Sunday afternoon at Pacific Media Expo, a small room on the second floor of the LAX Hilton was filled with a handful of people armed with their gorgeous, often strangely human looking, ball-jointed dolls. The customizable, collectible and pricey dolls, typically sculpted from resin, come from a variety of Asian companies.
Volks, from Japan but with an outpost in Torrance as well, is probably the best known of the Asian ball-jointed doll (ABJD) companies. They're responsible for Dollfie, Super Dollfie and Dollfie Dream. The latter of these models, which are made from vinyl instead of resin, recently swelled in popularity after being features on Danny Choo's website, Culture Japan. Brands like Korea's Luts and China's Dollzone are also popular.
Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, ABJDs gained a large following in the United States (I first wrote about them for L.A. Weekly, focusing on Korean brand Efldoll, in 2008). Collectors get together on web forums like invite-only site Den of Angels to share tips on buying an customizing dolls. They share photos on Flickr and often meet up in person at events across the country.Anime conventions are a common spot for meet-ups, as there is some crossover between the ABJD community, anime fandom and the Lolita fashion community. While some conventions feature a panel or two on collecting ABJDs, Pacific Media Expo upped the ante this year by building a programming track around the hobby.
Diem Pascarella, who ran this year's ABJD programming, says that while this fan community has long had a presence at PMX, the convention hopes to expand on this. For the 2011 show, ABJD programming was limited to one day, although, there was a meet-up on Saturday, and it featured six panels, including a costume contest.
I don't have an ABJD (though, I do have a dream of someday owning an army of ball-jointed David Bowies), but found the few panels I attended really interesting. The day started with a 101-style session, where collectors ran down the frequently asked questions about the dolls, including pricing. ABJDs are pretty expensive. You can safely expect to spend a few hundred dollars on one, plus clothing and shoes can cost as much as their human-sized counterparts. The panelists did point out, though, that ABJDs often cost much more on the resale market. This is because many of the dolls are limited edition and they do sell out fast.