Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer
One morning Amamiya Yuuhi wakes up to find a talking lizard in his apartment. The lizard informs him that he is the Lizard Knight who will protect the princess and prevent the destruction of the world by the evil Mage and his looming biscuit hammer. Yuuhi promptly throws the lizard out. It returns,and eventually he finds himself accepting both the strange animal and the special power that comes with it – especially after he meets Samidare, the princess. But she wants to stop the Mage so that she herself can destroy the world! Strangely this suits Yuuhi much more, and so he decides to ally himself with this little Lucifer...
Underneath the goofy start and typically comedic devices of absurdly powerful girls and talking animals, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer is hiding a very dark story. It takes a while to really get there – and to get going, which makes Seven Seas' decision to release it in a two-book omnibus a very good idea – but by the end of the first volume, it becomes difficult to walk away. The dark, almost uncomfortable edge juxtaposes with the mostly light tone of the art and writing, making this feel very different from most of the other shounen series currently available in English.
The story begins with college student Amamiya Yuuhi waking up to find a talking lizard, about the size of an iguana, on his bed. The lizard greets him nicely, tells him his name is Sir Noi Crezant, and informs Yuuhi that he is the Lizard Knight chosen to help the Princess save the world from the depredations of an evil Mage and his golems. Yuuhi promptly tosses the creature out the window. Like the cat in the old folk song, however, he comes back. Eventually Yuuhi allows him to explain the situation: the aforementioned Mage plans to smash the Planet With his massive Biscuit Hammer, which Yuuhi, as a Knight, can see hanging in the sky. Golems will come for both he and the Princess in order to prevent them from stopping the Mage, and Yuuhi must use his Domain Control – a power granted by his new magic ring – to help her. Unfortunately for Crezant, the Princess is only interested in stopping the Mage so that she herself can destroy the world. Her reasoning is that she loves the world so much that no one but her should be able to have it. Since she's going to die someday, she'll just take it with her. For some reason this impresses Yuuhi, and he promptly swears his allegiance to her.
At this point, roughly the first two chapters of the book, Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer seems more bizarre and under-explained than anything. We have the title explained – Yuuhi thinks of Samidare, the high school girl who is the Princess as a “little Lucifer” since she wants to smash the Earth with her fist – but it doesn't seem all that out of the ordinary. In the next few chapters, however, Satoshi Mizukami begins to give us background information about Yuuhi that explains both his fascination with Samidare and why he thinks so highly of her plan. Yuuhi was emotionally and physically abused by his grandfather as a child after a happy early childhood with his now-gone parents. While most of his everyday behavior does little to indicate this, he constantly pictures himself as having his spirit chained, most typically shown by a thick chain wrapped around his ankle, literally holding him back. If the world is gone, we can see him reason, then his chains will go away too. Samidare has similar reasons for wanting to smash the Earth, and both of these add a hint of sadness to the story, while also having implications for wanted to control at least one thing about your life. We see this borne out in the character of the Dog Knight, who shows up about midway through the volume. His storyline has the same themes of living and dying on your own terms, and the way his actions affect both Samidare and Yuuhi, as well as Sami's sister Hisame, looks as if they will drive at least part of the story from here on out. A second major theme in the book is the idea of a parent's role for a teenage child, with Yuuhi's past and Samidare and Hisame's present, to say nothing of Crezant's sort of fatherly attitude towards Yuuhi, adding some conflict to the characters' lives outside of the fight against the Mage.
Visually, the Mage's golems are some of the most interesting aspects of the book. Each one is different and they are all seriously creepy: misshapen lumps of flesh with eyes in odd places and mouths where you would least expect them. They have arms (sometimes too many of them) and legs that look very human, adding to their ick factor. Mizukami gets points for having a defeated golem breaking into chunks of clay, in accordance with the original mythology. Other than them, there's a basic level of realism to the artwork, barring some interesting ideas about the female torso, and Mizukami has a good sense of humor about his style, as we can see in the between-chapter sketches, particularly Yuuhi's “panty shot.” There's something odd about the way he draws faces that I can't quite put my finger on, but the pages are well set up and easy to read. Seven Seas' translation is also smooth, although it annoys me a bit that “itadakimasu” and “gochisousama deshita” are left untranslated – it smacks of pandering rather than professionalism.
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer is an odd duck, melding basic shounen action with a much darker domestic story. It takes a while to hit its stride, but when it does, putting it down becomes difficult, if only because there are some things about the story's mythology that are very under-explained, such as the “previous final battle” a character hints at and the fact that the main players may be essentially possessed by the spirits of the Knights and Princess. (Does that mean that someone is possessed by the Mage?) For all its problems, however, it is intriguing, and if you're looking for something a little bit different, this is worth giving a chance.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Interesting story and characters with histories that explain their actions. Golems are really creepy looking.
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