Shibajuku Girl Namika's big eyed stare.
Is it weird that I bought this doll even though I didn't like it? . . . I didn't dislike it. Mostly I was just curious and wanted to know more. When these dolls started appearing in Australian stores earlier this year, I didn't pay too much attention. I dismissed them as a new Cutie Pop doll but over time their chalk pale faces started to haunt me. I was intrigued and had to have a look at one.
When I went to buy mine, the only two in stock were Namika and Shizuka. Shizuka nearly won the day because she has one blue eye and one green eye but her white and powder pink outfit seemed washed out to me, I preferred Namika's school outfit and odd socks. Plus Namika has pigtails, so it wasn't really a hard decision.
Artwork of the dolls from the back of Namika's box.
Shibajuku Girls are inspired by Harajuku fashion, they even have a section on their website that explains what that's all about. To me this explains their bizarre pallor to an extent and their almost anime style eyes and features. The strange matte pallor, I'm guessing, is supposed to resemble a resin ball-jointed doll. And their facial features are almost anime style, but weirdly not. And this is the problem I have with these dolls. Everything about them is almost and not quite which means even though I'm a relatively articulate person, I find it almost impossible to talk about them, or describe them, or even decide what I think of them.
One thing I can explain quite clearly is that I think they've missed the mark on the Harajuku thing. Yes most of the characters have brightly coloured hair (I'm disappointed that Shizuka's is blonde with pink streaks in real life, and not the ombre it is on the box illustration, though) but they're fashions aren't "wild". They're quirky but not close to Harajuku. To me, these outfits look more like what an Australian woman that admired Harajuku fashion but was too self-conscious to actually wear it, would wear. Yoko and Koe aren't wild or crazy at all. And Suki looks like a hipster who sells jewellery she's made out of vintage buttons at farmer's markets and she probably made that dress from vintage pillowcases while sipping a gluten free, all-organic, soy mocha frappe. This bugs me because they're dolls! You don't have to be coy, or self-conscious, or shy about what you dress them in, because they're dolls. They don't care. Be as wacky and wild and crazy as you like. Your average six year old when allowed to dress itself, is dressed more creatively than this! They could have so much fun with this, creating crazy, fun outfits for them, I'm pretty sure I could entertain myself for about six weeks designing wild and crazy clothes for them and they'd all be better than these designs, which quite frankly are a tad boring. I really hope if these dolls continue, they have some more interesting clothes in future.
On the Shibajuku website there are little bios of the characters. Koe loves animals - a LOT; Namika loves learning - it starts by saying all learning but the rest of the bio focuses on science so I'm thinking Namika likes science; Suki loves colours and food and is possibly on drugs (the bio doesn't say that explicitly, I'm reading between the lines); Yoko loves reading, and writing, and music and spooky stuff and possibly would've been goth or emo if the designers weren't too self-conscious to do that. And Shizuka of the odd-coloured eyes loves everything that hasn't already been mentioned - she's shy but likes decorating herself (?), kittens, fashion, music and being the most under-developed character in the line.
I always feel weird about these bios for doll lines. They're either an annoying list of stereotypes "Namika likes learning, no wait - Science!" Or completely random "Shizuka likes kittens and pretty things and playing drums and all the other things I didn't manage to fit in the other bios!" Why not have someone that likes learning but for once not have maths or science be their pet subject? Like maybe history or geography. And why does the almost goth/emo girl always like writing or art? Why not gardening or cooking or competitive swimming? Why not go with something different for a change? They're always either the same old things or completely without cohesion at all.
The big selling points of these dolls are supposed to be the hair accessories they come with that kids can share with the dolls. Each doll comes with four. I'm not big on sparkly hair accessories to begin with so I wasn't overly impressed by these but I can see how they'd appeal to a six year old girl. Unfortunately they're not particularly well made and even though they'd hardly been handled, two of them were damaged within two hours of unboxing the doll. Although realistically, most little girls will have lost them within two hours of opening the package so perhaps this isn't a massive issue anyway.
Dang it! Tiny glittery things falling off all over my house!
Anyway here's Namika in her box.
Help! I'm trapped in a cardboard tomb!
And out of it.
I spent a while inspecting this doll, trying to decide what I thought about her. Her skintone is strange. She's very pale but it's not a luminous Apple White type pale. It's a matte pasty "I live in my parent's basement" kind of pale. Her eyes have an anime sort of style to them, but then the irises are shaded like they're trying to make the anime style realistic which comes off a little weird. She has real eyelashes but the shape of her eyes makes it hard to tell where her upper eyelid starts and finishes, and they look like they're not quite in the right place. Also such fine eyelashes clash a little bit with the bold, chunky, cartoonish facial screening. I don't mind the glitter eyeshadow, but I think that the glitter they've used is too big to be in scale with the doll.
