When it comes to a shonen action series, you typically have three modes the story operates in: Character building, big cool fights, and general comedy relief. There are exceptions, but that’s the formula most of these things have hammered out after several decades, and it’s an effective way to build a story. Ideally, a series can meld those different elements – especially those first two – at the right spots, allowing the big spectacle fights to also punctuate important character growth in a synthesis that can make for some of the most iconic and memorable moments in anime history.
I bring this up because that melding is decidedly not what Biscuit Hammer is doing right now. It soooort of tries in the front half of this episode, but most of this week’s runtime can be split cleanly between Shonen Battle stuff and important character drama, and that dichotomy leaves both sides feeling less than polished even without the factor of the ever-wonky visuals and editing. That’s really a shame, because while the script doesn’t 100% nail its goals, there are some really interesting emotions at play here during Yuuhi’s story.
First, the problems. While the topic of familial abuse isn’t exactly novel in anime – outside of just being dead it’s about the most well-worn way to introduce a parent – it’s decidedly rarer to see it handled with much maturity or nuance, especially in Shonen Action land where nearly all conflict is cosmically required to be solved via punches. My Hero Academy has spent probably a whole season’s worth of episodes getting into the weeds of the subject and it’s still nowhere close to resolving it all. So trying to tackle Yuuhi’s trauma from his Grandpa’s abuse in the span of about 15 minutes is…less than optimal, and while there’s enough nuance to the dialogue and Yuuhi’s ultimate decision to get its point across, I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking things were very crudely resolved before the eyecatch even hit. It’s not trying to paint a portrait of benevolent grace where Yuuhi forgives the person who hurt him just because they apologized, but you could read it that way if the compressed pacing and haphazard presentation have already lost you.
But in that case, what is the show trying to say with all this? To me, at least, it’s ultimately about Yuuhi’s own struggle to overcome the scars his grandfather left him with. He admits that the real reason he attached himself to Sami is because her offer to destroy the world sounded like an easy out – if the whole planet’s obliterated, he won’t have to worry about a potential future and he can just devote himself to serving somebody else rather than really digging into his own hurt. If breaking those chains is too hard, better to hand the reins to somebody who will lead him forward than pull him back. If that sounds like codependency leading towards a dual suicide, well, yeah it sure does, and even Yuuhi seems to be aware of that. To me, while the decision to use his wish to cure his grandfather is partly born from nostalgia for the relationship they had before things turned awful, it’s more about Yuuhi wanting to break away from those chains in a real, tangible way.
It’s a heavy decision that, like I said, the show could have used way more time to actually articulate, but in context with everything else we see from Yuuhi I do think it’s one that makes sense. I also like that he’s allowed to be angry and bitter about his grandfather’s apology. Like oh, really, old man? You hurt your loved one for years out of some twisted sense of protection, left him isolated and scarred, but now you’ve suddenly seen the error of your ways? It’s arguably more hurtful than if he were still the same bitter bastard he used to be, because now it leaves Yuuhi stuck in limbo. Sure it is, objectively speaking, a net good that Grandpa Asshole has stopped being an active piece of crap, but that’s not going to magically resolve the damage he caused, and ironically, without a straightforward adversary to direct those feelings towards, our hero’s left with no real outlet for all that pain. That all being articulated is why I think Yuuhi’s wish is ultimately about himself – it’s an attempt at moving beyond the hurt that has shackled him. He may never forgive his grandfather, nor should he have to, but he can at least start to build a healthier life from here.
Anyway, the show then introduces a mulleted superhero and his talking dog as Yuuhi and Sami’s rival. As in he has homemade business cards that say “Hero of Justice” and he apparently spent weeks thinking up a cool pose to strike when he finally introduced himself. Also he instigates a fight by flipping the princess’ skirt, because while this adaptation has left most of the stale pervy humor back in the 2000s, it can’t quite extricate all of it. See what I mean about this being two very different episodes crammed into one?
To be fair, there’s some interesting stuff with Hangetsu’s introduction, even if it’s ferociously at odds with the tone of the first half of the episode. As our second Knight character he brings some important – if still cryptic – details to the mix. For one, his dog familiar insinuates that this isn’t the first time a battle against the mysterious wizard occurred, suggesting a much greater scope and history to this whole conflict. For another, the other Knights are presumably joining the fight because they want to actually save the Earth, meaning they’re both allies and eventual enemies for Sami and Yuuhi. How that tension plays out could be really intriguing, especially with Hangetsu proving more than a match for Sami’s supernatural strength. It’s a really interesting position to put a new character in – simultaneously, rival, and future enemy from our heroes’ perspective.
All that said, this episode is again an exercise in excavation. That’s fine for me – I’m attracted to messy and imperfect art that is nonetheless earnest in its intent, and any story with enough thought put into it to warrant that many paragraphs about half an episode is certainly interesting enough for my tastes. But that doesn’t mean the pacing and presentation doesn’t still muddle what could have been far stronger. I’m still getting something out of Biscuit Hammerbut it’s far more of a struggle than it should be.
Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.