Reviewed by Chris Rhoads
May 17, 2015
So a Mexican-Canadian decides to build a yo-yo while living in Japan. Sounds like the start to some sort of off-color joke but in this case it is the story of Julio Robles and his new company Sengoku. Robles took the name for his company from the Sengoku era of Japan focusing on the era’s warring clans and its ultimate unification under the leadership of the mighty shogun. Julio’s plan is to name each release after one of the powerful clan leaders from the era, starting off with Nobunaga. Nobunaga was considered one of Japan’s most brutal warriors of the time and later recognized as one of Japan’s greatest rulers. If not for the betrayal and forced suicide by one of his generals, Nobunaga may very well have succeeded in completely conquering and then unifying all of Japan. Quite a heady backstory for a simple toy, but being a huge history buff I loved researching it. For Sengoku’s first release Robles decided to forgo playing it safe and instead went for a much harder to make and higher priced bi-metal design. A gamble for sure but one that will help Sengoku seize the interests of the masses who have a multitude of yo-yo choices from many established companies. Whether that gamble will pay off is to be seen.
• Diameter: 53.5 mm
• Width: 41 mm
• Gap: 4.62 mm
• Weight: 63.4 grams
• Response: IrPad Slim
• Bearing: YYR DS bearing
As stated above, Sengoku decided to release a bimetal as their freshman effort. The Nobunaga is a wing shape design with the steel portion encompassing the entire rim right up to the angled start of the catch zone. I have to give Sengoku credit, they did an excellent job blending the edge of the steel with the aluminum, which allows the transition to feel almost seamless. After the steel there is an unobstructed v-shaped catch zone leading to the gap. Looking at the face, you can see the steel rim wrap around to the front where it also seamlessly meets the anodized aluminum body. The cup is a multi-stepped design with an inner stabilizing step just before the angled inner wall travels down to the completely flat, laser etched floor. The aluminum body has a blasted, solid colored finish while the steel rims remain polished. Overall the design is pretty stunning with its contrast between the raw and anodized metals. I must say I am a fan of the wing shape being so subtle that it could almost be considered a true V-Shape design. I would have liked it if there was an IGR but I have a feeling it would have negatively impacted attaching the rims to the yo-yo.
I was expecting the Nobunaga to be heavier and was surprised that this mid-sized yo-yo with dense steel rims clocked in at just over 63 grams. It is fast and stable on the string with long spin times. The only downside I had with the weight distribution came when I would do a bind. The spins were still strong enough, even after long combos, that when it returned to the hand it would hit like a truck. By no means a bad problem to have… more something to be aware of if you are not use to using a bimetal.
Response and Bearing
IrPads are a good all purpose pad that I have played in the past. They do need a little bit of a break in period before they play perfectly unresponsive and can cause some knuckle dusters on a fresh set but once broken in they play perfectly unresponsive.
I was impressed with the bearing included in the Nobunaga. Sengoku included a YYR DS bearing which is a groove cut, string centering bearing. Normally I am not a gimmick bearing fan at all and prefer companies stick with a high quality flat bearing but this one did not bother me. It was a little on the noisy side even after applying some V4M lube but it was smooth as silk during play.
I have already touched on the bimetal benefits in the sections above. This is by no means the first bimetal I have played but I can say, out of the few that have crossed my desk, this is one of the nicest. The play is top notch, but anyone buying it will have to like speed demons. This is not a yo-yo that likes to play it slow. While it is not overpoweringly quick, you may have to speed up to match the yo-yo. I never felt rushed while playing it but I did make mistakes due to the Nobunaga’s quickness. The plus side is that even when I made a mistake, I had plenty of spin left in the yo-yo to try again, and again… and again. In fact, I don’t remember a time during play testing that I ever had it spin out on me. The catch zone is quite wide and easy to hit, which also aided in ramping up the speed speed of my trick execution. Finger grinds were great thanks to the blasted catch zone and the extended spin times. Arm and palm grinds ended up being just decent due to the raw rims. We all know that raw metal does not make for the best grinding surfaces.
While it sound like I am only so-so about this yo-yo due to the higher speed, at the end of the day I had an absolute blast with it. I didn’t mind stepping up my game to match the speed and always found myself wanting to see how far I push my own skills while throwing it. At $168 it isn’t an inexpensive throw but when compared to the higher profile Japanese made bimetals it is a downright bargain. Going off the quality of this yo-yo I have no problem saying that Sengoku is going to be a company you will want to keep an eye on. I have a feeling we are going to see some pretty interesting things out of them in the future.