Sailor Sei-boku isn’t a new ink by any measure but seems to have gone relatively unnoticed in terms of reviews, certainly compared to its stable-mate Kiwa-guro. Having been convinced enough to buy a bottle I thought I would share my impressions.
As with other Sailor inks, you get a squat 50ml bottle in a nice cardboard box. (Sailor are in the process of changing the design of their bottles, so you may find you get a different form factor.) Unlike the Jentle Four Seasons inks that I’m more familiar, the box design is much bolder and in your face. It’s also rather shiny, which makes photographing it a bit of a challenge. You also get that little reservoir in the top of the bottle that’s meant to make filling your pen easier as the level in the bottle drops. I used to think this was a neat idea, but I’m not so sure these days and tend to use a syringe to fill my pens instead. You can remove the insert, but that seems a recipe for very inky fingers.
Sei-boku is a pigment ink, meaning that its colour comes predominantly from particles suspended in the ink rather than dissolved dyes. This brings the benefit of being fairly waterproof and the perilous warning that you should be careful lest poor pen hygiene result in blocked feeds, clogged nibs and, if you’re really slap-dash, possibly the end of the universe. (Note: I may have made one of these up.)
I suspect that this is more of a backside-covering disclaimer because I can’t say that I have experienced any particular (geddit?) problems with Sei-boku. You can see the settled particles when you pick up the bottle, so there’s a need to give the bottle a bit of a shake to get the particles back into suspension before you ink your pen. If you’ve used one of the many shimmering inks that are available, then you’ll be familiar with this ritual. I take a similar approach with pens and invert them a few times before writing with them. This probably won’t do much for what’s already in the feed, but I figure every little helps in evening out the distribution of the particles. I maybe wouldn’t leave a pen inked for months without using it, but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as the warnings suggest.
That’s enough of the perils and practicalities of pigment ink, what’s it like? I find Sei-boku remarkably blue for a “blue-black” ink, but I also find it a really pleasant and quite distinct colour. I’ll happily admit to being biased towards blue inks, but it continually amazes me how many different and distinct blue inks there are.
As with the other Sailor inks I’ve used, Sei-boku is well lubricated and flows extremely well. It may be a feature of the suspended pigment particles, but the colour is not super-saturated, meaning that the ink shades beautifully. It’ll come as no surprise that the shading is most visible with a broad nib.
Another feature in common with other inks that I’ve tried is a cheeky bit of sheen. I have to say that this was a bit of a surprise, albeit a very welcome one. I had thought that Sei-boku was going to be a very grown-up ink and therefore a little dull and worthy, so all in all it’s been a pleasant discovery.
In terms of colour, none of my other inks quite match Sei-boku. I had originally thought Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo was a close match, but from looking at the swabs, Tsuki-yo has too much of a turquoise hue to it. After I’d finished the swabs, I remembered I had a sample of Iroshizuku Shin-kai and wondered whether that might be a match…it isn’t.
A bit of simple paper chromatography reveals blues of varying shades. There’s an interesting pattern of dark blue or black dots. My guess is these are clumps of the pigment particles, but I have no way to be sure.
I don’t normally worry about testing waterproof-ness in my inks, and I haven’t done any systematic testing of Sei-boku, either. I did wet a fingertip and run it over a couple of lines of writing and the ink held fast.
So there we have it, I got past the dire(-ish) warnings and found an ink that I really like. It’s considerably more expensive than other Sailor inks, being double the price of standard Jentle ink (including blue-black) and about a third more expensive than the Jentle Four Seasons inks. Maybe the pricing has put people off trying Sei-boku (hence the small number of reviews), but I’m certainly glad I gave it a try. Pricing makes this a premium ink, but I haven’t tried an ink quite like it and don’t begrudge the cost. When you compare the price of Sei-Boku to Pilot Iroshizuku inks and newcomers like Colorverse, I don’t think the price is too outrageous. I bought my bottle from The Writing Desk for £21.60, but you can get it from a variety of sources (including Cult Pens and Andy’s Pens) at a similar price. Pricing in the US is roughly $ for £ from vendors like Vanness and Jet Pens. Wonder Pens in Toronto also have Sei-boku for CA$33.