Having finished "CIPHER THE VIDEO" after 40 minutes’ worth of confusion, bewilderment, laughter, and tears, I feel it necessary to gather my thoughts on it in some fashion. Recently released in a new rip/encode by ARR, “Cipher” is truly one of the more puzzling works I have ever seen from any era, in any medium. Its intentions seem wholly unknown to me, buried under the purest of incompetency, laziness/budget constraints, and seeming indifference.
The provided summary is as follows:
"Annis Marfie is a boyish-looking girl, who is studying art in New York. One day, she discovers that her schoolmate, an extraordinarily beautiful semi-pro model, Shiver is actually impersonated by two people. They are twins, Shiver and Cipher, but for the world, they act like they were just Shiver. Annis gets interested in the intention of these two, who fool the world this way, so she approaches them. "
However, absolutely none of that actually happens. Maybe it does in the manga, who knows, but, so far as the OVA goes, nope. What does happen the anime? Well, story-wise… absolutely nothing. There is a character who is an actor. This actor, his director, fellow actors, and fans are interviewed by an off-camera reporter. The whole “secret twins” idea is entirely lost, but there are two characters who look identical. Also, there is a girl who is somewhat involved with one of them. All of this, aside from the brief and thoroughly inconsequential interview scenes, is told without any dialog, as… the majority of “Cipher’s” content is comprised of oft-baffling musical montages. I’m not making this up, in the first fifteen minutes, all but a rare 2-3 minute interlude is an unending string of montages. Of the stomach churning late-80s fare present are only two songs that I recognize - Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” and Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose.”
I know of no better way to convey just how poorly handled and monotonous this dragging parade of montages is than to describe in great detail what I see as being the peak of their strangeness. After an opening string of cutesy montages lasting eight-and-a-half minutes, the anime finally cuts to what seems to be its long-delayed actual opening… instead, you are treated to a brief shot of the three main “characters” sitting around a television, which soon zooms in to show a 40-second cake commercial. No, wait, it gets better. After this mind numbing break, the viewer is treated to the first instance of dialog from the supposed center of the story, carried out in the previously described interview fashion. We see the young man on the set of a new film, a football feature entitled “WINNING TOUGH.”
All of the voice acting is horrible in the most surreal of fashions. Characters mumble through lines, insert awkward pauses as if it were their first time reading the script, and, on at least one occasion which I would bet my life on, actually trip up and stumble during the reading. This mishap is left in, as he then goes on to backtrack a half-step and continue the line. There is a definite “Blood Freak” feel going on here. After we dabble around with them for a while (approximately two minutes), what is, so far as I can figure, supposed to be the preview for this football film is shown in, you guessed it, an extended montage. When it came around to a few bars before the hook and I placed this familiar song as “Footloose,” I just lost it. If it does not last for the entirety of the song, then it is certainly a cut which is damned close to it. This Kenny Loggins anime football travesty finally comes to a close, leading into another worthless string of awkward and uncomfortable interviews for a minute (as in, literally, one minute) until… you can just feel them coming at this point, another montage.
I pray that I still have some readers, as what I am about to share deserves more than any other documented history or human expression to live on in some sort of shared consciousness. The montage following this one-minute break… is… a new, separate montage… set, again, to “Footloose.” A “Footloose” anime montage to follow up after the last “Footloose” anime montage because, hey, what could possibly be better than a “Footloose” anime montage? The mind reels. What absurdity! At every turn, this thing just gets stranger and stranger. It does not in any way feel like something that could have been directed or even aided by an actual human being. The pacing is so unnatural, the approach so obviously muddled… at the very worst, even the most artless of trash contains some trace of inherent subscription, again, even unconsciously, to standard rules of storytelling. It goes so far beyond any excuse possibly rendered along the lines of budget constraint or general inexperience of its cast and crew.
Despite the arguable contradiction in such a statement, the only organizational reasoning I can place to try and make some sense of this thing’s reality is that it is an unintentionally dadaist work. It is a brain-breaking monstrosity - seemingly a relic from another dimension, somehow released on home video within our own. Don’t accuse me of exaggeration until you’ve seen it yourself. There is absolutely nothing identifiable as “human” present at any point on any discernible level of this 40:50 shoujo abortion. Oh no, there’s more.
After the second coming of Kenny Loggins follows more pointless and unilluminating interview footage, more montages (at least we get some good funeral footage of the twins’ mom, as if anyone could actually be emotionally invested in these blank slate dweebs), and, finally, a genuine meeting of of two of the main characters in an unintentionally gut-busting scripted scene. After that (quite literal) rude awakening, the twins talk about what they are going to make for breakfast. This is clearly supposed to be humorous, but, really, I could go back and give a line-by-line transcription of the scene, and, yeah, there’s nothing more or less funny than summing it up as two men discussing which breakfast foods they want to combine into their meal. That this seems to be a source of great amusement for them is another testament to this OVA being more an approximation of human entertainment than the genuine article. This is, however, the most story and character development offered thus far. Suddenly, at 23:35, a familiar tune pops up…
“Say, isn’t this the hit 1984 Phil Collins ballad,’Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)?’ The very same song which was featured at the start of this OVA? Is… wait… why are credits rolling at barely over halfway through the running time…”
After being treated to another full-length cut of that soft rock classic, nearly fourteen minutes remain… fourteen minutes occupied by a making-of featurette/love letter to whatever-the-hell you just finished watching. It appears to be hosted by the main character himself, in character, but… this same voice also carries out the proceedings as a removed and subjective narrator. It really just alternates from line-to-line, basically. In this behind-the-scenes look, you gain an insight as to how the filmmakers sought for accuracy in recreating the wasted and trivial New York City setting. They claim to have closely studied the editing techniques of MTV programming to effectively emulate their tone (they didn’t). They worked with English voice actors in an attempt to create something unique in the world of Japanese animation. The universality of just how terrible every actor is in this feature is staggering. One would seemingly have better luck of getting decent performances out of people pulled from the street at random. This stands out even more when you watch people actually trying at this garbage.
