Monday, 13 May 2013

Doll Review: Bratzillaz - Basic Yasmina Clairvoya

I usually take my dolls out of the box to display, but I've been saving some for the purposes of reviewing fully, from opening to display, and as a test-run I decided to go for something easy so picked a first wave doll from MGA's Bratzillaz line: Yasmina Clairvoya.

But before we jump in, let's look closer at the franchise as a whole!

Freaky Just Got Fabulo- I mean.. Glam Gets Wicked!

Bratzillaz was released in Autumn 2012 with its first line of 'witch cousins of the Bratz' named Yasmina Clairvoya, Cloetta Spelletta, Meygana Broomstix, Jade J'Adore, Sashabella Paws and two newer doll characters Fianna Fins released in the early 2013 'Midnight Beach' line and Vampelina from the 'Magic Night Out' line. 

Each character is a sorceress with a unique 'witchmark', a specialisation such as love, flight or animal magic, spells and pets which follows their respective themes. For stock in international countries (UK and Europe) the pets are included in with the dolls, elsewhere they are sold separately

The line up! (*)

The dolls feature 12 points of articulation and inserted glass eyes. Newer lines have a special difference such as the 'Midnight Beach' dolls having glow in the dark plastic and 'Magic Night Out' dolls have a twisting dance mechanism.

There are other sets included in the series; a cheaper alternative budget line with much less articulation but featuring the same core characters, a 'Switch-A-Witch' line (which many have compared to the Monster High 'Create-A-Monster' set) which contains interchangeable body parts, wigs, clothes and heads to create 2 unique-combination full witch dolls, multiple fashion and accessory packs and a 'Cafe Zap' play set.
The franchise also includes interactive game apps for smartphones, an official live-action theme song, an official website and regularly uploaded online episodes of an animated Bratzillaz series.

Now, onto the doll! (I don't ever set up a real photography shoot but this will probably change for the sake of making my images more clear. In the mean time prepare yourself for a fabulous orange [very well loved] blanket!)

'Flash! A-aah! Saviour of the Universe!'
Here she is!

First impressions: Plastic and Purple.
Too much plastic and purple..

Each doll is packaged in a box with a style and colour scheme according to their own theme, but I feel the deep purple here was a bad choice as all the other purples are lost in it and doesn't show off the doll and her elements. A contrasting colour, or even a softer lilac would have made the doll 'pop' more as opposed to sink into the back ground.
The back is thick printed card but I'll get onto that in more detail after opening. The outer packing is a thick plastic window with a detailed card trim border, and no parts seem to be wobbling about inside so dolls are pretty secure in their boxes.
Too secure..

I've got experience in opening and getting dolls out of packaging from various MGA lines (Lalaloopsy, other Bratzillaz and Novi Stars) and let's just say you'll have to prepare yourself for the onslaught.. So here's what you'll need:
  • Doll
  • Sturdy scissors
  • Thick protective gloves so you don't get cut on the sharp plastic
  • Over-alls
  • Chainmail armour
  • A laser gun just in case
  • Snacks!
Seriously, you'll need some heavy duty scissors, and snacks to make sure you can endure through the process! (Here I have sweeties, a cheese pastry and some good ol' reliable scissors)

My best advice to get Bratzillaz boxes open is to forget about trying to peel the back off and remove all sorts of ties and tape, and just cut all the way around the sides and pop off the 'lid'.

Be careful when you get to parts like hair, clothes and accessories that bump up to the edge of the plastic

Theeere we go!

Now we've popped off the lid let's look in more detail:

Some online feature which I've not bothered with yet

'Zillaz logo

A mystical crystal ball!
And here's the back:

There's a lot going on here, with all the multiple languages and different coloured sections. It's busy, and I feel they're trying to do too much all at once: the other dolls in the line, descriptions, doll and pet biographies, warranties, online gimmicks, 'augmented  reality' features.. The whole blocks of text are off putting and the images are small and pixelated. 

