Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Volumes 3-4 – Review

More manga reviews! Branching out this time, switching from the ever-enjoyable Genshiken to the cult classic Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer. I wasn’t so hot on Biscuit Hammer’s first couple volumes, but it really clicked for me this time – with what seems like the full cast introduced, the story’s gaining a lot of interesting texture while maintaining its great personality. The art’s still crappy, but hey, it’s an endearing kind of crappy. Anyway!

My full review’s available over at ANN. Manga notes below!

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

Chapter 1

The story has a quirky, self-aware sense of humor that actually isn’t grating. It doesn’t play the usual gags, it has its own personality. The humor comes from the characters, as it should

There’s a good rapport between the characters. They like each other and are willing to say that

The art is incredibly loose, which has pluses and minuses. On the good side, it makes the characters’ faces very uniquely expressive, and there’s a sense of personality in their movements. On the bad side, the story can’t really articulate fights well, and doesn’t have the best understanding of creating momentum across panels. It reads like the work of a gifted amateur, not a practiced professional

“What’s your relationship with this ‘Yuu-kun?’” “He’s my manservant.”

Nagumo Soichiro and Dance Dark. THE HORSE KNIGHT

The plot is quirky, almost Scott Pilgrim-esque nonsense. But like that series, it puts the focus squarely on character truth

The horse chews on the princess’s hair and then says “I do apologize”

“Our lives are nothing more than twelve bullets to be fired at the enemy!”

And the conflicting goals of our heroes and the knights certainly make this more compelling

Cute moment between Princess and Yuu-kun as he again pledges to fight the knights

“From now on, no meeting my eyes when you’re part of the scenery”

Chapter 2

Yuuhi thinks up a plan to fight a golem, but he’s not acting rationally – he’s still furious about Shinoname-san’s death, and his own part in it

Nice spread of Yuuhi in chains

Now Yuuhi actually fears death, since he’s seen it

Chapter 3

Yayoi Hakudo, the snake knight

“Shea Moon… do you remember us? You sacrificed yourself for us last time.” Oh right, and all the mentions of this ominous cyclical stuff

They’re running into golems that keep running away. It’s less about the fight than the puzzle and the personal issues

“I want to be a hero! What do you want? Ask me! We’re friends, aren’t we?!” Yuuhi has grown a lot

Chapter 4

The fights remain very loose. Little control of perspective, no consistency in character modeling, fights kind of obscure

Nice bouncing between the two fights here, though again, they have difficulty conveying action. The ideas are good, though – one fight has Yuuhi embracing the confidence of his mentor, the other has clever ideas from his rival

One of the golems eats the other

Shinonome bequeathed his skills to Yuuhi. And now, finally, Yuuhi is able to cry. A neat story about grief, as Yuuhi literally embraces something his friend gave him, something that remains

Chapter 5

Building up the younger brother as a threat. Again, the issues of conveying tension in fights are a problem

Hakudo (snake girl) wants to meet up with Yuuhi, but Mikazuki (younger brother) takes her hostage

The comic also avoids backgrounds when it can, and even when it shouldn’t

Intro of Animus, the mage. He crawls out of the mouth of the giant golem. A nice intro

Chapter 6

Mikazuki finds two other knights, who are children – tortoise and rooster. Their master, the swordfish knight, is already dead. I like how the story is moving quickly through the pieces of its world now, and not dragging things out for dramatic convenience

I also like how the princess isn’t jealous that Hakudo is over at Yuuhi’s place

Chapter 7

They finally meet the rest of the knights, and the Princess gives an “inspiring” speech. “Fight only to stay alive, and to keep your friends alive. Chew up your enemies and take their strength.”

“Do you still hate this world, Yuu-kun?” “Yes, I do.” “Can you also love the world?” “Yes.” The weird relationship between these two makes the series, as does each of their specific fractured perspectives and the lines that embody them

Chapter 8

A chapter about Hakudo, the snake knight. She seems nice

“Oh, so snakes can talk now?” All their first meetings are great

Hakudo perkily agrees to the whole scenario, and then asks if she can get her wish immediately, because “any moment could be my last. The only guarantee in life is death.” Compelling characters!

“Sooner or later… everyone dies, after all.” Hakudo’s teacher framed in the tall grass with the hammer’s shadow hanging in the distance. An actual great shot

“My wish is that… when my family die, they’re able to die smiling.” This was a very different vignette. A philosophical story for a character who doesn’t share the concerns of the main cast, and instead is focused on making the most of her life while (/because) acknowledging the presence of death

Chapter 9

“The thing is… I’ve never been an ally of justice.”

And now we get the horse knight, who is a very different character. The two chapters are tied together by their mutual acquaintance, which is a graceful trick

“Insofar as he feels confident declaring that ‘justice’ doesn’t exist, he’s neither an adult nor a child”

Meeting with Yuuhi, who shares that the dog told them to be cautious of the owl

“Yuuhi has no interest in others, so he has no observational skills.” Lizard is harsh

Horse knight used to be a detective. “We uphold the law. We’re not allies of justice”

Yuuhi and lizard critique his somewhat confusing and thematically awkward story. But it’s almost this manga’s looseness that gives it its charm – the story just kind of rambles. It doesn’t feel polished in structure or in execution, and that gives it a personality

Chapter 10

And now we’re meeting the Mouse Knight, Kasukabe Taro

Getting some real slang here. “Mad skills,” “I can’t even”

Hanako very reasonably tries to use her wish to take out the mage. The characters are all getting define really well

Hanako doesn’t really feel normal emotions. Taro’s Mouse generally gets cowards as his knights

Hanako used her wish like a death note on a wanted criminal. The mantis didn’t tell her that this incurs a debt

Taro is a coward, but he’ll fight for Hanako’s sake

Chapter 11

Shimaki Hyo, the Cat Knight, actually talks to the mage Animus in his dreams

And in real life, apparently. And he seeks information – he wants to gain all knowledge, which the cat says would make him greater than the mage

“We have a message from our master – ‘We are all human beings.’”

This story is getting much more rich all the time. Vague edges of big ideas

Animus is from the future. He’s going back in time, destroying everything as he goes. The god of destruction, who wishes to know everything, and so he’s destroying everything. Like the Princess, who thinks she can only own the world by destroying it

But Shimaki doesn’t want knowledge for his own sake – he wants to use that knowledge to create happiness for others

The owl knight is working for Animus. “You’re both freaks!”

“I can be both a massive beast and an ally of justice”

Chapter 12

The Swordfish Knight, Akitani Inachika, had a vision to the future, and left a letter to Yuuhi where he knew he’d be digging. The story is playing with time in interesting ways – from the Dog Knight leaving something behind as a kind of immortality in Yuuhi, to the way it’s treated as variably precious by all the characters, to the actual fiddling with how it goes forward and backwards through time travel and future sight

The value of knowledge, and life

“Compared to the things my apprentices taught me, my omniscience was banal and trivial”

Chapter 12

The story is teaching Yuuhi the opposite of what his grandfather said

“Using your life to the fullest is the only way to live! And the way to die is smiling, free of regrets!”

There’s a good character balance between the two girls