Review of Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni, HB. sent over a very nice package of gear to review, and we’re starting today with the Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni pencil in HB. Several greater minds have already written about the virtues of this well-crafted pencil (in no intentional order). But, just as these reviews are unique among one another, we hope this review can add to the Pencil Consciousness regarding this burgundy beauty.

I first encountered a few Mitsu-bishi pencils briefly in 2005. Woodchuck included three in the original package of Palomino pencils he sent us. I’d never tried Japanese pencils, and I knew the Palomino used a Japanese lead. At the time, Mitsu-bishi pencils were difficult-to-impossible to come by in the United States. Still, well, I used mine right up. They were too good not to use!

So I was very excited to open a package containing a dozen Hi-Unis in HB! The pencils come in a hard plastic case with a hinged lid, inside of a cardboard sleeve. There is a plastic separator/stabilizer in the pencil box to keep the pencils from rolling around. While this may be there to keep the finishes looking their best, it has the added bonus of keeping the pencils from banging around after pencils are removed to be use. And my dozen stayed whole for all of five minutes after I opened the mail, when I sharpened one right up.

The first thing I noticed [after the package] was this pencil’s amazing finish. Not only does it blow away pencils like Dixon and General’s (sorry, guys!), but it surpassed even the Uni-Star and Uni. The Hi-Uni sports several layers of lacquer, finished so smoothly that one forgets that there is a wooden pencil in there. The ends are finished with a cap and gold and are very precisely topped off. The business ends are, well, perfect. There is no paint overlap, I can tell that the cores are as perfectly centered as every other Japanese pencil I’ve used. The barcode  detracts from the pencil’s appearance, but I understand that this is a necessity in places where one can easily buy quality, open-stock pencils (unlike most shops in the USA).

The Hi-Uni reminds me of a Palomino’s finish, with the thick lacquer and clean ends. However, for better or worse, there’s a lot more print and design on the Hi-Uni. I’m not bothered by it, really, nor by other pencils with very minimalist tendencies. The Palomino looks great in the colors in which it comes, with minimal marking on the barrel of the pencil. Burgundy, however, benefits greatly from a little more gold and black design work.

There does seem to be something different about the wood used in this pencil, compared to others. It’s much more…red and very much more fragrant than other high-end cedar pencils. In fact, the lovely grain and aroma combine to serve as a pleasant juxtaposition to the ultra-smooth finish of this pencil – something about the natural material inside opposing the craftsmanship of the pencil.

The lead is just, wow. It’s as smooth as any HB I have ever tried, with a darkness anyone familiar with Palominos would find welcome. This core achieves a nice balance between blackness and point retention, also. While the core reminds me of the HB Palomino that I hold very dearly (the blue end-capped HB is one of my favorite pencils in the world), I have to admit that the Hi-Uni does hold its point a little bit longer. I feel like it’s ever so slightly less dark than an HB Palomino, but it’s really hard to tell. (It could be the same lead for all I know!) Smearing and ghosting, for a pencil that writes like this, are very very good. This pencil smears less than a lot of considerably lighter-writing HB pencils, and the ghosting is no worse, either. In fact, given the black line the Hi-Uni lays down, I was expecting them to smear quite a bit and to be messy pencils. On the contrary, they are precise, neat and, again, dark for HB pencils.

I should mention that these pencils are also noticeably wider than most pencils. I am told this is a quality of Japanese pencils, along with darker cores. If you’re a wide-fingered Comrade like me, this is a good quality. They are certainly not so much wider as to be difficult to sharpen. On the contrary, they fit better into my favorite (German) brass KUM wedge than my (German) Faber-Castells do.

Thanks again to David at Jetpens for the very generous review pencils, and I hope that Comrades who like a dark and smooth pencil find some Pencil Happiness with the Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni! I am, frankly, smitten by this pencil.

26 thoughts on “Review of Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni, HB.”

  1. Thanks – it has been some time since we had a review of a pencil – like in the “good old days” when the revolution was young and the future was bright :-). Us light writers have too few pencils to choose from, but this one does it.

  2. These are definitely among my favorites; the epitome of Japanese pencil-making today. They and the Mono 100s are so close, but I think the Hi-Unis (unii? uniorum?) just barely edge them out. Truth be told though, that opinion vacillates. :)

  3. Have you tried their penmanship pencil? For me at least, it’s the smoothest pencil I’ve ever tried—including the Eberhard Faber Blackwing.

