ACTION DOLL

A Review of Obitsu Body and Other Stuff (Not Necessarily in that Order)

The 1/6th scale hobby in the USA has been in decline for a while, and I don't think anyone would be really surprised by that. In the late '90s, the hobby had explosively re-emerged after a long drought, with lots of manufacturers seeing the initial sales, and wanting to claim their piece of the pie chart. However, the hobby base was never really huge to begin with, and had limited growth potential: Kids have lots of other kewl toys and pastimes to choose from, and most adult 1/6th scale collectors aren't really interested in the brightly colored, unrealistic, and out-of-scale stuff that's marketed to kids. The adult market never had boundless growth potential either: Doll & toy collecting isn't a mainstream hobby. It's perceived as a weird hobby for an adult, particularly a male, and that stigma is a barrier to the hobby's growth. For those interested in the hobby, there's a limit to how much stuff one can own and how much one can spend. Furthermore, the hobby is fragmented into many smaller specialty niches, like scale modelers, toy nostalgia, WWII, Adventure Team, popular culture properties, historical, fantasy, sci-fi, females, etc. To navigate this vast and diverse landscape, the producers and retailers have had to weigh pricing and production numbers against profit, and their conclusions have ultimately been expressed in releases being cut back, and retailers dropping out. Business is business.

For the area of the hobby that I've been most interested in-- making female dolls-- I'm sorry to see that BBI stopped distribution of Cy Girls (and that the closeout priced vintage-style NYPD/FD Joes weren't destined to be available indefinitely). This has resulted in a dwindling supply at Internet retailers, and a huge spike in prices at alternate sources like eBay. Takara, despite a quirky release schedule and "business issues", continues to release and announce releases of Cool Girls targeted for their local Japanese market, but they're expensive for USA customers and of limited availability... and the future holds no guarantees. It's rumored that BBI will soon resume distribution of the "Perfect Body" doll under a "Goth" banner, but nothing's real until it happens.

Although "customizer" and "collector" are only a few of the many roles we assume, the customizer role is somewhat buffered from the ebb & flow of the retail world. Customizers don't focus on getting a continuous stream of new product for a collection, but on having a reliable supply of the fodder that they've learned to work with. With enough determination, one can find ways to make something out of whatever's available, but things that make it easier are always appreciated. For me, with respect to the Cy Girl situation, it's about a very specific item; the hands that come with recent releases. I can alter bodies, resculpt heads, and design costuming, but I can't make hands like theirs. The wrist posts are precision-made for dual-axes articulation, durable for their size, and take only a small toll in the articulation/appearance tug-of-war. Most importantly, the hands are usually good sculptures and properly-sized for the dolls (I wish the same could be said about the oversized hands that come with Perfect Body dolls). It's a great fodder item that I've come to rely on, so I will miss the relatively inexpensive BBI Cy Girl sets that came with an assortment of alternate hands.

Change is inevitable though. I've recently shifted interests-- instead of making near-naked demonesses and warrior women, I've been making large-boobed female creatures based on the Japanese "Ultraman" TV shows. This has had a big effect on my customizing process: I don't need to worry as much about a figures's shaping and ugly articulation seams since they're covered in rubber suits. Consequently, I can shave about two or more weeks off of a project by using a lightly modified stock figure. This affects my choice in figures. I'd previously trash-talked BBI's Perfect Body doll for the ugly shoulder articulation, hinges, and the horrible ratcheting leg articulation. I still think that they're funky dolls, but for the Ultraman creatures, the shoulder articulation is a good thing, the ugly hinges are irrelevant, and the ratcheting leg articulation is something that I can live with (yeah, it's crappy, but it helps with really tight rubbery outfits). I've even found the rubbery/flexible chestpiece to have interesting potential for smoothing out articulation seamlines under the outfit. The point is, when I was making near-naked dolls, the Cool Girls/Cy Girls/Perfect Bodies didn't offer any advantage as fodder since they would have to be so heavily modified. However, making rubber suit dolls changes that-- in addition, the doll's ethnicity isn't even relevant. However, my timing is somewhat unfortunate, considering that even the supply of PB fodder is dwindling. So it's Last Call, and I'm ordering. I thank Good Stuff To Go for their service, selection and prices. They are/were one of the last of the Internet retailers to have Cy Girls in stock and one of the few, or one, that didn't jack up their prices when they clearly could have: That alone earns them a friendly plug here.

