'Shogun' Comes On Like A Samurai Warrior

“Shogun” is the TV event of the year so far, and the show to beat for best show of the year when the time comes next December to look back at the year 2024.

The premiere episode -- out of 10 -- that I watched Friday was a thrill from beginning to end in every category. It was a pleasure to watch thanks to its directing, acting, filming, writing, costumes and settings.

Most important of all is its story about the clash of the Japanese warrior culture in the year 1600 with Europeans from the seafaring nations of England, Portugal and Spain who were then making their slow but sure arrivals in the Asia-Pacific.

Great stories are made from high stakes. In this story, just about all the characters walk a thin line between life and death -- and not just any death, but an ugly, violent one.



The story centers mainly on a Japanese warlord -- Lord Yoshii Toranaga, played by Hiroyuki Sanata (above photo) -- and a near-dead Englishman named John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck.

Lord Toranaga is one of five warlords who have divided Japan into five fiefdoms. They seem to have been enjoying an uneasy peace, but that is on the verge of ending. 

This is why every main character in the show is living on a razor’s edge.

This TV version of “Shogun” -- premiering Tuesday night on FX and Hulu -- consists of 10 episodes. An earlier “Shogun” miniseries on NBC in 1980 ran for a total of 12 hours (with commercials). Richard Chamberlain starred.

Both were adapted from the 1975 Shogun novel by James Clavell, a sprawling book of epic length. The current hardcover edition is 1,312 pages. 

I read it in the era in which it was first published and I couldn’t put it down. It is one of the best books, fiction or nonfiction, that I have ever read. 

One of the best characteristics of this new “Shogun” is the producers’ choice to have its many Japanese characters speak in Japanese with English subtitles instead of the traditional way these things have been done in which the characters speak in a kind of formal British version of English.

Since most of the characters are Japanese, it is the dominant language in the show. 

Not only does it add authenticity to the action, but the language figures directly in the show’s storyline in scenes in which language barriers can have dire consequences.

“Shogun” premieres on Tuesday, February 27, on Hulu and FX.

1 comment about "'Shogun' Comes On Like A Samurai Warrior".
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  1. Ben B from Retired, February 26, 2024 at 10:11 p.m.

    Looks like a pretty good show has me interested.

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