Creator: Satoshi Mizukami
Stars: Kenjirô Tsuda, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, Atsuko Tanaka
I gave the Biscuit Hammer premiere a split rating: one star for the visuals, four for the writing. While I did that primarily to make it clear that despite the embarrassing production values of this adaptation, there was a lot of good and interesting material here that was able to get out there. As much as gifs of the worst parts of the episode were making the rounds on social media, this wasn’t an EX-ARM situation where the visuals had totally subsumed whatever merit the story might or might not have. I’m keeping that decision for the premiere, but it’s not something I want to make a habit of.
Mainly, that’s because modal analysis like that is not the way most people watch anime, or any entertainment. Anime is a visual medium, and animation is just as key to telling your story as the script, voice acting, or music, so treating it as a separate category from the rest of the show is silly and tedious. So while I don’t plan to dwell on every time a fight looks like ass or monsters look like a fried hitch with a filter placed over them, I’m going to talk about the animation and how the lack of polish all around affects the ability to the story to connect with the audience. Because yes, that is the case here.
Part of that is a consequence of the actual plot content of Biscuit Hammer. Satoshi Mizukami is known to be quite laid-back and goofy with his world-building, and while the characters treat the stakes of any given fight with the gravitas appropriate to a serious shonen action series, the details of their stories are often deliberately understated. ridiculous. That’s fine IMO as it adds a lot of charm to the story and setting, but without proper introduction it can be a hard sell that our hero gets his call to adventure via a talking lizard operating by the rules of proximity of Droopy Dog. or a huge cartoon mallet that hangs over Earth like a doomsday device. If the presentation is not in sync with that goofy, self-aware energy, it makes the stage feel sloppy and random in a way that is alienating rather than endearing. And that’s definitely the case here: while it’s not impossible to vibe to Mizukami’s silliest ideas, it takes a lot more footwork from the audience. It’s possible to make it work, but it’s never a good sign when understanding the tone of a series feels like a chore.
All of that said, there are a lot of interesting things in these first two episodes that intrigue me, even when I had to work to get there. Yuuhi is an odd choice for a shonen battle protagonist, both now and at the time the manga began, mainly due to the fact that he’s just not good at it. He is a sour-faced depressed who throws his familiar spirit out the window because saving the world seems like too much trouble. Not only is he irritated by the idea of working with a hypothetical group of allies, but he has an apparent PTSD response at the mere mention of it. While he isn’t actively unpleasant to anyone, he is far from the friendly package of seriousness typical of a shonen hero. Yet at the same time, he joins forces with Samidare because destroying the world sounds so much more appealing than risking her life to save him, and he wholeheartedly dedicates himself to serving her.
We get some context on that contradiction in episode two, learning that his seemingly instinctive aversion to forming connections is due to his grandfather’s bizarre abuse, drilling into his brain to live alone without love, so he wouldn’t betray him. We’re still missing what seems like a lot of context for that, but it creates a fascinating conflict for our central hero, bluntly symbolized by the strain against his grandfather’s chains. He doesn’t want to be the greatest that ever was. He doesn’t want to be the hero who saves the world. Instead of a great aspiration that pushes him to be better, he is simply a fear of what will happen to him if he doesn’t change. If that means handing over the reins to a new ruler, well, he’s more than happy to serve his devil princess.
Speaking of which, Samidare is much closer to the kind of protagonist you’d expect from a shonen battle series. She has the rowdy personality, indomitable confidence, and supernatural strength to send cars flying across riverbeds without breaking a sweat. Yes, there’s the little tidbit that her ultimate goal is to usurp the mysterious villain’s doomsday plan and destroy the planet on her own terms, but other than that, you could throw her into the Shonen Jump or Shonen Sunday lineup without anyone blink.