Even though I had read about the PulaMan online many times prior to purchasing one, I never felt reassured that I knew what it was exactly or how its bizarre looking tip worked. Many people seem to agree that the pen feels like a cross between a fountain pen and a felt or plastic-tipped pen. In fact, Pentel sells the PulaMan under the name ‘Fountain’ in European markets. Giving in to the power of curiosity, I picked one up.
I opted for the standard disposable PulaMan instead of the Tradio version that I see more frequently online. I tend to lean towards straightforward, simple, and utilitarian designs instead of bulbous, overgrown ones. This pen looks straight out of 1970’s Japan (or at least what I imagine 1970’s Japan would be). The body is incredibly spartan: there are no variations along the entire length of its smooth cylinder except for a slow taper in hand area. The deep burgundy/brown plastic is light but never feels fragile.
The pen is quite handsome, but I did not purchase it because I liked the way it looked–I bought it for the PulaMan’s very unfamiliar looking tip structure shown in the picture above. First of all, this is clearly not a fountain pen in the classic sense. There is no metal nib and no tines (the characteristic prongs at the business end of fountain pens). Instead, the PulaMan uses a fin-shaped plastic nib with two support beams running down the center. I must admit that I was a bit wary about this tip design but I am so glad that I gave it a try.
Well, it turns out that Pentel has actually created a cheap, plastic-tipped pen that behaves very much like a semi-flex-nib fountain pen. It is a joy to write with too! The flexible plastic of the fin bends and quickly snaps back to its original position just like steel tines. The whole experience is incredibly springy and I find myself bouncing from one line to the next with ease.
Additionally, the pen is fitted with support beams of different lengths on each side of the nib. This allows the user to quickly switch between two levels of flex. Simply flip the softer, broader side over and the pen suddenly becomes snappier and leaves a finer line.
The only issue I have run into with the PulaMan is that the tip will sometimes catch the paper at a weird angle and snap back so abruptly that a small barrage of ink is sent flying across your page. This may also be due to the fact that I have yet to fully break in the plastic nib and get it accustomed to my writing style. PulaMan fans claim that the pen only gets better with age, as the tip wears in a way that is specific to the user (just like a fountain pen!).
I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the performance of this pen and I can see why it has gathered somewhat of a cult following. The PulaMan is somehow at once both familiar and alien–plus, it is very enjoyable to use.
I have not been able to find this specific version online, so please let me know if you come across it! Tiger Pens carries the European ‘fountain’ version here and JetPens carries the more substantial (and refillable) Tradio version here.