Intriguing look at the enigmatic world of the deadly Asian assassin.
Historian and travel writer Man (Samurai, 2011, etc.) carefully plumbs the ninja’s surprisingly intricate history of stealth strategizing. Popularly thought of as “comic-book creatures,” the author re-establishes the folklore of these fearless “shadow warriors” and examines their historical roots in China, where a “proto-ninja” was first thought to have been enlisted. Shrouded in secrecy, these commissioned, intuitive masters of disguise were able to covertly insinuate themselves into situations, carry out orders of espionage or sabotage, and just as elusively, slip out unnoticed from even the most well-guarded fortresses. In an early chapter, the author provides a ninja-style how-to guide of self-protection secrets, though the origins of their skill sets are somewhat sketchy. Man postulates that these ninja talents may have arisen from bandits, mountain ascetics called yamabushi or nomadic monks. With a conversational delivery, the author offers a guided tour through Japan’s many ninja tourist attractions and fascinating glimpses into the shinobi legacy, which survived a hierarchy of unifiers and shoguns only to eventually acquiesce to Western culture’s mythical interpretation of them. In today’s world, Man concludes, a good amount of fantasy is necessary to keep the spirit and the lore of the ninja alive.
A thoroughly researched, appealing examination of the “original men in black.”