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Feature - The BJD's Go to Otakon - Kim's World of Art

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					Otakon, 2005                                                                                                                                11/5/09 9:29 PM




                          Feature - The BJD's Go to Otakon
 One of our favorite sections returns this month thanks to Kim Stark. BJDs surface in many places these days
 but they have been popular at Cons for a long time. Kim was one of the lucky attendees at Otakon last
 month and was kind enough to be a Dollicieux reporter.

 Every year a major anime convention takes place in Baltimore, which is among the largest of its kind on the
 East Coast. In fact, Otakon, has grown so much in popularity that this year the organizers had to set an
 attendance cap at 22,000 and anyone who wanted to go were urged to pre-register as soon as possible.
 (While about 2,000 passes were available at the door, they were all sold out by Saturday.)

 For those not familiar with such conventions, anime means Asian-made animation—such as Speed Racer,
 Pokémon, and Great Teacher Onizuka—while manga is the black and white comic book that is typically
 issued in paperback novel-sized books. Generally a new series starts out in Japan as a black and white
 comic strip that's published in various newspapers and magazines. Any comic strip series that becomes
 popular among its readers is then re-issued as a multi-volume manga series. If that manga series sells well,
 then an anime version of the series is made for Japanese television and it frequently leads to spin-off
 products, such as t-shirts, dolls, and video games. Many of the most popular anime and manga series are
 translated and dubbed into other languages for overseas distribution. In recent years anime and manga have
 gained mainstream acceptance in the United States and many mainstream store chains, such as Best Buy,
 Suncoast, and Borders, have started to carry Japanese-made titles that were hard to find a few years ago.

 For the past few years many Asian ball-jointed doll owners have been convening at Otakon and other anime
 conventions around the U.S., which is not surprising since ball-jointed dolls are another facet of Asian
 culture that such conventions celebrate. In addition, some Asian ball-jointed dolls do share the same facial
 characteristics as anime and manga characters—big eyes, small nose, small mouth, and pointed chin. While
 some fellow convention-goers have derided the dolls as "creepy", others were so fascinated by the dolls that
 they asked doll owners for permission to take photos of their dolls.

 This year there were even a few opportunities to purchase a ball-jointed doll if the convention carried
 enough money with him/her. The Dealer's area of the convention (where the biggest distributors of anime
 and manga-related goods sell their wares) included a table from Deleter (which generally specializes in
 selling manga tools) that had one 60 cm Obitsu vinyl doll for sale along with pre-painted pre-rooted Obitsu
 heads. Deleter also sold its own line of 1/6 scale articulated dolls, called Deleter Dolls, which can be
 customized like a Dollfie Plus.

 The ball-jointed dolls were a bigger presence at the Artist's Alley, which is a usual feature at anime
 conventions where local artists and small entrepreneurial firms sell their wares. Many tables that displayed
 ball-jointed dolls also sold BJD accessories like jewelery and clothes. Most of the ball-jointed dolls
 displayed were not for sale, with one major exception.




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 This year a new ball-jointed doll company called Bishonen House made its debut at Otakon. Bishonen
 House makes male dolls that, at 29 inches, are taller than Super Dollfies.




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 While Bishonen House sold doll-sized t-shirts at Otakon (which the doll in this photo models), the company
 plans to make its own line of clothes in the future since these dolls are too tall to fit a standard Super
 Dollife outfit.




 The dolls' original creator, Donn (wearing spotted cat ears in the background), has been documenting his

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 efforts to create his own line of dolls in a thread in the Den of Angels forum for the past year.




 Bishonen House isn't the only table to have unique ball-jointed dolls. This one-of-a-kind fox-like ball-
 jointed doll was for display only at Lithe-Fider's table. Most of the other Artist's Alley tables had displays
 of a variety of Asian ball-jointed dolls made by Volks and many of its competitors.




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 There were so many different dolls that their owners in the Artist's Alley generously allowed people to
 photograph.

 The first formal BJD event at Otakon was a panel on "A Beginner's Look at Asian Ball-Jointed Dolls" that
 was held by BJD Revolution. The panel explained the basics of purchasing and customizing BJD's while
 providing a quick overview of the various BJD companies.




 No photography was allowed during the presentation but once the Powerpoint slide presentation ended, BJD
 owners were invited to bring their dolls up to the front of the panel for a picture taking opportunity. Plenty
 of photographers crowded around the dolls for the rare chance to photograph many different dolls at once.




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 Unfortunately, only an hour was allotted for the BJD panel and the people involved in the next panel took
 over the room so all the BJD owners and enthusiasts decided to congregate in the hall to try taking doll
 photos there.




 Gathering the dolls for a group shot became a challenge because at one point one of the Otakon staffers

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 expressed their concerns about the large group blocking the hallway, which would pose a fire hazard. As a
 compromise, BJD Revolution had to decree that only three photographers at a time were allowed to take a
 group shot of the dolls and everyone had to line up if they wanted to take pictures.




                    Here's a rare opportunity to see so many Asian ball-jointed dolls in a large group.




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 The close-up shots show the creativity of the doll owners in terms of customization, which ranges from face
 painting to sewing elaborate outfits.

 A frequent feature of anime conventions is the cosplay. Cosplay is a Japanese term that contracted the
 English words costume play and it means to dress up as a favorite anime, manga, or videogame character.

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 People interested in cosplay will spend lots of time, money, and energy to create elaborate costumes that
 mimick a favorite character as much as possible. Thanks to anime conventions like Otakon, one does not
 need to even wait for Halloween to engage in cosplaying.

