My take on carbon is that it's the way to go if you have the workhabits and you're not in a situation where you have to worry about what happens to your knives if you walk away for a few minutes -- catering particularly, where everyone does everyone's job.
I like the Hiromoto AS quite a bit. It's a great knife with a few very minor issues. I had a few and ended up passing them on to my son and keeping my antique Sabatiers. Part of the reason the Sabatiers stayed was emotional. The Hiromotos certainly held an edge longer and were slightly higher performance in a few other respects as well. But the Sabatiers were more comfortable.
The Hiromoto handle is a bit on the small and slender side for big hands. If you have a good pinch grip, with a soft hand, you won't find it an issue. Still, I found the single steel knife more responsive. At the end of the day, it turns out I'm not a fan of most cladded knives. You may feel differently. We had a thread going on the subject at Fred's Cutlery Fourm and responses were all over the map.
My western handled carbon hierarchy is:
1. Masmaoto HC. I purely love all Masamoto knives for ergonomics, fit and finish you name it. HC is their best western handled line. Made with, I think, a particularly pure Takefu (Japanese steel company making high performance knife steels including VG-10) carbon, V2C. If I were buying new knives tomorrow, I'd buy all Masamato HC.
2. Masamoto CT, very closely followed by;
3. Misono Sweden, Kikuichi Elite, K-Sabatier au carbone, Thiers-Issard ****Elephant Sabatier carbon, and Nogent (Thiers-Issard Sabatier). The Japanese carbons certainly stay sharp a lot longer, and have thinner blades which is a good thing most of the time. The French knives, amazingly, get just as sharp. They are also a little heavier, stiffer, take abuse better, and feel more solid in the hand. They are equally agile and supply similar levels of feedback. All of the French handles, while different from one another in important ways, are very comfortable -- slightly better than either of the Japanese. There's something about that old fashioned French extended ferrule between the handle and bolster which makes the knife work. The Misono Sweden is the good looks champ -- the longer knives have a dragon engraved on them, while some of the medium sized knives have a flower. Very cool. F&F might or might not be an issue with any of them. My feeling is that you're less likely to run into an issue with the Japanese brands. But, none of them are Masamotos, or for that matter, Wusthof.
4. Togiharu carbon (on reputation), seem to be slightly less deluxe versions of the Masamoto CT and Kikuichi Elite; and
5. The bargain Japanese carbons, like Fujiwara FKH, of which there are several other brands. You give up a lot of fit and finish and ergonomics, but get nearly all the performance. Very low dollars, and best bang for buck by far. Good knives to learn to sharpen on, and pick up some technique as well without breaking the bank. You will grow out of them pretty quickly though.
By the way, all of these knives, respond very well to honing on a "steel," which will keep you away from the stones for quite some time.
Think of your petty as the support system for your chef's knife. You want something large enough to use as an intermediate utility, and something small enough to use for paring. I use a 6" Nogent slicer. You'd probably be more comfortable with something in the 4" - 5" range -- but it depends on you. A longer knife won't make you more manly or anything. Length is a little more versatile in some ways, but harder to control. Your petty is the knife you want for absolute tip control so don't push it out of your comfort zone. It's the knife you'll use for boning and jointing chicken, cutting tomato roses, and all sorts of thing. Comfort first.
If you do special things that call for a small paring knife, 3-1/2" or less, I suggest getting another knife. My wife insists on a small knife in the block, and she likes the Forschner sheep's foot. Excellent shape if you rest your thumb along the spine while you peel fruit. They last a few years before I sharpen them to oblivion, but they're only around $15 (Rosewood) or $7.50 (Fibrox) to begin with; so no big deal. Buzz and I have a friend who swears by the little Forschner serrated knives (about $3.50 each). Buy a box, use 'til dull, and toss. Make sense. The little Nogents are more expensive, but they're a trip. You can't buy a small knife with a better handle (2-1/2" knife with a full size handle!!!), a piece of history, and they get sharp very easily. Misono Sweden has a dandy little 8cm parer as well.
Just a few thoughts,