Manga Review: Cipher by Minako Narita

Cipher, Volume 1Cipher, Volume 1

by Minako Narita

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series discusses the emotional trauma that occurs between two brothers, when life finally gets too far, and they need to begin healing their broken character. This story focuses almost entirely on the development of the Cipher & Siva characters and their relationship with each other and the people that matter to them. The story has a strong progression which neither gets tired or tiresome, and it resolves itself in a very satisfying way. This can’t be said for most manga series.

One unique thing about this series is that it is originally set in America (primarily New York), starring Americans! Almost invariably the setting is Japan, and sometimes Korea, with the occasional school trip to the USA and Canada. And when Americans are represented in manga they generally appear as a vehicle for comedy. This is a very kind (and generally non-stereotypical) portrayal and I think it must attest to the author’s own interest and love of the country!

The only negative I have to say about it, does not in fact relate to the story or composition, but to the actual mechanics of the translation. And that is, the text in the first volume attempts to fill the Japanese shaped speech bubbles too closely. With Japanese text, it is often read and written vertically top to bottom and left to right — which is the same pattern that you use to read each frame in the manga. While English text is read and written horizontally from right to left. In this translation, the translator (or someone) decided to try to conform the English text to the Japanese bubbles by writing it vertically (one letter above the other) and written from right to left. However, when attempting to read each panel in correct order, one automatically assumes the correct reading order to be left to right which would create greater continuity — so almost every bubble I read in the wrong direction. It was an obvious over site by the editor and was corrected for the second volume, but it still causes me a lot of headaches — as I read this series several times a year.

This is one of my top 10 favourite manga! Highly highly recommended.

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