To me, there are few things finer in the stationery world than a well-made Japanese pencil. I don't talk about them too awful much on the blog, what with all the fun Indian pencils and mass amounts of notebooks that are piling up in my review stash. But I would say that not a day goes by that I don't use at least one pencil of Japanese origin, whether it's something from the stalwarts of Japan's pencil manufacturing or something made over there for Palomino. They're smooth pencils, care is taken in every step of the manufacturing process, and even the cheap pencils are better than most things made in the US. I even hesitate to say cheap; inexpensive is a better word, for sure. There is nothing cheap about any of the Japanese pencils I've tried. I really hope no one ruins my assumption by sending me a shoddy Japanese pencil!
This time around, I'm taking a look at another pencil in the Mitsubishi line, the 9800. I'll be covering 3 grades: HB, B, and 2B, as well as looking at the 9800 EW natural wood part of this line.
I can't be mad at the looks of these pencils at all. They encompass my two favorite things: dark green and natural wood (in the EW line). The dark green of the 9800 has been copied often, with one brand, Liberty, being so brazen to make their stock number 9800 as well. If I were ever to make a pencil, this is the color I'd pick. Atop the green lacquer sits a gold imprint. The Mitsubishi wordmark and logo, along with "9800" and "Matured" are in gold, with the grade designation, the purpose (General Writing), and UPC are all imprinted in white. I actually really like how the white looks against the green, almost better than the gold. The EW is the same as far as the text of the imprint, but the color is green, save for the UPC, which is black. It looks and feels as if it were raw and unlacquered, but there is the tiniest, thinnest clear coat on it. I wasn't convinced until I put a tiny drop of fountain pen ink on it and was able to wipe it off. The General's Cedar Pointe, which I know to be raw, did not fare as well, and now has a Caran d'Ache Vibrant Green stain on it.
All of these pencils are unfinished on the ends, no end-dip or eraser in sight. They are very light in the hand, and since they're listed as "General Writing" pencils, they have a perfect balance that is so light, it doesn't weigh in your hand, especially the natural wood version. Sometimes I forget I'm even holding it, when I'm fidgeting around with it while thinking about how to approach the next line.
Like the 9850 I reviewed a while back, I don't think these are cedar. They have the look, but not the signature smell. Who knows? If anyone knows of a definitive list of what wood is used for what pencil, that'd be great. I should probably start one. Anyway, it looks great on the naturals, sharpens wonderfully, no issues whatsoever. With the EW natural wood line, they join together scrap wood to make the slats for the pencil. You can sometimes see the join. I've got a picture of it in the gallery below. It looks really cool, and doesn't detract from the solid-ness of the pencil construction.
How can I not just love every single Mitsubishi pencil? Smooth with a capital S. The point retention on the HB is pretty darn good too. Obviously it goes down as the grades get softer, but compared to other pencils in their respective grades, they do a hell of a job keeping their points. Every single core in all the boxes were completely centered, another testament to fine Japanese pencil making.
The pencils in the 9800 line are an amazing deal for the price. As you can see below, the prices on Amazon range from under $5 to under $6 per dozen. Amazon prices, of course, fluctuate, but for somewhere between 40¢ and 50¢ per pencil, the quality is dynamite. If you're just writing and like the Mitsubishi Hi-Uni HB, you could swap it with the 9800 HB and barely tell the difference in a blind test. I'm sure there is some difference, core-wise, but I really can't tell. That's how good these pencils are.
Available from Amazon. Prices subject to change, but current at post time.
Mitsubishi 9800 HB - $4.65
Mitsubishi 9800 B - $5.72
Mitsubishi 9800 2B - $4.97
Mitsubishi 9800EW HB - $4.97
Mitsubishi 9800EW B - $4.97
Mitsubishi 9800EW 2B - $5.61