Mechanical pencils both fascinate me and elude me sometimes when it comes to utility as I am more of a pen guy. Although, I'm intrigued by their function, the little "happenings" inside that make the lead shoot out bits at a time, and the overall aesthetic that they usually carry, at least the nicer ones.
The Uni Kuru Toga is a pencil that sees some attention quite often. Why? Because it is awesome. And that concludes the review... just kidding.
As a little bit of Kuru Toga education, this pencil produced by Uni (via Mitsubishi) is a mechanical pencil that automatically rotates the lead while you write. When I tell this to people they are amazed at first, but then have that "Really?" kind of attitude. Is it necessary? Why is this important?
Well, when you write with a pencil, you are slowly smearing the material against a page and wearing down the tip. If you aren't constantly turning the pencil (which years of school have taught us to do subconsciously) you end up with a flat edge that creates wider lines and an uncomfortable writing/drawing experience.
Back to the Uni, each time you lift and press the lead to the page, a tiny mechanism inside does the job for you which makes a consistent sharp point throughout the writing or drawing session. Super slick, right?
The Kuru Toga was originally a Japan import only through specialty shops like JetPens, but the base models have graced the shelves of local US retailers in the last couple of years for generally less than $7. I've owned one of the all plastic base model versions for a while now, but I had some JetPens space credits available (thanks to site sponsor JetPens) so I opted to purchase one of the higher-end Roulette models which has more metal components, a bit more weight, and knurling in the grip. And I got it in gun metal...which is more like a black and sparkly grey.
I say higher-end a bit loosely as even the Roulette models you can get for about $16 which is a steal in the nicer mechanical pencil world. rOtring 600s will run you around $30 and the 800s around $70. There are others in between like the Pilot Automac for around $50, but needless to say, pencils can be pricey. I wouldn't say the Kuru Toga Roulette is in the exact same league as these others I mentioned, but they do a pretty darn good job with the overall fit and finish for the price.
The writing experience is pretty solid although I have noticed an ever so slight movement in the tip. I'm pretty sensitive to this with pens and pencils to where if it is too noticeable I will probably choose not to use it again. With the Kuru Toga, it is enough to notice, but I didn't feel that it drastically diminished my writing nor did I notice it enough to be completely annoyed. Just keep this in mind when buying if you are ultra-hyper sensitive to it.
As far as the spinning goes, for your own amusement (and to prove to friends that this thing is legit), Uni puts a small window in the grip section that reveals an orange cylinder inside with a marking on it. As you write, you can watch the mark move in and out of view which is a cool touch. I know it amuses me at least...
As mentioned above, the grip section is knurled and has a good bite to it. Not offensively sharp, but not simply there as decoration either. Personally, I feel this is a good improvement to the pencil because, lets face it, I like knurling. The grip section is also metal which pushes more of the balance to the front of the pencil, but has a good feel.
I opted to also purchase some of the Kuru Toga specific lead as it claims to wear better with the mechanics of the pencil, but I honestly didn't notice a huge difference over other brands. I went with the B as I prefer a slightly softer and darker line and it didn't disappoint. My sweet spot is generally a 2B or even 3B, but it doesn't appear that Uni offers it in any softer grade. If they do, I'll be sure to pick some up. The lead in the Kuru Toga seems to snap rarely (never, really) which is a huge plus.
The eraser, of course, is one of the under the cap, smaller than a Tic-Tac sized ones we all love so much (sarcasm intended). From a performance standpoint with the Kuru Toga lead it did great, but after about a dozen solid uses I'd say the eraser would be toast.
My only gripe: make the Roulette in a 0.7mm. 0.5mm is fine, but I'm definitely a wider line type of writer when it comes to pencils.
In conclusion, if you like the base model Kuru Toga or have been looking at buying one, the Roulette might be a nice step up if you were willing to spend only about $10 more. I've personally enjoyed it and would recommend it due to the value based on the added weight and metal materials.