Episode 4 – Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer

To say this adaptation has struggled with its action sequences is akin to saying Sisyphus has a bit of trouble getting that bolder up the hill. By all logic, that should spell doom for Biscuit Hammer‘s attempts at introducing Hangetsu Shinonome in earnest. The man’s a martial artist, warrior, and self-described hero of justice in a show that is physically incapable of communicating damning near anything through action. If any character should be undercooked, it’s this guy, and yet by some alchemy this mullet-sporting dingus ends this episode as possibly the most likable and engaging character in the whole show.

Part of that’s probably thanks to the story’s fights still feeling totally arbitrary and perfunctory. For example, Yuuhi just runs into a golem while going to the store and has to book it for his life until Shinonome leaps in to kick its ass, but since the action is only there to serve a narrative purpose, it being comprised of three static frames and a bunch of speedlines doesn’t cause too much damage. It’s still not good, and anyone watching would take even a halfway decent cut of animation, but this is the rare case where the weaker parts of the source material and the inherent flaws of this production dovetail to minimize each other. It doesn’t matter all that much if the fight itself is short and ugly, because what matters to the story and characters is that it establishes Shinonome’s skill and outlook as a warrior. Communicating that is ultimately the goal, and while it doesn’t look good getting there, it gets the job done.

That leaves the rest of the episode, unconstrained with having to tie its character writing into a fight, to just let the cast hang out, learn about each other, and dig into some of the underlying tension of it all. We even get a full-on confrontation between Yuuhi and Noi, where the reptile really lets our morose hero have it. Considering how most of Mr. Lizard’s time has been spent expositing or reacting for laughs, that’s important, since he’s supposed to be Yuuhi’s partner in this battle against the Biscuit Hammer. It’s gratifying to see him lose patience with our ostensible heroes and plainly state the subtext of their plan to usurp the world’s destruction. While Sami’s reasons are still nebulous, Yuuhi is clearly going along with it because he either can’t or won’t let himself imagine other options, and would rather just embrace destroying the world truly than deal with his own hurt. The hitch is, Yuuhi’s just self-aware enough to recognize that, but has decided to double-down on it anyway. He’s not clueless – he knows what he’s doing, and a stern talking to from any position of authority is unlikely to convince him to change his path.

Which makes it incredibly funny that the most promising positive influence in our leads’ lives is the weirdo who sleeps on park benches, imitates tokusatsu heroes to show off, and generally acts like a complete dingus whenever he’s on screen. But it’s through that unassuming personality that Shinonome manages to slip under Yuuhi’s armor just a bit, even as he unwittingly positions himself as the guy’s closest threat. He’s got Sami totally outclassed as a fighter even without supernatural strength, could quite easily obliterate Yuuhi without a second thought, yet whenever he’s around it feels like they’re both hanging out with an old friend. His presence even highlights just how goofy the two of them are with their Princess and Knight gimmick, because he’s at least aware that he’s not actually a superhero even as he calls himself one, and embraces how silly it is. So bits like Yuuhi kneeling just to talk with Sami play as extra funny, because they’re somehow taking this chuuni idea 100% seriously. Shinonome may be a weirdo, but he’s a self-assured and guileless weirdo who is honest and unashamed about who he is or what he wants from life. Our heroes could stand to learn a thing or two from him in that regard.

We also meet Sami and Hisame’s oft-absent father in the latter half of this episode, which would be odd and abrupt if the character himself was all that important. But in an interesting move, his presence is more about stirring up emotions about Sami and Hisame’s family history, as well as reflecting on a broader theme of what “growing up” really means. Hisame doesn’t necessarily resent their dad for his flighty personality, but she admits she can’t respect him and doesn’t want to be the kind of irresponsible adult that he seems to be. Shinonome offers a different spin, saying that living by your passions without regret is a way to be a role model of sorts – it shows kids that growing up can be full of hope and joy rather than being defined by the stresses of responsibility.

Neither are necessarily wrong – they just represent different anyone growing up needs to internalize, and it ends the episode on a contemplative note I really appreciate. By working to destroy the Earth, Yuuhi and Sami are rejecting the inevitable fate of becoming adults, in part because of how the adults tasked with raising them have failed or abandoned that duty. Shinonome and Hisami can’t solve Yuuhi or Sami’s problems – they aren’t even fully aware of them, really – but they can offer examples of adults who have their shit together and are capable of being both reliable and happy.

And for once, it doesn’t feel like I’m having to dig for all that. This episode still moves briskly from scene to scene, and there’s the occasional odd edit that feels too abrupt, but with a central character and idea to focus on, the show really does feel like it comes together holistically. Heck, there are even some genuinely funny moments, like Shinonome breaking into Yuuhi’s house to make him watch magical girl anime, the most pure of male bonding experiences possible. Or Shinonome’s dog familiar being mortified over playing fetch. It’s not perfect, and there are certainly moments I’d like to look nicer or flow better, but at the very least the production isn’t getting in the way of the interesting and likable parts of the material. For now, that counts as a win.

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Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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