TL;DR: Cipher is one of the absolute strangest manga I've ever read, but underneath the layers of whack you can find a basic, typical shojo.
I'm not sure if I'm even qualified to talk about Cypher because I only mustered up the strength to read about 40 chapters? Can't say for certain, it was a bit ago.
Alright, where to even start with Cipher?
I got introduced to Cipher from a Kenny Lauderdale video touching on the wild OVA that was released, and this is what initially peaked my interest in the series. I was already interested in that era of anime and manga, so it was only natural for me to pick up the original manga and give it to try.
The first notable thing you will realize about Cipher is that it takes place in New York. In... America.
Side note - There's a line in the manga that goes something like, "The real names of the twin towers... are (the twin's real names, I removed bcuz it is technically a spoiler)... and nothing could ever tear the towers apart.
Haha. Definitely didn't age too well.
Going off of that note, Cipher is extremely dated. Extremely. Everything about it - the art style, the scenery, literally everything just screams the 1980s. It seems to me that the author was a big fan of American music of the time, and that sort of spirals into everything that Cipher is.
Now let me organize the review in an easier way:
I feel like I've seen every single story beat somewhere else before. Cipher is just, you know, shojo. What makes it mostly unique is the setting, 1980s New York. And honestly? I think the mangaka did a decent job making it atmospheric. I've personally only been to New York once before, but there weren't too many moments where I had to suspend my disbelief about the physical setting. However, it becomes clear that the author is definitely not American the moment you delve into the characters' actions.
For example, a big thing in the manga is about kissing. Bare with me here - the twins' special thing is that they kiss each other. All the time. No, they're not homosexuals, and no, they're not, um, incest? They just... kiss each other. And that's their thing. Also, I distinctly remember a point in the manga where Anise is talking about how you can just "kiss your close friends and family in America" and just smack dab kisses her dad on the lips. Of course I could be remembering this wrong, but thinking back on that scene still feels weird. Never have I ever seen or met anyone who just kisses people like that. And close friends? Am I missing something? Do all of you just smooch your besties? There's a chance that I'm just young and kissing people was a thing in the 80s, but I can almost guarantee that twins aren't supposed to do that.
The romance aspect was pretty strong at first, but then it faded away and the story revolved more on drama and personal conflict with the twins. I won't lie, I found the romance more interesting than the drama, and that's probably why I faded off from reading the series in the first place. The drama was, well, drama.
Anise is your basic shojo protagonist, and that's about all I can do to describe her personality. About the twins, there's supposed to be a difference between them, but after 6 volumes I still couldn't really tell them apart.
Something interesting I found about Cipher was that it had one of the most diverse cast I've ever seen... and this came out in the 80s! The twins themselves are part Indian, and there's even more differently-colored faces appearing in the manga. This isn't really a big deal, I just felt I should mention it.
Well, it's just that 80s manga art, reminds me of stuff like Itazura Na Kiss. Good enough, very expressive.
My thoughts are all jumbled right now but I'll edit this review later? Thank you for reading.