Mystixx "Kalani" by Playhut

Mystixx are a new brand of vampire doll from Playhut.  When I think of Playhut, I think of the awesome pop-up structures that my kids used to play in when they were younger.  Apparently, Playhut has decided to throw their hat into the increasingly popular ring of slightly creepy but highly fashionable vampire/monster/witch dolls. As I mentioned in my Cutie Pops review, I enjoy seeing a smaller toy company step up and compete with the big guns.  It gives me hope for something truly innovative.  For example, while the Cuite Pops bear a certain resemblance to Lalaloopsy dolls and some of the other big-headed dolls on the market, they offer something fun and different with their removable eyes and hair.  Encouraged by the success of Jada Toys and their Cuties, I wondered if perhaps Playhut had found a fun and unique way to contribute to the monster doll market. 

The Mystixx caught my eye at Toys R Us the other week because for a split second, I thought I was seeing a Bleeding Edge Goth doll (if you're not familiar with them, you can see a nice selection of the Bleeding Edge dollshere).  I guess something about the Mystixx face (its pallor and fierce expression?) made me think of BEGoth dolls.  On closer inspection, I actually found the face to be unappealing and not much like a BEGoth doll at all.  Also, peering in the box revealed that the doll was, at best, minimally articulated.  Why, then, would I shell out $20 for such an unpromising doll?  Well, for three reasons.  First, the doll is advertised as having a changing face. She has a human face and a vampire face.   That's not something you see every day.  I get impossibly curious about things like this--I mean, a doll with two faces?  How does that work?  It sounds cool.  Also, these dolls come with interchangeable wigs and two complete outfits.  This immediately had me hoping that they would be able to share wigs with Liv dolls and share outfits with some of my 12" play dolls.  Last, I have been pondering the popularity of dark, monster dolls lately and wondering if the Bleeding Edge dolls are a kind-of ancestor to Monster High and all of the dolls that have followed in the Monster High footsteps.  This doll's ability to conjure BEGoth dolls in my mind convinced me that I should buy one and see where she fits into this burgeoning market of vampires, ghouls and goths. Here's Kalani:

Mystixx "Kalani."
I find the name of this line to be uninspired--it's generic-trendy.  It reminds me of the Winx Club and of the Bratzillaz with all of their extra "z's" and "x's."  Also, you should never end a sentence with a preposition: 

How about: The doll with a changing face?
The backstory is creatively vacant:

Girls came to a school, some weird stuff different times.
Also, a peeve of mine, "day" and "night" are randomly capitalized, making me wonder if they mean something more profound than just day and night.  Probably not.
The back of the box has some cartoon versions of the Mystixx characters and a few descriptions of how the doll's face-changing feature works.  Apparently, you just turn her head to reveal the second face.
Two-faced doll.
These girls on the back of the box are pretty, but neither looks anything like Kalani:
These same faces are featured on the front of the box in a cool heart design that changes as you look at it from different angles:
Looking directly from the front. 
Looking from the left side.
All of the Mystixx characters are drawn on the back of the box (there are no photographs of the actual dolls):  
The names are unique--Talin, Azra, Siva and Kalani.
Of these four dolls, only Kalani and Azra were in stock at my Toys R Us.  Azra is really pretty on the box, but the doll looks completely different.  In fact, the Azra and Kalani dolls share the same mold, they're just wearing different clothes and have different hair. 

I don't care much for this large drawing of Kalani on the front.  Her lips are strange and her bangs are too short.  Incidentally, Azra's portrait on the front of the box is the same drawing, just colored differently:
Her lips look like bat wings--I wonder if that's intentional?
Here's a close-up of Kalani's actual vampire face, which is the only face that shows when she's in the box:

If I were in charge, I would have put the normal face on display in the box and had the vampire face be a secret.  Maybe it's because I like surprises, or maybe just that I find this to be a very unattractive face.  I think I actually squeaked or laughed out loud when I first got a good look at this mug.  It's spooky, I guess, but not in a way that's endearing to me.  
There's a paper cutout of the normal girl face, but it's hard to get a good sense for what it will look like in three dimensions.  All I can say for now is that it looks slightly better than the vampire face.

