Cipher article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 3, No. 10, September 2000
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

Every once in a while a comic is written with enough references to pop culture to make it extremely popular in the short run and a story engaging enough to make it a classic in the long run. Cipher is such a story. This twelve-volume series, set mainly in New York City, ran in Hana to Yume from 1985 to 1990 and made its creator, Minako Narita, one of the most popular shojo artists of her time. This story about the handsome twin brothers, Cipher and Siva, and the girl who is fascinated by them will entertain most any shojo fan and is sure to stir some nostalgia in readers who grew up during the eighties.

Anise is irresistible, and she's determined to become friends with Siva, the most famous guy in school. Siva is famous because he and his twin have been models since they were babies and acting since they were seven. Siva is now going to prep school while his younger brother, Cipher, still works and goes to an art performance school. When Anise manages to blurt out her intention, the reason she gives is that Siva has a mark on his forehead, just like her. Of course, his is a bindi*, while hers is a mole, but Anise declares it's grounds enough for friendship. "Friend is the highest title a person can hold!" How can he say no? Later, when her friends suggest she'll be competing with all the girls he knows, Anise reaffirms that she just wants to be Siva's friend.

After school, they come across a mugging. Siva does nothing, explaining, "I don't want to risk my life; this is New York." Furious, Anise tries to help, with Siva chasing after. Surprisingly, the mugger backs down once he hears Siva's name. Siva escorts the victim home, leaving Anise to catch her own train. When Anise gets home to her divorced dad (who is almost inhumanly understanding throughout the comic), she realizes from the blood on her shirt that Siva must have cut his hand while hopping the fence to go after her. The next day, she worries over Siva's wound. She thanks him for saving her, but won't apologize for doing what she feels was right.

The day after that, Siva's wound is miraculously healed. When he lends the latest Hall and Oates album to a friend, Anise whines that she wants to borrow it next. The friend decides ladies first, and Anise happily borrows the LP. Inside the bag she finds money and an organizer and goes to Siva's apartment to return them. This is how she finds out Siva's secret: Siva and Cipher live together and alternate going to class and work! Since seeing them at school isn't enough to learn to tell them apart, Anise decides to move in with them to figure out who's who. If they don't let her, Anise says she'll blab their secret. How can they say no?

While there are plenty of hijinks and laughs in Cipher, ultimately it's a story about growing up. The characters, through shared experiences and on their own, must work their way through deep personal issues and learn to overcome their complicated pasts. The bond between the twins is strong and intimate (initially causing Anise and others to think they're gay), which adds another layer of richness and depth to the emotions of the story.

Why do guys who profess to be Protestants wear bindis? What is the reason behind their almost disturbing closeness? Does Anise really stick to her treatise of just wanting to be friends? Of course, you'll have to check out the series to find out. Sadly, the only animated Cipher is the elusive music video which came out in 1989, but for guys this gorgeous, it's worth finding.

*A "bindi" is a mark worn on the forehead, usually by women of Hindu faith.