Angel Dolls – Go Figure

Conspicuously placed in Ginza, Tokyo’s uptown brimming with the newest in “classic designer chic,” Angel Dolls has been buying, selling, and displaying museum quality dolls for over a decade. Though the shop has relocated several times, it has remained “always in Ginza,” according to the proprietress, also commenting that it has stayed in its current main street location for over five years. Slightly confused as to why such a seemingly out-dated children’s pastime should rub shoulders with the elite, one need only look at the prices – sculpts range from 80,000 – 3,000,000 yen. Then again, somewhere in the middle lies the Volks Super Dollfie, albeit much more customizable.

Angel Dolls caught my eye for a few reasons. First of all, they hold at least one special exhibit per month. Free of charge, it features both new and classical style sculpts from all eras. Second, in addition to dolls they also house a wide variety of antiques, including dresses, glass works, and furnishings. All of these are nicely woven into the shop, giving the impression of walking into someone’s living room as opposed to a museum or showroom. However, what stood out most were porcelain dolls sculpted, dressed, and posed very similarly to Asian ball-joint dolls.

In search of answers, Batsu and Maru combed their hair and ironed their shirts before wandering into fancy-pants Ginza up the back streets. When we arrived, we were kindly greeted, and left to wander about for a while. Since very few items are kept in cases, I was happily surprised we were given no warnings or shown the door.

The shop was divided into roughly three areas: European made dolls, Japanese made dolls, and the exhibition portion. Most of the European dolls came from Germany, and were over 100 years old. It gave an interesting perspective, as they sit in the middle of the shop and can be easily compared with more modern sculpts. There were many varieties of Japanese made dolls, and most were ornately posed with props, antique toys, and other dolls.

When asked about the style of Japanese made dolls, the proprietress was quick to summon the traditional European school and point to examples which illustrated some resemblance; namely child sculpts dressed in kimono. However, “newer artists are gaining their inspiration from figures and anime – so though the materials and technique may be traditional the product is something quite of their own invention.” She gestured towards the table behind us, upon which sat dolls called “Naoto,” a thin and pale male doll dressed in feathery black, and “Alice,” another rendition of Carol’s classic. A female doll lay languidly on a red sofa, wrapped in a seductive red satin robe that made her skin look ever the more pale while enhancing the subtle shadows in her face. Some dolls stood no more than 10cm high, while others were probably near 60cm – about the same sizes as commercial poly-resin ball joint dolls.

Showing no preference, only passion and knowledge, she was very helpful and invited us to come back anytime. I’ll inquire about photographing my next visit. Though I didn’t see any signs to prevent the curiosity seeker, it seemed the better thing to do. Please see the Angel Dolls website for pictures.

The most interesting thing that came out of this adventure is the suggestion that one trend in doll culture is coming full circle. That is, the modern poly-resin ball joint dolls which incorporate classical techniques in doll-making are now being cast in traditional materials. Perhaps a new era of neo-classical dolls will soon walk the earth. However, I don’t think this will sway most BJD enthusiasts, save for those who tend to lean towards pure collection; the strength and durability of poly-resin give the hobbyist much more flexibility over porcelain.

Post a Comment