Here's the doll next to her cardboard double.  It's great that this set comes with two complete outfits and two wigs.  I love the green wig.  Spin Master made a green Liv wig, but it was incredibly hard to find.
The box opening starts off like a dream.  The outer box is plastic with a cardboard back.  You can snip one pice of tape at the top and then easily open the flap of this box.  The cardboard insert slides right out and you're ready to detach the doll and her accessories:
The backdrop on the cardboard looks like a swanky penthouse with a pool.
Detaching everything from the cardboard is a pretty typical box-opening experience.  There are tons of little plastic ties holding the clothes and wigs in place and a fair number of plastic pieces covering various accessories or holding them up for display.  I extracted the extra outfit and wig first:
The extra outfit includes a short-sleeved collared tee shirt, a plaid skirt with a woolen feel to it and a pair of green fishnet leggings.
One issue I have with this outfit right off the bat is that there are too many greens.  The green of the tights is a forest green, but the green in the shirt is sage green and the skirt is a blue-green teal color.  Two greens would be fine, but somehow three just seems like a mistake.  

It's not easy being green.
The skirt is probably my favorite piece of clothing in this set.  It is simply made with minimal hemming and a very basic shape, but I like the length and the woven fabric and I even think the chains are a cute touch.  It has a glittery tulle accent at the bottom that mirrors Kalani's other outfit.  
The shirt is pretty cute, too, except for that lace cravat in front that looks like a napkin tucked into the neckline of the shirt.  The ruffled cap sleeves and collar are fun, but the edges aren't hemmed at all, and this kind of finishing always makes me nervous about durability.
The extra wig is blonde with green streaks and is styled in two ponytails:

Already I can see an issue in the back where the style was squished against the cardboard and the thin rooting is exposed:
Why use a ponytail style if the wig isn't rooted appropriately?
The wig seems haphazardly sewn and feels terrible.  The ends of the hair are bristly and coarse.  The wig cap is hard opaque plastic--not flexible like a Liv wig.  The peg in the middle of the wig cap inserts into a hole in the doll's head.


Kalani also comes with an extra pair of shoes--these long, shapely black stiletto boots with neon green  (yet another green...) ornamentation:
The heels are very thin and flexible, so they can't support the doll very well.
There's also a pink plastic brush:

And a pair of sea-green horn rimmed glasses:
Next, I removed Kalani from her plastic entrapments.  She's wearing a fancier nighttime outfit.  She can stand on her own when she is wearing these boots:
She's wearing the green wig, which is also styled in two slightly sloppy ponytails.  This wig looks and feels much nicer than the other one.

She's scowling at me...kind-of seductively.

So, I was going crazy with curiosity about this doll's two faces.  I had a cloth doll when I was a kid that could turn inside out and reveal a second face--I think it was Little Red Riding Hood and you could turn her inside out to get the grandmother doll.  But this is a plastic doll, and so both faces have to be right there all of the time, with nowhere to hide.  Sure enough, if you take off that wig, she's got two full faces, one on each side of her head:

It's way too much like when Voldemort's face took over the other side of Quirrel's head.
So, here's her regular face looking at you:

It's cute enough, and if you look at it directly from the front, there are no face parts sticking out in the back or anything.  The face strikes me as very generic, though.  It's a bit like a Winx Club doll face, a bit like a Monster High doll (in the eyes) and then she has some strange angles in her jaw and in her nose that are uniquely hers...but which aren't doing her any favors.

Her eyes are painted very similarly to the Monster High eyes--even down to the slash/dot reflection on one side.  Her lips are a bit more like the Winx Club lips, but they have a pinched smirk on them instead of a sweet smile.  The eyes are wide-set on a broad face that tapers into a very small chin.
The bridge of her nose is way too thin.  Her eye color and eye paint is very nice, though.  I like the broad, dark shape of her slightly slanted eyes and her subtle periwinkle blue eyeshadow.
That's totally a Monster High eye.
The pale white of the vinyl is great for the vampire face, but I think it would have been nice if her human face had a slightly more realistic skin tone color.  I can only imagine how silly she would have looked with her wig off and two face colors...
Well, maybe it wouldn't have been that bad...but then you have the problem of what color to make the body.  
Here's the vampire face without the wig:

She looks kinda cool,  actually.
The makeup is darker on this face and the eyes and eyeshadow have swapped colors.  She also has glitter decorating her eyelids.  The shape of this face is much more angular--you can picture the skin stretched over a skeleton.  Her cheek bones are visible, and she has sunken eyes and a prominent brow. 
Here are the two faces side-by-side.  I have to say, I think they did a nice job of changing the mold significantly enough to make the vampire half of the head look decidedly different and spooky.  The more I looked at and photographed the vampire face, the more I liked it.  Despite my initial impression, in the end I feel like it's the normal face that's lacking--it seems to be the result of rounding up features from other popular dolls, with a final product that doesn't have enough character or charm of its own.
The glasses don't fit very well over the ears of the normal side of the head.  They're slightly warped, but even if they were straight, the sides are just a bit too short to hook over the ears:
The fit is better on the vampire side of the head...but vampires shouldn't need glasses, right? Don't they have super x-ray night vision or something?

