Never really thought about this before, but while organizing The Toolbox™, I’ve noticed Uni pencils come in two basic styles:
- Hybrid designs with components and styling cues from drafting pencils
Another interesting note: There are no overtly “cheap” Uni pencils, with the MX-351 being the only lineup sold for under ¥500 apiece.
And of course, the BOXY sub-brand has always been about “lifestyle” designs and lower price points; as such, there are no drafting pencils in the BOXY lineup.
But when you consider everything above, what was the point of the Mitsubishi brand? As far as I can tell, Mitsubishi pencils—at least in the early days—included a little bit of everything: Drafting, executive, hybrid, and a whole cadre of unique double-knocks.
(There’s more variety in the 1970s Mitsubishi double-knocks than you’ll find from any other brand. They made at least 8 different styles of double-knocks during this time; all were released under the Mitsubishi brand except one—a ¥300 piece for BOXY.)
There are subtle signs that Mitsubishi more or less shifted to this split-branding approach after the BOXY sub-brand took off. One of my favorites is the M5-1006, which is the companion piece to the Uni MX-1052 lineup of drafting pencils with knurled grips and o-rings.
While the MX-1052 pieces all include Uni branding, “Uni” is conspicuously absent on the M5-1006 (which is clearly a writing pencil and cannot be considered a drafting pencil). I suspect Mitsubishi brass were not comfortable designating the M5-1006 as an Uni due to its clear outsider status (among everything else in the Uni lineup), so they simply called it a Mitsubishi.
It’s also strange that Mitsubishi avoided using Uni branding on the Automatic Pencil series. The 501 probably caused the confusion, as it includes a 2mm tip that isn’t found anywhere in the Uni lineup. (With that said, the notebook-sized Unis with colored plastic end caps have a 1.5mm tip at the end of a stepped nose cone, which is more reminiscent of drafting designs.)
But the other Automatic Pencils have 4mm lead sleeves and should be considered drafting pencils by any reasonable observers. However, despite having Uni tips—and being drafting-adjacent—the Automatic Pencils fall under the Mitsubishi brand.
And now we reach the final oddity, the elusive and chuckle-inducing Mitsubishi Pecker. This series of side-knocks would have fit in with the BOXY lineup, but they may have been considered too pricey or some of the designs too “serious” for inclusion in the sub-brand.
Since the Peckers clearly aren’t drafting pencils, there was nowhere else for them to go besides the Mitsubishi brand.
I’m guessing the tension of model-naming and organization continued to mount into the 1980s, because at some point, Mitsubishi unveiled a third sub-brand, Exceed. An entire lineup of boardroom executives (robust materials, gold trim, luxurious lacquers), Exceed pencils have a lot of heart, but very little soul.
Finally, we fast-forward to today, and it kinda seems like Mitsubishi has convoluted the Uni brand with writing pencils (alpha gel and alpha gel switch). The Shift series fits the bill for drafting pencils, but the alpha gels have 2mm tips and almost certainly should have just been part of the larger Mitsubishi brand (like the Kuru Toga).
Anyway, I’m sure this is more than you ever wanted to know about Mitsubishi pencils, but I find these sub-brand gymnastics to be both fascinating and annoying (because it makes it much more difficult to organize a large collection, lol).