I know the cluttered sections with different languages can't be helped (it's hardly economical to print a different back for each language!) but all the text on the back is repeated in the instructions leaflet, which is in a bag taped to the inside of the box! 

What's worse for me is the doll's box art compared to the end result.

The completely different skin colour, different hair styles and colours, different clothing styles, missing accessories and jewellery.. The art looks rather different from the actual product. It's not even a stylistic difference; simply the dolls are missing key elements from the designs. It's confusing and I don't think 'artistic licensing' can be held to account for something that's supposed to be a representation of what's in the box.

Moving on!

First impression: She's pretty cute! Still a little lost within the other purples, but her witchy theme shines through. There is one problem before we can get a proper look at her..
Time to get the doll off the backing card!










Is there any need for that amount? 
I don't see how companies like Mattel can hold a Monster High doll perfectly fine to their backing cards, in their boxes with skinny plastic ties and clear elastic bands, but MGA goes overkill and holds everything down with tapes, ties, useless plastic molded parts and strips. It's a nightmare to open and it's costly. (sure, it seems a negligible amount per doll, but it'll soon add up)

After cutting a few more pieces of coloured thread which are holding the hair down she's FINALLY free!

All the ties removed or trimmed back as much as possible and we see detail of the backing was lost behind the doll. It's an adorable witchy (and a diamond...?) theme constellation filled sky that I assume exist in the 'Zillaz universe. If they'd chose for this sort of colour scheme on the front packing it would have worked much better!

DON'T cut these ties! (Using the black stand base to show the contrast) I got too carried away and nearly cut these, until I remembered they were elastic loops to put the dolls hands through so they can pose the capes.

There are the same coloured threads tying her loose bangs to the front of her cape which I snipped with tiny scissors as I didn't want to risk pulling and other threads or cutting the hair.

  • Doll
  • Cape, bolero, vest, pants
  • Boots
  • Earrings, hat, magnifying glass
  • Stand and base 
  • Character 'spell' card
  • Pet card
  • Broom-stick hair brush
  • Instructions
I also cut out the crystal ball pop-up from the inside of the box and the decorative ribbon from the top.

The bottom of the post is shaped so it can be pushed into the base at different intervals and stand at different heights. However, I found that on the first notch it's too wobbly and the dolls tend to fall over, the second is sturdy but the third (with the post pushed all the way into the base) is too short and the doll's knees bend. 

The instructions include a guide to assembling the stand, contents of each individual doll, how to activate the 'augmented reality' with a webcam and the character/pet cards, other online activities and the usual warnings and safety information.

WARNING: DO NOT look into the Sun with Monocle
Assembled stand
The stand is pretty unremarkable. It has a large sturdy base with the logo, but the plastic is a little thin, and the post is rigid which opens the waist clip up to the possibility of snapping if it's pushed too hard.

Close up of the other contents:

Back of the character card
I'm free!
I love her hair because it's reminiscent of the main character's hair from the 90's manga and anime 'Sailor Moon'!

The two buns are made from coiled braids which are tied with the loose ends round the back. Two thin and short bangs hang to her bust. Two more long braids hang under the buns, tied at her waist but the loose ends finishing just above her knees. She has a slightly side swept fringe but I think this was due to her hat holding it in place. It fluffed out with a bit of brushing and held it's shape after styling.

In the name of the moon, I shall punish you!

Hey! That's my line!
The quality of the hair is rather poor. It's thick, coarse and frizzy. The bulk of the hair, such as the braids and fringe are smooth but still don't feel very 'hair-like'. The ends of the fibres are frizzed and fly away.

Despite the (somewhat) elaborate hair style the rooting pattern is thin and the scalp in even visible from the back, only covered by a layer of thicker, more densely rooted plugs.

The hat is basic dark purple with a criss-cross pattern. Lighter purple paint has been (rather sloppily) brushed on to show off the inset more.

The hat is held on by a clear elastic band, which is held in place by a glued in plug. Be careful when snipping threads and ties as you may accidentally cut this, and I don't know how easy it is to replace!