I have eyes on the back of my head.  And a nose. And four ears.
I like the green wig on the normal girl's face, but she looks so pale.  That's not your classic human look.
I took the ponytails out of this wig to get a better look at it and it is, indeed, a much nicer wig than the blonde one.  The fiber is soft and manageable and the color is fantastic:
Styling options are limited...mostly because of that pesky second face peeking out of the back:

A single ponytail looks cute...except for the double-chin problem:


Hatchet head.
 This slightly glitzier outfit is for clubbing and maybe grabbing a tasty human snack on the way home:
She's wearing a glittery black skirt, a tiered silver tube top and a white shrug.  
The skirt has two layers--a black satiny underskirt and a glitter tulle overskirt.  Neither layer is hemmed.  The waist band is black ribbon, and gets folded back on itself pretty easily.  
I think the silver top is the most carefully made piece of clothing in the set.  I am not crazy about the style ( I could never wear that...), but it has a lot of detail and is well-sewn.
The tiers aren't hemmed at the bottom.
The shrug is unremarkable.  It's made out of a stretchy white knit with silver threads:
She's wearing black fishnet leggings and a pair of boots.   

These boots have the exact same color scheme as the longer stiletto boots, but I like these better.  The heels are sturdier and the short length makes them easier to get on and off.


Kalani has 5 points of articulation.  This is a disappointing number.  Furthermore, her shoulder joints only rotate (no hinged movement) and her hips don't have any side-to-side movement, either.  Her head can only look around--not up and down.  Her torso is hard plastic but her arms and legs are more bendable--her arms more so than her legs.   Her legs aren't as rubbery as the Bratzillaz legs, which is nice.  
She can't do much in the way of posing, just some scissor kicks and partial splits.


Look at Kalani next to Clawdeen:

I see huge similarities here.  Look at the shape of the hands, the molded underwear and the curves of the torso:


The lower legs, in particular, look very similar to me.  Kalani's calves are a bit more shapely, but the feet are almost identical.
Kalani's thighs are very skinny compared to Clawdeen's upper legs.  This part of the leg also seems hastily sculpted.  There are some uneven areas:

Look at the arched back of Clawdeen's torso--this is kind of the trademark Monster High feature:

Now compare that to Kalani's torso.  Focus on that side seam: if you look in front of the seam, the shape is almost identical to Clawdeen.  Behind the seam, Kalani has more thickness to her body.  


I realize that dolls are copied all of the time, but I'm disappointed that the body would be so similar to something that is already being made--and being made well.  Why can't they come up with a new shape?  The good news is, I'm guessing that Clawdeen will be able to share Kalani's clothes and shoes.
If you're going to copy a Monster High body, why not copy the awesome articulation?  I mean, Kalani has bendy arms, but they can't exactly strike many realistic poses:
You seem a little weird...
Ah!  Jeez.  Don't do that!
One thing Kalani has going for her that definitely isn't copied from anywhere is that she can hold two conversations at once:
Liv: Ah, you make me a little nervous, but do you think perhaps I could try on your wigs?
Clawdeen: I have fangs, too.  You don't scare me.  Can I have your clothes?
Kalani's wigs don't work on Liv.  The wig cap is too big and the peg is positioned towards the front of the wig, so the hair sits way too far back on Liv's head:
The wig cap is way too big.
Similarly, Kalani can't wear a Liv wig because her double-faced head is too thick and the centrally-placed Liv wig peg pushes the hair too far forward.
Cro-Magnon hair.
I much prefer the flexible, clear wig cap of the Liv wigs.  I also like that Liv wigs are more carefully rooted.  Compare the two stitching patterns:

Even though the green wig is soft, the rooting isn't very dense and the hard green wig cap is unattractive:


Indeed, Kalani's clothes fit Clawdeen pretty well.  Everything is a bit lose because of Kalani's thicker torso, but it's one of the better fits that I've encountered:

Here you can see the waistband ribbon misbehaving, but the fit is good:

