Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: Headless Headmistress Bloodgood + Nightmare Playset

When we first got wind that a doll of Headless Headmistress Bloodgood might actually be released I was super excited. Aside from the fact that I liked her design based on the San Diego Comic Con contest prototype, there was the fact that in all likelihood she would be a taller stature doll, like Nefera. I'm a big fan of the Nefera doll and have made it no secret that I would like to see more dolls produced in that size. And when we finally got word that Bloodgood would not only be produced, but she would be sold with her horse, Nightmare, I was practically ecstatic. I love Nightmare's design in the webseries, and there's also the fact that horses are just, you know, really cool!

Once the actual set started hitting shelves, however, I felt my excitement deflate. Based on the pics I saw online I felt the doll somehow lacked something. As I've already mentioned in previous posts, I'm disappointed Mattel didn't make her neck look stylized. The prototype didn't have a stylized neck either, but I figured since that was the prototype they'd do something a little more elaborate on the released doll. I should have known better. In any case, my anticipation for this set shifted from primarily the doll to Nightmare instead.

The Bloodgood / Nightmare set is just one of 3,649,528 Toys R Us exclusives this year. Curiously, and disappointingly, there's no rendering of Nightmare anywhere on the box. It's all Bloodgood, all the time when it comes to the set's box art. To be fair, Bloodgood does look fantastic in her rendering. Fierce (work those hips, lady!), confident, and smart -- the perfect example of what a modern headless horsewoman should look like.

We get Bloodgood's bio on the box back. Another odd Nightmare-related thing I noticed about this box is that, in her bio, Bloodgood doesn't specifically say her horse's name is Nightmare, just that her horse is "a nightmare". Notice the lack of capitalization, as well. Come to think of it, even the character tags on the front and back of the box only mention Bloodgood. It doesn't advertise this toy as a set, just as a doll. What's going on here? You MH trademark experts, did Mattel just decide not to trademark Nightmare's name? I don't get why there's nary a mention or drawing of Nightmare when she's a major part of this set. It just seems odd. Anyway, check out the bio...

Uh, "the color of knowledge"? That's the same shade as the color of bullsh*t, right?

All things considered, this is a pretty bare bones set. Literally the only things included are the doll and the horse. There's no brush or stand. I get why they didn't include a stand -- that's what Nightmare's for. The lack of a brush is a little more suspect, considering both doll and horse have hair. I consider this Bloodgood's basic doll, so one might expect a diary, but nope, nothing. Since she's an "adult" and the Headmistress it's fair to assume she doesn't keep a diary. But couldn't they have given her a "journal" instead? It just seems odd to be getting a basic doll that's not part of a themed line who doesn't have a diary of some sort. She may be an adult but I'm sure she has thoughts and opinions just like the other characters. There is a small, flat, paper book banded to Bloodgood's hand, but it's inconsequential at best. It goes without saying there's no collector's card. Bloodgood comes with the clothes on her back and that's it. Nightmare has a bridle and saddle, which I'll cover later.

No reliance can be placed on appearance.

Let's talk about the doll first. Bloodgood comes in the box with her head removed. A handy diagram on the upper right corner of the box shows us her head can be placed on the body and taken off. Maybe it was because I had lowered my expectations, but I have to admit I was impressed when I saw Bloodgood in person. Her gargantuan head is striking to say the least, and she's incredibly pretty. She has massive turquoise eyes, with the irises outlined in chocolate brown. Above black mascara is light purple eyeliner, so light it almost looks dusted on. Running through it is a dark purple divider line. Surrounding the entire eye is dusty rose eyeshadow. Her eyes are genuinely beautiful. For serious, I'm blown away by Bloodgood's eyes. They're just so huge, so detailed. I can't stop staring at them when I look at her! Bloodgood has severely pronounced cheekbones that lead to almost ridiculously pouty lips. They come in a semi-glossy magenta. As reader Felicity pointed out, these should appeal to anyone who liked Spectra's old facemold. In fact, I almost wonder if they used the Spectra mold as a base for this doll. This is obviously a different mold from Spectra's, but the cheekbones and lips are nearly identical. Whatever the case, I love this face very much. Bloodgood comes across as fierce, sexy even, and has a fittingly authoritative expression. She's the school's Headmistress, after all.

Bloodgood's hair comes in fairly even streaks of black and purple. She has bangs that curl under, with the rest of her hair styled as a "bun". This was achieved by pulling her hair into a tight ponytail, then gelling the tail into a circular shape that completely surrounds the band holding the ponytail. If you were to take it down her hair would be quite short and curl upwards and outwards, a bit like a flip. Although this isn't a particularly fancy hairdo, it is ingenious in how they achieved the look of a bun without actually having one at all. The style itself is fitting for her position of authority. It comes across as mature while still looking stylish and even a bit hip. (That's mostly thanks to the purple streaks.) For what it's worth, I've had a lot of fun just playing around with her bangs. They hold several positions well.

