When I first saw the Death Note anime, I fell hardcore—like mad hardcore—for Light.
(Like absolutely-devastated-at-the-ending hardcore for Light.) There wasn’t truly another Death Note character that mattered to me that initial time around (later on I fell for L too) but I’m such a Light fan it’s scary.
Feeling rather castrated, for lack of a better word, once Kira fell from grace at Yellowbox, I sought in vain for a creative outlet to vent my love and frustrations, so I got involved in my ball joint doll community with a Death Note photo-story series.
To those unfamiliar with the niche hobby that has been rapidly gaining popularity these past few years (enough to garner a rather destructive recast market), a ball joint doll is not a mass-produced item. It's not like Barbie, endlessly chugging off an assembly line of infinite dolls to be packaged and shelved in stores.
A ball joint doll, start to finish is—essentially—a work of art.
(No offense, Babs.)
The fabulous thing about BJDs that makes them so attractive (imo) is their customizability. A BJD is a blank canvas with which to shell a character of your choosing. Heads, bodies, eyes, hair, face ups—all of it can be changed and customized at will to create the being you want.
This is a major piece of the hobby. There are those who spend years crafting the perfect doll detail by detail—making or commissioning other artisans to produce aesthetics, wardrobes, accessories, anything under the sun. Then there are those who are sort of addicted to making character after character after character (I don't know anyone like that... >.>; )
A BJD is first designed and sculpted by its original artist, who may be working on their own, creating dolls as a passion or hobby or employed by one of the increasing number of doll companies (who at best have maybe 10 - 30 employees? At least, have one. We're not talking major corporations here folks.)
The sculptor painstakingly crafts the doll, maybe just the head, maybe the whole body (which is a laborious effort that requires not only skill with anatomy, but engineering as well since these are "ball-joint" dolls and are many pieces strung together with elastic). Then the sculptor casts the head/body in resin and puts it up for order.
A blank doll is the result of this process. In order to bring it further to life, the doll then proceeds to the next artist on the totem—the face-up artist. The face-up artist is what it sounds like: the person who paints the doll’s face (and often the rest of it too.)
I am a BJD face-up artist. I don’t sculpt the doll, but I paint it, style it, photograph it and basically sell my internal organs on the black market to support its expensive demands. (It’s worth noting, that I only buy original BJD dolls, and do not support the recast market, which is stealing from artists.)
The face-up is something that takes practice of course. It's a lot of fun and can be both rewarding and frustrating depending on the degree of perceived success on the artist's behalf. It's sort of like putting on make-up; the color goes down in layers with sealer in between. The materials to accomplish this are usually a blend of chalk pastel, colored pencils and acrylic paint both hand-applied and airbrush (I don't use airbrush.)
My method is the chalk pastel x hand-painted acrylic method. I layer on the pastels with Q-Tips and paint in the details. This process averages about 5+ hours (for me) depending on my ADD and the weather. (Humid weather & cold weather adversely affect the sealer spray and have been known to wreck face-ups and sanity. I can vouch for this personally, so can my therapist.)
However, I just happened to have a bored, blank, doll head sitting in a box on the shelf for about a year with no purpose. (We call that sort of thing an impulse-buy.) He was a bit of a happy-smiley mold, but he was the only proper head I had access to immediately, so I dug him out, painted him up and introduced him to the storyline as the Kira they’d been needing.
Considering the doll photo-story was sort of like a role-play done in still pictures (with dolls), it required me to dig in to the mentality of my new fave and start understanding what made Kira tick. How was I going to portray him, and all of his illustrious motivations, dynamics and ideals in the doll world? I didn’t want my resin child to just be an avatar of Light Yagami, I wanted him to actually be the character. I worked to try and achieve that. A little too hard.
The little monster went above and beyond.
What began as a creative jaunt, became something of an obsession, and despite my growing collection of resin crew, Light was the King of the Crop, the Bratling Resin Prince. He got spoiled. He got all the fancy clothes he wanted; he got bodies—oh so many bodies.
Bodies are not often an easy thing. For one, they’re not cheap, and you can’t just try them on like clothes (considering it sometimes takes months to get BJD dolls and parts from their original artists)
Finding a body for a head requires research to see if the head will match in both resin color and proportion. And sometimes, if you’re not lucky enough to score a body on the second-hand market (for quicker shipping, not necessarily lower prices), you have to buy a full doll for the body alone, or go in on a “split” where one person takes the head and the other the body.
I did all of these things for Light. He cycled through about 4 different bodies before finally settling on a svelte 68” cm body with jointed hands.
And once he did that… he decided he wanted a new face.
A lot of the Kira-effect in Light’s doll photos came from creative camera angles. You know the ones, head down, eyes up, looking all sinister-egomaniacal. I wanted him to have that look naturally.
So with the use of a dremel (omg the horro!) I had to first drill his eyes open (this was as painful to accomplish as it sounds, considering he was my fave) and then sculpt a new eye shape with a resin modelling compound called Amazing Sculpt.
Then there was the filing, the sanding, the nervous breakdowns (because, yeah.) When those hurdles were cleared (and I got talked off the ledge), I repainted him, this time with a less manga-minimal approach.
And at last. He was satisfied.
Unfortunately, time and other interests have rendered Light less and less the prima donna of the household.
Nevertheless, there really is not another doll in my entire hoard who can equal the sort of attention that Light got. So he still has that to his name, along with all of his spoilings… and his own personal L. And Mello. And Matt. And Beyond Birthday. Did I mention spoiled?
These days I still paint bjds when time allows, and you can check out my more current portfolio of work on my Flickr account.
Lately my aesthetic preference is less God of the New World and more, red-eyed, junky rock-star, but whaddya gonna do? Times they are a-changing.