Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Vols. 3-4

By Satoshi Mizukami. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialized in the magazine Young King Ours. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

I’ve discussed before how series can sometimes be plotted in “short/medium/long” ways in Japan. The short is if the series is a failure – 2-3 volumes and it’s done. Long is when a series is a huge hit and basically can run as long as the author needs or editors demand. And mid-sized tends to be in the 10-20 volume range, where it’s a big enough hit to get room to grow. Biscuit Hammer falls into the second category, and I am happy that it has its ten volumes (or 5 omnibuses). That said, sometimes you can hear the screeching noises as the author realizes it’s not going to be cancelled and rolls out the rest of the plot. Having spent the first two volumes keeping the focus primarily on three people, these next two add the entire rest of the cast, plus the villain over the space of only a few chapters. It can feel exhausting.


That said, the cast is not without interest. Seeing two middle-school girls as two of the knights is rather jarring, and I liked the determination of the oldest of the knights to keep them out the battles, even as that quickly becomes moot. We get what seems to be the standard ‘childhood friends with secret crushes’ pair, only to realize that the girl is not only odd but a little worrying – given what happened with the Dog Knight, I wonder if she’ll survive the book. There’s not just youngsters, though – a 42-year-old ex-cop is one of the knights, an agent for justice whose cynicism won’t let him believe in it anymore. And the Swordfish Knight, now dead, gets probably the best backstory of the group, though it starts off in a ridiculous manner.

Then there’s our villain, Animus – assuming you aren’t thinking that the villains are our two heroes, who have after all vowed to destroy the Earth as well. He seems the typical smiling villain – he’s already corrupted one of the Knights, and goes after a second, though he’s unsuccessful – but he’s too laid-back to really fall into that stereotype – indeed, that may be a bit more disturbing, as his calm placidity works even better. I liked his intellectual faceoff with the Cat Knight, whose smackdown that gaining knowledge just for the sake of having it is a useless goal.

Overall, though, much of this omnibus feels like setup – lampshaded by Animus, who calls off the attack golems about 1/3 of the way through the book so that the author can show off his new characters and give us their backstories. It’s nice to learn about them, even if some seem a bit underdeveloped still, such as the Snake Knight. But I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as the first omnibus due to the sound of the grinding gears I heard in the background as the author realized he now has room to stretch things out. I’m still very interested in seeing how things go, though, and the next volume looks likely to have more action, if the cliffhanger is anything to go by.

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, Vols. 1-2

By Satoshi Mizukami. Released in Japan by Shonen Gahosha, serialized in the magazine Young King Ours. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

(This review contains spoilers.)

I reviewed the first half (i.e., Volume 1) of this series when it was digitally released by JManga a while back, but want to revisit it. It’s a new translation, and we get the addition of the 2nd volume, where things start getting a lot more serious. But also it’s a story that really holds up well when you reread it. What appears to be a standard story of superheroes uniting to defend the planet has a lot more going on under the hood, and you wonder if our hero and heroine are actually the least trustworthy people in the entire book… or if they’re just angsty teenagers dealing with life for the first time.


Yuuhi is a really fascinating and messed up character. The second time around I wasn’t as fond of the resolution of his past childhood traumas, which seemed a bit too pat to me, but then that was the point – Yuuhi was so angry that all the hardships he grew up with that twisted him into what he currently is could be resolved without his input or presence. He’s clever and calculating, and has latched onto Samidare in order to gain a tether he lost when his grandfather apologized, but there’s also a lack of an emotional center in the young man, something the series will slowly draw out of him, starting with the shocking events at the end of the first omnibus.

Biscuit Hammer is hardly the first series to introduce an amazingly cool and competent cast member and then kill them off – it’s actually a very common Japanese trope – but all the beats are handled well, including his nascent romance with Samidare’s sister (who is fantastic throughout) and the mere fact that he’s so powerful – he’s a giant threat to Yuuhi’s plans of world destruction, and thus his death settles on Yuuhi like a giant ball of guilt (with, of course, perfect timing in his younger brother immediately showing up). For the audience, the death of Hangetsu lets us know this series is going to be more seinen than shonen, and that we shouldn’t get too attached to our main cast.

As for Samidare herself, she’s just as screwed up as Yuuhi, but in a more extroverted way. Fatalistic due to her illness and its remission while she has powers, she’s determined to make the most of her short life, and one of the best (and most chilling) moments in the book is when she turns to Yuuhi, smiling, and asks him to die with her. It’s especially chilling as she’s such a great person otherwise – gung ho, cheerful, smart – and you can absolutely see why Yuuhi has started to fall for her.

