Reviewed by Chris Rhoads
December 13, 2015
Back in May of this year I reviewed my first yo-yo by a new Japanese based company called Sengoku. Their goal was, and still is, the manufacturing of high quality bimetal designs for the next generation of players. Each yo-yo will bear the name of a leader from one of the Samurai clans that ruled during Japan’s illustrious history. This yo-yo is no exception. Date Masamune was the one-eyed tactician who once served Lord Hideyoshi before being made a lord and founding the city of Sendai. I know, I know… less history lesson, more yo-yo. Here you go.
• Diameter: 55 mm
• Width: 43.5 mm
• Weight: 64.8 grams
• Bearing: YoYoRec DS Bearing
• Response: Slim IR Pad
The Masamune is currently retailing for $228 which makes it a significant hit to the wallet. The high price is in no small part to the materials being used in the design. The Masamune uses steel ring inserts in a new aluminum alloy I had not heard of until the release of this yo-yo. The Masamune employs Alumigo Hard for the main body of the yo-yo. It is an alloy developed in Japan that has properties stronger than 7075 aluminum while being easier to machine than steel. I will take their word on the durability part, I don’t make it a habit of purposely smacking a yo-yo against concrete and such. This new alloy allows the Masamune to have thinner walls when compared to other aluminum designs for better weight distribution. The walls are thin enough that, according to the manufacturer, the steel weight rings make up more than 50% of the weight for this full sized design. As with anything new, there are negatives to go along with the positives and Sengoku’s owner, Julio Robles, does state that Alumigo Hard is quite difficult to anodize. My guess, we will not see it in any splashes or acid washes.
The profile design on the Masamune is a straight forward V-Shape design with slightly flat rims. All of the edges are rounded off to reduce impact pain during play. The V-Shape design is a simple, elegant shape, which has always been one of my favorites for quite some time. Whether it is the older SPYY Pro or the more modern One Drop Benchmark V 2014, I have always kept a V in my daily carry pile. If I were to have a bias, it would be towards this shape. The cup design is deceptively straight forward. It matches the shape of the outer walls with no cuts on the inner walls for stability or visual flourish. The cup floor is completely flat with no center hub or exposed axle to break up the look. The reason I call it deceptively simple is due to those steel rim inserts. They fit darn near perfectly under the rims and set farther in than the outer flat rims. There was some serious engineering here because I can barely feel the seems where the steel and aluminum meet. The finish on the Masamune has a soft blast to it with a single color design, with the one I picked up being black. Normally, black yo-yos are a huge turn off for me. I love the more vibrant colors. In this case though the black works, allowing the raw steel to have a bigger visual impact against the darker frame. All in all, the Masamune is an impeccable design.
At just shy of 65 grams, this thing is a lightweight… but don’t let the specs on paper fool you. This yo-yo flies around on the string while giving incredible amounts of spin. It also remains quite stable during play. The spin time and stability were welcomed by me because this yo-yo is faster than I am at times and I leaned on both to give me a second chance at missed tricks.
Response and Bearing
The response is a good pinkish silicone IR pad. It gives decent grip when I need it and stays out of the way when I don’t. There is not much more I need to say about them.
The bearing is a string centering YoYoRec DS Bearing. I would rather see a high quality flat bearing instead. If for nothing else than to maybe knock a buck or two off the price. This one works well but is louder than I like. A little V4M lube cleared that up.
As I said above, the Masamune is decidedly quick… way faster than I normally like to play. Usually that would be another huge turn off, but one of the reasons I like no frills V-shapes is because the design allows for quite a bit of forgiveness during play. There is not much to get in the way of the string traveling the catch zone walls on its way to the gap. The Masamune gave me that forgiveness and then some. The spin time was the second part to the forgiveness equation. When trying out new tricks on this yo-yo I would miss quite a bit or just flat out booger up the trick and then have to figure a way out of the mess I made without getting a knot. I found that I was still getting quite a bit of spin after my mess ups, more than enough to try the trick again or continue on with a different trick. Grinds on the Masamune are excellent, even better than its predecessor The Nobunaga. The full, outer body blast means all skin contact is with a blasted surface designed to aid in spin. The steel rings were not much of an issue either and I found with a slight angle I could easily pull off a quick thumb grind, not nearly the grinds I was getting from the rest of the yo-yo but passible none the less. Overall the play of the Masamune is excellent.
And now for the part you are waiting for, is this almost $230 yo-yo from a still largely unknown company worth it? Honestly, I am going to leave that up to you (yes, I know that is a cop out). Personally I am a huge fan, it is a stellar example of what a top notch designer can do with a bimetal design. I had a blast playing it even though I am no where good enough to push it to the level it deserves. One thing I will tell you is that this yo-yo will be a limited release. The cost of manufacturing this yo-yo was quite high for Sengoku so they are releasing them in four small runs for a grand total of 100. Collectors will probably want one due to the limited quantity and the fact that, after researching it, this appears to be the first retail released yo-yo using the new alloy. I could not care less about collecting so I will just say again that I thoroughly enjoyed the play.