Friday, November 30, 2012

Review: Frankie Stein - Scaris Deluxe

One of the best things about Monster High is that there is a wide range of styles of the dolls. Like big hair and elaborate, costume-y outfits? They got you covered. Or maybe you prefer youthful looking dolls that come in specifically themed clothes like pajamas or skating gear. They have those, too! For me, I think Monster High is at its' best when they strike somewhere in between, with dolls that have colorful faceups and nice clothes that aren't limited by a strong theme. My favorite MH dolls tend to have bright yet subtle faces, nice, silky hair that isn't overly elaborate, and clothes that seem closer to genuine fashion than anything too costume-y. Which brings me to the deluxe Frankie Stein Scaris doll.

Ever since she's hit shelves I've seen some positive responses to her but the overwhelming majority seem to find her boring, bland, unexciting. When it comes to Scaris Frankie, I think the key word is subtlety. And I think the things that others find boring or bland with this doll are the very things that make me love her. The subtle details -- the nods to vintage fashion, the simple but expressive face, the loose but sophisticated hairstyle. When I look at my Scaris Frankie doll these are all things I see and they're the reasons I love this doll so much.

Like the other Scaris dolls Frankie has a portion focusing on her at the bottom of the box back. Her booklet functions the same as Rochelle's; it's more of a scrapbook/travelogue. She doesn't have any diary entries like Clawdeen, Jinafire, and Skelita.

Frankie has a simple faceup. She has yellow eyeliner and silver eyeshadow. A thin strip of silver also runs under the eye. The eyeshadow is topped by a very light shimmer that goes to her brows. Her lips are a fairly muted shade of navy blue and are mildly glossy. That's it for the makeup, very simple. And yet there's something about her face that seems so expressive. Scaris Frankie looks almost melancholy to me, in that glamorous, jaded way. Very Parisian. I don't think it was a conscious decision by the Mattel design team. But by the same token I don't think I'm imagining it. Whatever the case, I find this Frankie's face to be truly stunning.

Her hair is, well, glorious. The black and white streaks are your standard Frankie fare. The top has been pulled into a flat ponytail, similar to her I Heart Fashion doll. It's layered and lands just above her rear. It has an amazing wave throughout, very lush. The texture is smooth and very silky. I bought this doll at Toys R Us and there were several Frankie's on hand to choose from. Many of them looked like they had bad hair -- I chose the best of the lot. If you've gotten a Scaris Frankie with bad hair I suggest you call Mattel about it -- chances are they'll send you a new one. Because if you get a Scaris Frankie with good hair, well, it's not good hair, it's fantastic hair. I have no problems brushing it, and thanks to the large wave there are several different ways to style it without putting a single product in it. Throw her sunglasses on her head and you have even more options. In terms of style I simply love this look for Frankie. As I like to say, it's styled but not overly so. Between this and her SRM doll, I think I just have a thing for Frankies with mid-length, wavy hair.

Her outfit is 1940's by way of the 80's. She wears an electric blue top with a black print of tiny Eiffel Tower silhouettes, nuts, and bolts. It has a loose collar that can be worn up or down and short sleeves trimmed in black. The front of the top drops lower than the back creating the look of an untucked shirt. The hem is lined in hot pink and travels up the center of the bodice where it splits at the collar. There is a cinch above the navel of black ribbon. Despite being cinched this top fits rather loosely. The colors make this very 80's, but the cut and fit are pure 40's. Suffice it to say I love this top; I find it kind of extraordinary to be honest. It's sophisticated and reads as genuine fashion. It's haute. It's paired with a white miniskirt with a diagonal electric blue print of stylized stitches. The bottom is hemmed with black thread. Both the top and skirt are made of a smooth, silky knit. The skirt fits much tighter than the top making for a nice visual contrast. It's a great look -- fashionable without being overly fussy; dramatic in it's own subtle way. The colors, the fabric, the cut, it all works extremely well.

Frankie wears tall, black platform boots with a yellow lightning bolt down each side. There's lots of molded detail going on here -- straps, stitches, buttons, and little electricity bursts. The heels are jagged lightning bolts. The platforms, texture, and fact that they're combined with this specific outfit give them a fetish-y vibe. It's tres cool and a shining example of the subversiveness Mattel manages to sneak into these dolls. Just don't tell the kids. Or the parents for that matter.

