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FX’s “Shōgun” (Limited Series) Episodes 1-8 | Review

This review will only concentrate on the first eight episodes of the series, with the last two episodes to be reviewed once they are broadcast.

Historical dramas based somewhat on actual events are quite interesting, especially when showing two different cultures. James Clavell’s 1975 novel “Shōgun” is often explored in many different forms of entertainment. There is the 1980 mini-series with the same name which stars Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune. There are countless video games also following the events that take place in the original novel and even a Broadway musical. All of these (including Clavell’s novel are based on real events and real people including the character John Blackthrone (loosely based on the historical English navigator William Adams).

Now, a new limited series is set to premiere on Disney+ on February 27, 2024. FX’s Shōgun follows the events from Clavell’s novel. It depicts the power struggle of politics and different faiths in Japan. Two different worlds collide once English ship pilot John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) ends up shipwrecked on Japanese shores. This land full of unfamiliar cultures and traditions will ultimately see him reverse everything he knows and believes.

Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) is a sagacious, powerful daimyo with a frightful lineage. He is at odds with his own dangerous, political rivals. Tradition oozes from every pour of his body. Although outnumbered by his enemies, Toranaga is an ingenious thinker with a never-give-up attitude.

Lady Mariko (Anna Sawai) has invaluable skills such as speaking fluent Portuguese (which we the audience hear in English) and translating into Japanese. She is a devoted Christian and fiercely loyal to her beliefs and to Lord Toranaga. Despite this, she must prove her value and alliances.

To sum up this production in one word it would be pulchritudinous. This American production features an acclaimed Japanese cast. This is something that does not usually happen. Some names deserve to be celebrated, such as actor Tadanbu Asano. He plays Kashigi Yabushinge an intriguing, intelligent, but barbaric figure. His loyalties lie with whoever can keep him alive, not fully vile, but full of self-preservation. Asano plays this hatable character enthusiastically, but viewers will be drawn to him as the show continues.

The cast from top to bottom is outstanding, viewing each episode feels as though the viewer has been thrust back in time watching things play out in real-time. Accolades to the production team for bringing a piece of the 1600’s back to life for the viewers to enjoy. This only scratches the surface of the talents involved in the Shogun production. Countless writers and directors lay the clay that sculpts this dramatic, adventure.

FX’s Shōgun is created for television by Rachel Kondo & Justin Marks, with Marks serving as showrunner and executive producer. Jonathan van Tulleken directs episode 1 Anjin, and episode 2 Servants of Two Masters. These are pivotal episodes because they are the first introduction to this magical world. These two episodes are pivotal because it’s the first introduction to our characters.

The series costume and wardrobe department and Carlos Rosario, costume designer, did a breathtaking job. The attention to detail and the staggering amount of costumes that are needed for a production like this is overwhelming. On-screen it looks like no time or expense was sacrificed as each character looks to have travelled through time onto the television screen.

The score to FX’s Shōgun by Atticus Ross (The Social Network, Watchmen), Leopold Ross (Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, The Book of Eli) and Nick Chuba (Dr. Death) is haunting. Sometimes subtle, but always there this score matches the on-screen themes perfectly.

Sensitive viewers, take note that beheadings and other extreme scenes happen on screen, some of it shocking enough to mention here. This mini-series doesn’t shy away from the brutality of the time. This is a risk that, pays off well. Why? Because it legitimizes the production for not sugar-coating the story to fit in a pretty box.

Journey back in time and sit back while brazen assassination attempts play out, and watch as culture and religions clash with deadly outcomes. Romance and betrayal slither their way throughout the storyline. New friendships develop and loyalties are challenged, FX’s Shōgun has this in spades. Follow as ship pilot, John Blackthorne is thrust into a world the polar opposite of his own. Watch as Lord Toranaga goes up against impossible odds. James Clavell’s novel comes alive for a new generation. This is Epic storytelling on every level.

FX’s Shōgun premieres on Disney+ in Canada on February 27, 2024

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FX’s “Shōgun” (Limited Series) Episodes 1-8 | Review

Journey back in time and sit back while brazen assassination attempts play out, and watch as culture and religions clash with deadly outcomes. Romance and betrayal slither their way throughout the sto

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About The Author

Starting out as a film fan at a early age, I would rate movies we rented on VHS. cut to 40 years later and I have written for Rue Morgue and a handful of other horror related websites and magazines.

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