Critics are raving about ‘Shōgun’, a masterfully executed historical war saga

Lord Yoshii Toranaga, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, in ‘Shōgun’. Picture: Supplied

Lord Yoshii Toranaga, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, in ‘Shōgun’. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 11, 2024


“Shōgun”, a 10-part limited series on Disney+, was recently released on the streaming platform.

And, if the global reaction to the series, where it clocked nine million views for the premiere episode in the first week of streaming, is anything to go by, it deserves to be on your binge-watch list.

The epic historical war saga, which is based on James Clavell’s best-selling novel of the same name, was created by Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks.

Clavell's “Shōgun” is a fictionalized version of true-life events.

In this series, Lord Yoshii Toranaga, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, who also wears the hat of the producer, finds himself fighting for his life when the Council of Regents gang up against him.

An altruistic individual, fate intervenes in Toranaga’s favour when his path crosses with that of John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis), an English pilot whose ship is found marooned in a nearby fishing village.

Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne and Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko in a scene from ‘Shōgun’. Picture: Supplied

The information that Blackthorne is privy to tips the scales of power in Toranaga’s favour. It also helps Blackthorne as it eliminates his enemies as well, namely the Jesuit priests and Portuguese merchants.

They are aided by Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), a mysterious Christian noblewoman and the last of a disgraced line, who serves as a translator.

She comes with her own struggles in what is a tense political climate.

Mariko also finds herself torn between her faith and her sense of duty to honour the memory of her late father.

“Shōgun” boasts a stellar Japanese cast with Tadanobu Asano as Kashigi Yabushige, a notorious backstabber and close ally of Toranaga; Hiroto Kanai as Kashigi Omi, the young leader of the fishing village where Blackthorne’s ship was found; Takehiro Hira as Ishido Kazunari, a powerful bureaucrat who is Toranaga’s chief rival; Moeka Hoshi as Usami Fuji, a widow who must find new purpose amidst her lord’s fight; Tokuma Nishioka as Toda Hiromatsu, Toranaga’s trusted general and closest friend; Shinnosuke Abe as Toda Hirokatsu, Mariko’s jealous husband; Yuki Kura as Yoshii Nagakado, the brash son of Toranaga with a strong desire to prove himself; Yuka Kouri as Kiku, a courtesan renowned for her artistry throughout Japan; and, last but not least, Fumi Nikaido as Ochiba no Kata, the revered mother of the heir who will stop at nothing to put an end to Toranaga and his threat to her son’s power.

Aside from the well-etched characters and rich storytelling, “Shōgun” is underpinned by the masterful direction of Jerry London.