The only accessories Frankie wears are her earrings and sunglasses. That's it. No bracelet, no necklace, no belt. And you know what? She doesn't need them! The outfit works great as it is, why muss it up by throwing in too many accessories? It'd just make this chic ensemble look busy. Her earrings are mismatched -- a cascading string of electric blue nuts on one side, a bright yellow screw on the other. Her sunglasses are matching yellow. I like how they did the colors on this outfit. Although blue is the standout color it's not overpowering. It's anchored by the black sleeve hems, cinch, and boots. The yellow works perfectly as an accent because it only shows up on the sunglasses, earring, and sides of the boots. The only pink is the trim of the top. This outfit was very well thought out. Oh and by the way, I like the sunglasses on Frankie but prefer them resting on her head.

Frankie comes with the requisite rolling suitcase. Hers is electric blue with a pink block baring a lightning bolt on the front. There's lots of molded details to make it look mechanical. The handle is yellow lightning jags. The back has the same print as her top molded into it while the inside has the standard pockets and padding.

Overall grade: A+ This doll exemplifies what I love about Monster High. She's fashionable, she's subversive, she's cool. Quality is high on this doll -- her faceup is near-perfect and hair quality is fantastic (not to mention the actual style is superb). She's not so overly styled that I feel I have to leave her on her stand so as not to "mess her up". She's pretty much perfect in her own subtle way.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Review: Picture Day Abbey Bominable

Today we're looking at Abbey Bominable, specifically her Picture Day doll. If you've read my Picture Day Spectra Vondergeist review you'll already know this line leaves me a bit confused. Are these dolls new basics or themed to school pictures? If history repeats itself (and you know it always does, right?), the fan community as a whole will decide this one. But even then I can foresee Picture Day occupying a sort of limbo where no one exactly knows for sure what these dolls are supposed to be. Because I'm pretty sure the heavily themed boxes and included Fearbooks are going to leave many saying themed line, but personally these feel more like new basics to me despite the Picture Day additives. Whatever the case, we have a new Abbey doll -- her eighth or ninth depending on whether you count this doll or her Scaris one first. I know this fact has many in the fan community groaning due to the shear amount of Abbey dolls released over the past year. As I've been writing this blog I've come to acknowledge, and even accept, my fanboy leanings when it comes to Abbey, but even I have to admit it really is a lot of this character. There are four dolls in this line and getting a new Spectra and Cleo is fantastic. But Abbey (and Draculaura even more so) seem like they could've been skipped this time. How about a new Toralei? Or Lagoona? I know the re-release of her 2.0 Basic from last year is flooding shelves at the moment but it would've been nice to have a brand new, basic-y Lagoona. Plus all her new dolls are in budget lines; a deluxe Lagoona release would've been great. If nothing else, the box art for the Picture Day dolls is all about poking lighthearted fun at the girls, and Lagoona is a character that could seriously use some levity to lighten her up. Just take a look at Abbey's picture from the box--

Pretty funny, right? This drawing is the first sign that while it would have been refreshing to see a more unexpected character in this line in place of Abbey, they've at least made the most of this set up and the accompanying doll. (Although there are a few minor design choices that leave me scratching my head. We'll cover those as we reach them.) Abbey comes with a Fearbook that highlights the vast array of MH characters rather than pushing her character or story forward.

Picture Day Abbey sports a brand new 'do. For the first time she has bangs! I'm surprised it's taken this long considering we're on her eighth (or ninth) doll at this point. And seriously, Abbey knows how to rock some bangs hard and right. They look great on her! Even the design of the bangs is cool -- while the right half are completely white the other half is made up of her signature blue and purple, split in half. One lone pink streak fills in the first long portion of her hair where the bangs end. Although she also has the blue, purple, and pink streaks underneath, the top of her hair is completely white except the colored portions of her bangs and that pink streak. The look is striking and unique. With the exception of her SRM doll this is the first time we have an Abbey with no ponytail, no headband, no sleep mask. Although not prefect, the tinseled bits are staying down a bit better than usual, especially considering none of it is anchored in any way. When I first de-boxed her and combed her hair several strands came loose and required a trim. Other than that this hair has been pretty great (for Abbey), and I love the style in general, so it gets a huge thumbs-up from me.

