The Pilot Kakuno is an interesting pen. Rather, the fact that it exists is interesting to me. The reason is that Pilot has somewhat already cornered the true "entry-level" fountain pen market with their popular Metropolitan line, so why expand into the Kakuno lineup? I don't have a clear answer, but something I've been thinking about while heading into this review.
The Kakuno is Pilot's cheapest refillable fountain pen that I know of and, let's be honest, is way more fun than the Metropolitan. Where the Metro seems more business like (although with some vibrant colors too), the Kakuno is made from plastic, has a more interesting/odd shape, and has a smiley face on the nib for goodness' sake. WAY more fun.
Pen Chalet was kind enough to send me one of the more recent "clear" or demonstrator models to try out so special thanks to them as I've been meaning to take a look at one for awhile.
Coming in at around $13, the Kakuno is definitely created with beginners and kids in mind. Being a Pilot made product that instills a bit of confidence in me that the product won't be cheaply made despite the low price point.
From a packaging standpoint the pen comes in a nicely branded blister pack (should've saved it for the review...) and comes paired with a Pilot black cartridge. The clear version of the pen can be bought in a variety of nib sizes (EF, F, and M) and I opted for the medium.
The barrel of the pen is hexagonal, but with very rounded corners which makes it comfortable to hold, and being all plastic makes it feel extremely light. The grip section transitions from the hex to a more traditional triangle grip, but again with very round edges.
From a color standpoint the Kakuno is usually made from opaque plastics that ate a tan/grey color with brightly colored caps. The addition of the clear, "demo" model is a nice choice and appeals more to me aesthetically than the others.
The overall design of the pen is interesting (part of the fun?) and there are a few features that I'm sure are intentional, but somewhat puzzling. For example, both the end of the barrel and the cap have holes in them (this means using as an eyedropper is out). I can't imagine that the inside of a cap or barrel need to "breathe", but maybe they are there as safety features for young kids that might swallow a pen component?...
Another is a small little nub that comes off the cap (more like a short little fin) that I assume is there as a bit of a roll stop. Although, the pen is hex shaped meaning it has actual flat sides which might make the roll stop obsolete? Maybe on certain school desks there is a greater slope which may allow it to serve more of a function. But, still a mystery to me.
The nib on the Kakuno is steel and is fairly stiff with some slight give while writing. I'd consider the writing to be more on the smooth side, almost a bit glassy at points, but with certain strokes there is definitely some grab and feedback. The flow has been great and I've yet to have any slow starts or thin spots.
Again, coming from Pilot, not the hugest of surprises that the nib performs well.
The cap does post quite comfortably, but makes the pen a bit long. The lack of weight makes this an almost non-issue though as the whole pen is about 0.5 oz.
So, is the Kakuno the right entry-level choice for you? Well, there are only a few on the market that I feel are in this range to choose from like the Pilot Metropolitan, Kaweco Perkeo, and Monteverde Monza, but I feel it is a solid contender. Performance wise I don't think there is much comparison, but in the looks department it really just depends on what you're looking for.
Thanks again to Pen Chalet for sending it over.