Summary: Good resource for wargamers and samurai history enthusiasts
Comment: I've been reading Turnbull's other Osprey books; after having read "War in Japan" (a good introduction), then the more detailed "Kawanakajima" (good close-up on a "battle"), I turned to this book.
I'm glad I read the books in the order I did. Without having a feel for what role the ashigaru or the samurai leaders (bodyguards, commanders, etc.), I think I would have been lost reading this book. You probably need to know how armies went into battle, in what order, for what purpose to pick up on the nuances here. This book expands on the material aspects of the soldier only briefly touched upon in the other books. Little detailed sections like "Religious Symbolism in Heraldry" and "The Common People" (with its discussion of how mon heraldry was forbidden to the people, kabuki)) -- very interesting.
Out of the Osprey books I've read or browsed so far, this one avoids the series' #1 sin: recycling. Most of the pictures and artwork are fresh so I feel like there is some value in having it. It's a nice read to understand how the armies appeared on the battlefield, in their camps, in the castles, etc.
McBride's illustrations are perhaps the best I've seen so far in the Osprey Japan books -- very atmospheric; they remind me of comic book artist Frank Miller's art (Ronin, 300, etc.).
3/5 stars: probably only for the history or wargaming buff.
Summary: Dude with too much time
Comment: For those of you who are trying to draw samurai with flags, banners or just like reading about them then this book is a good pick.
It shows (in detail) the flags used by different families and clans and tells what type of flags were used by whom. From the Minamoto to the Tokugawa shogunate, it shows you hundreds of banners and exlpains the hereldry of the banner and in some cases why the symbol was used by that family, though it mainly shows the clan symbols of less known families and not the great ones(ex.Takeda, Toyotomi, Tokugawa, to find these ones look at the book "Samurai, An illustrated history. By: Mitsuo Kure)
Like all osprey series books it contains a few well drawn and highly detailed pictures in the middle of it and explains each page in full detail, thus the book helps you to undestand the differences between the flags and the banners.
A great buy for collectors and people studying the Samurai, though the text is a little hard to understand (being that it was written by a graduate from Oxford University, England)