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Harumika
By Bandai

Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai

I've been doing a bit more of the unusual lately, items outside the normal 'collector' realm, and more in the general toy realm, like the suped up Nerf guns. Even just the unusual, like the Spreadheads (and I'm going to be looking at the toothpaste heads soon, too!), have become fair game.

If you're here tonight for a manly collectible, then it's not your night. There's nothing to see here - time to move along. Unless of course, you're a manly man with a daughter - or a son who yearns to grow up to be Calvin Klein.

That's because tonight I'm checking out a new series of toys designed for girls who are looking to try their hand at fashion design. The product is called Harumika, and is produced by Bandai.

There's several sets out right now, but I'm gong to look at the basic Starter Set. Since this is a little different product, my review categories will alter to reflect that.

Packaging - ***
The first purpose of the packaging is to keep everything safe on it's trip to you, including its time hanging on the peg. The sturdy bubble and cardback combo do that extremely well. The second job is to catch your eye on the pegs, and they do that fairly well too. It helps that these are on an end cap at Target right now, making it more likely that they'd jump out at me. It also helps that they were hanging next to the new iCarly dolls, a show my daughter loves. But the graphics and design allow them to stand out on their own.

The third job is more informational, and here they don't do quite as good a job. There's some very basic instructions, and because the packaging is designed to be international, the need for the text to be in multiple languages cuts down on the amount of info they can include. I think more tips and examples would go a long way to getting girls engaged quickly.
Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai
Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai
Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai
Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai
Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai
Harumika fashion designer toy by Bandai

Play Concept - ****
So what's the basic concept? Simple enough - each pack comes with some material, a dress dummy, and a few accoutrements and furbelow. Using a small included tool and the ingeniously designed dummy, you drape the cloth and finery in such a way as to create your own clothing designs.

While I'm very good at tapping into the eight year old boy inside me, I'm not so good at tapping into my inner eight year old girl. Instead, I asked my outer one for help - my eight year old daughter - and gave her some play time with the set to get her feelings...and her designs for the photos.

The first design to the left is actually mine. Hey, I never said I was going to give Mr. Klein a run for his money. The remaining designs are the work of my daughter.

The concept is obviously rooted in how real designers often work. By pinning squares and rectangles of material to dress dummies, they can produce 3 dimensional versions of drawn designs, refining the look.

Bandai designed a dummy that allows you to tuck the cloth in on the back, and a rubber seal holds it tightly in place. It's a very simple design, and yet it works perfectly. In fact, I was pretty surprised how easy it was to work with, and how much variety and personality you could put into any design with such simple pieces.

Added into the basic concept is an online experience as well, where you can do other designs, and share photos of your real world creativity.

I think the concept is excellent, particularly because it gives young girls a sense of control and personal creativity. Rather than merely be slaves to the designs of others, a product like this can teach them that they can decide what they think looks good. And besides, it's a lot of fun!

Quality - ***1/2
The various pieces, including the small cloth stickers and plastic baubles, are all made from a very good quality material. Most will be reusable many times, and the beauty of this set up is that you can pick up your own from the local Joanne's or Michael's, making the possibilities pretty endless.

Accessories - ***
Each starter set comes with the dummy and stand, along with three large rectangles of material, a set of cloth stickers, a set of plastic stickers, a belt, a frilly strip of cloth, and the small 'tool' used to press the cloth into the back of the dummy.

The plastic stickers are 3 dimensional, and designed to add some bling to the design. The cloth stickers can be used for all kinds of purposes - everything from adding edge or trim, to adding straps for a halter top look, to adding buttons.

As I said earlier, the quality of materials is very good, and you'll be able to reuse many of the pieces over several times. Obviously, the cloth sections can be used again and again, and I can see little girls asking Mom (or Dad) to take them to the local craft store to pick up additional squares of material.

In fact, I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing for Bandai, but once you have the dummy, you can get all the extras you need for tons and tons of potential designs right at your local crafts store. That's definitely a good thing for you!

Online Experience - **1/2
The one area where they need to do a little work is with the online aspect of the toy.

The website is Harumika.com, where you can register, share photos of your work, and do further designs. Unfortunately, the navigation is a bit rocky at this point, and not all the features appear to be working. In some cases, you find yourself down a series of steps with no way out or way to close, and you have to use the browser back arrow to reverse your way out.

The photos can be taken with your 'harumika' camera (they don't offer one yet, so I'm not sure what that is), or you should be able to upload them. That was one of several features I couldn't get to work.

Once you do upload your photo, it will have to be approved by a human on the other end to avoid any embarrassing situations.

The site certainly has potential, with some social networking, chances to show off your designs to others, and the ability to do more complex designs online, but it's going to take a little work for it to get there.

Fun Factor - ****
While the web feature is still weak, the overall execution on the basic play concept is quite strong. I can see girls having a lot of fun with these, especially if they can share them with friends, and use them as a social play tool. My daughter certainly has enjoyed it, and even an old guy like me whose idea of couture is ripped jeans had some fun trying out various ideas.

Value - ***
At about ten bucks, you're getting a well designed toy with the potential for a lot of play. Because of the re-use of many of the parts (unlike most art projects, where it's one and done), I'm giving this a slightly better than average value.

Things To Watch Out For
You might want to help your child remove some of the stickers, particularly the cloth ones, since they can be a bit tricky to remove cleanly the first time.

Overall - ***1/2
Sometimes the simplest ideas make the best toys. The concept here is fairly basic, but don't be fooled - without coming up with the nifty dummy with the rubber sealed gap in her back, the concept would not have worked. It works surprisingly well, and allows for far more creativity than I had expected with three cloth rectangles.

My daughter got quite a bit of fun out of it, and she's one that really enjoys artistic past times. I don't think it's going to alter her current plans for the future (she wants to be a chef who has Olympic gold medals in gymnastics and diving), but for ten bucks, it filled quite a few hours of playtime.

An aspect I particularly like is the ability to use any cloth or bling with the set. If Mom is in to scrapbooking, she can take along the budding fashion designer to pick up tons of extras that could be used with the basic set. And of course, the re-usability of the pieces that are here are a big plus too.

They need to work on the online component, but quite honestly, it's not the aspect that I think most girls will find appealing about the toy. It's a nice plus, but not necessary to their overall enjoyment.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Play Concept - ****
Quality - ***1/2
Accessories - ***
Online Experience - **1/2
Fun Factor - ****
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy -
These are available at Toys R Us and Target, and as it turns out, they're on sale this week at Target!  I noticed they are down two bucks, to $7.99, through Saturday the 22nd.

Related Links -
None from me, but you should check out their official website.

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Harumika fashion design toy by Bandai


This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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