This is Osprey’s third book looking at the most emblematic part of Japan’s military history (starting with the 1979 Men-at-Arms Samurai Armies, to the 1989 Elite The Samurai, to this 1994 Warrior book), and it still manages to miss a few opportunities.

The Warrior series generally concentrates on the details of equipment. Other volumes have some full-color ‘exploded’ diagrams of things like swords, showing just how many parts go into such a simple-looking thing, and really showing how that goes together. A few of those would be very handy Japanese armor which works from very different principles. There is a good examination of the parts that go into a katana hilt, and an illustration of all the tools used by armorers along with how they hung armor pieces to assemble them (and a reproduction of of an original source woodcut).

As usual, this volume is graphically very solid. In fact, much more so than many Osprey books on older subjects, which are reliant on what little archaeology can provide. There’s many photos of surviving armor sets, various styles of helmets, etc. There’s also a few shots of Japanese movie sets to help show the kind of world the samurai lived in (I seem to remember those photos were in one of the earlier books, but I haven’t gone back to check). And of course, the Angus McBride art is first-rate.

The text itself is also very good and informative. It hits all the things you’d want and expect in a clear format, and includes essentials of how samurai were trained, what equipment was expected on the march, and so on. I’d say sieges (which were different than the European model) were somewhat underserved, but I expect that is better handled in the later fortress book, and the important parts would move away from the focus of the Warrior series anyway. The text is also helped by having a fairly tight fifty-year focus, which is pretty much at the climax of a lot of the developments discussed.

I have the PDF version of the book, which is obviously a scan of the physical book, and the scans are in very good shape. There’s some crookedness evident, but not distractingly so. Overall, a very good quick guide to the details of medieval Japanese arms and armor, which sadly misses getting down to some of the fiddly detail I’d like.