As a forewarning, this is my second review and consequently I’d like to try something a little experimental, so this review is going to be very Trope Heavy. For those of you who don’t know what that means: pull up a tab and go to TvTropes.org, then, when you emerge some hours later blinking into the sunlight, head on back over [and congrats on breaking free of your Small Secluded World].
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer [also referred to as Hoshi/Wakusei no Samidare] is basically what would happen if you took What the Hell, Hero? and made an entire story around it. Hoshi no Samidare initially presents itself as an action/adventure-romance-comedy [or is it a comically action packed romance?] that, quite fittingly, grows into a Coming of Age Story [see what I did there?], with clever Genre-Savvy humor and noteworthy character development all throughout. The manga begins with Amamiya Yuuhi, introverted misanthrope and bespectacled college student, who wakes up to find a lizard in his bed, which he throws outside and promptly goes back to sleep, The End.
Alright I’m just foolin’: This lizard, a certain Noi Crezant, informs him that it is The End of the World As We Know It and asks for his cooperation as one of the 12 “Beast Knights” in protecting The Princess and defeating The Mage, the latter of whom plans on destroying the Earth with his gargantuan Biscuit Hammer, which is Invisible to Normals [Note: the Biscuit hammer isn't actually made of baked flour, but it IS named after a song by The Pillows].
Much to Noi’s surprise, Amamiya doesn’t exactly Jump at the Call, as not only does he want no part in the war; he seems to be completely apathetic to the whole ordeal. That is, until he is attacked by one of the mage’s Pet Monstrosities and subsequently saved by the princess, who turns out to be his neighbor, Asahina Samidare. Sami, being the resident Hero Antagonist, and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, wastes no time in recruiting Amamiya to her cause; her ambition of course being to save the Earth from the proximate danger of the Biscuit Hammer…
…so that she can destroy it herself. She confidently proclaims to Yuuhi and Noi, wearing awe and horror stricken faces respectively, that if the Earth is going to meet its end then it’s going to be her Fists of Mass Destruction that do the job [well, that, or the fearsome power of moe]. Amamiya, having always wanted to Put Them All Out of My Misery , or perhaps inspired by the inherent determination of her words, vows to be her “demon knight,” and so begins their battle to defeat the Mage Animus and his increasingly powerful golems; all while hiding their secret agenda from the other Beast Knights.
On the outset, Hoshi no Samidare is a comedic adventure story about a 3-way battle [with the main duo being the secret third party] to either save or destroy the world, but soon it becomes quite apparent that there is, in fact, a fair amount of depth to be found as well. While I couldn't find an exceptional amount of thematic relevance within the story, the relatively simple themes that it does touch on; such as the significance of family and friends [and conversely, the dangers of isolating yourself from them], the value of unity when faced with an overwhelming and enigmatic foe, and even [though briefly] what it means to be human, are only made that much more impactful by their relative scarcity. Not to mention that, despite there being a fair amount of loss, the plot never really descends into the morbid or depressing, as the action [and hardship] is interspersed with a fair amount of levity. Hoshi no Samidare’s story treads a fine line between tragedy and humor, poor handling of which can result in Mood Whiplash, but thankfully the comedy is implemented in such a way that it never seems out of place, instead facilitating character development and serving to lighten up an otherwise somber atmosphere. This and the relatively smooth pacing provide the framing for an adventure chocked full of Plot Twists, Crowning Moments of Awesome, Tear-Jerker moments, Villain Protagonists, Panty Shots [subverted, it’s only used as a joke in the beginning], and everything else that makes for an engaging, well-written story.
Art: Normally I care very little about the art in manga, but in this particular instance I have to point out that the Biscuit Hammer in and of itself is cleverly used in a variety of ways to symbolically illustrate emotional tension, with the manga often panning to it looming ominously in the sky, poised to destroy Earth, during times of emotional turmoil or desperation. It’s also used as a visual aid to hammer in [:D] the ever-present direness of their situation, even during times of relative calm. If there is one thing that I could complain about, it’s that tears are drawn somewhat oddly, flowing down the characters faces in cartoonish rivulets. This wouldn't be much of a problem, but there’s a pretty hefty amount of [justified] crying during certain parts of the story, and it somewhat ruins my immersion when the characters look like they just finished being water-boarded. Aside from that, the art is alright and the paneling paneling is excellent; they both serve their respective purposes.
Characters: While Sami and Yuuhi’s subversion of your typical “knight and princess” cliché alone is well worth the read, I found myself quite enamored with Yuuhi’s depth of character in particular. Yuuhi is an astoundingly likable character and, despite his initial villainistic leanings, is surprisingly relatable as well. In a fine example of Becoming the Mask, he begins as an Anti-Villain who feigns being one of The Good Guys in order to fool the other Beast Knights [and regards the imminent destruction of Earth with little more than passing disinterest] but, through his interactions with the rest of the cast, he gradually grows into his role as [one of] The Hero(s).
Likewise, Yuuhi’s journey from asocial Stepford Smiler to someone with a genuine appreciation for his life and that of those around him is conveyed in a compelling and realistic way, and I never once found any of his interactions to be implausible or contrived; though, to be fair, his back story with his grandfather was...odd. That of course isn't to say that everyone else in the story falls by the wayside; in fact, the other knights’ back stories [barring the detective, I found his to be comparatively mediocre] were interesting as well and, remarkably, all receive some manner of character development or another. The sheer variety of novel interactions in this story ensure that character progression never stagnates and, between the most Gar characters being an overweight man and a twin-tailed middle school girl, you can guarantee that the writer doesn't follow typical conventions, instead opting to create a distinguished group of refreshingly unconventional “heroes.” By the time I had finished reading Lucifer and The Biscuit Hammer, I was rather fond of the cast [including the mage Animus, who is pretty Affably Evil]; their individual growth, which occurred as a subsequent result of their experiences [and losses] on the battlefield, really resonated with me. All in all, the characters are charming and endearing, and I found myself quite moved by them and [most of] their struggles.
Summary: I chose this particular format because seldom have I seen an anime/manga that managed to coolly subvert or lampshade so many shounen tropes, and all while weaving a charmingly hopeful tale about what it means to be an adult and the importance of serving as a good example for the next generation. Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, admittedly, has it's ups and downs, with it's ups being quirky at that, but I can say with all confidence that though it may start out in a deceptively easygoing manner, it finishes in a spectacular and satisfying way [with a Name Drop, no less]. At any rate, whether you've read 10 manga or a thousand, I sincerely doubt that you’ll find another story quite like this one.