In the promo picture for this line Abbey had the older style eyes; between the cool 'do and the older eyes I was super excited for this doll. In reality this doll has the newest eyes, the sharply pointed ones. I much prefer the older eyes in general but my favorite version of this character is Fashion Abbey, a doll that utilizes the newest eyes, so I guess I don't dislike them that much. This Abbey has a great faceup. Her eyes are surrounded by a thin layer of electric blue eyeliner topped by a muted pink shade of shadow that goes partway to her brows. Both the liner and shadow are matte. And that's it for the eyes! Less really is more (and more often than not). Her lips are the same shade as her shadow and are semi-glossy.

Picture Days Abbey's outfit is a bit of a doozy. There's a lot going on here, and it's doing so in some loud colors. She wears a long, sleeveless shirt (dress?) in blue with a print of purple, lavender, and red (we'll come back to this in a sec). At the top, over the bust, hangs a... piece, in reflective green. It lands diagonally over the bust in a sort of dripping ice shape. The print on this top is done in a soft, airbrush style. It's kind of like what you'll see at those stands you find in the mall or an amusement park where you can get a personalized shirt, done in airbrush by the artist. In this case the print is kind of shapeless, just bright blue with some abstract block-y things in purples and red scattered throughout. I think maybe these are supposed to represent day-glo ice in mid-melt, but who knows really. The piece at the top adds visual interest, although I'm not sure why they went with green. Some might consider this top tacky, but I have a well-enough developed sense of irony to find it delightfully tacky. So yeah, I'm totally on board with this look. Under the shirt she wears white tights with a print of blue, pink, purple, and black in sharp geometric shapes. The tights end halfway down the calf. At her waist is a black ice belt. I tried the outfit without the belt and it looked horrendous, to me anyway. The shirt suddenly seemed kind of shapeless and just plain odd. It's amazing the difference one little belt makes. She's also wearing a jacket of shiny black fur. I love this jacket -- it adds a touch of glam to the look, not to mention it anchors all that craziness going on underneath it. I removed the jacket and still liked the look, but not nearly as much. Abbey wears black semi-transparent boots topped by thick ice cuffs. The cuffs are so thick that when you stand the doll straight with her legs unbent they rub up against each other and push her legs apart. It really surprised me because off the top of my head I can't think of any other MH shoes that do this. It's not a big deal, and I always have my doll's legs bent anyway, but it did surprise me.

Abbey's accessories are where most of my confusion lies. For starters, she only wears one earring. It's nothing huge, and the one earring look is a thing, so it's fine. But like the boots, it surprised me. The design of the lone earring is a bit counter intuitive. It's a pink dangling ice form, but on top it has a half loop that insists on constantly getting caught in her hair. It's unavoidable, to the point that I finally just took it out. It looks cool. But it will drive you crazy.

She wears a matching pink brass knuckle, or in this case ice knuckle. Abbey has big hands and the ice knuckle has been squeezed over her three middle fingers, leaving them totally misshapen. Once again, kind of surprising, but I like the look of them so on they stay. And I have plenty of Abbey hands so I can always do a switcheroo if I decide I want to ditch them. Instead of a purse Abbey comes with a pink ice backpack. It doesn't open. The backpack isn't stand friendly so I've taken to looping one of the straps around her arm, basically forcing it to function as a purse anyway. Looped through the top of the backpack was a set of black keys on a ring. The ring has a large open space and it kept falling off the pack. I've taken to just wrapping it around her neck. It looks like a necklace anyway, and it stays on much better there than it did on the backpack. Abbey's last accessory is a blue folder adorned with a broken ice pattern.

Overall grade: A- I really like this doll! I love her simple but pretty faceup. Usually the new "sharp" eyes come across as angry to me, but here she just looks fierce. Her outfit may be loud bordering on tacky but it works. This is a brand new hairdo for Abbey, and a good one at that. The actual quality of her hair seems a bit improved. There's some oddness going on with her accessories but it's mostly minor (although the hair-grabbing earring really is annoying). She comes with plenty of extras. This is one of my favorite Abbeys, actually. I appreciate the new hairdo (especially how they did the bangs and long pink streak), and the unique outfit is growing on me more and more.