Art & Entertainment

'Shōgun' On Disney+ Hotstar Review: This Hiroyuki Sanada-Starrer Show Boasts Gripping Performances And Exceptional Production

Outlook Rating:
4 / 5

Based on a classic novel and loosely based on real-life characters, is 'Shōgun' really worth your time? Or can you scroll past it? Read on to find out.

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'Shōgun' Photo: Hulu
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‘Shōgun’ is a historical drama adapted from James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name. With so much hype around it, the series brings to life a distinctive historical epic for modern-day audiences. With a blend of drama, intense action, political instability, and the cultural setting of 17th century Japan, does ‘Shōgun’ promise to be an epic show? Here’s what this mini-series is all about.

‘Shōgun’: Story

Based on the two episodes released as of now, we see Lord Yoshii Toranaga grappling with the turbulent political situation in Japan. To obtain his position as the supreme leader, he must overcome challenges from both local and foreign parties. Destiny in his favour, or so it seems, an opportunity knocks on his door when English sailor John Blackthorne tries to reveal the true intentions of Catholic missionaries and where Japan stands on the world map. Now, this newfound alliance between these two men from different worlds has garnered some attention. With many parties interested in Blackthorne for their own benefits, Toranaga’s interest in him intensifies.

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‘Shōgun’: Performances

The massively talented cast has evidently given it their all to bring their respective characters to life.

Hiroyuki Sanada’s seamless portrayal of the honourable yet flawed warrior Lord Yoshii Toranaga has truly been so satisfying to watch. Bringing his character to life is no simple feat, but Sanada handles it with sincerity and treads lightly. If anything, it’s safe to say he has led the show single-handedly. He has showcased a force of authority and assertiveness, and even looks the part.

Cosmo Jarvis brings with him this edgy attitude required to play the character of Pilot Major John Blackthorne, setting him apart from the others. It’s through his eyes that you see the brutality and cultural setting of Japan during the time period set. His portrayal is incredibly convincing because through the small screen, you’re able to sense his determination as well as his fear.

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While the show is heavy with its male characters, you can’t forget Anna Sawai’s role. So far, the emotional aspects have been brought forward by her through her role as Toda Mariko. Her captivating portrayal, for whatever little time it has, demands your presence, with her mysterious nature adding to curiosity. I personally can’t wait to see more of her as more episodes continue to follow.

The supporting characters have also delivered some really well stand-out performances.

‘Shōgun’: Script, Direction & Technical Aspects

First of all, I’ll take a moment to appreciate the production design and set, because it’s almost as if you have transported to 17th century Japan. From the way the majestic castles have been shown to exquisite traditional artwork, and even the costumes; it has everything, that too, of high quality, which makes you believe you have immersed in this fictional world.

Coming to the script, ‘Shōgun’ takes its own sweet time to build up the narrative so that viewers can easily understand what’s unfolding in front of their eyes. Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks have crafted a captivating script that will instantly get you hooked on to it. Each character has been written very well, with a solid reasoning behind as to how they are the way they are. Even the historical backdrop of Japan has been shown really well, with an extensive focus on cultural clashes, especially when it comes to the languages. Despite there being so many characters, and so many themes, the storyline remains relatively easy to comprehend, provided you pay close attention.

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The camerawork in the series has been commendable. The show is a visual treat, as one would say. While there are moments of violence and gore, the camera has been panned in such a way that it doesn’t seem all that gory; it’s subtly shown and is not very heavy to the eyes. The way drones have been used to showcase the views of Japan make the place a character in itself; beautifully executed. When it comes to editing, I believe Maria Gonzales and Aika Miyake have both done a splendid job on an episode each. The show is slow-paced in a good way, and doesn’t feel rushed at all. However, it remains to be seen how, towards the end, the editors would have truly condensed the 1,200-page novel into a mini-series of ten episodes.

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Coming to the music part, Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, and Nick Chuba have taken us along on a rollercoaster ride. As if the script and acting wasn’t enough to build up tension, that the music elevates it more and more, especially during the mysterious scenes. Even the choice of sound-effects has been utilized well; be it the sound of the waves, or fire burning. What’s also applause-worthy is the use of traditional Japanese instruments, which only help the whole setting feel real, giving you a perfect audio-visual experience.

‘Shōgun’: Cast & Crew

Director: Jonathan van Tulleken

Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Cosmo Jarvis, Anna Sawai, Tadanobu Asano, Takehiro Hira, Tommy Bastow, Fumi Nikaido

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Available On: Disney+ Hotstar, Hulu

Duration: 2 episodes as of now, 58-70 mins each

Premiere Date: February 28, 2024

Genre: Historical Drama

Language: English, Japanese

‘Shōgun’: Can Kids Watch It?

No.

Outlook’s Verdict

‘Shōgun’ might have already gone on to become one of the best releases of this year, because of its incredible acting performances and production design. The series seems to have been an excellent adaptation of the classic novel with its own twist, whilst also being enough to respect the original. With curiosity already pent up for what’s to come next, I would highly recommend watching the show in one-go, once all episodes would have come out. I strongly believe it will be a wonderful binge-watching experience!

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*Disclaimer: This review is done after the release of the first two episodes.*

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