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Sunday, 5 September 2010

In-Depth Manga Review: The Lucifer & Biscuit Hammer


Title: The Lucifer & Biscuit Hammer
Alternative Titles: Hoshi no Samidare, 惑星のさみだれ
Author: Mizukami Satoshi
Release: Monthly
Status: Complete
Length: 10 Volumes, 65 Chapters
Genre: Seinen, Slice of Life, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comedy, Romance


This is the story of Amamiya Yuuhi and the year his usual routine was disrupted by a truly unprecedented turn of events best explained by the following monologue:

“One morning when I woke up, there was a lizard in my room. We stared at each other and the first to break the silence, was him.”

He has just been pulled into a, as described by another talking animal, truly outrageous yet mundane heroic epic where they as the Beast Knights have to fight monstrous constructs made of Earth created by the mage Animus who literally has the power to smash the planet into bits and pieces. The lizard knight has come to him to recruit him in a war that will determine the fate of the planet and he has been granted psychic powers as well a wish in exchange for his participation in the conflict that he could very well lose his life over. Unfortunately for Noi the lizard, Yuuhi is more inclined to see the world destroyed than to fight for its continued existence as he utterly loathes everything in it. The nihilist soon experiences the conflict firsthand, almost having been killed only to get saved by Asahina Samidare, the monstrously strong princess that he was told to protect. Even after his close encounter with death, he still refuses to take part until the high school girl that saved him just the day before comes to him shows him the huge ass hammer in the sky that threatens to smash their planet to bits. She then makes a show of trust by letting herself fall off from building so that Yuuhi would save her before going splat on the ground. Having gained his attention, she announces to him she’ll never let the Biscuit Hammer destroy the Earth. Why? Because she’s going to destroy the Earth, with her own fists. That’s when Yuuhi pledges his unwavering loyalty to her. That’s how this tale of the Earth’s destruction begins.

Art: A
At first the art doesn’t look very impressive and looks substandard but it grows into a uniquely expressive style that perfectly captures the ambience of the scene as well as the emotions and thoughts of the characters. This takes a real while but once the author finally settles into it, even the fight scenes start to look awesome. By that, I don’t mean that the attacks start looking as complex as the ones you’d see on Bleach or Naruto. Nope, the attacks stay relatively simplistic in comparison to most shonen series. It’s more towards where the emphasis lies in those scenes. Instead of putting the focus on the attack itself, he likes to concentrate on the bits that lead up to and follow after the attack itself. This technique of his captures those “Oh, crap!” and “Hell Yeah!!” moments so perfectly that it’s very easy to overlook how plain the attacks look.

Originality: S+
This is about a group of people who have been granted psychic powers to fight alongside invisible talking animals who are lead by a princess to fight the mage and his golems so that his planet destroying superweapon of a biscuit hammer won’t smash the Earth to bits with a hidden third faction within the group of protectors that secretly plan to destroy the Earth themselves once the mage has been vanquished. Interesting, no? And that’s just the very tip of the iceberg by the way. Time travel, reincarnation and magical girls get thrown into the mix too. Besides very the quirky set-up Mizukami-sensei came up for the familiar save the world plot, this particular author also understands what expectations that his audience will have for him and how he can use those expectations to keep his readers surprised, amused and excited for more with every chapter. What you get is a work that superficially resembles standard shonen fare only to be filled with just so many subversions, aversions and inversions of the usual tropes that you can never tell how the following chapter will turn out. I myself have failed miserably in trying to predict what he’s got in store for us, even right up to the final chapter.

Story: S+
Mizukami-sensei is no doubt a master storyteller. The tale he spun here has so many threads and so many layers woven so cleanly and tightly into it that he must have had this entire tapestry laid out in front of him even before it began serialization. Right from the very first few chapters, you get these small insignificant details that hint at things that only get revealed dozens of chapters later. Some of these brilliantly subtle bits of foreshadowing get played off as one time jokes only to come back in full force in a totally different context with entirely new implications. These hints are pretty easy to remember and you just can’t help but be impressed at how insignificant he made them seem. The romance between Yuuhi and Samidare may seem have been muted for much of the series but it builds itself up bit by bit in small but very significant segments that focus more on the trust shared between them rather any actual signs of infatuation. This all pays off when we finally get to see what they meant to her and how much she loves Yuuhi in the finale that it finishes off the climax of the series with an incredibly moving moment between the two of them. The last ten chapters of this series can only be described as the most satisfying finale ever. Not only did we get to see everyone go all out in the last battle, every last loose end gets tied up nicely and we’re treated to an epilogue that satisfies like no other. I’d even go as far as to say that no one will want to write any “improved” fanfics of this simply because the story was just that good.

