Historical drama series Shōgun is getting rave reviews just a few weeks before its release. At the time of writing, the 10-episode series holds a perfect critics score on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 reviews. Metacritic echoes the sentiment, with a weighted average score of 86 out of 100, based on six reviews.
A Story From A Classic Novel
Adapted from James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name, Shōgun is a fictionalized account of actual historical events. The source material is developed for television by Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks. Set in the 1600s, the story chronicles the journey of Lord Yoshii Toranaga who is forced to fight for his life when his enemies on the Council of Regents plot against him.
The Story Of Shōgun
Per the official synopsis, Shōgun begins after a mysterious European ship is discovered stranded in a nearby fishing village. Yoshii Toranaga meets its English pilot, John Blackthorne, who may hold secrets that could tilt the balance of power in Toranaga’s favor while destroying Blackthorne’s own enemies – the Jesuit priests and Portuguese merchants.
The destinies of Toranaga and Blackthorne become intricately linked through their translator, Toda Mariko. A mysterious Christian noblewoman and the last of a disgraced lineage, Mariko struggles to balance her allegiance to Blackthorne, her dedication to the faith that rescued her, and her duty to her deceased father while serving her lord in a politically charged landscape.
The first two episodes of the limited series are scheduled to premiere on February 27 on Hulu in the United States, Star+ in Latin America, and Disney+ in all other regions. Subsequent episodes of Shōgun will be released weekly on the streaming platforms, while the FX linear channel will broadcast new installments once a week.
Shōgun features an impressive lineup of actors, with Hiroyuki Sanada, Cosmo Jarvis, and Anna Sawai leading the cast as Lord Yoshii Toranaga, Pilot Major John Blackthorne, and Toda Marik, respectively. The supporting cast includes Tadanobu Asano, Hiroto Kanai, Takehiro Hira, Moeka Hoshi, Tokuma Nishioka, Shinnosuke Abe, Yuki Kura, and Fumi Nikaido.
Based On Real Events
Rooted in real history, the Shōgun character Blackthorne draws inspiration from the historical English navigator William Adams, who rose to become a samurai under the powerful Tokugawa Ieyasu. This influential daimyo’s life and reign serve as the basis for Lord Yoshii Toranaga in the series, creating a rich tapestry that seamlessly blends fact and fiction.
Production Wasn’t Easy
The development of Shōgun has been an ambitious undertaking. Announced during the Television Critics Association’s press tour in 2018, the series received a straight-to-series order from FX. With an impressive lineup of executive producers, including Andrew Macdonald, Michael De Luca, and Michaela Clavell, the show has been meticulously crafted to offer an authentic portrayal of Clavell’s epic tale.
Filming Shōgun also presented some challenges, with principal photography delayed to ensure the highest quality production. Despite setbacks, the dedication to capturing the essence of feudal Japan led to filming locations in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Vancouver. The attention to detail is exemplified by the donation of a Japanese pine tree used on set to the City Hall of Port Moody.