Retcons are always a controversial part of any story, but one new Shonen Jump manga is including one in a brilliant way: Cipher Academy by Nisioisin and Yuji Iwasaki, an innovative manga about Iroha Irohazaka, a boy trying to survive at a cutthroat school for codebreakers. This isn’t the first time the series has put an interesting spin on classic manga storytelling, but this instance works especially well considering how many people revile retcons of any kind.


In Chapter #12, Iroha finds out that her rival Toshusai was once the victim of a punishment game that forces her to say things about butts at least ten times a day. This explains why the usually serious Toshusai has used vulgar phrases over the course of the series, which forced Cipher Academy to get creative with censorship too. However, it also contradicts an earlier explanation for her slang in Chapter 6, which said her use of a certain phrase was due to a pun in the Kansai dialect. The character Kogoe, who often comments on the events of the manga and serves as an author stand-in directly acknowledges this, apologizing for the retcon. While they do say they initially considered fixing this in the graphic novel version of the manga, they ultimately decided to leave the incorrect explanation in as they feel there is meaning in a text that looks true but is actually false.

Related: One Shonen Jump Series Shows How to Resurrect Cancelled Manga

Cipher Academy Makes Its Retcon Better By Acknowledging It

The brilliant retcon in Cipher Academy

This is a refreshing take on retcons, especially when compared to other series, which rarely acknowledge them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as sometimes these retcons can be as simple as refining rough and unfinished art, like Hunter x Hunter did in its volumes. But occasionally these changes can be more confusing, such as Hirohiko Araki changing Pucci’s final stand’s name from “Stairway to Heaven” to “Made in Heaven” in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 6. For fans who want these works to remain consistent, these changes can be frustrating, even if it ultimately improves a manga’s quality.

Luckily, Cipher Academy’s retcon is presented in a way that fans can’t really be mad about. It makes both the incorrect explanation and the retcon canon at the same time, which paradoxically makes it less confusing than an unacknowledged change. In addition, it turns it both into a meta joke and a surprisingly deep statement about art and aesthetics. More series should learn from this approach, both in the manga industry and outside of it.

More Series Should Do Retcons Like Cipher Academy

Iroha from Cipher Academy

Not every series can directly acknowledge retcons in this way, as the meta humor and wordplay of Cipher Academy (that makes it hard to translate) would be out of place in a more serious story. But even having characters acknowledge these changes in-universe without breaking the fourth wall would likely appease fans upset about continuity changes. Retcons are practically unavoidable for most stories, but by following Cipher Academy’s example, other series can incorporate them without making their fans confused or upset.

All chapters of Cipher Academy are available to read from Viz Media.

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