'Shogun' on FX reimagines the classic Japanese story in a fascinating way

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
'Shogun' on FX reimagines the classic story in a fascinating way
Sandy Kenyon has more.

NEW YORK CITY -- Tuesday marks the start of "Shogun," a television show based on the book that sold millions of copies and inspired a hit TV miniseries back in 1980.

"Shogun" - this version for FX - is not only rooted in Japanese culture and takes place centuries ago, but was made in close consultation with experts in the country's deep history.

The original "Shogun" miniseries was among the highest rated shows of the 1980s, and about a third of all Americans alive at the time saw some part of it. The new 10-episode version reimagines the story in a fascinating way.

"Shogun" is an epic of grand scope about the destiny and desires of three people set against the backdrop of a country in turmoil -- Japan as it was more than 400 years ago.

The state is on the precipice of war when John Blackthorne, a privateer from the West, is shipwrecked along the coast. And Lord Toranaga appoints a trusted advisor as the sailor's interpreter -- Toda Mariko played by Anna Sawai.

"She wasn't just this sexy samurai that was gonna fall in love with the white character," said Sawai. "There was so much more depth."

Sawai and Hiroyuki Sanada co-star in the new limited series on FX, with characters speaking in English and Japanese.

"Language is very important part of culture," said Sanada.

A culture respected by making Sanada one of shogun's producers.

"Create the script together and make balance and avoid the stereotypical things," Sanada added.

Japanese advisors were hired to ensure the authenticity of props and costumes. There was even a consultant called "master of the gesture."

"So, that was very special," said Sanada. Never happened before."

Viewers will get a better understanding of Japan and its people than in the 1980 TV miniseries based on the same book.

"If we were going to re-do it, we wanted to do our own version," said Sawai. We wanted to elevate the experience. We're just being very truthful to our own history and our culture and the people, and we show what moves us."

The account of how an English fellow comes to land in feudal Japan and fall in love there is all the more remarkable because it is based on a true story about a real guy.

The first two episodes of "Shogun" air Tuesday night on FX, which is owned by the same parent company as this station.