Summary: Way to fictional !
Comment: While Turnbull usually tells about historical persons and events - this time he wanders off into fiction...
About half of the book is rather good, telling the reader about the real ninjas of past - i.e. normal samurai and peasants working as spies and undercover agents (without special equipment or silly black uniforms)...
...while the other half of the book is about the fictional black clad super martial artists (i.e. the Hollywood and Japanese Iga/Koga-province tourist version).
Those of you who can think for themselves probably understands how silly the whole concept with special "Ninja-swords" etc. is, considering they were supposed to act undercover...
To make one thing perfectly clear: Ninjas (as we know them) are a myth, no such individuals ever existed. They were made up in the last hundred years, to give samurai (in movies and TV-series) suitable adversaries.
Later on people understood that there were money to be made on the Ninjas - Martial art systems were invented (mixing existing traditions) and movie companies in the west started to use Ninjas as Bad (and sometimes Good) Guys. The Swedish Film "The Ninja Mission" being the first to place Ninjas in a modern setting.
I do understand, and even respect, that mr Turnbull sacrifices truth in order to sell more of this book (as I understand him reusing Samurai material in dozens of similar books - I have atleast ten...).
In short, despite this book mixing fact and fiction it is a good book on the subject.
Summary: Perfect Ninja Book
Comment: I love this book! It strips away all the mythology and stuff we think is true because its in the movies and examines the historical shinobi ('ninja'), his role, training, tactics, motives, and his equipment. I cannot believe how many tools they had for getting into castles and killing their victims. One of the last sections of the book, 'Ninja in War' tells the heroic story of real life ninja and their involvement in the campaigns of the Sengoku Jidai Period. Interestingly, the author says that the ninja often disguised themselves as monks or enemy samurai, yet of the 48 ninja depicted in action in the plates, all but two are clad in the classic black ninja garb. The plates are also very good, and the plate commentary has helped me in my study of the ninjas' tools. The best book I have read on the subject, highly recommended for anyone seeking to read about the real ninja.
Summary: Ninja Ad
Comment: most books from the Osprey Publishing to well to educate thoroughly on a matter in history, this one was no different.
Summary: Ninjas in Detail
Comment: Military historian Steven Turnbull does an excellent job of portraying historical ninjas in this thin volume. A lot of the book on ninjas cover either ninja legends or "ninjitsu" which is a kind of reconstructed martial art which is practiced mainly by American ninja fans and Japanese who are working at ninja theme parks. Turnbull strips all this away and shows us what an authentic ninja was like. The real ninja was a mercenary who specialized in espionage, sabotage, and assassination. The image of a black-clad ninja is perhaps inaccurate. The point of espionage is not to get noticed, so ninja were more likely to be dressed as everyday people in order to infiltrate towns and castles. There are, however, lots of illustrations and photos of black-clad ninjas. Perhaps undercover ninjas are not so interesting to look at. The time period covered is 1460-1650 which was the golden age of ninjas, and which roughly corresponds to the Sengoku (Warring States) period of Japanese history. After this time period, Japan was in a state of peaceful unification and isolation which rendered the ninjas obsolete.
One great point of this book is that it introduces the excellent ninja museum in Iga-Ueno in Mie prefecture. I've visited this museum and they have a ninja house and a wonderful collection of fascinating ninja tools. The highlight of visiting the museum is the excellent ninja show. If you visit the Osaka or Kyoto area, and you have an extra free day, I recommend that ninja fans visit this place and check it out.
Summary: Turnbull does it again
Comment: This is a fascinating and easy-to-read book about the ninja and shinobi of Japanese history. And it should be noted I say "history" for a reason; Stephen Turnbull explains in the introduction that he took great lengths to make sure his sources were accurate and that he stayed away from the legends of myths accompanied with ninja. He'll mention ninja kites, but not ninja glides...and forget about the human bomb ninjas you saw in the kung fu movie "Duel to the Death."
The book presents diagrams and detailed explanations of the different equipments and tactics used by ninja, and also gives some insight into their history, including their war with Oda Nobunaga and their eventual service with the Tokugawa Shogunate (there is a very interesting reason as to why they joined the Tokugawa so willingly). The most fascinating part was the tale of how a ninja killed Uesugi Kenshin - this was by sticking a spear into him while hidden in the toilet (I won't go into graphic detail). It's a strange (and darkly humorous) tale, but Turnbull eventually dismisses it as legend using evidence that Kenshin died of stomach cancer.
Overall I enjoyed this read. It was a very educated look into the world of ninja from a neutral perspective, but I found it to be a good read. Another fine reason why my respect for the Osprey series remains high.