During the Parliament’s Upper House Election, I traveled across the country to support candidates- I rode plane after plane, train after train, and transportation after transportation. I took this opportunity to finally read the piles of books that had been sitting on my shelf for a while. (Unfortunately, I get carsick, so I cannot read when in a car.)
So, allow me to introduce you to some books that you should and should not read.
Book 1: Sangokushi by Masamitsu Miyagitani (English: The Romance of Three Kingdoms)
Author Masamitsu is a renowned Chinese historical fiction novel writer that arguably represents the genre itself. So, I knew that one day I wanted to read Sangokushi by this author.
Sangokushi is a 12-book-long series. I needed a game plan. Going into the House of Councillors elections, I decided to mainly conquer this series and read other books in between.
It was so long.
The book’s main characters, Liu Bei, Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Cao Cao, and others don’t even appear until a few books in!
It was as if each page was fervently reminding me that I was reading Sangokushi, not Sangokushi Simplified (which, by the way, does exist).
Not only does Masamitsu portray protagonist Liu Bei Xuande in the most uncool way, but he also kills off both Guan Yu and Zhang Fei before they do anything significant.
Some key events from the original story are entirely botched, too: the Oath of Peach Garden doesn’t appear in the book at all, Zhuge Kongming doesn’t appear in the Battle of Red Cliff, and for some reason, Cao Cao is portrayed as a good guy.
Both Cao Cao and Liu Bei are killed off on the eighth of twelve books.
“What on earth is this book going to go on about for four more books without them?” was my only thought as I rushed to reach for the ninth book.
My advice to you: read Sangokushi Simplified before Sangokushi by Masamitsu.
Another criticism: the hiragana that tells us how to read each character’s complex Chinese kanji names appear only once in each chapter.
The editors could at least add the hiragana to each page.
Speaking of names, the map that shows where each clan was located doesn’t name any cities or capitals. The map only names the clans. Make that make sense.
With names that I cannot remember and that blend all together, I cannot deny that I often forgot who was who, and the lack of a character list did not help at all.
I hope I wasn’t the only one that struggled with this novel.
Book 2: Enkan by Nagai Michiko
Like this book, the long prelude to “Kamakura-dono no Jyusannin” ended with the death of Yoritomo. There are a few scenes that make me believe that “Kamakura-dono no Jyusannin” was inspired by this book.
This is a collection of short stories that individually focuses on its main characters.
Book 3: Kokuro-jo Yonezawa Honobu
This fictional mystery novel is based on the historical story that Akari Murashige, the rebel who betrayed Oda Nobunaga, captured Kuroda Kanbei, and locked him up in a dungeon.
The mystery itself is predictable, but the book immersed me into feeling as if I were trapped with Akari Murashige. It is a high-quality novel in that sense.
When Araki Murashige and his family were murdered after incurring the wrath of Nobunaga, I naturally felt as if I was killed alongside the rest of his family.
Book 4: Maharajah no Soretsu by Abir Mukherjee (English: A Necessary Evil)
This book is a sequel to A Rising Man, a mystery set in Calcutta during the British colonial period. I enjoy reading historical mysteries similar to this book… but I guess that doesn’t capture the essence of it.
The Japanese translation of the next book in the sequel, Smoke and Ashes, is also available.
Author Matt Beynon Rees published a similar series, but it is based in Palestine instead. It’s too bad that the author has not published additional sequels to this series since 2010.