Cipher Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: C-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: CMX
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 185
  • ISBN: 1-4012-0802-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Cipher

Cipher Vol. #01

By Ron Quezon     July 05, 2007
Release Date: October 05, 2005

Cipher Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Minako Narita
Translated by:Jonathan Tarbox
Adapted by:

What They Say
Anise can't believe her luck when she finds herself in the same high school as famous former child star Siva. Although the cool and handsome Siva seems unapproachable, Anise manages to become his friend. But her happiness turns to surprise when she discovers Siva's secret: for years, he's been switching identities with his twin brother, Cipher!

The Review
Featured prominently in the foreground is Anise kissing Cipher on the cheek. It's winter time and tiny snowflakes dot the cover. Anise is wrapped in a red and plaid jacket and a red baseball cap. Cipher has a green shirt covered by a heavy leather jacket. Behind them is a pinkish night view of New York City. A bold pink and black outline Cipher title reads across the top with Minako Narita's name in black just below it. A white number 1 is in the lower right.

The back cover is light purple with the same Cipher title in the upper right. An oval contains a picture of Cipher holding a surprised looking Anise from behind. Anise is wearing a white shirt and blue shorts. Cipher is in a red baseball cap, white shirt, and jeans. A story summary in black font reads down the right side.

Extras include a table of contents (with one entry), advertisements for the next volume and other CMX titles, and a credit page. Another bonus is story highlights with chibi versions Cipher and Siva. These panels are spread throughout the manga.

Illustrated in 1984, Minako Narita captures the heart of 1980's manga: the big hair, large eyes, and dainty noses. As added treats, the backdrop is New York City, and elements of 80's American pop culture splash across the pages. Included in the manga are a Hall and Oates record (yes, a record), a Michael Jackson doll, and a Madonna look alike mom.

The only two page spread is integrated into the title page of the manga. There are several pages that have more detailed shading and tones and look previously colored in the Japanese printing. Panels are clean, inking does not run, and pages are not cluttered with multitudes of flowers and stars. The flow of the panels is refreshingly easy to follow. Unlike some recently published mangas, you don't need directional arrows to follow the story.

The manga focuses on the central trio: Cipher, Siva, and Anise. The character design and development are engaging as these three are drawn in multiple scenes and locations. The level of fashion detail is impressive (the 1980's pegged pants, puffy hair, high collars, leg warmers, etc.) and it's entertaining enough on its own. Unfortunately, this same level of detail doesn't translate to other characters, especially Anise's family. Although Anise's mom as Madonna is very cute, the plain, pattern less shirt, skit, and pajamas she wears are not impressive.

The dialogue, signs, and sound effects are translated and placed over the original Japanese text. The fonts used within the dialog bubbles are in all caps and varying sizes. The Japanese honorifics are translated to English equivalents. Despite 80's references, the translation reads smoothly and is not overwhelmed with 80's jargon.

One major problem with the translation is the vertical typesetting of the translation. In some bubbles, the English is written with letters running top to bottom, making it very difficult to read. To compound the problem, the vertical lettering is not consistent as some bubbles read left to right and some read right to left. Only about a tenth of the manga is written this way, but it is still frustrating when you run across it. For this reason the text dropped from a B rating to a C- rating.

Anise Murphy is your typical, headstrong, high school teenager. While attending a fine arts high school, she likes to listen to Hall and Oates, has a Michael Jackson doll, and is known to jump in to break up a fight or two. As the story opens, Anise has a dream about the Cain and Abel Bible story. Taking the dream as a sign, she insists that Siva, the famous child actor and her school-mate, be her friend. Anise is no less than surprised when Siva agrees. However, the real shock comes after learning that Siva has been living a double life!

Born as Jake and Roy Rang, Siva and his identical twin Cipher, have been in entertainment since childhood. Right now, however, only Siva actively pursues acting and modeling, and Cipher stays out of the limelight. Or so it appears. Stopping by their apartment, Anise stumbles across their secret: for the last two years, the two have traded off being Siva! Insulted that they are essentially lying to their friends, Anise demands to know why they put up the charade. The twins throw down the challenge: after two weeks, if she can tell them apart, they tell her why they switch off. Otherwise, she tells no one of their secret.

Of course things get really interesting after Anise ups the ante and moves in with Siva and Cipher! Throw in matching twin outfits, kissing brothers, and some crude toilet humor, and suddenly Anise wonders if she took on more than she could handle. Will Anise be able to tell them apart in two weeks? Will Siva and Cipher be able to survive living with Anise? Is there something deeper that the twins are hiding?

Those of you hard core shoujo fans who can't get enough to read should give Cipher a look. It may not be on your top ten list, but it has all the classic shoujo elements: a high school heroine, fabulously rich and gorgeous male interests (twins, at that), and a crazy storyline. What sets this manga apart, however, is Minako Narita's transparency of Anise's everyday, teenage girl issues. There are matter of fact references to tampons, menstrual cramps, and parental divorce. You have to keep in mind it was published in 1984. Not too many mangas are as open with these topics as this one.

There were some plot points that were a stretch, however. At the top of the list are Ciper and Siva kissing on the lips (yes, on the lips), and sleeping together. Their defense to Anise is that they aren't gay and "well, that's how we do it." It's a toss up as to which is more disturbing: the Siva-Cipher "twincest" or thousands of Japanese readers thinking this normal for 80's New York City. Next on the list is Anise and her father. Anise and her father (and her mother, as well) call each other by their first name so it's clear they have a loving, friendly relationship. However, what father lets his teenage daughter go off for two weeks and not tell him where she's going?

Is the story overly ridiculous? Of course it is. Is it any more ridiculous than parents switching partners and moving the families in together? (i.e., Marmalade Boy.) It wouldn't be shoujo if it wasn't. If you can get over the 80's frizzy hair, puffy clothes, and simplified layouts and tones, you should find Cipher surprisingly charming. It nothing else, Cipher makes for nice shoujo filler while you are waiting for the next issue of your top ten list to come out.


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