Kenner's Blythe Doll Takes on New Life in Japan
Girls of a certain age may remember playing with Blythe, a big-headed doll introduced by American toy company Kenner in 1972. A generation later, Blythe has taken on a new life in far-off Japan. Blythe's most devoted Japanese fans hold her in such deep esteem, one might liken it to mania!
Got an original Kenner Blythe stashed away in your attic or basement? Well, you may be shocked to know how valuable she is today to legions of Japanese fans.
An original in excellent condition can sell for thousands of dollars, and there is a thriving online marketplace for Blythe parts, clothes, even mohair used by fans to make Blythe wigs! How do I know this? My wife has two Takara (Japanese) Blythes and a small “Petit Blythe” in Gothic Lolita regalia who rests on a small inflatable sofa in our living room cabinet. Sweet!
Besides the oversized head, Blythe dolls had color-changing eyes – a unique feature activated by pulling a string at the back of her head. The doll's eyes would also blink when tipped forward.
Kenner sold Blythe for just one year, 1972, then stopped due to poor sales. About 10 years ago though, Blythe was featured in a series of ads for Parco stores in Japan, sparking a somewhat surprising boom that shows little sign of fading.
Japanese toy company Takara has released more than 100 editions of their “NEO” Blythe (modeled closely on the original) since 2001, helping to satisfy the huge demand for dolls from Japanese Blythe devotees.
One of these fans is Takahito, whose haunting cute/creepy images are featured in this article. Takahito posed several Blythes at the otherworldly Tottori sand dunes in Japan, dubbing the photo set “Planet of the Blythes”. I don't know about you, but they remind me of the images beamed back to Earth from the Mars rovers.
In viewing Takahito's photos, it's easy to understand both the timeless appeal of Blythe and the obvious affection Blythe aficionados like Takahito have for Kenner's big(headed) idea.