Reviewby Nick Creamer,
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer
The time has come. With just one golem left and the biscuit hammer hanging directly overhead, the Beast Knights are finally preparing for their last battle. Will their combined strength be enough to defeat the mage's last weapon, a creature far more powerful than any thus far? And even if they defeat the golem, will they be able to stop the mage himself, the source of all their trials? Not to mention the secret plans of Yuuhi and Samidare, still intent on destroying the world even if they first manage to save it. With just one fight left to go, the earth's heroes and antiheroes will have to summon all their strength to preserve a world so very worth fighting for.
When I reviewed the fourth collection of Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, I expressed some disappointment at the lack of climactic emotional payoffs matching the earlier volumes. As it turns out, Biscuit Hammer was apparently just saving all the big stuff for the finale. Here in the story's last chapters, the final fight with first the mage's last golem, then the mage himself, and then Samidare and Yuuhi run through staggering battle after staggering battle after cathartic emotional payoff after staggering battle. Everything this story has been good at, it excels at here. If you'd gotten this far and were somehow worried Biscuit Hammer wouldn't stick the landing, rest assured - this is as satisfying as endings can get.
After a couple early chapters that very briefly explain the backstory behind Anima and Animus (some of the weakest segments of the collection, coming off more like an exposition necessity than a critical piece of the puzzle), the story speeds through a winter of training in order to dedicate the vast bulk of this two-volume set to Biscuit Hammer's awe-inspiring finale. Characters we've come to know pull together in order to fight both the mage's golem and the mage himself, and for once the art is just about up to the challenge.
Biscuit Hammer's art has always been its greatest weakness - in spite of possessing clear personality and regularly pulling off some endearing faces, it's just wholly lacking in basic fundamentals of anatomy and perspective. Characters' limbs feel so vaguely attached to their bodies that there's no sense of impact, and fights are framed such that half the time it's impossible to tell anything that's going on. But here, in the very last act, Satoshi Mizukami steels himself to do right by the efforts of his characters. The results certainly aren't polished or consistent (the guy still clearly needs to attend some figure-drawing classes, at the very least), but even in their looseness, some of the setpieces here are breathtaking.
There's a tremendous sense of scale to the encounter with the final golem, and the battle with the mage is brought to life through vivid expression work, almost demonic full-page spreads, and great use of heavy black tones. Combination attacks by the Beast Knights land with precision and impact, and the mage retaliates with wild expressions like some furious, burning scarecrow. Weapons sear and fists pound and rocks spiral through space in the wake of collisions that really do feel like the end of the world. Mizukami may never learn how to actually draw a horse, but given his base limitations, he pulls off some terrific visual work in this last volume.
But the core strength of Biscuit Hammer has always been its storytelling, and it doesn't disappoint there either. Aside from the aforementioned exposition early on (and an enjoyable but perhaps too-indulgent epilogue), Biscuit Hammer's final pages tell a thrilling story of struggle and sacrifice and love. Having been built up through many strong vignettes, the story's well-realized characters come across like true friends and allies as they struggle for each other, each trying to make the fights a little easier for the rest. Mikazuki, the classic battle-loving berserker, here uses all of his strength to instead protect the younger kids who've come to mean so much to him. Taiyo, whose distance from his own real family once prompted him to side with Animus, now bears constant pain to keep his found family alive. Having once labeled the younger Beast Knights as children he must protect, Nagumo now sees that perspective was simple arrogance, and relies on their strength as they do his. Biscuit Hammer is a case study in shounen character writing done right, and its earlier work and current grace make each punch here land with a fist-pumping emotional resonance.
And beyond the individual character writing, the story's engaging meditations on family and the relationship between childhood and adulthood all spin together in the last act, when Samidare puts her world-destroying plan into action. The last confrontation between Yuuhi and Samidare is one of the most well-earned and emotionally cathartic moments in recent memory; it's a simple but unforgettable declaration of love that echoes with all of this manga's many stories of trust and redemption, of giving up on the world until the world proves it hasn't given up on you. Most of Biscuit Hammer's heroes once lost some crucial faith in the world, be it through a tragic death or a family that never supported them; but here at the end, they find the love they've lost in each other.
Biscuit Hammer's finale is phenomenal, is what I am telling you. The art is still fundamentally messy, and there are some rough edges when it comes to exposition or self-indulgent “happily ever after” scenes, but the core material is so strong that those issues feel petty to mention. It's a tremendous ending to a unique and deeply satisfying manga, and I'm sure I'll remember it for a long time to come.
Overall : A
Story : A
Art : B
+ Finale satisfies in terms of awesome battles, great character moments, and rich thematic catharsis; even the art steps up to do justice to the story's world-crushing ambitions.
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