 Before I buy a doll I check the facial screening to make sure I don't pick one up with a very obvious defect, as it's disappointing to open and then realise the mistake, then go through the hassle of returning it to the store. I checked the other couple of Bratzilla dolls on the shelf and this was the better of the bunch. The others, honestly, were pretty awful. 

I've dealt with MGAE's poor Quality Control and gross eyes smudged across the side of the face and lips missing half the paint. This defect isn't that obvious until you look up close: the right side of her face (eyebrow, eye makeup, lips) is faint and somewhat blurred. It's most obvious on the darker purple 'crease line' of her eye paint. On the left it is solid and bold, on the right it is much softer, and the eyebrow isn't as neat and blurred across her face.

Besides the lack of consistency her face-up is ok. It's simple and purple but contrasts nicely with her bright eye colour. I get that purple is the theme here, but there are so many different shades and hues going on that it doesn't quite work for me: deep plum, lilac, metallic, mauve.. 

Her eyes, on the other hand, work very well in terms of purple. They're glass inset at a side glance, with a bright lemon yellow iris surrounded by a ring of lilac. This is bold and gives her a lot of character.
I find inset eyes (glass, acrylic, silicone, etc) can seem wide and staring in other dolls if they haven't chosen the right size or style for the doll and it often detracts from the character, but this side glance softens the look.

I've never been a fan of the Bratz faces with their lack of nasal definition and huge painted lips, and this is a slight problem for me with this line, but these proportions are much better. The custom/repainted Bratzillaz out there with much less lip paint look more natural, but that's just personal opinion.

 She's got a very strange profile with her almost bean shaped head! When I took the earrings out to get a better picture I noticed the gold residue on her cheek and around the hole where paint has rubbed off the plastic. It's not noticeable when the earrings are back in but it's still a quality issue.

The earrings are long keys (which aren't particularly ornate and made from silver plastic painted metallic shiny gold) but instead of a second matching earring from an inverted mold, it's just the same shape so you don't get a real 'pair'. I feel this is quite lazy on the companies part and it's these sorts of details which don't help the dolls live up to the potential. 

Onto the clothes!
Yasmina comes with a cape, jacket, a tube top and capri pants.

The clasp of the cape is the Bratzillaz 'School Arms' badge which shows a bikini, a diamond ring, a high healed shoe and.. I actually don't know.. Cuff-links? Earrings? And their motto 'Fashion Magic Academy'.

This makes /total/ sense..
The material is nice quality, with a black stretch cotton lining with a softer material over-lay, random patterned with holes that aren't stitched down. The horizontal purple stitching holds the two layers together, however none of the edges are hemmed which (even though it's 'just a play doll') looks sloppy.

Cape pattern
The front of the cape under the badge, the back of the tube up and the back of the pants all close with squares of velcro, the stitching is sloppy so neither close fully and the result looks messy.

 The bolero has a small collar and simple sleeves. The material is deep purple covered in a gold diamond pattern with a black underside, to give the appearance of a lining. There are two accented black shiny pleather straps across the shoulders. All the edges are hemmed with black thread which looks tidy and secure. 

The top, on the other hand, is a different story. It's a corset style tube vest made from thin purple pleather made of 3 panels. The middle panel is decorated with (unhemmed/fraying) gold and 'corseted' black ribbon running down the centre. 

Unlike the other edges (which have been sewn over, but not folded and hemmed), the gaps in between the gold ribbons have simply been left. I don't know why these gaps are unhemmed, but the extra centimetre or two of thread it would have taken would have added greatly to this messy looking piece. (This wouldn't make much of a difference in the long run, given the other problems..)

The panels are coming apart because the velcro (which is sloppily sewn on) is too far on each side, so you have to stretch the fabric to close the back, which isn't helped by the fact the stitching of the seams is loose and uneven.

Extra thread and closer attention to those details would have made this a simple, yet effective part of the outfit.
The potentially sleek and form-fitting design is held back by the frayed and unkempt edges.The cut is a little off so doesn't sit flush to her sides.

