Most of the biographies in Longman's "Profiles in Power" series tend to be quite superficial in that they provide a very rudimentary history of their subjects (i.e., educational backgrounds, etc.) and tend to concentrate more on the history of the times as the main subject. It is as if an overview of the times and historical circumstances surrounding the subject almost entirely determined the character's actions and personality. Hence these books tend to be unable to provide an analysis as to why, specifically, different personalities would make different decisions in different in the same historical circumstances. It is as if the period determines the man (or differ, for that matter, from each other). The reader rarely gets a decent insight at how the particular subject differs from others of this time, especially in terms of the policy decisions they make. This is not to say that a historical background is not important, just that it does not explain nearly 100% of the time a character's decisions and policies. This is a serious weakness in Longman "Profiles in Power" biographies of personalities such as DeGaulle and Nasser. The biography of Nasser does this despite the fact that it is considerably shorter than most in the series (about 110 pages versus an average length of around 150 to 180 pages).
This Longman biography differs from most in the series in that it provides unique insights into the subject that are beyond just "the man was formed by the historical circumstances around him" framework. The book is helped especially by the fact that the author, James Babb, is very knowledgeable regarding the personality covered, not just the historical context. Most of the authors of the "Profiles in Power" series are historians with broad historical knowledge of the times. Professor Babb also has the advantage of being a true expert on Tanaka. This shows through his subtle knowledge and arguments such as Tanaka's claims that he was able to escape Korea after WWII because he claimed the ship's registry had listed him as a woman (Professor Babb points out, more likely, that he bribed his way on) or Tanaka's other corruption related escapades.
The biography does an excellent job at showing just who Tanaka was - a relatively corrupt individual who thought money could either extricate him the most difficult of circumstances or accomplish his goals; an individual who was able to play the political art of patronage, especially in regards to the jurisdiction he represented in Parliament, to the fullest; an individual who had a deep affinity and empathy for the "common" man from rural provinces (from which he came); an individual who was quite the "family" man while simultaneously keeping mistresses. The author also does an excellent job at showing how Tanaka influenced the political scene during and after his reign, especially in terms of the legacy of patronage and its corollary impact on Japan's budget (i.e., tremendous debt).
For anyone interested not only in an introduction to Tanaka, with only 2-3 hours to get up to speed, but also some deeper insights into the man, this is the book is highly recommended.