Manga Guide to Cryptography

The Manga Guide to Cryptography by Masaaki Mitani, Shinichi Sato, Idero Hinoki is a rather improbable book. Can you really teach crypto, a notably math heavy subject, through a graphic novel? The answer is: sorta.


No Starch Press has published several of these 'manga guides'. I previously read the Manga Guide to Physiology and enjoyed it. Each of these is a book written by Japanese authors to teach a scientific subject. There are cute characters and some semblence of a plot, but they exist purely to teach you something. I think the plot of the phyisiology book was about a grad student studying to pass her phyisology final while flirting with the dreamy post-doc who's tutoring her. Not exactly Shakespear, but it gets the point across. I learned quite a bit about the circulatory and endocrine systems.

I felt that the Manga Guide to Cryptography was harder ot learn from. The problem is that crypto really requires a lot of serious math. In the story (a plot involving catching a jewel thief) the characters learn to decipher various codes by recounting the history of crypto development from Caeser's cipher through modern public key infrastructure. The general ideas behind crypto are well explained, however at least once a chapter they take a diversion into deep math that completely lost me. In fairness, one of the characters in the book was completely lost as well.

Overall I enjoyed the book and learned a lot of the general concepts, but I definitely couldn't implement my own cryptographic system based on what I learned in the book.

Should you buy it? Yes, if you want to get the general ideas behind crypto.

The Manga Guide to Cryptography on Amazon, on No Starch Press.

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Posted October 9th, 2018

Tagged: bookreview