Most of the Japanese pencils I have collected have been obtained via trade or as gifts. The writing pencils aren't easily available in my neck of the woods, but I can find Tombow Mono and Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni easily at some local art supply stores. So, before purchasing a box of these, the only other full box of Japanese pencils I had bought were the Tombow 2558 B. Both boxes were purchased from Amazon, as it is usually cheaper than buying singles from Jet Pens or CW Pencils. Getting the Mitsu-bishi 9850 in 5 days was a treat, too, as I had waited so long when I ordered Tombow 2558, I had forgotten about them. This is not to say that you shouldn't buy singles. I buy singles all the time from CW and Jet Pens, but when I find something I want a box of, I usually check Amazon first, because it could mean the difference of 20-50%.
The 9850 was one pencil that I had never obtained via trade or bought as a single. I was scoping for deals on Amazon and saw these for less than $10, and in a fit of having forgotten they even existed, I snapped up a box, thought it would take 3 months to get here, then I'd have a nice surprise present to myself come spring. Five days later, I had my box and 2 weeks later, here we are.
Like almost every Mitsu-bishi pencil, this is a pristine specimen by which all other pencils should be judged. The lacquer is a dark brick red, and it is very thick and shiny. There is no chipping near the ferrule or by the unsharpened end. The imprint is absolutely perfect; no chips, no overprinting, and the foil fills in only where the print is and no where else. It is a lightly reflective silver foil; unlike my Shahson review, I had no trouble finding the right angle from which to avoid glare. The ferrule is silver as well, but they don't match as it has a little bit of a light brass / tarnished look to it. There is no stripe on the ferrule and it actually doesn't match the box illustration, because there is no middle "nail-file" section. It's a dead ringer for the Tombow 2558 ferrule, except in color. The eraser is white and reminds me of a Mars Plastic eraser.
As you might expect from a pencil of this quality, the wood is straight and true. Not one pencil in the pack is cracked, dinged, bent, or otherwise imperfect. I'm not quite sure the exact wood. It's not incense cedar; there really is no smell. It sharpens well in a hand sharpener like the Pollux or the Masterpiece, and of course in a helical hand crank it does amazing.
As you would expect from Mitsu-bishi, the core is smooth and darker than graded. The HB has amazing point durability in my testing, in fact, I was surprised at how well it held up for how dark the line is (and how heavy my hand is). In my comparisons, it is a little darker than the 9852 EW, the natural wood version of Mitsu-bishi's venerable yellow pencil.
Finally an eraser on a Mitsu-bishi that actually works! The 9852 and the 9852EW erasers are famously terrible. The pink eraser of the 9852 leaves a pink / orange streak behind and the black eraser of the 9852EW leaves a gray mark behind. But the white eraser on the 9850 performs like a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser, but instead of gumming up the eraser dust into a long thin strip, it leaves dust everywhere. But it does erase and well. It still doesn't do as well as the Tombow 2558, my pick for best attached eraser on the planet, but it does work with you, not against you.
This is a light pencil, yet solid. I never felt like the eraser / ferrule made it unbalanced, and the shiny lacquer is comfortable and still has some grip. The white imprinted UPC is down near the end, so it will be sharpened away early in its use, but can be felt when holding it just right. It is a semi-semi-hex: it's a little fuller than some of their other pencils, but the lacquer is thick enough to round everything out. Next to a Musgrave, it looks semi-hex, but next to some of the other Mitsu-bishi, like the 9852EW, it is fuller.
This is an amazing pencil. To think that this is considered one of their "cheap" pencils floors me. This pencil puts anything made in the US to shame, and it's no wonder that Palomino outsources its Blackwing manufacturing to a Japanese maker. At 79¢ per pencil, it's roughly twice the amount as a Ticonderoga*, but probably 10 times better. I can't recommend this pencil enough for an everyday writer.
*Based on an Amazon list price of $10.10 for a 24 pack. Ticonderoga pricing is all over the place, depending on what pack size, when, and where you buy them, and they can be anywhere from 16¢ to 42¢ in my limited price comparing research.