Welcome to ASM's Toy Fair 2005 Coverage!
Amy Lipkowitz, General Reporter
Old-School action figure and Gundam fans will remember Volks, Inc of
Japan for their high quality model kits. Over the years, Volks has been
bringing its signature attention to quality and detail to the world of
dolls and figures, as shown in their amazingly articulated, beautifully
As the name suggests, the Volks Dollfie is a fusion of traditional
fashion dolls and traditional action figures, bringing grace and form
to articulation and durability. Their 1/6 scale Dollfies are available
in a variety of size-classes, ranging from the child-like EB Mini to
the slightly taller Beauty Midi, to the approximately 11 1/2 inch tall
standard EB figures. Customizers can choose dolls based on height,
level of articulation, and most famously, body shape. The dolls
generally come with a blank head that customizers add hair and eyes to,
although separately-sold heads include rooted hair in a variety of
colors. There are also a variety of head-shapes and plug-in hand and
feet options available, making Volks Dollfies the physical real-life
equivalent of popular internet doll-making programs.
Their other signature product is the Super Dollfie (often
abbreviated to SD), a high-quality resin ball-jointed doll originally
created by master sculptor Akihiro Enk for his wife, a doll-collector
and customizer. The Super Dollfies are a totally different creature
from the 1/6 scale Dollfies. While 1/6 Dollfies use a variety of joints
to show off poseability, the Super Dollfies feature elastic-tension
jointing, much like composition dolls from days of yore. The Super
Dollfies' glass eyes and wigs give them a remarkably life-life look, as
well as providing countless opportunities for customizing at a moment's
notice... say, changing the direction of the gaze, or changing the eye
and hair color.
Volks Dollfies and Super Dollfies have enjoyed great popularity
within Japan, but also outside of Japan through many fan-sites and
fan-based communities. Super Dollfies are hand-crafted in limited
batches in Japan, with multiple checks along the way to ensure
perfection. This has resulted in many Super Dollfie models being
produced in extremely limited quantities, ranging in the low hundreds.
These dolls are in such great demand that they generally sell out
within a day or so of release. Thus far, overseas fans have had to rely
on secondary market or very generous friends and family to obtain their
Volks is aware of their fans and grateful for the support, and
currently plans are in place for a three-pronged approach to the US:
Volks dealerships, or physical doll shops where Dollfie and
Super Dollfie fans can see the dolls in person. In addition, the store
owner will be able to advise them on how to care for the doll (both
types of dolls require some degree of "finishing", such as sanding
seams, customizing eyes and hair, etc) and even repair the doll, should
the unthinkable happen.
A US online shop, or virtual store where customers can shop from
home. Volks currently has a Japanese and International webstore where
various items can be purchased, but shipping from Japan can be
prohibitively high. The US-based online shop would carry slightly fewer
items than the Japanese shop, as Volks sees what the potential market
is like, but shipping would be much lower for US residents.
A physical doll boutique, date and location currently unknown.
Volks currently has ten "Tenshi no Sumika" (literally, "The Angels'
Nest" or "The Angels' Den") doll boutiques in Japan, plus one in Seoul,
Korea. These boutiques serve as more than just one-stop shopping for
these dolls. They're also beautiful display spaces for the dolls and
their accessories. Volks plans to start with one physical store in the
US to begin with; further store openings would depend on consumer
interest and fan response.
Volks' relatively cautious approach to the market is based on many
factors. The dolls are made by hand in Japan, using fine quality
materials. The in-house production of the dolls and even the glass eyes
is due to Volks' policy of never compromising their standards. The
doll-crafting is treated as an art, a personal connection between the
creator and the eventual owner. This artisan approach means that the
dolls can take longer to reach the market, especially if the dolls have
been custom-made. Both prospective owners and prospective Volks
dealerships would need to understand why this is necessary, and why
traditional measures used to cut costs and reduce production time
(factories in developing companies, assembly-line work) are simply not
When asked about the variations in head-size caused by the many
types of Super Dollfie available, Mr. Akihiro Enk (the sculptor)
stepped in to say that with each doll, there's a certain image that
Volks wishes to create... and in order to translate that image
faithfully into a physical form, they will change the head size and
proportions as needed. If they tried to make the heads all the same
size, that would lead to them working within a frame, and they want to
work free of constraints.
Encouraging creativity is a large part of Volks' philosophy. Their
Dollfie dolls are, in large part, blank slates upon which customizers
can draw to their heart's content. Even Super Dollfies are fully
customizable, although some MIB ("Mint In Box") collectors might quake
at the thought of touching something so close to perfection.
At their flagship boutique in Kyoto, called Tenshi no Sato
("homeland of the angels" or "village of the angels", depending on your
translation), Volks holds Classroom events, learning lectures in which
students can learn directly from a Volks artist on how to customize
their Super Dollfies using "meiku" (short for make-up) or as it's known
in English, "face-ups". Face-ups are the application of paints and
pastel-chalks to the Super Dollfie to create a custom look. The Volks
Classroom events are intensive sessions with a low student to teacher
ratio. Besides face-up lessons, Volks Classroom events can cover
various topics involving the care and upkeep of a Super Dollfie, such
as sanding down seams, tightening the jointing-elastic, changing glass
eyes, and so on.
Volks' growing fan base has been clamoring for a greater presence
in the US for many years. Let's hope that this great demand can be
comfortably balanced with Volks' drive for perfection!
You can see pictures of these in our Gallery!