Griping about the weather isn't likely to change it. The shrinking fodder-hunting grounds means that it's time to explore other terrain. The Cy Girls aren't the only source of meat, and the customizer has to be prepared to adapt to the changing landscape and use what's available, or move on.

nyuk, nyuk

 

 


 

 

(1)Obitsu Rigid Bust, (2)Orb-itsu Soft Bust, (3)Volks Neo Excellent Base, (4)Takara Cool Girl v2, (5)BBI Perfect Body

That brings us to the "Obitsu Body". I've been intrigued by the Volks Excellent Base dolls since before the days of Takara Cool Girls, when I saw advertisements in the magazine, Hobby Japan. These were available in different configurations, from heavily articulated to a more conservative, eye-friendly design. The problem was, they were difficult to buy since they were marketed for Japanese collectors and hobbyists. Years passed, and it became easier to buy things from Japan thanks to Hobbylink Japan and Hobby Search. A few USA based stores, like the Doll & Hobby Shoppe, imported and sold them, although on a very iffy basis. While it's gotten easier, it really hasn't-- the window for buying Volks is apparently very limited, and most offerings at websites seem to be perpetually sold out.

That situation doesn't seem to apply to the Obitsu dolls, at least for the time being: You can buy Obitsu dolls from the usual Japanese sources... or you can order from The Junky Spot, based in California. They have great prices, service, and availability... plus the shipping is reasonably priced and speedy.

I'm not sure of the relationship between Obitsu and Volks; I've heard that Obitsu manufactures for Volks, but that's not relevant to the discussion. There are many variations in the Volks line, but it seems that their body designs are different. What the two share is the same look & feel, and the same target audience. There are a bunch of websites showing custom creations in this style. The distinctive style has a very "Japanese" look. Some customizations have the familiar large-eyed anime look, some look spooky-odd, and some have a more realistic look... but look Japanese. Other features: they usually depict very young, lithe females and many have extremely large boobs. In the long-running debate over whether these things should be called "dolls" or "action figures", these would probably be called "dolls" since they don't seem like something that little boys would play with.

Doll or Action Figure?
I'm training myself to call 'em dolls since that's what they are, but many folks prefer the more "politically correct" euphemistic phrase invented by marketing geniuses in the '60s to reduce the stigma for boys. Hey, the only "action" I've ever seen from these things is a shelf dive. "Figure" is okay when a distinction needs to be made between a doll's body/armature, and the outfit. Of course, there are Girly Dolls and there are Manly Dolls; if it's lewd & crude with an in-the-mood 'tude, it's manly.

This hobby niche seems very deliberately geared towards fashion customizers/doll artists. The bodies are available in different styles (soft/rigid bust and skin tones), and heads are available in a basic blank style (no eyes, and bald) to rooted and prepainted. Alternate hand poses are available, and many customizers fit the heads with realistic glass eyes. And of course, there are the outfits and accessories... some folks make their own, but a lot of pre-fab stuff is available from companies like Azone.

