If you have already devoured all the titles recommended in our special article dedicated to the best japanese samurai movies, you might be pleased to find out that in February, exclusively on the on-demand streaming platform Disney+, will arrive in Italy and at the same time worldwide the new TV show Shogun, produced by the acclaimed network FX, created by Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks and based on the bestselling novel of the same name by James Clavell, a very famous adventure book published in the United States in the 1970s.
Consisting of a total of ten episodes, Shogun is a massive television production, of those that became possible only after the success of Game of Thrones: a very large cast, in this case almost exclusively Japanese, a large budget – we are talking about $250 million but it is already the most expensive international series ever for the network – and a world-class star, Hiroyuki Sanada, as a behind-the-scenes producer and co-starring in the screen.
Among the actors and actresses, we also find Cosmo Jarvis and Anna Sawai, the latter now synonymous with serial quality after taking part in AppleTV+’s Pachinko and Monarch: Legacy of Monsters (if you missed it, here is our review of Monarch: Legacy of Monsters). Shogun will begin on February 27 with the first two episodes, followed by a new episode each week.
Shogun: The Last Samurai
Set in Japan in the 1600s, at the dawn of a civil war that would mark the entire century, the series features Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), metaphorically and literally surrounded by his enemies within the Board of Regents, whose members are ganging up against him.
The discovery of a mysterious abandoned European ship in a nearby fishing village and especially the meeting with the British pilot John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), could provide Lord Toranaga and his few loyalists with what they need to turn the tide of the impending conflict, behind which could lie the interests of Jesuit priests and Portuguese merchants..
The task of weaving the fates of Toranaga and Blackthorne will fall to Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), a mysterious Christian noblewoman, servant of the Lord and his personal interpreter, the last of a disgraced lineage: around this strange and ambiguous three-way relationship – cultural and intellectual and which, at least for the two-thirds of those involved, is also likely to blossom into the sentimental – the fate of an entire nation will revolve.
Contaminating different peoples
This new adaptation of Clavell’s novel-already brought to the small and big screen in 1980 with Jerry London’s TV series of the same name (starring in that project were the legendary Toshiro Mifune and Richard Chamberlain, the focus of the 547-minute extended version brought to TV in 10 episodes and the 2-hour movie montage released in theaters) – passes over familiar territories of the contamination of different peoples, those of such works as Dances with Wolves and Avatar, of The Last Samurai and Silence.
The encounter with the alien, with the unseen, pushes the characters to put their own truths about the world into perspective, a theme that always works when coupled with staging ideas and production values capable of creating them properly, those worlds.
Hiroyuki Sanada is now a guarantee, especially when called upon to wear samurai armor and katana. Particularly successful is then the depiction of the relationship between Blackthorne and Lady Mariko, all based on the centrality of language, speech, and the value of words in containing (trying to understand) the meaning of the world: there is a sex scene that seems to be written by Steven Knight, so much is the level of theatrical sophistication with which the script is translated into images, with the camera called upon to align the figures of bodies to superimpose them according to the meaning of the words being spoken.