Clawdeen can wear Kalani's boots, and they even allow her to stand on her own, if somewhat tentatively:

The other outfit looks nice, too:


The waist of the skirt is a bit loose and the skirt overall has a sloppier shape than most Monster High clothes, but it works:

Here's Kalani showing off some of her many different looks and her five joints:
Since I started this discussion by mentioning Bleeding Edge Goth dolls, let me show you one of mine, Leda Swanson:

The BEGoth line was started in 2003.  These dolls have limited articulation and funny-looking bodies, but their faces are fascinating.  Some of them are too extreme for my taste and cross the line into strange/unattractive.  Leda has a balance that works for me.  She's unusual, with the Mars and Venus signs in her eyes and several facial piercings, but she's also quite lovely with her blue gown, long raven hair and graceful tattoos.
Some day, I will have to do a full review of Leda or another BEGoth, but in the meantime, here are a few pictures for you.  Tell me if you agree that these goth beauties might have sparked the flame for dolls like Monster High and Bratzillaz:
BEGoths are slightly taller than Monster High and Bratzillaz.
They have 8 points of articulation with internal click knee joints.
Leda retailed for between $20 and $30 originally but is now much more expensive.
In the family tree of goth/monster dolls, Leda is kind of like Kalani's grandmother.  I think several important features, some steps in quality and a ton of originality have been lost along the way:

Bottom line? There are doll mimics all over the place: Barbie impersonators, American Girl wannabes, Monster High look-a-likes and even Blythe clones that don't even try to disguise what they're trying to be.  Sometimes one doll is a blatant copy of another doll, sometimes the basic idea behind a doll is used, but it's tweaked to attempt something new.  Sometimes a company tries to create a less expensive version of a pricey popular doll.  In general, I don't have a huge problem with any of this.  As a collector, it's nice to see companies take good ideas and try to make them better or make them affordable.  What I find frustrating is when a company takes a good idea and makes it worse...or just cranks out a thoughtless imitation.  
I'll admit that Kalani has grown on me since I got her out of the box a few days ago.  Her wan, pale vampire face, in particular, stands out now as perhaps her best feature.  It's spooky and cool in an almost glamorous way--very Spectra Vondergeist.  That's the problem, though.  In the end, she is just a lesser version of a Monster High doll.  Almost everything about this doll seems like it was hastily copied from another doll.  Her name is too similar to the Winx Club and Bratzillaz names.  Her body is extremely similar in shape to that of a Monster High doll, but is inferior in quality and articulation.  Her wigs are like Liv wigs, but they're scruffy and have hard plastic wig caps.  There isn't even a creative backstory to help me get excited about the characters.  The Mystixx's only innovation is their double-faced head, and honestly this feature is too weird to be a bit hit.  Unless you're planning an intergalactic game with two-faced extraterrestrial creatures, I don't see this doll filling any role that wouldn't be better cast as a Monster High character.  
A vinyl doll with a face that could actually be removed and replaced would have been a noteworthy achievement.  I have only ever seen this feature on expensive BJDs.  A interchangeable face coupled with removable wigs could have been the foundation for a highly versatile play doll line.  Oh well--not this time. 
There's some irony to the fact that the first time I saw this doll, I mistook her for a Bleeding Edge Goth doll.  I couldn't be more wrong.  From what I know about the evolution of doll trends, the Bleeding Edge dolls could be credited for introducing gothic edginess to the mainstream fashion doll market.  Mystixx are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  They aren't trend-setters, they are followers.  To me, Kalani is a forgettable side-effect of the bigger forces of creativity, experimentation and risk-taking that are shaping the modern doll market.
This face won me over a little in the end.
Age Level
6 and up, per the box.  I agree.
You get a lot for $20: a doll, two outfits and two wigs.  Nothing really special, though.
The quality is fine.  The clothes are cute but simple.  Un-hemmed edges might be a problem.  The doll is sturdy, but has little articulation. The wigs are of varying quality, one is pretty bad and the other is acceptable.
The packaging is fairly standard--better than a Bratzillaz box, not as good as a Monster High box.  Mostly plastic with a cardboard insert.
No.  This is a low-end play doll.
The changeable wigs and multiple outfits suggest versatility, but the strange double-faced head and severe vampire face will limit play options.  The clothes and shoes fit Monster High dolls pretty well.
I can’t find anything special or different enough about this doll that would cause me to choose it over a similarly-priced Monster High doll.  

This face didn't.