Well, it finally happened- this year I had a chance to attend another US Dolpa! The last event like this, organized by Volks USA for fans, was 2 years ago in LA. The latest Dolpa was at a new location, the Anaheim Marriott, and had much larger spaces for shopping and the Tea Party event. Attendance on Saturday was pretty good (maybe 300-350 people?) and Volks brought loooots of great dolls and shop goodies for US fans to acquired. (Pictured: two custom girls I painted for Keripo, and a cute Sheryl Nome)
I started my journey dark and early on Friday morning. Initially events were only on Saturday, but I soon realized I’d have to hustle to make the Volks workshop events planned for Friday afternoon! So early flight from Seattle to LA for me. My doll pal Prizmdoll got dragged along for the ride.
Finally arrived in tropical Orange County, California! The hotel had a beautiful pool area and a nice view from the room balcony. This is so much better than being next to LAX!
After a quick lunch at Downtown Disney, we hopped back to the hotel for a few Volks panels. The first panel, on faceup materials and techniques, was presented by Ciera with translation by Volks staffer Chris. I’m impressed that so many Volks Japan staffers could attend! Watching Ciera make perfect eyelashes and eyebrows was humbling too T_T
Also, one interesting take-away is that they do not recommend ZM Power Spray for Dollfie Dream- the resin particles it contains could alter the skin tone of DD, I think? Something about making them look too white or giving a whitish cast. It didn’t sound like it’d be harmful, but something to keep in mind. I’ve used it in the past and didn’t notice any issues, but this is Volks’s official line.
In between demos Volks had a small setup with faceup and maintenance materials for sale. Following a demo on restringing and cleaning your Super Dollfie, the head of Dollfie Dream design department (Mr Yuji?) gave a Dollfie Dream demo. He showed off how to style Miku’s twin tails and also demo’d a box opening of DDdy Miko. There were a few questions at the end, and Yuji asked about what DD fans would like to see in the future. Tan skin and more boys got a lot of crowd support! He also suggested that Shantae was a popular kit in the US and might make a good DD. There wasn’t much response to that- I suspect the crowd wasn’t familiar with this character. They surely would have been more interested if they realized she was a tan elf girl! Lookit this cutie!
After a break for sushi and cute desserts with Innocentsake, we returned to the hotel to attend an impromptu swap meet among Dolpa attendees. Folks were friendly but we had to get up early for the Dolpa lineup the next day, so we didn’t hang around too late.
Dolpa main event time! Saturday lineup was similar to the previous Dolpa- form a line, get a number, then numbers are drawn to determine the first place in line. It was a bit more stressful this time since Volks decided to draw 3 numbers, giving folks in the 100’s place a pretty good chance to get in front! But the final result ended up being about 20 behind us, meaning we were shifted toward the end of the line. My main objective was to snag a cute BtSSB set for my DearSD girl, and fortunately there were plenty left by the time I got into the shopping area. Volks brought some new outfits as well as older, highly coveted merch- I saw a few Ribbon Girl sets in somebody’s basket! There were also some luck-based games to win wigs and Volks swag, though the odds of getting something good for the price were low. After rushing the merch tables and snagging my loot, I went back around to inspect the limited dolls for sale.
The charity auction doll, a sunlight skin Suigintou, ended up going for around 21,000 dollars! It didn’t look like a bidding war happened, just a very generous Volks fan. There were also a few D’coord models and limited DD available by lottery, though sadly the lighting made it impossible for me to get a good photo of them. I put in with my friend for the cute DDH-11 D’coord but wasn’t lucky this time.
Volks brought a large selection of Dear SD dolls. Apparently the tan skin and freckles were chosen specifically to appeal to the US fans and give them a cool exclusive. It worked! I think all but a few open-eyed Megus went home that day.
Although I failed to secure a new DD, my friend picked up a DDS Mayu and walked away with a DearSD SwD Megu, too! I went to pick up my Williams and then we took a break before returning for the Tea Party.
