‘Shogun’ Episode 1 ‘Anjin’ Review: A Captivating Series Premiere


Complex feudal politics. A ship lost at sea, with most of her crew dead from starvation, scurvy, or worse. A nation on the brink of war. Strange customs and dangerous encounters as cultures crash like waves on rock. The end of one era and the beginning of another. Feudal Japan in a time of turmoil, its Portuguese Catholic allies and the English and Dutch Protestant newcomers facing off against each other, and some of the best cinematography, costume design and acting I’ve seen in a long time conspire to make shogun an instant hit: breathtakingly beautiful, tragic and exciting at the same time.

I haven’t read James Clavell’s 1,152-page book on which this new program is based, although I started it and learned a little. This time, instead of omitting the original source or focusing on comparisons between the source material. and the adaptation, I plan to read them while the episodes air each week on Hulu. This means that unlike many other shows I cover, I will be reviewing this one without having to compare it to the novel, but I will continue reading and try to stay up to date. That way I can talk to both but have no predisposed attachment to the original, which frees me up to watch this show on its own merits.

Also, such a long book is not a quick read (and I have to read it Three body problem soon too). Alright! Sometimes it’s fun No know the original material. For example, I’m sure you’d enjoy live action. Avatar the last airbender even more so if I hadn’t seen the animated original.

In any case, I realized after watching the first episode of shogun that FX and Hulu actually released the first two episodes at once, but I’ve committed to reviewing every episode of this show, so the next post will cover just the series premiere “Anjin” and I’ll follow up with a second review of That tomorrow’s episode. I will then post weekly recaps/reviews here on this blog. And I’m really excited because I’ve been so disappointed with almost everything I’ve been covering lately (not you, Slow horses!) that it’s a breath of fresh air to be really excited about a new series. In any case, let’s talk about . . . .


I’m not going to recap too much. Let’s get the basics out of the way. “Angin” is Japanese for “pilot” and refers to one of the show’s main protagonists, John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis). However, I think it could have a double meaning and also refer to the show’s other main protagonist, Lord Yoshi Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), who is trying to guide Japan towards a better future. The odds are stacked against both men, who finally come face to face just as the series premiere ends.

It’s the year 1600 (we’re told this in a title card at the beginning of the episode, which I’m grateful for because I’d rather get through the prep exposition quickly and efficiently so we can get to the good stuff) and the Portuguese (a word I’ll learn to spell without spell check when this series ends) have a lucrative business relationship with Japan. They have also settled many Catholic missionaries and a good part of Japan has converted to Christianity.

Blackthorne is an Englishman working for the Dutch and his mission appears to be to discover where Japan is and begin the process of wresting it from Catholic control. The Protestant colonialists want a piece of the pie. Until now the Catholics have had the cake all to themselves. In reality, it seems that Protestants want the whole pie and they want to find it. The only problem? The trip was hard. Several ships and almost all the men were lost along the way. Only a dozen remain, including Blackthorne, now his de facto leader, when they are found and rescued, and then quickly imprisoned, by the Japanese.

Interestingly, both groups of people refer to the other as “barbarians” or “savages” quite frequently, and you can see why: sailors are dirty, rude, and savage. The Japanese have customs that include seppuku. In this episode, a young man named Tadayoshi, in the service of Lord Toranaga, suffers an outburst during a meeting of the five regents of Japan. Ashamed of his actions, he not only vows to commit suicide, but also to end his lineage, which means also killing his baby. As horrible as it is, it’s not the most terrible thing we see during the series premiere (mainly because we don’t actually see the baby being killed).

The worst moment is one of the most gruesome and gruesome deaths I have ever seen on any television show. Although Blackthorne is saved, despite a Catholic priest’s demands that the local lord, Kashigi Yabushige (Tadanobu Asano), execute him, another member of the crew is executed, slowly cooked to death in a giant cauldron. It’s a surprisingly barbaric way to kill someone. But then, it seems pretty clear that, regardless of what one culture thinks of the other, they both have their own barbaric and violent tendencies. Blackthorne works for a colonialist power that will soon devastate the entire world. But there is also nothing defensible about boiling a defenseless sailor to death.

Yabushige wants the ship, its muskets and cannons to himself, but a spy in the village, an old man who speaks only a smattering of Portuguese and can translate, albeit haltingly, with Blackthorne, is also a spy for Lord Toranaga. The news reaches Toranaga while he languishes in Osaka, a prisoner in all but name, so he sends his right-hand man, Toda Hiromatsu (Tokuma Nishioka) to claim the prize for himself. Hiromatsu decides to bring Blackthorne back to Osaka, and a good thing too: a powerful storm nearly sinks the ship, the crew, and everyone on board, but Blackthorne’s experience at sea saves the day.

Blackthorne also saves his new enemy, Rodrigues (played by Nestor Carbonell, although I didn’t recognize the Lost alumni) a Spaniard who works for the Portuguese. The man is thrown overboard, but when they safely reach land, Blackthorne insists on finding him. They do so, at the foot of a cliff just outside the tumultuous sea. Blackthorne wants to go down but Yabushige rejects him, so Blackthorne hands him the rope and honor demands that the Japanese Lord go down himself. He almost dies, and almost commits suicide when it looks like he might drown, but is saved by a last-minute rope (you were right all along, Sam Gamgee).

Rodrigues saved, Blackthorne is taken to Osaka where he finally meets Toranaga. The powerful Japanese lord, now beset on all sides by his jealous and ambitious rivals, believes this new stranger could help him, although we still don’t know how.

The politics of this are something I find quite fascinating. Reminds me a little of Kingdom on Netflix, although it was about Korean feudalism and zombies (and one of the best shows on Netflix, go watch it!). Here we have the king dead and everyone vying for power. Toranaga seems to be the only one with enough honor and guts to confront the powerful regent Ishido Kaznari (Takehiro Hira) and the drums of war can already be heard. But if four of the five regents ruling Japan are against Toranaga, the chances of his survival are even lower than those of the Dutch and English sailors.

So the stage is set for an epic drama set in feudal Japan with the arrival of the first settlers from distant Europe. A clash of civilizations – both between Japan and the West and between Protestants and Catholics – is about to erupt, and what looks to be an incredible journey awaits us. Everything here is top notch, from the excellent cinematography and music to the acting. Cosmo Jarvis is really channeling Tom Hardy here and I’m immediately drawn to his character because he’s not just a good guy, a white savior or whatever. He is intelligent but also calculating and ruthless. Of course, Hiroyuki Sanada is always a pleasure to watch and he’s playing Toranaga to perfection: reserved, strong, but still not above letting one of his vassals kill himself and his son in a passionate outburst in his own defense.

I’m deeply impressed so far and can’t wait to see how this develops. There’s a lot of bad television right now, but shogun This just goes to show that really great TV shows are still made. This looks like something you’d see on HBO, and clearly FX and Hulu spare no expense to create one of the most compelling shows out there. But I’m also happy with the script (so often overlooked in favor of big action and special effects) with its strong dialogue, rich world-building, and taut, taut pacing.

As noted above, I’ll be thinking about the second episode tomorrow and will probably talk about both in a video on my YouTube channel at the same time. So make sure follow me here on this blog if you want to chat about shogun and Subscribe to my youtube channel while you’re at it. What did you think of the series premiere? I’m also curious to know what book readers think. I’ve only read a little but I already see that some things are being changed, although nothing that particularly bothers me. The adaptations require some changes and so far this all seems very natural and well considered. Let me know your opinion on Twitter and Facebook.


Source link

Leave a Comment