The Pilot Kakuno isn't the pen that you're going to pull from a suit pocket to sign an important document at a stuffy business meeting. In fact, this pen is very easy to dismiss at first glance. It's not sleek and sexy, and it isn't going to wow your friends. Despite first appearances, the Kakuno is a very good pen. It's certainly marketed towards children but, cute packaging and smiley nib aside, it's a great option for anyone from the first-time pen buyer to a pen fanatic who's looking for a solid performer to test inks.
The Pilot Kakuno's body is made from a lightweight plastic that comes in several color combinations. I chose the Kakuno with a solid gray barrel and orange cap. The pen's grip is translucent and slightly moulded, much less so than the grip of the Lamy Safari. The translucent grip shows the inner workings of the feed mechanism, which is a plus for those who are learning about pens and want to know what's going on under the hood. The Pilot Kakuno is very light, but the grip and thicker barrel create an extremely comfortable writing experience.
The Pilot Kakuno's cap uses a snap fit mechanism and caps securely with a satisfying click. Although there's a small plastic nub to assist with uncapping (I assume), this pen is almost impossible to uncap with one hand. This comes from someone with gorilla hands, so avoid the pen if uncapping with one hand is important. The secure cap does protect from accidental uncappings and leaks. The pen fits comfortably in hand both posted and unposted, and the cap posts very securely on the pen's barrel. The cap has flat sides that prevent the pen from rolling.
A Pilot standard ink cartridge accompanies the Pilot Kakuno's cutesy packaging, but the Pilot converters fit as well. I popped the squeeze converter out of my Metropolitan and snapped it snuggly into place in the Kakuno with zero issues, aside from the crappiness of the squeeze converter.
The Pilot Kakuno's nib is on par with the nib on the Pilot Metropolitan, aside from the addition of a subtle smiley face engraved on the nib. It's a stellar nib for the price. I chose a Kakuno with a medium nib, since Japanese nibs run very fine. The fine nib on my Metropolitan is much too narrow for my liking, but the medium nib on the Kakuno is perfect. The Kakuno's medium nib is comparable to a European fine nib, like the one on the Lamy Safari. The nib lays down a juicy line and glides across the paper with ease.
At $10 or so on Amazon, the Pilot Kakuno is an excellent starting point for those diving into fountain pens. How does it hold up to the Pilot Metropolitan? It really depends on what the user is looking for. The Metropolitan is a classy-looking pen with a nice weight, but the Kakuno provides a superior writing experience, thanks to its secure posting and slightly moulded grip. Both have nearly-identical nibs, but the Kakuno's creative design gives it an edge over its older sibling.