I purchased two versions of the Obitsu Body from The Junky Spot, one with a soft bust and one with the rigid plastic bust. I should say up front that I bought these to check 'em out, not because I had an actual usage in mind. From previous purchases of Volks dolls, I knew before buying that these weren't exactly my cup-of-tea. I like my gals beefier and less nymph-like, and although I call 'em all "dolls", these tend to be "dollier" than my manly sensibilities are comfortable with. Of course, fodder is fodder and they can be turned into something bizarre, like an eight-legged she-witch. Diversity is good. And I do appreciate a well-constructed doll.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Obitsu doll. From my experiences with Volks dolls (from a number of years back), I was expecting loose hinges and a doll that could barely stand without a stand. The Obitsu hinges are high quality and suprisingly tight all over, which is a testament to both their production standards and their design/choice of materials. The Volks doll had lots of removeable parts, which isn't a bad thing, but they were waaaay too easy to remove. It gave them a model-like quality. The Obitsu doll has even more removeable parts, including the arms (at the shoulders) and the torso (which separates from the waist)--This is supposed to make dressing the dolls easier. However, the Obitsu parts have tight connectors, thanks to a rubber-like material in the connector post holes. It makes the parts twist smoothly, without chatter or play, and the parts don't fall off with casual handling. It feels substantial and this tactile quality easily distinguishes the Obitsu doll from other more poorly designed and cheaply constructed dolls with the veneer of articulation bells & whistles.

Dolls are Miniature Replicas of People  Humans can also be disassembled like this, but not without special tools and some discomfort. Also, reassembly is considerably more difficult.

Because of the tight ankles and despite its itsy-bitsy baby feet, the doll can stand on its own. I don't know if that's true when it's wearing an outfit, but the size thing could be fixed with a little bit of sculpting. It's hands are similarly tiny, but wouldn't be quite as easy to fix . Unfortunately, the optional alternative hands don't offer the more utilitarian grasping poses of the Cy Girl dolls, but given the size of the hands, I doubt a grasping hand version would be able to handle a Hasbro HOF .45 hand cannon. Well, that's a bit unreasonable, but the size and variety factor do limit the appeal of this doll for uses outside of its intended niche.

The soft bust and rigid plastic bust versions are different, not only for the obvious reasons, but also because of some differences in the articulation they offer. The soft plastic bust is made of a very soft plastic (not super-soft), cast as a torso sleeve which fits over the torso's skeletal inner workings. It may be removeable, but I think it would take some work. It hides the underboob articulation which is present in the rigid plastic version, and a neck/torso ball joint, which isn't present in the rigid plastic version. It all works very well; the neck stays posed front-to-back and side-to-side (which is very kewl), and the underboob articulation poses stays put front-to-back and side-to-side. As can be expected from rubber-covered torsos, the underboob/waist twist doesn't work quite as well, but you can still pose it rotated a bit off of its natural centered axis (the rotation axis isn't available in the rigid plastic version). Like all rubber coverings though, it's easy to get dirty, picks up lint, etc., and fabric doesn't slide over it as easily as it does with rigid plastic. Also, rubber parts can't be easily modified, which would limit the scope of a whole doll rebuilding project.

The Obitsu dolls offer a rich, ready-made environment for the dollmaker who's ready to explore a different style. The prices are reasonable, considering that you can make targeted purchases of a particular body style, or a head, or an outfit. Personally, I'm not ready to relocate, since I have enough fodder to get me through bunches of meaty women projects. However, variety expands possibilities, and boundaries aren't carved in stone: the Obitsu doll would be a natural candidate for an Ultraseven Pitto Seijin project. Besides, fodder is fodder, parts is parts, and the more, the merrier-- We're all skeletons underneath, and a skinny gal can be just an early transitory form of a woman with meat on her bones. Customizing sometimes mirrors life, but it doesn't happen by itself...

You used to need a valid Artistic License to strike a pose like this, but Obitsu makes it easy.

Volk's Neo EB doll (#3) is difficult to pose due to the tensioning of the multi-segmented abdomen... Her stylistically detailed naughty parts insist on jutting forth, which could be considered lewd & crude. However, she doesn't exactly fit my image of a "Manly Doll", so yet another attempt to develop a proper taxonomy fails. I guess it's another one of those things that you know when you see it (like the fabled "Porn"). The debate continues...

-09/11/05