There’s a lot more to discuss, such as the fact that the Yuuhi and Samidare that show up in dreams seem to be entirely different characters to their waking selves, or the suffering that is Noi’s daily life, where he deals with the fact that a talking lizard is the only sane character in this series – but again, that’s the beauty of a series like this. It has enough complexity to reward a reader more than just on a first read through. I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more Knights in the next omnibus, and that makes me happy. Enjoy this twisted take on superheroes saving the Earth.

The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer, Vol. 1

By Satoshi Mizukami. Released in Japan as “Hoshi no Samidare” by Shonen Gahosha, serialized in the magazine Young King OURS. Released in the United States by Shonen Gahosha on the JManga website.

First of all, I should note that the JManga site lists this under its original Japanese title. Despite the fact that the English title is PRINTED ON THE FRONT COVER. Given none of Shonen Gahosha’s titles have been translated to date, I will assume this is some stupid business rule, but I wish it would change. In any case, when you look for this book, look for it as Hoshi no Samidare. And you definitely should look for it.

At first glance, this may seem no different from many other shonen titles. A young man, Yuuhi, it woken late at night by an animal mascot, who tells him that he must join with other allies to defend his Princess and protect the Earth. It almost sounds like it could fit right in with several Western-type superhero plots you’d see over here. Sure, the animal mascot is a lizard, but that’s probably just an eccentricity of the author. We’re in for rollicking action and fun times. Friendship, Training, Victory, right? Well, not quite. This manga isn’t in a shonen magazine, but a seinen one. The very eccentric Young King OURS, home of Excel Saga, Trigun and Hellsing. And Yuuhi is not your typical shonen hero.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Yuuhi is a nihilist, but certainly he is a young man who does not wish to interact with life. Likewise, the heroine, who is the aforementioned Princess, has declared that it is her desire to destroy the world – rather than save it. And it is *this* – the appeal of simply ending everything – that causes Yuuhi to suddenly gain a purpose in life and pledge his allegiance to her. It’s not really a stretch to say that the conscience of the manga, at least in this first volume, is the lizard (often horrified at Yuuhi’s thoughts) rather than the two leads.

Muxch of this first volume is setting up for what will no doubt be a larger cast – indeed, we see one of them, Hangetsu, show up in the final chapter, and he’s a complete contrast to the pessimistic and grumpy Yuuhi. Most of the time, though, we deal with Yuuhi and his own demons. Yuuhi spent most of his childhood being abused, mentally and emotionally (as well as physically, I’d suggest, given the chains). I would go so far as to say that he’s at his most tragic when he’s smiling, as it reveals to us the fragile facade he’s built up. In my favorite part of the volume, Yuuhi calmly relates the death of his father, his mother’s abandonment, and his grandfather’s abuse, and then simply grins. Neu, the lizard familiar, stares in horror, for he is able to visualize what it must have been like.

As for Samidare, we don’t get as much of a look into her own life – she blithely states she doesn’t want the world to survive after her own death, which is why she plans to destroy it, but that’s not really telling us motivation. After hearing about his past, we can see why Yuuhi wants everything to end. Indeed, he’s very matter-of-fact about it, telling Samidare (in a dream, which the two of them share almost from the start), that he’s binding himself to her so he can free himself from his grandfather’s chains – he’s still bound. It’s not all dark and tortured misery, mind you – Yuuhi’s meeting with his grandfather gives us some hint that there is still compassion inside of him, even if there is no forgiveness yet. What’s more, his determination to be someone who can protect his lady (Yuuhi is an unathletic normal guy, while Samidare seems to have super strength) is admirable, and reaches a peak towards the end in a fantastic action sequence against one of the golems sent to kill him.

The series is 10 volumes long, so we’ve only really just gotten started. It was a cult hit online, and while I had heard some companies making noise about licensing it (Dark Horse and Vertical both said they were aware of the title), the current market really didn’t seem to fit its tone. I’m very happy that Shonen Gahosha and JManga have brought it over. It isn’t perfect – the translation suffers from awkwardness at times, like many JManga titles, and the art style is best defined as ‘striking’ rather than ‘pretty’ – but it’s a fun, gripping read. If you like superhero comics with a kick to them – or you want shonen that’s a little more grown up – give The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer a try. One of the best licenses yet from JManga.