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The Manga Guide to Cryptography Review by Laurie Gauger

By Masaaki Mitani, Shinichi Sato, Idero Hinoki, and Verte Corp.
No Starch Press

Are there any Manga fans out there? If you answered yes, then this is a review that will interest you. This month, I have been reviewing, with the wonderful help from my daughter, The Manga Guide to Cryptography. I will tell you up front, that I have zero experience with both Manga and Cryptography. For that reason, I thought; hey why not see what it is all about? I suppose that you would guess that with the word Manga in the title, there would be an emphasis on comics throughout this book, and you would be correct. Much of the text is in comic book Manga form. The book is broken down into four sections:

- The Foundations of Encryption

-Symmetric-Key Algorithms

-Public-Key Encryption

-Practical Applications of Encryption

-What's Next?

The book begins with a crisis. Someone has stolen a masterpiece from a museum. They have left a clue, but it is in a sort of code, that no one there can decipher. What will they do? How will they solve the mystery? Fortunately, someone there recognizes the jumble of letters as cryptography. Now all they need to do is figure out the code, and they can nab the thief. The rest of the story follows in the same manner. The story plays out throughout, in comic form. Instructions and tips in learning to code in this way are also presented largely in comic form. So, what are some of the concepts related to Cryptography that will be learned?

- What a Cipher is, various types, security

- Binary digits, logical operators, CBC mode, DES Ciphers, DES encryption

- Converting data into binary

- One Way functions, Modulo operations, the structure of RSA encryption

- Hybrid encryption, Hash functions, Identity Fraud, and its countermeasure

- Digital signatures, Public key infrastructure

Throughout, this book, you will (hopefully) learn the math behind cryptography. 

When considering this review, I had my youngest daughter in mind. It seemed to be a subject that would interest her. I did not realize the math that would be involved in the process. I was, naively, I admit, thinking that this was a fun kind of codes book. Of course, if you are a lover of all things, or maybe most things, math, this could be a great resource for you. Unfortunately, we are not that family. Math is the subject that continues to be the least favorite, although we try! Still, we persevered. My daughter found the chapters to be fairly long, and at most points, for her anyway, difficult to understand. This quickly became a book to simply get through, for her. Thinking that I might have a different take on it, I gave it a go after her, only to have similar opinions.

That was not the only issue for us. I have never been a Manga follower, but I have heard that some, maybe many, often have quite suggestive illustrations. I am sorry to say that this was the case in this book. There are quite a few drawings of a young lady wearing very suggestive clothing, in suggestive poses, with male characters literally drooling over them. My daughter was disgusted, and I cannot say that I appreciated them either. If nothing else, for that reason, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this book for younger children. Everyone has their own stance on what is acceptable, but for our family, even for my high school daughters, this is not a book that I would recommend.

-Product review by Laurie Gauger, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, November, 2018