There's something new from Aurora. Following the Afrika, the Asia brings a new color scheme to the traditional Optima style.
Like the Afrika, the Asia features a very distinctive mix of shades. Instead of orange, brown and black, the Asia keeps to its theme with thick veins of a rich reddish-brown running through a jade-green background. The trim is gold, which blends well with both the green and the brown.
The pen itself is the standard Optima in terms of size and weight. This makes it one of the more usable of modern production pens, as when closed it's a compact pen. Post the cap for writing, however, and you have a pen that's long enough to balance nicely in the hand.
I love the Optima for this fact. There's not a shirt pocket in my closet that the Optima won't fit into easily. At the same time, unlike many "compact" pens, it's very comfortable when in use.
The fountain pen comes with Aurora's "hidden reservoir" system. This is actually just an inset cup in the face of the piston. When you've used up the ink in the main chamber, turning the piston back all the way down will force the ink contained in this cup into the feed, giving you another page or so of writing before you're completely dry. It's a neat feature, even if you're as compulsive as I am about changing ink every day or so regardless of how much might be left in the pen!
The Optima is what I would call mid-sized; it's squarely in the same camp as the Mont Blanc 146 or Pelikan M800 at the section. This size should prove to be comfortable for almost everyone. Given that it's made of acrylic both cap and barrel, the weight is not a consideration. I've found that writing for long periods of time with these pens is easy, especially in comparison to a metal-capped or all-metal pen.
The color scheme of the Asia is of course what sets it apart from the regular Optima line. The green shade is an unusual color, not one that I've seen used before. If Aurora was trying to reflect the color of jade (which I think is a pretty safe assumption), the company hit it right on. The darker reddish-brown veins are a nice counterpoint to the yellow-green background. Each piece has a small piece of jade inset into the cap top.
The Asia series, like the Afrika, is being offered in four writing modes: the fountain pen, rollerball, ballpen, and mechanical pencil. There is also a neat sketch pencil offered, a short chunky pencil using 5.6mm lead. The other versions are pretty much in line with those offered in the regular Optima line -- the ballpen and mechanical pencil are twist operated, while the rollerball is a capped version of the same size and profile as the fountain pen.
The Aurora Asia is a fitting follow up to the Afrika, and leaves me wondering what the next one will be. While we're waiting patiently for the folks at Aurora to let us know, the Asia is a great, very usable limited-edition pen. Especially if you like the innovative use of colors, or have an attachment to jade!