She wears a long riding jacket made of purple nylon. It Velcros in the front with two gold faux-buttons. The sleeves are hemmed to the bodice with thin black ribbon, and end in pink cuffs topped by white ruffles. The neck is lined with more white ruffles and has a collar that can be worn up or down. Pink ribbon runs diagonally down the sides from the collar to the side seam. It's an impressive piece that seems simple at first, but upon further inspection is surprisingly detailed. Not bad for a playline doll, eh? Under the jacket she wears a sleeveless white top with a collar and an attached tie made of pink ribbon. It Velcros in the back. Surprisingly, the bottom of the top isn't hemmed at all. With the exception of the occasional wrap, I can't think of any other pieces of MH clothing that weren't hemmed. It's entirely possible I'm forgetting something, or maybe a few somethings, but whatever the case this is extremely rare. Bloodgood's riding pants are really just tights made of a shimmering black knit. They have horizontal ribbing and end a bit above the ankle. They have the same wet look that Picture Day Lagoona's tights have. In other words, they look really nice. These don't Velcro in the back, they just slide on and off with an elastic waistband. Very simple, but also very stylish! Bloodgood's riding boots are extra tall, nearly reaching her knee. They have a simple heel and inner zipper and seam. These boots are especially flexible, more than usual. I'm guessing they made them so pliable so they'd be easier to fit over the tights. Lord knows we don't need another basic Draculaura situation so I'm grateful for the ease these boots provide.

That's pretty much it for Bloodgood. She doesn't have any accessories. No jewelry, no purse or briefcase, just herself and her clothes! Her ears aren't even pierced. One thing I wanted to mention is that Bloodgood's knees feel much tighter than usual for an MH doll. I wonder if they did this so she can better straddle Nightmare, or if I just got a doll with unusually tight knees. If your Bloodgood also has noticeably tight knees let me know. I think it would be cool if they did manufacture her to have tighter knees -- it would be just another example of Mattel going that extra little step to make this line something special. Speaking of knees and body parts and stuff, since this is just the second doll we've gotten of this body type I couldn't help but compare her to Nefera. As far as I can tell the only difference in their molds is that Bloodgood's forearm looks a little bonier than Nefera's. Take a look...

Since Nefera has only ever been able to wear her basic outfit I was pretty excited to finally get to try something else on her. Of course, she and Bloodgood's styles are completely different so I wasn't counting on it actually looking good. But to my surprise it wasn't half bad, especially without the riding jacket...

And of course I had to try Nefera's duds on Bloodgood...

No. Just... no.

Which brings us to Nightmare. Oh, Nightmare, how I love you...

Before I get started on her details I wanted to discuss something real quick. I've heard murmurs that Nightmare is Mattel's answer to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I don't know anything about the new MLP, but weren't Monster High and Nightmare already around when Hasbro brought My Little Pony back? Or was MLP:FIM already a thing by then? Because I don't get a MLP vibe from Nightmare. If anything, Nightmare is the anti-MLP. My Little Pony is, well, super girly. Nightmare may have purple and magenta streaked hair, but she's not exactly what I would call girly. There are no stars or apples painted on her ass. She doesn't sparkle. She doesn't look like she wants to hand you a lollipop and give you a hug. In other words, Nightmare is really freakin' cool. Nightmare is a badass. Nightmare doesn't want to teach you about friendship, she wants to freak you out with her weird red eyes. Nightmare is awesome.

If Nightmare bares any resemblance to a horse toy from long ago, it's Barbie's horse(s). Nightmare isn't posable. She's about twelve inches tall (guesstimating), and stands with her front right leg slightly bent. Her other three legs are straight, hooves planted firmly on the ground. It's the classic horse toy pose.

She comes in deep blue, with gigantic hooves of navy blue. (I mean, like, really gigantic. They're totally cool.) Her head faces forward, her ears at attention, with an interesting, stylized snout jutting out front. Her eyes are an eerie solid red, while the irises are a tad lighter. She has black eyebrows and mascara with lashes, but they're much more fierce than cute. Her long, curling mane falls to her left. As mentioned earlier, the color is purple with magenta streaks. She has a matching tail, although my particular Nightmare's tail has almost no magenta at all. Nightmare wears a solid purple bridle with skullette joiners. One of the joiners doubles as the fastener to remove the bridle. She also wears a purple saddle with a large, detailed skullette on each side. The saddle fastens underneath with a ridged strap. There's no handle on the saddle or reins on the bridle so Bloodgood must get one helluva ride when Nightmare's acting up.

Overall: I love both the doll and the horse. Bloodgood is stunningly beautiful, with cheekbones for days and gigantic, striking eyes. I'm so glad we finally have another tall doll! Her outfit is nice, and more elaborate than it initially seems. It's a Victorian look that was given a swift kick in the pants with those bold colors. As for the head removal gimmick, it works well in terms of how it was manufactured and it fits her headless horseman theme, but ultimately it seems kind of pointless. I doubt I'll ever be removing her head again. In the promo picture she's shown cupping her head in her arm. I tried this on the doll and it was near impossible. It works if you have her hold the head by the bun, but it still looks a little off. As for Nightmare -- love her! She's the fiercest horse I've ever seen, surely. She would totally kick those other ponies asses. Despite the oddness of Nightmare getting shafted on the box art, the kind of useless headless feature, and the lack of any real extras, the only truly negative thing I have to say about this set is that it's way overpriced. It's retailing for $42.99, which to me is about ten bucks too much. You simply don't get anything with this set besides the doll and horse. They're both great, I just think $32.99 (or perhaps even a bit less), would be a more fitting price point. That said, if you're willing to "pony up" the cash (heh), and go in knowing there are no real extras, this set isn't likely to disappoint.