There were loads of great costumes and dolls on every table. Snacks and drinks were included and it was pretty tasty. I didn’t get into the last tea party event so I can’t compare in terms of size and quality, but it was a lot of fun to hang out and snack with dolls folks and Volks staff. Although attendance was limited by lottery, there were enough empty slots that at the last minute everyone who wanted to attend was able to get in!
There was a sort of Williams shrine set up with all of the Oath of the Silver Coin dolls displayed. I still can’t get into those Yo-Midi guys even if the head sculpts and costumes are great…
Lottery one-offs all had a pirate theme and amazing costumes! My favorite was the Cain girl in the green gown. Fortunately I already had my Williams and felt pretty satisfied with my Dolpa shopping spree at this point.
There was a costume contest for dolls and a few cute DD showed up there. Misskale had an awesome steampunk Rise with a clever arm sleeve design. I’m not sure of the owners for the other DD. My MDD DDH-10, Noelle, also made an appearance!
After voting and snacking were mostly done, there were the lottery draws for one-offs, costume awards, and raffle prizes. I like a bit of suspense but toward the end of the day I was feeling pretty done with lotteries and raffles! I’m just glad results for online lotteries aren’t revealed one at a time.
The tea party package also included small gifts for everyone from the founders of Volks, and a big surprise at the end. After a photo op with costumed Silver Coin characters, Volks staffers brought out some prototypes for a new Dollfie line!
So this was unexpected! Volks first revealed their new Dollfie line to fans in the USA. I’m sorry I don’t have better photos, the lighting was poor and with my phone camera there was just no hope.
The new line is called Dollfie Icon (or maybe Dollfie Aikon?) and it’s made of vinyl like Dollfie Dream. The vinyl surface is more matte, meant to match the appearance of resin like Super Dollfie. It sounded like skintones to match SD are planned, but we also saw dolls in fantasy skintones like gray and greenish. The body sculpt and armature looked identical to Dollfie Dream. The head is also vinyl like DD, but sculpted and styled more like SD. The stated goal of this line is to bridge the gap between SD and DD fans with crossover appeal. Since this is a prototype doll, production isn’t guaranteed but is at best a year or two away.
The response at Dolpa was enthusiastic so I think the odds aren’t too bad we’ll see more of her eventually. It’s interesting that Volks showed off this line at the US Dolpa- it must be because they’re to some degree trying to appeal more to the US audience with this product. I feel like this is definitely a step in the right direction- they’ve pushed SD16 on us for years, trying to capture the adult fashion doll collectors, and it never really caught on. This stylized/fantasy take is a direct hit on the types of dolls I see BJD collectors in US drooling over- Soom, Peaks Woods, Bobobie, Fairyland have all done well in this genre. I could see a teen who collects Monster High graduating into collecting a large vinyl fantasy doll like Dollfie Icon. I’m already a huge DD collector (obviously!) but I could see some SD fans being won over by detailed head sculpts and skin tones compatible with their resin collection. Here’s hoping Volks continues to develop Dollfie Icon, I’m ready to bring one home now!
After all that excitement, tea party attendees dispersed and a few folks set up sales and swaps in a nearby hallway. Volks was concerned about sales conducted in the area near their space, and the vendors obliged and shut down their ‘shops’. An informal swap meet soon formed nearby, however ;)
Now Dolpa’s over and I’m back home in Washington, and it’s a little sad to return to normal life. As somebody with social anxiety these events are difficult and exhausting, but totally worthwhile to meet passionate collectors and creators, and to get inspired on my own doll projects. I’m hoping that next year I can attend PNW BJD con in Seattle, and maybe a few more events. I’m always happy to support companies like Volks which encourage creativity and self-expression, and are enabling women and people of all sorts to voice their dreams and desires. I hope Volks continues to support their fans and collectors in the USA and outside Japan, as well! These events should be open for everyone to enjoy :)