‘Kicho & Nobunaga 2nd Edition: Revised and Expanded’ Review

Book cover for 2nd Edition

While doing the review for Kicho & Nobunaga, I found out that the author has since came out with a second edition. I was curious now: what was so different about this edition than the last book? Well, for starters, the first book is only 152 pages long while the second increased the page number to 292. Released just this year on March 15, 2021, ten years after the first book was written, I wanted to dive into this book and see if anything had changed since the first book was released and considering that no reviews have been given about this book on Amazon as of writing this article, consider it a review as well.

WARNING!: SPOILER ALERT!

The one element that has remained throughout this book that was introduced to us in the previous book was the love triangle between Nōhime, Oda Nobunaga and Akechi Mitsuhide. Nōhime carries feelings for both men, but she is a bit resentful of Mitsuhide for not marrying her when he had the chance. Even though she was sent to kill Nobunaga instead and marry his brother, she ends up falling in love with him and becomes a devoted wife to Nobunaga. The sexually explicit scenes that the first book had are spread out more than the first book, making it feel like more of a historical fiction novel rather than a historical romance.

It seems like more research was done for this book than its first release. There is much more detail about what is going on in Japan during this time, but the major change is where the sources are coming from. While the previous book focused more on Shinshō Kōki, or The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga to English speakers, this book draws more of its source material from what is called the Akechi Chronicle. The problem with this is that so far, I have not been able to find this for English speakers, nor are we given a direct quote from any of the times the Akechi Chronicle has been used. This change in focus on the sources used to help write this book has changed book slightly. Yes, the book is about Nōhime and Nobunaga’s marriage, but unlike the first book, Nōhime keeps extremely close ties with family, friends and old retainers from Mino/Gifu. She did have relationships with some of them in the first book, but it seems more pronounced in the second edition, and I think it comes from this shift in sources for the book. In fact, the second edition never mentions Shinshō Kōki in the footnotes unlike the first edition.

Perhaps it is because there is more to the book, but it does not seem to move as quickly as the first edition did. With more content, the book flows more smoothly and it does not feel rushed. This can be seen with Nobunaga’s personality change. It seemed to come on quicker in the first book, while the second edition makes it more gradual. Nobunaga seems kinder to Nōhime in the end of the second book, where in the first he comes across as bipolar in his treatment of his wife and vassals.

The book makes it look like Nōhime had a bigger role in her husband’s life than history has told us. She advises Nobunaga on how to proceed in certain situations, but whether or not he takes her advice is another matter. She runs the Oda household extremely well, especially with how she handled the incident with Oichi falling pregnant by Nobunaga (which the author hints that it might be true according to her footnotes. Again, I would like a copy of the Akechi Chronicle before coming up with a counter to that). Sometimes, she does fail to restrain her husband when it comes to outlandish things that might ruin his reputation, such as getting Azai Nagamasa’s skull lacquered in gold.

Much like the previous book, nicknames are given to certain characters, which can make for difficult reading if you do not know the subject matter well. However, this edition only mentions those that appear throughout the entirely of the book. This does not help when the author decides to come up with a nickname for someone who only appears for a short amount of time in the book, or just even mentioned once. I found myself going back to the character list several times, only to find that they are not listed, so I have no idea who they are talking about. This can make the book difficult to get through, especially if the reader has no background in Japanese history, mainly on the age of Oda Nobunaga.

Much like the first edition, the author’s note makes one ponder the contents of the book. She has written the book as a way to bring Nōhime into the limelight for Japanese scholars and historians to look at more closely. This time, however, she does ponder over the question many historians have asked when studying this particular time in Japanese history: why did Akechi Mitsuhide betray Nobunaga? In the book, we are given a more proud and confident version of Mitsuhide, which is probably closer to how he actually was historically, and the main point brought up in this edition, unlike the first, was that he had the same ambitions as Nobunaga. During his time with the Asakura clan, he becomes extremely close with the Imperial Court, so he would be able to one day control the government, which is his goal (p. 169). He finally takes the opportunity to take the land when Nobunaga is at Honnōji, taking the teachings of Nōhime’s father, Saitō Dōsan, to heart: “grab an opportunity, never hesitate to take advantage of anyone” (p. 273). I do not think we will ever know the reasons for Mitsuhide’s betrayal, but it is something we as historians can debate for years to come.

I do not think I would say read this book instead of the first edition. Though ten years separates the two books, they each have their own focus and they each bring something to the table. The second edition is longer and more detailed, but more research has been done for the second edition. I would honestly recommend reading both as a way to compare and contrast them. Yes, it is essentially the same story, but because the one draws more from the Oda perspective and the other from the Saitō/Akechi perspective, the books are almost different from one another. It is worth a read, but just remember that this is historical fiction, not fact.

To purchase this book: https://www.amazon.com/Kicho-Nobunaga-2Nd-Revised-Expanded-ebook/dp/B0913FN7G9/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=Kicho+and+nobunaga&qid=1625312563&sr=8-5