The capri pants are a simple straight cut, made from shiny yellow fabric with stitched 'zipper cover' on the front and 'double seam' detail running down the outer side of the leg. The ends are finished nicely with matching colour thread at the waist and calves. They stop just below the knee and the fabric bends with the joints pretty easily.

The pants feature a working pocket! This is a really cute detail and offers more posing/photo-shoot/play options. 

See, this is where I get confused. Upon closer inspection of the ribbon/handle that was looped through the top of the box, it seems that they've gone through the trouble of cleaning up and melting the edges so the fabric doesn't fray. Why?!
If they're going out of their way to finish off a piece of material that will probably be thrown away with the rest of the packing (not to mention it isn't even part of the doll/accessories in the first place) why don't they bother hemming the clothes properly?

Priorities, MGA, priorities.

Weird blotchy hands..

The boots are molded brown plastic with black painted detail, stopping mid-calf. Two thick black molded buckles wrap around the top of each boot with black laces and studs running down the front. The black paint has a poor quality screening, with patchy sections and random blobs in the wrong places.

The mold of each boot is the same; one 'half' copied and flipped over so the sides are symmetrical and the laces criss cross. Apart from the belt buckles (which are indistinct from the rest of the black paint) the two halves are the same, and there's no distinct left and right foot.

Random blob on the top of the toes
The black soles of the shoes are ridged, and feature multiple molded stitches around the heel. The opening stops in the middle of stitched pattern and doesn't close very well, which leaves a roomy gap at the top of the boot. 

All the Bratzillaz dolls have high arched feet to fit giant heels and non have flat shoes, which isn't really representative of the age the characters are supposed to be, but that's fashion dolls in a nut-shell..

Well that's it for all the clothes and accessories! Time to look at the actual doll: 

These dolls follow the same stylisation as other fashion dolls, with a slender body sculpt, long legs and larger proportioned head and facial features. 

They have 12 points of articulation, including a swivel waist. The hands and lower legs are made from a rubbery, more flexible plastic, whereas the rest of the body is a shinier, more brittle plastic.

Her 'witchmark' is a black Egyptian style eye, though I'm not sure how it's relevant.
She has two different hand molds, with the right hand slightly more cupped

The waist has a large peg joint which allows the torso to rotate slightly (less than 45°) but it looks very unnatural. 

The elbows and hips are ball and peg joints, which allows for a larger degree of rotation. The wrists and knees are simple hinge joints which only allow one movement (less than 90° for the knees and about 180° for the wrists)
Some joints are quite loose, but on the whole they function well. Non are too stiff that I'm afraid they'll break if moved, but the wrist joints are fragile due to the rubbery hands. 
Some of the seams are cracking or coming apart slightly.

I'm biased and my opinions on other doll lines have changed after handling so many Monster High dolls; before I started collecting dolls, I would have thought that the Bratzillaz joints were pretty neat, but now I just see them as clunky and unrefined. 
It's not as noticeable when they're clothed but there's no 'flow' to the body. 

She has a mild case of BLS (Bendy Leg Sydrome) due to being packed up in plastic in an awkward pose.

Brace yourself for nude-y doll pictures with magical pearlescent pants!

This is the extent of the doll's posing abilities. It's great for kid's play time, and certainly a step up from other fashion dolls (such as older/budget Barbie or Bratz) but for collectors it may seem limited.

In conclusion, I like this line. The theme is great as an 'in-between' for those who find Monster High too creepy/scary and don't like Barbie and her pink-parade. There's great potential but the overall quality of the dolls drags it down; the seam lines, chunky joints, poor choices of materials for hair and clothes, etc. New features like the glass inset eyes and tiny magnifying glass are cute, but not enough to outweigh the cons.

The whole franchise is a response to Twilight/MH fame, jumping on the supernatural/monster/Halloween fashion doll bandwagon along with many other companies, but it's not the best product.

And that's about it for this review! 

'EYE see you!'

'I can fly!'

'Why yes, I do have wild crazy eyes, thanks for noticing!'

'In your future I see.. A poor investment choice!'


'That ribbon will be mine!'



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