this was the first new doll I attempted to buy since I came back from hiatus, but he got away from me. I really wanted him, I almost secured him -- but he escaped by a hairsbreadth and for a dumb reason!
This sense of pursuit and wanting to capture an evasive target: perhaps that's what it feels to have a "grail doll". Seira isn't quite a grail yet, not limited or discontinued as far as I know. Surely Vings will open a preorder for him again this year. But one is never sure what small artisans will do, and some sculpts end up "limited release" by default simply because the artisan is using their finite resources to produce newer work. So while I'm hopeful, a grain of uncertainty keeps nagging at the back of my mind. Seira is currently a white stag that I'm lying in wait for, but if Vings doesn't make him available again, he will graduate into a proper "grail doll".
Their next preorder window is likely around March - May.
Doll Family-H: completing Vallant
Doll Family-H «DF-H玩偶家族» is a Chinese company. (Taobao store, also sold through BJD dealers like Alice's Collections)
Kanadoll Mars was the original "half" in my 1.5 planned dolls. I'm waiting for a "half" again - a new body this time. In the time since Vallant's intro post, I listed his Migidoll Style65 body for sale, sold it, and ordered a new 65cm body for him from Doll Family-H.
Truth be told, the Migidoll body was far from my first choice for Vallant. I had other candidates on my "promising BJD bodies for hybriding" wishlist, and DFH was ranked at the top. I've heard nothing but good things about their body sculpts, including the 65cm boy, and wanted to get one someday. DFH also offered resin matching: I requested a match to Kanadoll's normal skin, and they must have a library of resins on hand because they agreed.
I've learned two lessons from this hybriding fail. Don't attempt to hybrid until I have the head sculpt in hand! And don't settle for less, but only get the resin I really, really want, even for bodies! In buying that Migidoll body during its discontinuation sale, I was settling for less -- and it came back to bite me.
ETA is April - June. I'm a bit nervous since Vallant was my first hybriding fail, but I did a lot more meticulous research this round and am hopeful the DFH body will succeed. But Vallant is now bodiless, so there won't be many photos of him until the new one comes. At least I have more time to assemble his appearance and make/buy him some clothes.
Achelous: sucked back into minis
Dream Valley «幽谷人形» is a Chinese company. (Website, Taobao store, also sold through BJD dealers like Alice's Collections)
Fantasy BJDs have become much more sophisticated since the days Soom blazed the trail with their popular Gem MDs, and I think Dream Valley displays a similar degree of innovation today as Soom did in the late '00s. According to owner reviews, their dolls don't just look fanciful but are also functional, and the humanoid bodies seem to be good at posing.
While DV is fun to watch, I don't buy fantasy BJDs, and don't particularly like the aesthetic of their humanoid head sculpts. When they released a mer-boy in December, Achelous "Lost in the Vortex" «迷失漩涡 - 奥卡罗», I wasn't interested at first... until I discovered a human version was also produced. I was definitely taken in by the faceup and promo photos, but the blank head sculpt looks good too. Achelous is attractive in an elfin kind of way, and I like his partly-smirky, partly-serene expression. He is, so far, the only DV face that appeals to me.
Image source: Dream Valley / product page on DV's Taobao store.
But Achelous is 1/4 sized. I'd recently sold my last mini (Volks MSD F06) and had planned to leave the 1/4 size for good, because I didn't want the annoyance of wrangling two different doll sizes. But Dream Valley offers all kinds of 1/4-sized bodies for their mature-ish dolls, most of them taller than the childlike 43cm MSD I was familiar with. The tallest male body is 51cm, which is approaching my 58-65cm dolls in height.
And then... this fellow wormed his way into my brain and dropped a character in my imagination: a name, a bit of personality, and a role that worked perfectly for my doll worldbuilding. The more I looked at human Achelous, the more I could see him fitting into my crew of bigger angels, just like I could see taller Seira fitting in. (Isn't it amazing how one finds reasons to justify one's wants?)
