Otaku USA Magazine
Missing Cipher Academy? Bend Your Brain with These Nisio Isin Anime

Miss Cipher Academy but don't quite have the time to start Monogatari?

Cipher Academy was a wild ride while it lasted. Penned by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Yuji Iwasaki, the manga was famous for its heavy-duty cipher cracking and infamous for the strain it put on translators. But with Iroha’s story behind you, are you still craving some of the author’s iconic writing? If you are, and you don’t quite have it in you to brave the vastness of the Monogatari series yet, we have good news: there are plenty of other titles!

Dive into this trio of anime based on Nisio Isin’s past works. Much like his most recent manga, these titles are full of action, intrigue, and mystery. Which ones will you be watching?


Medaka Box

Medaka Box

If you loved the academic weirdness of Cipher Academy—like its grueling metaverse competitions and its implications for the state of world peace—try Medaka Box. Based on the 2009 manga of the same name, this 2012 Gainax adaptation takes us to Hakoniwa Academy. First-year Medaka Kurokami has just been elected student council president with an overwhelming percentage of the student body vote. And her first order of business is the eponymous “Medaka Box”: a suggestion box instated with the goal of bettering the academy.

However, Medaka’s unconventional responses to the suggestions aren’t the weirdest happenings at Hakoniwa Academy. The growing student council learns of the academy chairman’s bizarre goals, and soon they’re thrust into a series of decidedly abnormal battles. Want more once you’ve seen the anime? There are light novels, too!



Juni Taisen: Zodiac War

If the actual battle element of Cipher Academy is what got you going, JUNI TAISEN: ZODIAC WAR may be the show for you. The two titles actually have a lot in common: competitors test their skills against each other, a major prize is at stake, and each participant has a special skill that gives them a unique edge. Except in this case, it’s not cryptocurrency on the line: it’s a wish. And every competitor is betting their life.

Every 12 years, 12 competitors (each embodying an aspect of the Chinese Zodiac) compete in a city-wide battle royale. Each competitor has swallowed a Beast Gem: crystallized poison that will kill them in 12 hours. To win, one fighter must retrieve all 11 other gems by the deadline on December 12. Even with this gritty reality, the story doesn’t end there: a sequel novel titled Zodiac War vs. Zodiac War is also available.


Pretty Boy Detective Club

Pretty Boy Detective Club

Finally, if your love of Cipher Academy comes from the charming protagonist and dedication to solving mysteries, give Pretty Boy Detective Club a go. It focuses on sharp-eyed heroine Mayumi, who enlists the help of the aforementioned club to help her find a star she saw years ago. But once she falls in with them, she finds herself a part of their investigations—conducted for aesthetic reasons rather than any sort of financial gain.

If you think the anime looks gorgeous, check out the light novel! The character designer for Gatchaman Crowds and cozmez (one of the groups in Paradox Live) lends beautiful illustrations to the original book.

Missing Martial Master Asumi, too? Here’s how to fill that void!

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. She is a contributor to the celebrated Black Archive line, with many other books, short stories, and critical works to her name.