  4. You had six references to Palomino pencils in a review of a Mitsubishi pencil. Puleez! I start to doubt your objectivity.
    You could have mentioned Tombow pencils, another excellent Japanese pencil that resembles Mitsubishi in style and quality.
    I’m surprised you did not know that Japanese pencils tend to be softer than European pencils marked at the same degree of hardness.
    If you are in New York, you can get some versions of the Mitsubishi at Kinokuniya, and Tombow at Pearl Art.

    1. I compared the Hi-Uni (an unfamiliar pencil to Americans) with the Palomino (a pencil a lot of readers are familiar with). We don’t review pencils in a vacuum. If I had said that the Hi-Uni is dark and smooth, those adjectives are pretty relative.

      It’s also no secret that the blue HB Palomino is one of my favorite pencils. We never claim to be completely unbiased (if that’s even possible). I reference a pencil that (A) I like a lot and that (B) is something familiar to a lot of Comrades. The point was: If you like the Palomino (a pencil a lot of people like and have used), you might like a Hi-Uni (a pencil fewer readers have tried).

      There’s nothing nefarious going on.

      Where did I say I didn’t know that Japanese pencils are softer? I believe I said that they are:

      “I should mention that these pencils are also noticeably wider than most pencils. I am told this is a quality of Japanese pencils, along with darker cores. If you’re a wide-fingered Comrade like me, this is a good quality. They are certainly not so much wider as to be difficult to sharpen. On the contrary, they fit better into my favorite (German) brass KUM wedge than my (German) Faber-Castells do.”

      I mentioned that Japanese pencils are wider, as I’ve read is the norm, along with darker cores. How is pointing out that one knows about the darker cores indicating that I “did not know that Japanese pencils tend to be softer”?

      I would compare the Hi-Uni to Tombows if I had some to compare them to. Certainly we can publish a review of a Japanese pencil without referencing all of the rest? The Tombow Mono 100 is not as familiar to as many readers (I suspect) and certainly not to myself as, say, a Palomino.

      If you have helpful comparisons of a Tombow and the Mitsu-bishi, please do share them with everyone (I don’t mean that sarcasitcally).

    2. I’ve also long questioned the objectivity of “Jfg” regarding Califonia Cedar’s products — too often they’re referenced in an ecstatic, breathlessly supportive fashion.  I also note that not a word was said on this blog about the recent plagiarism controversy in which CC was involved, nor has their probable fabrication of Blackwing users been mentioned.  For such a niche community, these omissions are difficult to explain away convincingly.

      1. As much as I enjoy having my integrity questioned, I should address this.

        What is “too often” to mention a product I like, even in any breathless fashion? We were the first blog to feature the Palomino, an exciting product in 2005, when American pencil pickins were becoming slim. It was a boon to pencil fans, and I am still a huge fan of this pencil. If I’m supposed to subdue my fervour for a certain pencil/brand because some people don’t like them, that runs very contrary to the “objectivity” to which you seem to be assuming that I aspire. There are quite a few pencil blogs in English (and other languages) on the internet, and we all tend to focus on different pencils, manufacturers, countries of origin, etc. What’s wrong with that?

        We always provide HONEST reviews. If I say that I like something, it’s because I do, not because I have some secret tie to CC wherein I market for them. We don’t trade good reviews for free stuff or money. A review on this site is the report of one’s experience with and opinion on a pencil (or sharpener, or paper, etc.). Ignoring the pencils I like (and no one’s questioning my high regard for Field Notes or KUM sharpeners or my very open bias toward American pencils like those from Dixon or the unpainted pencils I often favor, etc.) because of who makes them would be dishonest.

        I’ve stayed out of the CC controversy largely by accident, as I was on a busy hiatus from active blogging (as happens from time to time) when most of it was “news”. Frankly, the controversy was largely where it is now (wherever that is) when I heard about it this spring. Having considerable respect for the folks involved, I’ve chosen not to take a side. I don’t think I need to “explain away” my “omissions” “convincingly.” Having a pencil blog does not necessarily implicate me or anyone who contributes to this site in every pencil-related controversy in such a way that I (or anyone) should need to answer for it.