 BJD Revolution announced months ago in the Den of Angels about a BJD Cosplay Contest that would take
 place during Otakon. The idea would be that a doll instead of a person would cosplay as a certain character.
 The contest would be limited to one doll per owner and some small prizes would be given away. During the
 panel, Ball-Jointed Revolution announced that the BJD Cosplay Contest would take place during a meet-up
 that was previously scheduled from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturday morning.

 The meet-up was scheduled very early on Saturday in order to give those ball-jointed doll owners who had
 tables in the Artist's Alley a chance to participate. Otakon had announced on its website and its program
 book that the Artist's Alley wouldn't open until 12 noon on Saturday so the meet-up was designed to end
 just when the Artist's Alley would open so the table owners could get back to work quickly.




                                          This doll arrived in a casket-shaped carrying case.




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 Unfortunately things went wrong when word filtered down that the Otakon officials abruptly decided to
 open the Artist's Alley at 9 a.m. without much warning. As a result, most of the Artist's Alley participants
 couldn't stay very long at the meet-up because they had to get to their tables quickly. They managed to stay
 long enough to have a group shot of the dolls at the beginning of the meet-up.




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 After this initial group shot, many of the Artist's Alley participants had to leave with their dolls. The good
 news is that more doll owners came later so it was still a well-attended meet-up.




 This meet-up provided an opportunity to see some rare hard-to-find ball-jointed dolls, such as this Limited
 Edition Chi Super Dollfie (wearing a black dress and holding a small pink bunny in her lap).




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 The smallest ball-jointed doll who came to the meet-up was this Unoa Light doll (wearing a pink wig and
 cat ears), which is the size of a Dollfie Plus. Like her larger Unoa counterparts, this doll has the eye-moving
 mechanism.

 Once the Artist's Alley people left, the Doll Cosplay Contest began. The bad news was that many of the
 contestants couldn't participate because their owners were at the Artist's Alley tables. So the contest was
 ultimately whittled down to three contestants.




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 This doll won one of the two prizes (which were envelopes that included three pieces of plastic food in the
 shapes of a hamburger, sandwich, and French fries) for his cosplay portrayal of Gaara from the anime series
 Naruto.




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          This doll and her owner wore matching costumes and the doll won the other prize in the contest.




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 This Dollfie Dream cosplayed as a plant doll from the manga series Dolls by Yumiko Kawahara and lost so
 she consoled herself by holding two Dollfie Plus dolls in her lap.




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               After the contest ended, there was plenty of socialization between dolls and their owners.




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 Not all toys who came to the meet-up were ball-jointed dolls. Ultraman (the blue, red, and silver robot in
 the center) wasn't ball-jointed at all yet he managed to inspire some BJD's to give the Ultraman salute.




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                                                This boy peers over the top of the couch.




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           Ultraman (front row in blond wig) borrows a wig from a BJD as he gives the Ultraman salute.




                                  Two tiny articulated dolls posed between some larger BJD's.




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                                 Dolls and their owners gather in a circle for some social time.




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                                              Some dolls hung out by the terrace balcony.




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                         Some dolls preferred to cuddle each other while others were stand-offish.




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                       The tiny Unoa Light doll sits among the larger BJD's and Ultraman (far left).




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 The meet-up ended with another round of picture taking of all the dolls that were present at the time. Some
 doll owners arrived later during the meet-up so there was an even bigger group of dolls to photograph than
 at the beginning.




                         The photographers were busy snapping their close-up pictures of the dolls.

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 After the meet-up ended, the doll owners dispersed to different parts of the convention. While doll owners
 kept on running into each other for the rest of the day, the formal BJD events ended with the meet-up.

 Sunday was the last day of Otakon and, for doll lovers, there was a special panel sponsored by Tokyopop at
 10 a.m. that included an appearance by Mitsukazu Mihara, who created the manga series Doll, which is
 popular among BJD owners on the Den of Angels forum. (Doll is a series of short stories that feature people
 who own robots—known as "Dolls"—that wear gothic lolita clothing and are manufactured by the SG
 Corporation.) She appeared wearing the same type of gothic lolita outfit that one of the SG Corporation's
 own Dolls would wear yet she displayed a warmer personality than any robotic Doll as she answered fan
 questions through a translator. After the panel ended, all of the participants were invited to go to Tokyopop's
 area in the Dealer's room where Mitsukazu Mihara signed autographs.

 No photography was allowed during either the panel or the autograph signing session. I was the only one
 who brought my own ball-jointed doll and she smiled as I approached her when it was my turn in line. She
 asked a question through the interpreter rabout what kind of doll I had (Dollfie Dream) but the conversation
 was very short since there were other people waiting in line.




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 Otakon officially closed at 2 p.m. and by 3 p.m. people were being gradually shooed out of the Baltimore
 Convention Center. Here's my Dollfie Dream wearing a new pair of jeans and a tiny Otakon badge, both
 purchased in the Artist's Alley.

                                                                Related Links
 Here are the websites of people who participated in the Artist's Alley or Dealer's Room who had ball-
 jointed dolls either for sale or for display only. Some of the listed sites actually sell either BJD's or BJD
 accessories while others sell anime, manga, or fantasy related artwork. (Otakon is such a huge convention
 that I'm not sure if I got everyone here so I would like to apologize in advance to anyone whom I have
 inadvertantly omitted.)

 Bishonen House

 Bishonen Ink

 BJD Revolution

 BLK Kitti


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 Cosplay No Senshi

 Deleter

 Digital Midnight Art

 Dizziness

 Dragon Spirit Studios

 Goddess Virage

 Leigh Bader

 Neggme Elreda

 Lithe-Fider

 Nobody's Playhouse

 Random Fandom

 Recollection

 Red Halos

 Second to Nun

 See No Evil Designs




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