Toys That Make You Go “Wha…?”: Episode I
March 4, 2009

 About nine months ago I ran across one of the most bizarre toy finds I’ve ever run across.  I picked up a couple of sets just to blog about them but I was never really able to get a handle on what to write other than to just show them off and ask "isn’t this weird?" so I’ve kept putting off writing about them.  Until now…  You see, couple of weeks back I found an old CD that had C+C Music Factory’s "Things That Make You Go Hmmm…" on it and after a couple of listens it struck me… So with apologies to C+C Music Factory and Arsenio Hall, I present the first installment of…


Episode I: Wind-Up Sushi


Yes, you read that right — Wind-Up Sushi.  I’ll start by saying up-front that I know absolutely nothing about sushi (I’m violently allergic to seafood) or if any of these look like their real-life inspirations all I know is that this strikes me as one of the oddest concepts I think I’ve ever seen for a wind-up toy.  Just walking through the aisle where the dollar toys were one day and looked down at the shelf and saw this display tray…


There were four varieties in that tray each on a generic blister card that looks authentically Japanese in design with the type of sushi identified with a small insert in the front of the bubble…


The instructions on the back of the card show the wind-up knob to be at the back of the toy but it’s actually at the front.  There is quite a bit of re-use of parts.  The wind-up mechanism is identical in all four as is the "rice" that conceals it.  The tuna varieties share the same upper piece in different colors.  I was very surprised to find that the upper part of these are made from a rather flexible PVC-type of material.


Once you wind them up they’ll race across a flat surface for about three feet or so (my best guess as I didn’t have an area that large to work on) before stopping and turning 180 degrees and racing back to where they came from.  I tried to get a video of these things in action but after an hour of not being able to get them roll in front of the lens much less actually turn-and-return on camera I gave up. Not that it’s that difficult to imagine how they move…

Now, as bizarre as the whole concept of wind-up sushi strikes me, the cardback revealed something even more confounding… Granted I have seen wind-up food items before in the form of hamburgers and hot dogs and hopping vegetables so I guess sushi really isn’t any more strange.  No, what confuses me is when I checked the back for the manufacturer…  There is no manufacturer listed other than the oh-so-popular "Made in China".  But the importer, that was a different story…


Now, why in the world would a toy buyer for the world’s largest retailer think that these would be a great item to sell in the US market?  I could see these being a giveaway to kids at a sushi restaurant or some such, but Wally World?…  Even being in the 88¢ impulse section it just makes no sense at all…  Granted these things went to the clearance aisle for 50¢ after just one season on the shelves but they still lingered for what seemed an eternity.

 Well, I hope you enjoyed the first installment in what I hope will be a continuing series.  I’ve got the next 3 or 4 toys picked out but I’m not sure how often I’ll be doing a new "Wha…?" column — maybe monthly, maybe bi-weekly, maybe just whenever I get the urge…  That said, if any of you have a suggestion for a "Toys That Makes You Go ‘Wha…?’" stop by the forums and drop me a private message.  Oh, and one last thing, there’s a prize with this first column — the first comment made by a registered forum member below that says "I want some wind-up sushi" will get a complete, carded (but not necessarily mint cards) set of Wind-Up Sushi*, just make sure to include your forum name so I know how to contact you.

 Next time out I’m going for the big boys.  My next "victim" will be a semi-recent action figure from a line put out by the world’s largest toy company.  Yes, Matty Mattel, I’m aiming for you… 


*Yes, I know it’s a lame prize, but, hey… it’s free…

Jim Abell
DC collector from the Mego days, specifically Hasbro and Mattel releases. Also Hasbro and Disney Star Wars/Star Tours toys, Masters of the Universe Classics and most anything Four Horsemen related.
Read other articles by Jim Abell.





  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    LOL, Jim, that was great. Love the idea for a regular column. I think you’ve discovered the first toy my wife would actually collect!

  • Erik superfriend says:

    There was a shot from a Toy Fair past which showed a boxed set of toys named: Mr. Bacon vs Mr. Tofu. I found that to be an odd concept.

    • Hourman says:

      Oh I am *so* siding with Mr. Bacon.

    • Jim Abell Jim Abell says:

      Do you remember, was that a “trendy” type of toy like urban vinyl or was it just some out-there concept for a kid’s toy? I’m going to try my best to stay in the realm of “real” toys with this column, but if I find something really out there in the already “out there” segment I may run with it… Now to search Mr. Bacon vs. Mr. Tofu…

      EDIT: Found it… — should’ve known Archie McPhee would have it… Guess what?… They sell what appears to be a different brand of Wind-Up Sushi there… … must be more demand than I could imagine…

Leave a Comment