How could this have been made? How did nobody at any point of its construction take a step back and realize how stilted, unnatural, and altogether heinous this thing is? Watching this featurette proves that it either is, in actuality, the result of human effort, or, at least, the work a highly evolved shapeshifting race (my money is on reptilians). How did it happen. How did any of this come to be. This review is loaded with such adjective saturated descriptive turns, and even combining them into one general impression fails to get across the broken feel of this anime. It is akin to the sorts of stimuli forcefully presented to someone in order to “break” or otherwise psychologically reprogram them.
So far as scoring goes, "Cipher" exists completely outside of any scale which could sum up its worth in simple numerical value. To reflect this, only a "0" or a "10" would seem applicable, so I opted for the "10," figuring that it would likely be uniformly rated lowly on this site. It is, if nothing else, a bizarre artifact of late-80s anime product which is entirely unlike anything else you will ever see. Whether or not this warrants a proper viewing is up to you.read more
it's 10am and i havent gone to bed yet because i cant stop thinking about cipher. this ova was great. ive been sitting in my bed weeping from laughter and staring off in sheer bewilderment. i havent had enough time to completely wrap my mind around what i just watched. im a big fan of so bad theyre good movies. this is the best i have ever seen, hands down. it beats manos, it beats the room and it beats plan 9. this is so beyond all that. so much stranger and poorly thought out than i could have imagined anything could ever be. i could not have possibly imagined what i was about to watch five hours ago. how could i have known i was about to have my mind completely cracked open by the most bizarre, confusing, incredible thing i have ever come across.
its so incompetently made that it feels borderline like an art house movie. its perfected surrealism completely by accident. i recommend you watch this movie with absolutely no idea what youre about to see. the only other person to write a review for this wrote a really long, good review but i suggest you read it after, especially if youve never seen the montage clip thats been going around the internet recently. you cant possibly imagine what youre about to watch. it just gets stranger and stranger as it goes on. its like if the room merged with 2001 a space odyssey and a hits of the '80s mix tape. i am going to show this to every one i know. people should know about this shining beacon of uniqueness. you should watch it too.read more
I have seen a LOT of really weird anime, but I have never seen anything like Cipher. This anime comes completely out of left field and just leaves you speechless. It is basically a 40 minute music video that tells the story of a famous teen actor and his twin sister, who often attends school in his place. It was made in the 1980s, so the soundtrack is mostly Kenny Loggins and Phil Collins. It is PURE 80s cheese! I guess you have to consider that "AMVs" didn't exist in the 1980s, so the very concept of watching anime mixed with popular music was brand new and exciting. However, the first isn't usually the best. Just like the Wright Brothers' plane isn't exactly a high quality airplane by 2015 standards, Cipher isn't a very good AMV...or a good anime in general.
Every once in a while, the music stops and we get to watch a conversation between the characters. In his infinite wisdom, the director of Cipher didn't hire professional voice actors. He simply pulled random people off the street and asked them to read extremely corny lines with no context and no idea what they were reading for. If someone was American and could speak English, that was good enough for the director! I will be fair to the director of Cipher and mention that on VERY rare occasions, directors have successfully used non-professional actors and it came across as very natural. Probably the best known example is when director Vittorio De Sica did this for his 1948 masterpiece "Bicycle Thieves". The difference is that the loser director of Cipher is NOT as talented a director as De Sica! In Cipher we get to listen to the most stilted, wooden, awkward line delivery I have ever heard. Yes, I am including "The Room" in my assessment of that statement. Laughing at these simply God awful line reads is probably the best part of Cipher.
There are 2 different kinds of spectacular failure anime. The first kind is when you know exactly what the director/writers were trying to do, but they managed to botch the execution beyond belief. An example of this would be Green Green. The second kind is where you honestly have no idea what the FUCK the crew was thinking. Why was this made? Who the hell thought this was a good idea? Who looked at the finished project and allowed it to actually be released?! Those are the kinds of questions you will be asking for a long time after watching Cipher. At least it gained 2 points for hilariously bad line reads and awesomely cheesy music!read more
There's a guy named Cipher, and a guy named Siva, and they're both... twins or something? Nothing is really explained about their relationship to each other or what is even going on in the film. One of them is a movie star making a football film, that's about all I got out of it.
None of the characters are introduced very well (or in some cases at all), as there's very little dialogue in the film, and the dialogue that is there is done through an interview-like style that doesn't actually say much about them or the story at hand.
The film literally just ends up being a few different music videos that feature the same characters, strung together by these interview segments. These music videos have a certain amount of charm to them, featuring 80's music and being somewhat fun to watch.
The art is pretty nice too. I like how they portrayed New York, and the character designs look alright, despite being pretty standard for that era.
The animation is nice enough, but for an OVA from 1989, it does seem a bit lacking compared to the other stuff that was coming out at the time.
Overall, Cipher feels like wasted potential. The whole film feels more like an extended intro to an 80's movie, and the last scene of the film feels more like it should be the first scene after the opening credits. However, the film just kind of ends, right as it feels like it's about to begin. It's really bizarre.
If this had been longer and we got more dialogue and an actual story played out, then this could have been a pretty interesting way to start a movie, but as a work on it's own, it just falls really short, and fails to deliver on the loose premise that they set up.
Despite that, I can't say I despised it...read more