Characters: S+
The story features a huge cast of unique characters ranging from the nihilistic college student Amamiya Yuuhi to the incredibly laidback and affable Animus. Though they themselves have some eccentric qualities to them, the knights get portrayed realistically enough as normal people who just happened to get dragged into an unbelievable situation. In fact, with the exception of three especially quirky knights, everyone would be even blander than the side characters had they not become knights. We get a total of twelve knights, not all lasting till the final showdown and they all get enough attention to show how they’ve grown as people throughout this series. Hardly anybody stays the same person they were when they were first introduced into the series and their individual motivations for participating in the war get fleshed out and developed in brilliantly subtle ways. The characters grow on you as discover how “human” they’re made out to be, a recurring theme in this series. Even “growing up” was another motif explored in this series and it wouldn’t have worked out as well had any of the main characters stayed the same. The clearest evidence of this is the main character himself as goes from being a weak-ass nihilist with a deep-seated grudge against the world to an outright hero, the one that Noi was looking for as his partner.

Humor: A
Mizukami-sensei has a pretty goofy sense of humor. The jokes he throws into this series never reach ROFLMAO levels but are still pretty funny. It’s more in the range of “Huh… wait, what?” and “What the hell is he doing?”. Much of the humor is derived from the characters themselves. It could be an odd quirk, a surprising skill or even an unusual way of handling things. Most of the time, the jokes involve the expectations we have for how things should be going and more often than not add to whatever character is responsible for the chuckle you let out. The goofiness of the series, as lighthearted as it may be, never gets in the way of whatever scene is taking place regardless of how intense it’s supposed to be. They fit in there so naturally that it keeps things from getting too cheesy or overdone and occasionally strengthens the power behind the scene itself.

Action: A
I give this a B for its first half, an S overall for its second half and an honest to goodness S+ for its finale. The first half takes its time to build up the premise as well the characters while also moving the conflict well along enough that the slice of life scenes blend nicely with fight scenes, both feeling equally relevant to the story. Things start shifting into higher gears once the mage and the princess, the driving forces of the whole conflict, show up as that’s when everything that’s been established in the story by that point start to develop and really come into play. The fights start escalating as both the knights and the golems become more and more formidable with every battle demonstrating the ingenuity of their respective tactics making for some very entertaining fights. Even the character-centric scenes become more engaging as they get tied in even more with the war they’re fighting. This trend continues on even into the showdown as both sides take their fighting power to heights never seen before in the series and every bit of build up pays off in the most satisfying of ways. To use an analogy, the story is like a snowball going down a hill, it starts off small and gets bigger and bigger as it goes down and at the very end you get to see just how much snow was in there.

Final Impression
This series started out quirky, developed brilliantly and ended magnificently. Not even one single chapter ever feels wasted. At this present time, you will NOT find five manga series that you can even begin to consider as works superior to this one. For most, they’d be hard-pressed to find even one. I have absolutely zero gripes about this story and am thoroughly satisfied with its end. It is a sad thing to see that this still remains so horribly obscure and underrated as it is when it truly deserves the popularity garnered by the likes of Bleach and Naruto. The fact of the matter is that this guy never fails to deliver the scenes as emotionally powerful as he meant them to be and possibly even more than he did. This series will make you laugh, cry, cheer out loud and even feel all warm and happy inside, all when you least expect yourself to. Nothing short of a great series is capable of that. Hopefully GAINAX is smart enough to pick this up for an anime adaptation soon and that it at the very least gets picked up for an official English translation by a credible company. This story is without a shadow of a doubt, a true Masterpiece.

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  1. I have only one question..what are the Ar(can't remember the name) Records that the Cat Knight and Animus are looking for? I don't think there is a explanation about them.



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