Review: The Satsuma Rebellion, Sean Michael Wilson

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Satsuma Rebellion, or at least its Hollywood version in ‘The Last Samurai’, is probably known to many but understood, in depth, by few. As the introduction to this book presents that is partially because few would want to expend much energy to delve in detail into a failed uprising. Yet, as Mr Wilson makes clear in this endeavour it was not at all certain at the time that it would fail—and in the minds of many of the people of the time, this rebellion was a very significant event.

This take, though in a comic book form, doesn’t go easy on the subject. Perhaps these words were not necessary though often enough books, as other things, are valued on their form and not on substance. Well, I’ll say again, that even my often overly great wish for detail was well supported by Mr Wilson’s exploration of the rebellion. Also, for those who want it, the first chapter summarises more than thirty of the preceding years in order to create some sort a logical narrative for the reader.

What I wish would have been better are more detail on Saigo Takamori who didn’t quite jump out from these pages as a fully-developed person. The same on Yamagata Aritomo would have also been quite helpful as he was portrayed as the anti-Saigo leader. Illustrating Yamagata’s backstory would have presented a nicer contrast in what the two factions (if we can call them that) believed the future needed.

Nevertheless, I’ve liked Mr Wilson’s summaries in the past, and this one had more beef to it than I would have expected.

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