Reviews: The Lucifer And Biscuit Hammer
More subtle than it seems
This manga comes off as a subversion of the normal heroic shonen adventure, but its depth really shows when paired with another of the creator's works, Psycho Staff. Psycho Staff is a short (one-volume) manga about an absurdly-powerful psychic that aliens are attempting to recruit for their war. Kouichi, the psychic, just wants to go to university. Ultimately, Kouichi loses his powers saving the world, and happily goes on to a normal life. The essential message is that "You may be called upon to save the world, but after that, you still have a life to live." It's a refutation of the career hero who can't actually fit into normal society when not adventuring. Sami, the titular "Lucifer," is in many ways Kouichi's opposite. As the Princess Anima, she's been given great power. However, she knows that it will go away and she'll have to return to a normal life. For her, though, a normal life is that of sickness and frailty, doomed to die and soon. Kouichi, despite not knowing he'd lose his powers, came to the conclusion that it's better to burn steadily and long, instead of flaring brightly and burning out. There's a deep tragedy lurking beneath Lucifer, in that Sami is going to die and cannot accept that. She'd rather commit the greatest act of mass-murder ever, going out in a great funeral pyre rather than winking out like a candle. Her situation indeed makes it impossible for her to accept the loss of Anima with good grace. These two works really should be read together. That said, Lucifer itself is also just a plain fun read. It has its darker moments, but for the most part it's silly and funny. The characters are amusing and sympathetic, even when the villain protagonists are plotting to save the world merely to end it themselves. The art may not be the best, but it's distinctive — one can identify Mizukami Satoshi's faces anywhere after reading just a bit. And it works, with fairly clean and direct action scenes, and strong depictions of emotions. Personalities are well-realized, though the sudden glut of Beast Knights in recent volumes dilutes the strength of their characterization. It can deftly jump from hilarious to tense to sad in a few pages, and you may find yourself rooting for the end of the world without quite realizing it.
I am the kind of person who likes the wrong characters. Perhaps they are the rival, or minor villains, or even The Dragon or the doomed Minnesota Fats... however it is, most of the time it;s the kind of character who dies, one way or another. I adore this series, because it takes those characters... and makes them the *main* characters. The Princess and her Knight- who are, frankly, both pretty psycho all things told. But it's a kind of madness fueled, in the end, by love. And I think I will await with baited breath to see what they really will do in the end. It;s the kind of story with character that it's hard not to love. And it;s crafted in a way... that it hurts a little when they hurt. And learning more about them all is deeply satisfying. For anyone who has ever liked the wrong characters... and anyone who enjoys a neatly twisted sort of fairytale... I highly recommend this.