Modern movies give a taste or a shadow of what modern espionage is about, i.e. the kind of people working in that world and the techniques they frequently employ. However, medieval espionage is more obscure. Of course, there are a few manuals on medieval spying systems and practices, but they are not something you pick off the public library or just any bookstore.


Believe it or not, Secrets of the Ninja is a guide on medieval espionage. Its contents are culled and interpreted from Shinobi Hiden, one of the world’s oldest and real ninja manuals. The Shinobi Hiden is said to have been written by Hattori Hanzo (also known as Hanzo the Devil), a military leader and shinobi commander.


Apart from explaining a bit about the Japanese espionage methods, Secrets of the Ninja corrects a few Western misconceptions about Japanese ninjas. For example, it says that:
“Ninjutsu is not a form of hand-to-hand combat. Ninjutsu is the art of infiltration and espionage.”



On the issue of the black suit worn by ninjas as portrayed in Western movies, the book says:
“The “ninja suit” was not worn by medieval shinobi. While they sometimes did wear black, masks were common at the time and many people would have worn black with a hood to conceal the face. The ninja would not have worn this garb during the Warring States period of Japan’s history, but rather would have worn light armor on night raids and normal samurai garb or military wear on missions of stealth.”


A unique trait of Secrets of the Ninja is that it interprets the ancient manual and transforms it into a story form, albeit in a graphic novel format. In the book, you follow Nagata-sensei as he teaches his students about shinobi techniques and ethics as well as showing them various equipment and how to use them. Also, Nagata-sensei takes care to put these teachings into practice when he takes them on missions.



Secrets of the Ninja's artwork is very structured and professional. It is detailed and draw us into the setting of the story. The dialogue is natural and capture the essence of medieval Japan.
At the end of the book is a more detailed description of some ninja tools mentioned in the story. It is a nice touch and will please medieval weapons enthusiasts.




Secret of the Ninja is a wonderful manual for beginners who desire to have a peep into the red world of ancient Japanese spies. Heartily recommended.


Secret of the Ninja is written by Sean Michale Wilson and illustrated by Akiko Shimojima. It is published by Blue Snake Books (July 7, 2015).


Many thanks to Servant: Blue Snake Books for review copy.  All images are © to their respective owners.

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