Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Volume 7-8 – Review

I’m back for more Biscuit Hammer, and this volume… unfortunately couldn’t live up to the standards set by the last couple. It’s not that surprising, really – Biscuit Hammer has always been a compelling but wildly inconsistent production, and its victories come down to personality triumphing over craft more often than not. Biscuit Hammer is one of those weird stories that succeeds largely by ignoring storytelling fundamentals – when it works, it’s because some vague semblance of craft manages to attach itself to the story’s clear and ever-present talents for character writing and quirky execution, not because it’s a fully realized story executed with a confident understanding of how to actually tell one. I really, really like Biscuit Hammer, but I get the feeling that whatever this artist is working on three stories from now is going to be the real masterpiece. But I’m fine with this wacky-ass, aesthetically ridiculous, utterly heartfelt shounen drama until then.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

Chapter One

Starting right off again with what adults represent to kids, and how being an “adult” is a relative thing

The dead knight and his brother. His brother wants to get stronger “because the mountain’s right there”

Mikazuki (the younger brother) spent his wish getting bread for a hungry girl. Typical offhand storytelling

The golems just casually hanging out or reading books when they’re not “on the job” is a great gag

The art and character designs are still loose, but the fluidity is feeling more purposeful, and there are occasional nice shots

And after the huge swarm of golems are built up as an enemy, Samidare just obliterates them all

ooh! nice visual choices in the duel between the two boys. Mikazuki’s movements are conveyed as a series of distinct drawings of him as he moves forward, and Yuuhi’s counterattack makes great use of negative space to create a sense of impact

Great finale to this fight. Though the lack of basic anatomy still makes some panels iffy, and not in a dramatically superdeformed way

And yeah, the artist also has no understanding of perspective. You see multiple sides of people, and people walk on flat terrain that looks like a wall

Chapter Two

Yuki and Subaru, the pair of young girls. Yuki’s the pigtailed one

Taiyo’s the traitor boy

Legs going straight up again. Anatomy!

They each wished for the other to be happy

Like the boy from before’s “pointless death,” there is meaning in the intent of their actions

This story also nails offhand characterization so well. Yuki and Subaru both feel real and distinct

Ah, the golems are alive

Chapter Three

The golems keep getting more strange and puzzle-ish as the story itself gets more complex

Hakudo, the snake knight, said she loved Yuuhi. Now the snake’s trying to set them up, lol

Right, the eleventh golem can transform into a person. And now Taiyo’s showing it around

“We have feelings, too.” Oh god, this golem’s Kaworu

Discussing his feelings with Taiyo

Yuuhi: “I have to do things right, or at least, I have to look like I am. To those kids, I probably seem like an adult.” Again

And of course Taiyo’s problem is that he doesn’t believe in the adults in his life, and so he doesn’t believe in anything

Taiyo enjoys the stars at night

Chapter Four

“Don’t worry. They’ll protect us!” says Yuki to Taiyo, about the adults. Taiyo doesn’t trust this

The knights’ golem just blows up the tenth with grenades

A nice scene with Taiyo, the girls, and the older boys. The girls end up lending Taiyo their master’s journal. The eleventh feels lonely

Chapter Five: Heroes and Children

“This is our chance to be heroes!” the two main boys have rubbed off on each other, coming from opposite directions towards traditional heroism

“If they catch up with us, am I going to have to watch these two get killed?”

Taiyo doesn’t really trust Animus, but he just wants the world to be destroyed anyway. But Yuki yells at him, tells him he needs to find a reason to live. And he realizes his time-shifting power can heal Subaru’s twisted ankle

Chapter Five

Oh my god, Yuuhi freaking out about his pit trap working and then remembering to do a villainous glasses-push. Amazing

Hakudo’s wearing herself out

Taiyo suddenly realizes that, given he can heal, he let Kasukabe die. It’s not his fault, but he’ll see it that way

The owl feeling responsible for Taiyo, saying that as a child, it’s only natural he yearns for a real future. It’s a great moment

Taiyo comes to a decision, and defeats the tenth. For this, the princess makes him the last of the three great knights

Chapter Six

A light side chapter about Shimaki, the knight who can create golems, being helped through a creative rut by the others. Demonstrates how much Yuuhi has changed

Chapter Seven

Yuuhi’s grandfather dies. A simple, random death, with no meaning in it. Lovely little scenes of Yuuhi quietly processing this

Biscuit Hammer often succeeds by refusing to dramatize its emotional moments in conventional ways. Its quirky storytelling works to its advantage in times like this, because they feel more candid, more real, and thus more significant

The Mage tells Yuuhi the rules have changed. The hammer can now be used as soon as the twelve golems are destroyed, instead of after one or another side has been destroyed. The princess apparently made this change, and tied it to Yuuhi himself

Yuuhi meets his grandfather one last time. “Was he really there?” “It’s all subjective. Believe what you want.” “I will.”

“The aggressive part of you that sympathizes with the destruction of the world manifests here.” An interesting reveal. So his thoughts here haven’t really been his full thoughts

Anima gives Yuuhi a test. He opens the door, and sees his master Shinonome

Chapter Eight

A long set of stairs. Not a particularly inspired visual setpiece

Shinonome is something he needs to “get past,” just like Shinonome’s brother. Growing past the people who inspired us, following their example. Adults and children

“Do you know what ‘genius’ is? It’s saying ‘YES’ constantly!” confidence, like in the Shimaki chapter

“That’s how you work, and not me”

Great full page spread using variable line thickness and shadow for “my domain control”

Chapter Nine

All the mythical beast knights in one page. The writer must be regretting these design choices

He still can’t draw horses. The bird looks pretty sweet, though

Nice choreography in this fight with the eleventh

The fights are making great use of all the characters. Not just “my turn!” stuff, but actually cooperating in small ways all throughout, since all their abilities have different strengths. A healer, a shield, the ice powers, the golem creation, etc

The eighth golem of the golem-maker has a great design, but is destroyed instantly. The eleventh is insulted, and challenges the maker to create a better golem in ten days or he’ll destroy all their families

The horse knight thinking about the roles of the different characters. It’s a diverse group, and they all feel significant

This volume’s lighter on big thematic/emotional moments, so I can talk more about the interesting elements of this story’s craft

Anima offers to help the horse knight escape a bad prediction. “Fulfill the prophecy, but in a way you control, rendering it harmless”

“Anyone can see the biscuit hammer if they believe in despair. I want this to be a world where hardly anyone can see it.” oh, horse knight

Chapter Ten

Some very expressive faces this chapter

Snake and Yuuhi have a very cute day together

The eleventh thinking about identity again

“The self is…” “Whatever I do is fine. Anything would work.”

Chapter Eleven

“Shut up and watch them.” Anima and Animus themselves could be considered parents of a sort to all the warriors

I really like how this manga simultaneously emphasizes the importance of parental figures and growing up while also acknowledging the unfairness and closeness of death. There’s no easy road – they need to grow up, but life is random

More using negative space and large, sudden panels to manage battle flow

The loose art for the three golems at once is lovely

Tamiya realizes his golems represent his heart, and he doesn’t need to follow Animus’ example

And the eleventh dies, and Taiyo says a silent goodbye

Unsurprisingly, the eleventh really just wanted to know what a golem was

Courage is looking forward. Hope. “Young people like you should be able to see a future”

And given hope, they see their warrior in the sky. Blues Drive Monster