Giant confusing eye!
Her facial sculpting too is almost anime but then there's a little too much detail in the nose in particular to actually come across as anime in person. And what's with the purple lips? Did she drown? And most perplexing of all (to me at least) her hands and feet are freakishly tiny!
There's also a seam down her lower leg from her knee to her big toe which on my doll's left leg in particular is not as closed as I would like it to be, and makes me wonder if it's going to open and possibly fall apart over time.
Her jointing is as impressive as it is disappointing. Her head has no up or down movement, it only turns, and the further it turns, the further upward her face points. This is irritating. Her shoulders, hips, elbows, wrists and knees all have full rotational movement though, and move nicely, which is excellent. But her ankles have no joint at all which is annoying. And since she can't stand on her own, doesn't come with a stand and doesn't fit other doll's stands particularly well, how useful is posability to her?
What horrific dolly orphanage did these underpants come from? I despise painted on or moulded on clothing on dolls, but I would have preferred painted on underwear to these. These should be the underwear she hides in the back of the drawer for emergencies and never ever wears.
But my big question was, since she's thirteen inches tall, can she share clothes with other dolls? The answer is a resounding maybe. I couldn't find any shoes amongst my junk to fit her. Her feet are so thin and brittle feeling that I was only willing to try flexible shoes on her and her feet are flat which rules out most Barbie shoes right away. But clothes were a different story.
Her proportions are actually quite different to most other dolls but I decided to swap some around for fun.
I started with Barbie and they swapped fairly well. Barbie's bust made Namika's top sit weirdly and the skirt was almost indecently short. And Namika's socks did NOT want to go over Barbie's legs. But Namika looked kind of cute in the Barbie dress, even though it is a little longer and looser on her than it is on Barbie.
It doesn't look like they like each other very much.
Next up was Monster High and Ever After High. I only have one standard size doll from each line and the seventeen inch dolls' clothes were clearly not going to fit. Nor did the standard ones. Namika couldn't even get her hands through Frankie's sleeves and Darling Charming's dress came nowhere near being big enough around Namika's torso. They both got to try on Namika's outfit though. But there was no way her shoes were fitting them.
I think Frankie looks kind of cute like this.
But I don't think Darling is a uniform kind of girl.
Next I tried a clothes swap with Moxie Teenz Tristen. Tristen's top fit Namika a lot better than I would have expected but her skirt was way too lose. And Tristen frankly looked like a stripper in Namika's clothes.
Next I tried a swap with a Mary Kate and Ashley doll, I think they have one of the Skipper bodies but I'm not one hundred per cent sure. This was a pretty good fit but also weird. Mary Kate or Ashley's clothes looked way too mature for Namika and Mary Kate or Ashley's face looked too adult for Namika's outfit.
Then I tried a swap I really didn't think would work, I was just messing around by this point. Moxie Girlz and Namika. And the fit was surprisingly good! And the proportions of each dolls outfit actually suited the other which was nice.
Lastly I tried Namika's outfit on a doll that's either a Wee Three Friends doll or a Star Team Stacie - they're the same doll and I have boxes of them. Unfortunately, their clothes were accidentally thrown away years ago, so I didn't have anything of theirs for Namika to try on. Which is upsetting since Namika's clothes were such a good fit on Stacie that I'm pretty sure they'd fit well the other way around too.
So after all this what do I think of Namika? In all honesty, I'm still as confused as hell. If I had to describe Namika in one word, that word would be inconsistent. She's anime,but she's not. She's posable but you can't pose her because she can't stand up. Her clothes are fairly well made, except for her underpants which are an abomination. They're touted as having Harajuku style but if they do it's an ultra-conservative westernised version. For every good point, there's a bad point. It's almost as though someone had a vague idea for these dolls and they got rushed into production before anyone was clear about what they were making.
Having said that Namika has grown on me. I think she's sweet. She's cute and as long as I don't look at her too closely, I like her. She's going to sit beside my computer as a mascot until I get tired of her. But I have no interest in buying another one. I think there's still hope for this line of dolls. Give them chunkier shoes so they can stand up and clothes that are actually bright and colourful, wild and crazy and you could actually have a really cool doll. But mostly, I think Hunter Toys needs to actually decide what kind of doll these dolls are before they're going to go anywhere.