The Manga Guide to Cryptography

The Manga Guide to Cryptography

When I was a kid, I found codes and cyphers interesting, because the idea of communicating secretly was appealing. Now, with business conducted on the internet, they’ve become even more important. The latest in the Manga Guide series tackles the subject. The Manga Guide to Cryptography is written by Masaaki Mitani and Shinichi Sato and illustrated by Idero Hinoki.

For the manga part, there has to be a story, and as usual for this series, it stars a schoolgirl. Ruka wants her big brother, a police inspector, to buy her a computer to study math. (The book was originally published in 2007, which explains why some of this plot feels a little out of date.) She’s hanging around when a painting is stolen from a museum by Ms. Cypher, who leaves behind a note to be decoded to determine her next target. Ruka explains the process and history of cipher algorithms to her somewhat-dense brother.

This volume is more text-heavy than others, as the key concepts — encryption and decryption methods, classic ciphers, shared-key encryption — can’t effectively be communicated as a comic. The manga story is also pretty artificial, without any of these characters reaching more than one dimension. They exist only to spout formulas and names at us.

The Manga Guide to Cryptography

The book quickly becomes very jargon-heavy and dense to follow. All the fun aspects of ciphers disappear in favor of heavy math, including binary operations, prime number factorization, and modular arithmetic, used for identity verification online. I found it disappointing and a chore to complete.

There are preview pages at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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