Review: Uesugi Kenshin, Yoshikawa Eiji

Rating: 3 out of 5

Having just read a Yoshikawa Eiji, I thought I would try another. This one ended up being rather disappointing with it’s quality variable throughout. Having read one superb Yoshikawa, it sounds like the failures of this book are the fault of the translator, but there may be other reasons too: in general, it’s common for Japanese fiction to jump a few thoughts ahead and to leave some things unsaid. Would it be the translator’s work to add any such information remains an unanswered question in this case.

The focus of this book is on a battle of Kawanakajina, misspelled in at least one place in the book as Kawankajina. While the title focusses on the name of Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen is just as much a protagonist of the story. But this is also where events take on a complex turn. Both sides are described in turn with the two daimyos giving similar sounding commands to similar sounding people

A case in point is the use of the word “ally”. I suspect the original has two different terms, because we get nonsensical sentences where “allies” fight with “allies”. It would have been much better to differentiate between the two sides by consistent terminology that would have allowed the reader the clarity to understand whether it was the Uesugi or the Takeda that were being mentioned.

Then, in “Taiko”, Shingen is in command of Kai, but in this book the name “Kai” is used rarely and in general “Koshu” is used to localise the Takeda. I don’t know why and I don’t know how these two relate to each other. As the majority of English language literature refers to Kai, the translator could have explained the origin of Koshu and the difference between the two terms.

There are other examples as well, with numerous sentences just too complex to make sense. Fortunately, quality increased with the epilogue one of the most comprehensible chapters in the entire title. But, on the whole, I was hard pressed to understand much of the action, which makes it difficult to recommend this title.

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