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People on Livejournal-- this is a manual crosspost of the DW post which went up last night here. For some reason or other, despite the fact that none of my settings have changed, it failed to crosspost. Does anyone have any idea why it might have done that?

This book does do what I wanted it to do, which is to sort out the mass of references to shinobi in accounts of the wars surrounding the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate into 'historically probable', 'historically possible', and 'totally and completely mythical'. (The vast majority fall into that last category.)

However, it's, well. There is not much material, period, about ninjas that isn't incredibly full of myth and speculation, and there certainly isn't much in English. The author has therefore resorted to printing the speculation-- it's pretty clearly marked, but he keeps doing a thing where he'll say 'the following could not possibly have happened' and then go on for three paragraphs about it. This would be more forgivable if he were telling the popular version, but sometimes he is clearly just going on about what it would have been cool to have a ninja do in the circumstances, which is both unnecessary and, to me personally at least, kind of boring. Also, the illustrations are incredibly sensationalistic, and he reprints a lot of plates from the seventeenth-century Bansen Shukai, a collection of ninja stuff, without ever talking much about what that collection is or whether it was intended to be factual; this makes me less inclined to trust him over the things he puts into the category of 'historically probable'.

You can't have it both ways, really. Either you can have a book about the nature of covert operations in Japanese warfare and how the idea of covert operations interacts with samurai ideology and how all the myths arose and where the Western ideas about ninjas came from, which is a book I would like to read very much, thank you, or you can have a book about how cool it would be if all those myths were historically true and wouldn't it have been awesome if Hattori Hanzo were as badass as everybody says he is in anime, and honestly I don't need that book as there is all this internet in the world. This book was trying to be both at once and therefore probably not succeeding at either to anyone's real satisfaction, because people who want to hear about Cool Stuff may well be annoyed at the author continually pointing out that none of the devices people have claimed ninjas used to walk on water actually, you know, work, and the rest of us can certainly be annoyed at the general tone.

Not recommended. Does anyone know a better reference work on the same topic?
rushthatspeaks: (Default)
This book does do what I wanted it to do, which is to sort out the mass of references to shinobi in accounts of the wars surrounding the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate into 'historically probable', 'historically possible', and 'totally and completely mythical'. (The vast majority fall into that last category.)

However, it's, well. There is not much material, period, about ninjas that isn't incredibly full of myth and speculation, and there certainly isn't much in English. The author has therefore resorted to printing the speculation-- it's pretty clearly marked, but he keeps doing a thing where he'll say 'the following could not possibly have happened' and then go on for three paragraphs about it. This would be more forgivable if he were telling the popular version, but sometimes he is clearly just going on about what it would have been cool to have a ninja do in the circumstances, which is both unnecessary and, to me personally at least, kind of boring. Also, the illustrations are incredibly sensationalistic, and he reprints a lot of plates from the seventeenth-century Bansen Shukai, a collection of ninja stuff, without ever talking much about what that collection is or whether it was intended to be factual; this makes me less inclined to trust him over the things he puts into the category of 'historically probable'.

You can't have it both ways, really. Either you can have a book about the nature of covert operations in Japanese warfare and how the idea of covert operations interacts with samurai ideology and how all the myths arose and where the Western ideas about ninjas came from, which is a book I would like to read very much, thank you, or you can have a book about how cool it would be if all those myths were historically true and wouldn't it have been awesome if Hattori Hanzo were as badass as everybody says he is in anime, and honestly I don't need that book as there is all this internet in the world. This book was trying to be both at once and therefore probably not succeeding at either to anyone's real satisfaction, because people who want to hear about Cool Stuff may well be annoyed at the author continually pointing out that none of the devices people have claimed ninjas used to walk on water actually, you know, work, and the rest of us can certainly be annoyed at the general tone.

Not recommended. Does anyone know a better reference work on the same topic?

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