Last updated on June 9th, 2016
Reminiscent of a full-colour graphic novel and manga (Japanese comic), Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws details the murky past of the ninja through its beautifully exaggerated illustrations and funny commentary by its authors. Despite the book having the feel of a comic, its contents are factual, unless you count the ninja folklores taken from the history of Old Japan.
The Flow of Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws
Written and illustrated in chronological order, Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws begins with a foreword, guide on using the book and a rough timeline of the people that mattered in the ninja’s history. The accompanying map adds to the readers understanding and provides visual context on the territories and historical ninja events within Old Japan.
The book is divided into five main sections, the first three introducing the people related to the history of the ninja, be it ninja, their enemies or other influential people. The latter two sections discusses famous ninja folklores and modern-day ninja pop culture (and movie references) respectively. These sections are: ‘Ninja Ancestors’, ‘The Golden Years’, ‘Transformations’, ‘The Legend Begins’ and ‘Real Ninja, Reel Ninja’.
In between each main section, the authors sneaks in illustrated sub-sections that visually introduces ninja topics such as ninja tools, ninja medicine and the art of discerning snoring. This allows for a brief break for readers who have been reading about ninja individuals and their back story that collectively span the entire history of Japan, from the Sengoku Era to the Azuchi-Momoyama Era to the Edo Era and to the Meiji Era – from the birth of the ninja to their eventual demise (depending on how you see it).
Thoughts on the book & who will find it useful
When Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws arrived in the mail from Tuttle Publishing, it would be an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve read this book numerous times at the library but have never finished it due to my obsessive desire to memorise the names and chronology of ninja history before moving on. Now, with the book in my ownership, there really is no need for me to do any memory work and I can freely jump through the pages as I like.
But that doesn’t say much about the book, does it? To put it in perspective, Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws is very much like my Cliff Notes to Japanese ninja history – the major difference is that these set of ‘notes’ are visually illustrated and so much more interesting. It is my lazy go-to guide for quick ninja references, which is to say, Japanese history buffs or ninja enthusiasts who dread reading tomes of translated texts will be grateful for the efforts of Hiroko Yoda, Matt Alt and Yutaka Kondo to piece together the back story of the old ninja world in an interesting format.
Another group of readers who would enjoy reading this book would be anime and manga fans, especially those who follow the Naruto series. From the famous Jiraiya to the obscure characters, you will find out the inspiration behind your favourite characters. Alas, for martial artists, you aren’t going to find much useful combat techniques or practical ninja tools here – there is information but the practicality have died out in this modern-age. But if you are looking to draw inspiration and adapt from vague fighting strategies and the ninjas’ creative knack for innovation, this is the right book for you.
Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws, while not a must-have, is a good reference guide for beginner and experienced (lazy) ninja enthusiasts alike. The authors’ candid writing style and comical illustrations makes this book an interesting historical ninja read, even for people who find history too dry a topic to digest.
Disclosure: ‘Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai and Outlaws’ was given to me by Tuttle Publishing in return for my honest review. I have not and will not fake my reviews for monetary or other benefits since this is against what Way Of Ninja and I represent. Also, the links provided to Amazon will allow Way Of Ninja to earn a small commission but will not cost you any more.