        I am at a loss. On the one hand, you want objectivity in a pencil review. On the other, you want the CC issue addressed. These seem to run slightly contrary in that I’m supposed to suppress my opinion on a pencil/brand and then provide an opinion on an issue on demand. (And if it’s not an opinon or taking a side, what is expected regarding the controversy? Restating what other people have said?)

  5. tempted to quote John Cleese: “whatever you do, DON’T MENTION THE WAR”… I’ve been a reader of this blog almost since the start, I’m grateful for all the money and hard work you put in it – it is a pleasant and interesting readl. Questioning your motives seems a bit unfair, liking products from CC is, hopefully, not a crime – keep up the good work.
    Regards Henrik

  6. You can pry my Palomino from my cold, dead hand. Mitsu Hi-Unis, as noted, also quite good. People do love a controversy.

  7. A friend will soon be bringing me back twenty Hi Uni 2B pencils from Japan. I have yet to try a number of differet pencils I got recently., These include the Tombow Mono Graph MONO 2B, Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2B (German and Indonesian versions), Mitsubishi 9800 2B, Staedtler Noris 120 2B, Staedtler 168 2B, Venus Velvet 3557 #2, General’s Test Scoring 580, Faber castell 9000 2B (Germany), Faber Castell SV 1111 2B (Indonesia). Some I have used recently and like: General Layout 555 -nice and dark if sharpeed enough and pressed hard, Apsara Platinum Extra Dark – nice and dark, Koh-I-Noor Toison D’Or 2B – smooth and dark, Bazic 2B – not as dark but smooth, J Staedtler Half Moon #1 – very old stock but dark and smooth – a few of these are on the verge of splitting. The Apsara pencils came with an eraser and sharpener with each ten pack. The plastic sharpener doesn’t look like much but is a long point single hole type and works beautifully.

      1. I am really just getting started. Untik recently if I wanted a darker line I just looked for a #1. Now I see that art type pencils up to about 2B are much nicer to write with. There are well known dealers and there is also eBay. Sellers from the Far East often charge little or nothing for shipping. You just have to be patient in waiting for the order to arrve.

  8. We get Hi-Uni & both flavors of the Tombow here (Mono J and the Mono 100). Both are excellent pencils. Never warped. Amazing finish. Cores are dead center. Japanese pencils run a tad softer and blacker in their grades than German pencils and are generally thicker. The Faber Castell Castell 9000 of the same grade feels much harder and also slender compared the Hi-Uni or Tombow. Tombow seem a bit harder than the Mitsubishi and the Palominos (finally available here) are softer and darker still. I used the Staedtlers and Fabers till I found the found the Tombows. All mentioned are wonderful pencils but my favorite was the Hi-uni. Until the Palominos arrived on the scene. Now I feel conflicted as I bought a box on sale and just love them. HB, B, 2B the orange graded pencils w/o the eraser. They were on sale and I rolled the dice and I adore them. I don’t know or care much about the ethical BS surrounding the company but they make a fine pencil, even if they gold rubs off and the pencil grade is only printed on one side. (grrr). But I still have boxes of Hi-Unis and I like them a lot and use them happily. They are so well made i pause before sharpening them. heh. Also lovely are these green Tombow Mono Js for their anniversary in the metal box. Those are also on sale here and I couldn’t resist a couple boxes of those. I think I like the cheaper Mono J even more than the Mono 100 (seemingly their premium pencil with a cap like the hi-uni). Seeing these in Green makes me wish they would ditch their boring black finish.

    1. I use the Hi-Unis and the Mono 100s. For writing fast I like the Hi-Uni 2B. For regular writing I like a B grade and the Mono 100 B is also very nice. I recently got some graded Palominos – the all orange B and the orange 2B with the black cap. An eBay seller has a nice odd lot of assorted Mono 100s which I also bought. Most of the mail order stores will sell individual Mono Js and regular Monos but not Mono 100s. I agree that the Hi-Unis are softer than the Mono 100s for the same grade. The Palomino Blackwing and Blackwig Pearl pencils are somewhat soft and require frequent sarpening. I have the Palomino Blackwing 602 as well as an original 602 but i haven’t tried them yet.

  9. suggestions plz:

    I’m confused which pencils do I prefer.
    1. mitsubishi hi uni pencils
    2. steadler mars lumograph
    3. Koh-I-Noor Toison D’ OR 12
    4. derwent graphic pencils
    5. royal and langnickel premier sketch pencils..


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