I mulled over Achelous for most of December, and my interest in him never went away. I've since ordered his human head with default faceup (because it's cute), on DV's 51cm body. ETA is June - July, which also gives me time to assemble his appearance and make clothes for him. Apart from being a tall mini, this body is quite slender and thus tricky to clothe, so my plan is to avoid buying clothes for Achelous as much as possible, and learn how to make them instead. I've already made a haori for him!
Narin: wherein I break all my rules
Bimong «아트비몽돌» is a South Korean artisan. (Website, Instagram)
I feel like I've always known about Bimong. His dolls have been lurking in the landscape of my BJD knowledge since I was a newbie. But I never paid attention to him, probably because I assumed that he only made mature minis.
It was a secondhand sales post that brought Bimong to my attention in early January. Someone was selling a 53cm Dandelion girl on Den of Angels Marketplace, and had detailed photos of her body. The more I looked at it, the more I got a sense I was looking at a extraordinary doll. The body aesthetics were detailed and expressive, and something about the ball-joint design vs. aesthetic appeal made me think, "This isn't run-of-the-mill BJD design. I think I'm looking at really, really good craftsmanship."
I went searching for more about Bimong and discovered a lot - including the fact that he, indeed, had been making 1/3-sized dolls all along. About this time, a fog descended on my brain and I went a bit insane. When the fog lifted a few days later, I'd just sent Bimong a preorder deposit and was on my way to owning a 68cm Narin boy.
Image source: Art-Bimong.com. This is the 65cm Narin fusion body. Bimong told me that 68cm Narin fusion is based off this template.
That's the long and short of it. I broke every rule in my book and up-ended my BJD spending plans to impulse buy Narin. I don't quite know how it happened, except that I wanted, at least once in my life, to own and play with one of Bimong's dolls. I didn't even have a character for Narin, although he is now starting to take vague shape in my imagination. I guess I'm not immune to an impulse buy after all, and boy was it a big one!
Bimong has been sculpting BJDs since the early days of the hobby, and has developed a reputation as an outstanding and meticulous BJD designer, and a reliable, if a bit slow, producer. His dolls are forbiddingly expensive, but they look to be worth the price, and I have no regrets (yet?) paying it. Perhaps I should be glad that I broke all my rules for no lesser artist. (Isn't it amazing how one finds reasons to justify one's wants?)
ETA is June - July.
And maybe one more...
I erased my wishlist after paying the deposit for Bimong Narin. No more resin-buying for the rest of 2023! (Yes, I know it's only February.) Anything that was on the nuked wishlist must survive the gauntlet of memory until I make a fresh one.
But I might make an exception - for a real grail.
Image source: C. Patton on Flickr / a sales post on Den of Angels Marketplace.
In late January, while browsing DoA's galleries I came across a photo (upper left) of two unusual dolls. This sculpt looked unlike anything I'd seen before, but it had a '00s BJD aesthetic which I'm quite fond of. The dolls' owner, a long-time hobbyist who owns a lot of very old dolls, was happy to answer my questions about the pair. This sculpt is called Saiki斉木, made by a Japanese artisan named Minawadou. Minawadou only produced two BJD heads in the mid 00s, Saiki and Lenz, in a very small span of time, before moving on to other endeavours. So these two sculpts are vanishingly rare and quite obscure.
I'm quite taken by Saiki's quaint, distinctive face. I'd like to have one for myself, but the sculpt will probably be hard to find, so I'm content with enjoying it in photos. I'm not actively looking for Saiki as I really don't want to buy any more new resin this year. But if one happens to float across my path (likely through DoA MP or Y!Japan Auctions)... I might make an exception.
Minawadou «水泡堂» kanji, «ミナワドウ» kana, is a Japanese artisan. (DoA wiki page)
3.5 full dolls is more than enough, and all of them are (will be) significant buys. It'll also double my current crew. I'd never owned more than 4 dolls at a time in this hobby, so 7-ish dolls at the end of 2023 is going to be a record! I look forward to having box openings throughout the year, and hope to resist all new shinys in the meantime.