In which I compensate for splurging with learning and get some of the coolest prize plush ever.
I’ve always had a special fondness for those animals that aren’t considered cute by default. I discovered Sumikko Gurashi because I thought Tonkatsu was my overall favorite animal, a mole. And then he was a fatty piece from the end of a tonkatsu which somehow managed to be even more amazing.
Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I love bunnies and puppies and kittens and, well, honestly all animals, but give me a dinosaur or a bug or something sort of lopsided or weirdly straddling the line between endearing and off-putting and I will spend that money.
Today I have for you these really fascinating and adorable plush from Yell called もちふわ！うみうしさんBIGぬいぐるみ (Mochifuwa Umiushi-san BIG nuigurumi, where mochifuwa means soft and squishy and springy like mochi, so it’s something like “mochi-soft sea slug big plushy”). I ran across these when I went through about a month of playing Toreba constantly because, well, world events and anxiety and such, and I just thought they were completely irresistible.
The promotional picture (where the hugeness of the plush is emphasized by the big blue sea slug crashing down どん don (boom)! and making the little pink one go ぴょん pyon (boing)!) seriously about killed me every time I looked at it. I don’t know how much I spent trying to get one of those accursed slugs, but let’s just say a lot.
Eventually I snapped out of my crane game binge and realized I’m usually good at tracking down Japanese toys (seriously, if you’re looking for something, I love to go down those rabbit holes) and priced just buying one from Japan and — long story short — instead found this cool importer located in California called BC Mini. My service was great, the shipping is reasonable and everything arrived quickly and decently packaged, so if you’re like me and want to see what non-major-character Japanese prize plush are out there, I’d recommend them based on this purchase. And when all was said and done, for about the price of two of them from Japan and goodness knows what fraction of what I would have spent trying to win them, I bought the whole set of five.
Before I get too deeply ensconced in sea slug science facts, I should talk a little bit about the quality of these plush. I’m on the record as being a big fan of Japanese crane game items. On the one hand, these are a great exemplar of why I collect them. The plush is extremely soft, the stuffing is for the most part very good, and the feel is absolutely amazing. There is no better way to describe it than mochi fuwa.
However, in the spirit of full disclosure, there are a couple of seams that do not seem secured all that tightly. After I was done taking pictures, I noticed that one of these weak spots had resulted in a small hole. This is not a reflection on the seller, and I have collected plush long enough that I know sometimes this just happens (weirdly, it’s happened to me much more with licensed plush sold in American stores). I don’t consider this a particular issue since I wanted these mostly to display, but if you’re going to do a lot of snuggling I think a dab of fabric glue would work just fine.
I didn’t really know what these creatures even were exactly until I read up a bit. What we call a sea slug here is apparently closer to a snail that sheds its shell at maturity and should really be called a Nudibranch, but we will go with sea slug. The Japanese word isn’t going to help a lot either; it’s ウミウシ umiushi, “sea cow.” Wondering what the Japanese call a sea cow, then?
So I said umiushi is generally written as ウミウシ. Umi (sea) is usually written with the kanji 海, but here it is written with katakana, just the sound umi, no meaning. Ushi (cow) is usually written as the kanji 牛, but it’s also just written here for its sound ushi. But kanji can be read differently when combined than they’re read on their own. So take our first kanji and our second kanji and combine them to get 海牛 kaigyuu, which means sea cow not in the sea slug but the manatee sense!
Their physical details, or what little I understand of them, are really cool too. Up above, we’ve got some basic sea slug anatomy. They’re covered with a mantle, they breathe through their gills, and since they’re gastropods, they’ve got a foot below their stomach. They taste/smell with their wiggly little rhinophores, the appearance of which is why in some languages the word for them is “sea bunny.”
So the first sea bunny I’d like you to meet is Hypselodoris festiva, who is around an inch long, and whose Japanese name is about as straightforward as it gets: アオウミウシ aoumiushi, blue sea slug. In general these seem to be pretty simple, straightforward Nudibranchs.
There isn’t a lot of information about this one — in looking, I just kept finding generic info about how Nudibranchs mate. This always seems to include a quote about how, as hermaphroditic creatures, one induces the other to take a feminine role by “darting their penises at each other.” So, hey, I hope today isn’t the day you decided to show your grandmother this blog or something.
Moving on, next we’ve got dear little Mexichromis aurora, who is smaller than an inch and just as sweet and cute and pink as basically anything. But maybe the very most adorable thing about her is her Japanese name: イチゴミルクウミウシ ichigo miruku umiushi, strawberry milk sea slug!).
Our next bunny from the sea is Chromodoris orientalis, another real creature of mystery. This one is more than an inch long, the biggest yet. Where they live, what they eat, and other various aspects of them seem to be the subject of a lot of disagreement.
But based on this video I’m pretty sure he’s one of those dramatic bishounen who stands there heroically while the wind blows his hair all around. His name in Japanese is simply シロウミウシ shiroumiushi, white sea slug.
The Japanese names up until now have probably been close to what you might have guessed, simple color designations, but things are going to get kind of awesome with the next two. Our next sea slug is the absolutely stunning approximately-one-incher Hypselodoris apolegma! With a Latin name like the villain of a magical girl show and a Japanese name of シンデレラウミウシ (Cinderella sea slug) she’s like some amazing Pokémon I want to snuggle all day.
As for our last plush, remember how I said I got obsessed with this line because I was playing Toreba all the time? Well, not long after I decided to just give up and purchase them outright, I decided to spend a few free tickets and won one. Of course, right? But the one I got was this awesome guy, Thecacera pacifica.
In Japanese, his name gives me some trouble: it’s ウデフリツノゼヤウミウシ, udefuri tsunozeya umiushi. I know udefuri means arms out/waving, and of course umiushi is sea slug, and I know tsuno means horn for his rhinophores, but I’m not so sure what the zeya is doing there. If you know, help me out, would you? Nonetheless, for once the common English name might be cooler — this is the Pikachu Nudibranch!
And I may as well leave you with some bonus info — on kalinga ornata. Why am I including this one? Well, it’s certainly not because I clicked the wrong link for one of the plush up above and accidentally wrote up information before realizing this fact, I can tell you that. But anyway, look at that beautiful coloration! No wonder so many of the things I read call them a cute little alien.
They’re another pretty mysterious one, but what we do know is quite intriguing — that their diet is unique among Nudibranchs and they hide in sand and they can glow like a firefly if you poke them and inflate/float and be two or three inches long and are generally amazing. Oh, and their Japanese name is ハナデンシャウミウシ, hanadensha sea slug. Hana is flower and densha is car, and while this combination can mean various things, here it’s a tram covered in flowers like you’d see in a parade. What a perfect name!
Anyway, that’s my sea slug hoard! I hope this was an interesting read to one degree or another, and now I’m going to go pass out on a pile of stuffed sea bunnies, under which I’m pretty sure there’s a bed buried. Somewhere.