Monday, March 4, 2024

Shōgun - Anjin

The ten episode limited series begins with a starving ship of Dutch sailors crashing into the coast of Japan. One of the only survivors of what started out as a five-ship fleet, Major John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is interrogated in the fishing village before taken to Osaka where more drama is afoot with four of the five feudal lords looking to oust Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), the most loyal to the the child heir to the empire in a move to consolidate power. The third pivotal role in the series, Lady Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), has the smallest role in the opener really on part of a sequence involving the honor and attempted suicide of another woman, but more about her character will be expanded as the mini-series continues.

Adapted from the 1975 novel, and based on real events, Shogun is told in English, Japanese and Portuguese. Building on historical animosities between the Catholics (who at this time had a stranglehold on trade in the Orient) and the Protestants (such as Blackthorne), culture clash, and politics, there's quite a bit of set up that goes into this first episode. Starting prior to the shipwreck, a little more than half of the episode follows Blackthorne and the remaining crew (the rest of whom aren't on screen long enough to be distinguishable from one another), and his confrontations with the local lord (Tadanobu Asano) while trying to understand a culture as foreign to him as anything he's ever come across.

The episode does feel a bit overstuffed, but the action, acting, and production are all first-rate. Blackthorne is likely to be the prism the world is explained through helping to better define the challenges each of the three main characters will face over the remaining nine episodes. Setting the stage to bring Blackthorne, Toranaga, and Mariko together by the end of this episode, from here we can now begin to see events unfold from this point on and how these three characters may shape their world for a generation.

  • Title: Shōgun - Anjin
  • IMDb: link

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