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Cipher Academy Chapter 1 Review – “World War IV Will Be Fought With Pencils And Paper”

For the second week in a row, we got a new Shonen Jump series debut with a simulpub release. This week it is Cipher Academy, known as Angō Gakuen no Iroha in Japan. The series is written by NisiOisiN with artwork from Yūji Iwasaki. NisiOisiN , also known as Nisio Isin, has over two decades in the industry working on both light novels, manga, and anime. In NisiOisiN long career he has created various franchises with his best-known work are light novel Monogatari and the manga Medaka Box. Yūji Iwasaki has worked on a few of one-shot manga with NisiOisiN so there is already a history of working together before working on Cipher Academy. Let’s check out what this new Shonen Jump manga is all about with Cipher Academy Chapter 1.


Writer: NisiOisiN

Artist: Yūji Iwasaki


At Cipher Academy, Japan’s premiere cryptanalysis high school, young boy Iroha Irohazaka enrolls as one of the few boys in the school. Iroha is completely overwhelmed by the Self-Introduction Crossword code he and the other students are given.

Fellow student Kyora Toshusai is the only one who finishes the assignment before class ends. Kyora then makes it clear she is there to kick ass.

Later, in the library, Iroha helps hide Kogoe Horagatoge from Kyora, who was looking to recruit Kogoe as a subordinate. Afterward Kogoe gives Iroha special glasses that help him create the crossword code.

The next day Iroha is cornered by Kyora and her two subordinates, Yukako Omomuro and Tayu Yugata, as they question if Iroha got help from Kogoe.

When Iroha plays dumb Kyora gives Iroha a code to decipher and if he can’t solve it, proving he is lying, Iroha will become Kyora’s manservant for the next three years.

Iroha at first struggles but when he puts on Kogoe’s special glasses is able to find the key Kanji characters to solve the code. After spending some time analyzing the Kanji characters and what they could lead to he gives Kyora the answer “Iroha Irohazaka.”

Iroha Irohazaka Problem Solving Ability
Iroha Irohazaka uses special smart glasses to figure out a code in Cipher Academy Chapter 1. Credit: VIZ Media

When Kyora questions Iroha about how he got to that conclusion Iroha’s explanation is enough to satisfy Kyora.

As Kyora, Yukako, and Tayu are walking away Kogoe’s voice comes through the glasses and acts like Iroha is telling Kyora since she lost Kyora must become Iroha’s manservant. With a wicked smile, Kyora accepts these terms.

In her lab, Kogoe comments on how Iroha is able to use her war weapon (the special glasses) so well that Iroha will become her tool in the mining war for the 50 million Morg of cryptocurrency within Cipher Academy. End of chapter.


Right out of the gate Cipher Academy makes it clear that the reader should let go of the idea of trying to think ahead of the story. NisiOisiN and Yūji Iwasaki want you to just be along for the ride to find out what answers Iroha Irohazaka comes up with and if they are correct. The problem that NisiOisiN and Iwasaki are that the hook of this series out of the gate is strong enough to hold the reader’s attention for a long-running series.

In concept, a school where the next generation of hackers is being groomed is not a bad one. Even if this means the reader won’t be able to follow along with the execution of ideas the interest is there in what the endgame for this type of school is. A new World War that is teased grounds the story in real-world events that gets you behind the idea that countries like Japan would want to prepare the next generation to fight.

Though NisiOisiN, unfortunately, doesn’t dive in deeper through the one teacher we do see in this chapter to go over this concept more. It’s too bad that after the opening few pages the idea of preparing the next generation, mostly young women, for a new World War is dropped. It takes away from the seriousness of this concept to be more into how nervous Iroha Irohazaka is as the main protagonist. It does get to the point in the first half of this chapter where the concept is more to give comedic beats for Iroha to be involved with rather than making compelling characters and worlds.

This especially impacts the portrayal of Kyora Toshusai character. Right away NisiOisiN and Iwasaki position Kyora to be an antagonist for at least this initial opening arc for Cipher Academy, if not longer. Both from a dialogue and design perspective Kyora is the opposite of Iroha. Kyora is the cold and cool character to Iroha’s lame, nervous character. Which is a good thing to have this type of character balance with your cast right away.

Unfortunately, NisiOisiN and Iwasaki go so all in with Kyora as an antagonist for this opening chapter that by the end she is forced to be wicked just because that is the corner she is placed in. Especially since we lead to believe this is a more modern setting a lot of the ways NisiOisiN decides to portray Kyora and other characters is a system that makes the story feel old.

Not helping things is Iroha Irohazaka as the main character. Because right away we are led to believe that Iroha is smart enough to get into a top school like Cipher Academy. But outside of basic school knowledge, Iroha is presented as just a normal student way over his head. This presentation is made worse in that Iroha isn’t shown able to solve any part of the first cipher he is given until he gets the special smart glasses from Kogoe Horagatoge.

I get the idea of making Iroha a character you want the reader to relate to but NisiOisiN goes a bit too far that when Iroha actually shows their talent in code-breaking its to late. The set-up makes it appear that Iroha is clueless without the special smart glasses Kogoe gives her. With Iroha in the top school, you at least want to see him have some sort of talent. Even if he wasn’t able to fully solve the first cipher without the Kogoe’s glasses. A better idea would’ve been if Iroha was at least able to get half of the crossword done with the glasses helping get the rest as a final confidence push.

But without that Iroha is set up as a character that is useless without the glasses, which we see even with Kyora’s cipher. It’s all a bad set-up for the main character we are supposed to be behind. This causes the moments at the end where we see Iroha’s talents in solving riddles and problems to come across as too late into the chapter. The idea of Iroha being a cheater is already implanted in the reader’s mind.

What saves Iroha’s character is the mystery around Kogoe Horagatoge. We see that Kogoe is being presented as a mastermind who will be manipulating Iroha for their own end game. Right now we know this plan by Kogoe involves the 50 million Morg of cryptocurrency within Cipher Academy. But that is likely not the only end game given the teased war. How all of this works into Kogoe’s concept of heroes that don’t fight in the physical front lines is what will make Iroha’s journey capture a reader’s interest in this first story arc and beyond.

The other place the first chapter of Cipher Academy trips up is in the presentation of the translation by VIZ Media. In particular, the choice of how the codes are presented. When we start the first chapter the translator fully translates the Kanji that Iroha is reading. This creates the false expectation that the translator will help the reader by at least letting us know what the Kanji says in the codes. But we don’t get that so it leaves the non-Japanese speaking reader with the rug pulled out from under them right away. This wouldn’t of been a problem if the translator didn’t create the expectation with the opening page but they did and it made following along with Iroha as they solved Kyora have its momentum slowed down.


The concept behind Cipher Academy is compelling. Unfortunately, the first chapter of Cipher Academy isn’t able to go beyond the concept to present Iroha Irohazaka or their supporting cast as compelling to the reader. It is too bad because there are elements in the story to like but not enough to stick around to read long-term from the first impression of Cipher Academy.

Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10

Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10

Overall Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10