This February, FX is releasing its long-awaited limited series, “Shōgun”, which is an original adaptation of James Clavell’s bestselling novel that is set in Japan in the year 1600 at the dawn of a century-defining civil war.
The story is about Lord Yoshii Toranaga, who is fighting for his life as his enemies on the Council of Regents unite against him. But when a mysterious European ship, having been ravaged by a storm, drifts into a nearby fishing village, its English pilot, John Blackthorne, is held prisoner. However, John has many secrets that could help Toranaga tip the scales of power and devastate the formidable influence of Blackthorne’s own enemies – the Jesuit priests and Portuguese merchants. But their fates are tied to their translator, Toda Mariko, who is a Christian noblewoman and the last of a disgraced line.
There is one thing I feel will hurt the reach of this series; it’s how much of it requires you to read subtitles since most of these first two episodes are all in Japanese, except for when John is talking with his crew or to a translator. There’s something very powerful about this though, since it pulls you into John’s character much more, since he has no clue what’s happening around him, except through body language, though he is a quick learner. This might put some people off watching it, since it does require you to pay more attention to the show, but for those that are willing to focus, it certainly will keep you entertained.
“Shōgun” is brutal in places. It doesn’t shy away from violence, which I feel is important to the overall tone of the story. This is set during a brutal era when violence, especially to enemies from a faraway land, would be necessary. I also love the tonal shifts from the grubby European ship and prisons, to the beautiful Japanese palace. The whole setting, with the locations, the sound and the general feel of the show, just hit perfectly.
There are some fantastic performances in this show, with Hiroyuki Sanada coming across amazingly as Lord Yoshii, since you can believe he is in charge, and Cosmo Jarvis is fantastic as John, who is a fish out of the water, but also still full of pride and confidence that he is in the right. Having recently watched Apple TV’s Godzilla series “Monarch”, it’s great to see Anna Sawai in another excellent show. Two very high-quality shows back to back certainly reflect on her skills as an actress.
This series has all the ingredients to make the perfect show, an incredible story, a beautiful setting and a talented cast. “Shōgun” is a very high-quality series that showcases the very best that Disney can offer, and I’m sure this is going to be a huge hit this year and a cornerstone of original programming on Hulu and Disney+ for years to come.
Overall: My initial impression of “Shōgun” is that this series feels like an epic drama series that we don’t see very often. The first two episodes really got their claws into me. Over the years, I’ve played many Samuari video games like “Ghost of Tsushima”, but having a new series with a completely different setting and tone feels refreshing. I’m certainly going to be looking forward to watching the rest of the series. This has been my most eagerly anticipated show of 2024, and it hasn’t disappointed me so far.
Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5
The first two episodes of “Shōgun” will be released on Tuesday, 27th February 2024, on Hulu and Hulu On Disney+ in the United States and on Disney+ around the world including in the UK, Canada and Australia. With a new episode being released weekly.
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Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.