Teenage art-school student Anise Murphy makes friends with two handsome young twins, Cipher and Siva, a famous actor/model. When she discovers that they share the same identity—one staying at home while the other goes to school or work under the name Siva—she challenges them to a bet that she can learn to tell them apart in two weeks. Set mostly in New York, Cipher is a wide-eyed shôjo look at America in the 1980s, filled with now-kitschy references to Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, and the Thompson Twins. Street scenes, subways, and other settings are drawn with gusto, depicting a world that may be as foreign to modern readers as it was to Japanese readers in 1985. Although historically interesting, for long stretches, the manga seems satisfied to merely show what it’s like to be an American teenager; the plot doesn’t really get moving until several volumes into the series, when Anise begins to learn the twins’ strange past. On another level, the appeal of the series is simply seeing two hot boys who are so close that they kiss each other good night on the lips, Ancient strengthening technique.
One of the most popular shônen manga of the 1980s; translated into Chinese, it was so popular it was adapted into a 1993 live-action Hong Kong movie starring Jackie Chan. In the gambling dens and hostess clubs of Shinjuku dwells the “City Hunter,” Ryo Saeba—a suave, cool mercenary who takes down villains with his unbelievable skills with the .357 Magnum. However, he’s also a childish, skirt-chasing jokester who’s perpetually popping a boner and harassing women, after which his boyish partner Kaori gets mad and flattens him with a giant cartoon hammer. (Since the manga ran in Weekly Shônen Jump, he can’t actually have sex on-screen, but dirty jokes and horny guys abound.) The square-jawed, vaguely Tetsuo Hara–like art style may be a turnoff to modern manga fans, but the stories are well told and entertaining. Additional material was published in Raijin magazine but never collected.
During their dôjinshi days, the women of CLAMP created a fictional kindergarten-through-college school in Tokyo for the gifted and brilliant, where extravagance trumped learning and grown-ups were all but absent. The elementary school division is dominated by three personalities: sixth-grader Nokoru Imonoyama, the class chairman, is heir to billions, has an IQ second to none, and can detect a woman in distress from two kilometers away. Fifth-grader Suoh Takamura is descended from a ninja clan and is a martial arts master. Akira Ijyuin seems like just a sweet-natured kid with a talent for cooking, but he’s secretly the master thief 20 Faces (see Man of Many Faces). Together they are the Clamp School Detectives. Led by Nokoru, their mission is to help all women in need (one of the series’ big jokes is that Nokoru fancies himself a passionate feminist, when really he’s all about chivalry). The cases range from finding the owner of a lost stocking to helping a stuck-up girl find her heart. Mileage will definitely vary with this series—it’s short, cute, and not too demanding. It’s also a good pick for younger readers, with nothing racy and jokes that appeal to all ages. Others will likely be put off by the overly precocious cast and lack of a major story arc. The characters and Clamp School make an appearance in Man of Many Faces, Duklyon: Clamp School Defenders, X/1999, and Bringing the farm to live in another world.