Wednesday 28 February 2024

Thoughts on Shogun 2024

Oh yes indeedy….

“As the season dawns,
A TV series springs forth - 
And in the lounge is viewed….”

(Drops mic, exits stage left - Basho would have been impressed - or maybe not….)

My daughter Holly is a huge Disney fan, so much so that she has a subscription to Disney Plus - the magic kingdom’s streaming service. As she is living at home it means that Laurel and I are also able to avail ourselves of the prodigious amount of content they have. When it was announced that a ten part remake of James Clavell’s epic novel of sixteenth century Japan, Shogun, was being made I immediately made plans to watch it when it was launched.

James Clavell’s novel, for those who have not read it, is a fictional retelling of the political machinations in Japan in the years leading up to the Battle of Sekigahara. It features the adventures of an English pilot - John Blackthorne, based on the real life William Adams, as he becomes a samurai

Sure enough, last night the first two episodes dropped and so I spent the evening immersed in world of the samurai with an Englishman thrown in, along with the Portuguese.

Shogun has of course been given the small screen (and indeed, also the big screen) treatment with the TV series appearing in the early 1980s and starring Richard Chamberlain as John Blackthorne - the the Anjin-san - and the late, great, Toshiro Mifune as Lord Toranaga. There was film based on a heavily edited version of the TV series that was good look at but frankly a bit of mess in respect of the editing.

So to the 2024 version. I am not going to go into specific details as I want to avoid any spoilers so have no fears that I will be giving wholesale chunks of the plot away!

Visually it is stunning to look at. The visual palette is relatively subdued in terms of colour which really adds to the look. Naturally there is some CGI involved but this is not overly intrusive, at least not so far that is. The soundtrack itself is quite pleasing to the ear and complements the action in an understated but thoughtful way.

So far so good then.

The 1980’s TV version

As someone that has read the book several times, seen both the original TV series and the film version, I found that the opening two episodes rather scrambled elements of the plot in terms of sequencing and the truncation of what are quite key scenes of the story. I have no real issue with mixing up the plot in terms of translating the book into a screen play in order to help with ‘setting the scene’ but I just wish that perhaps a little more thought had been put into it as many of these seem to have been trimmed back rather excessively. There are a couple of points of detail that I could take exception to as well, with one in particular that really grated!

I am not expecting the series to mirror the book exactly but certain incidents are, in my opinion, key to the story and so need to be thoughtfully handled.

Toshiro Mifune was always going to be a hard act to follow in the key role of Toranaga but Hiroyuki Sanada makes a very good fist of it although visually he is a little on the slim side to be wholly convincing. Cosmo Jarvis plays John Blackthorne and to me he is a little like the curate’s egg i.e. good in parts. In certain scenes he looked uncannily like Rick Grimes in the Walking Dead during his most unkempt moments! At present he comes across as a good actor but underused and in a sense this is the key to what we are seeing. The original novel and first TV series very much emphasised John Blackthorne’s story but this version appears to frame things rather more from the Japanese perspective. This is no bad thing for sure but it does take some getting used to when one is used to the more Western outlook.

Of the rest of the principle characters it has been difficult to really gauge how good they are in the verbal scheme of things and so one hopes that as the series progresses we may get a better insight into their roles and how they impact on the story.

Overall I found it an absorbing watch and I will certainly persevere with the rest of the series. I enjoyed the first two episodes (aforementioned issues notwithstanding) and if nothing else it has gotten me looking at my various Samurai ideas once again!


The Good Soldier Svjek said...

Programs like this are dangerous - you end up buying more figures ...

 Ashley said...

Ah yes, Shogun. Any retelling in another medium is always going to be, shall we say, 難しいですね (muzukashidesu ne).

What I remember enjoying when reading the book were the lessons in learning Japanese, which was less emphasized in the TV series, but it made the whole story that much more intriguing trying to work out the nuances of the plot.

One of my friends grumbled over the darkness of this version, but maybe that's just because the made for TV original was brighter to make it more attractive to Western audiences.

I know that the Japanese audiences were discombobulated by the emphasis on the romance between Mariko and Blackthorn, which was totally made up by Clavell. There again it's fiction, and what do I know about writing an entertaining story?

Still, something to look forward to in the future.

David Crook said...

Hello there Good Soldier Svjek,

You are absolutely right but luckily I already have these in stock - a combination of the those found in the board game Shogun/Samurai Swords and some cavalry from Zvezda.

All I need to do is paint them….

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ashley,

I enjoyed it for sure but it was not quite what I expected. The darkness I can cope with but disjointed nature of setting the scene reminds one of a shaken snow globe. I hope that as the series settles down so will the story. It feels a little over paced at present but perhaps that is me viewing it through the pages of the novel and its almost western centric outlook.

We shall see.

All the best,


Conrad Kinch said...

I should probably go have a look at that then.

Steve J. said...

Having read the book and watched the tv series too (and still remember the: kornichi wa Anjin-san greeting. No idea on spelling!), I was certainly looking forward to this, as our son loves Disney too. I watched a Youtube trailer which explained that it was looking at much more of the Japanese background than the original, so this was not a surprise, and I actually enjoyed it more I think. Still early days and I've not quite finished epside 1, but visually it's stunning and with excellent use of CGI and green screen, asdie from the tattered ships sails which grated with me for some reason.

Now I'm pondering yet again collecting a small Samurai army, which I imagine the pull of which will grow stronger as the series unfolds...

David Crook said...

Hello there Mr K,

I am enjoying it but have found a few niggles but then that is probably just me! It is beautiful to look at though and smacks of authenticity.

I think I shall go and compose another Haiku….

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve J,

It all looked superbly done and authentic and yes, certainly more from the Japanese perspective than the original which is no bad thing. There were a few niggles for sure - point noted re the sails - but overall I am pretty impressed with it all.

Ordinarily this would be my cue to rush off and buy figures etc but luckily I have everything I need for samurai gaming - I have the figures and also Command and Colours: Samurai Battles as well.

I shall now compose myself with a cup of cha and the contemplation of nature….

All the best,


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


Have you seen the YouTube video about the clashes between the British armed forces and the samurai during the nineteenth century? ( I you haven't, Id certainly recommend that you do as it will give you loads of possible East vs. West scenarios.

All the best,


Ray Rousell said...

I too have Disney Plus, (its for the kids not me??) I'm looking forward to giving this a watch, I might leave it until the entire series is ready to watch and then watch the whole thing with a bag of popcorn and a beer!

David Crook said...

Hello there Bob,

I will certainly take a look at that so many thanks for the heads up!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hello there Raymondo!

You do so whilst sitting cross legged on the floor whilst wearing a kimono, eating sushi and drinking cha or sake. Naturally you will have your two swords in reach…..

All the best,


Andy McMaster said...

I've got it lined up to watch. Unfortunately my wife wants to watch it as well so it could be weeks before we sit down to it.

The original series taught me all the Japanese I know! I'm hoping this will 'work' even if there are changes.

And I already home some 15mm Samurai in the lead pile...

David Crook said...

Hi Andy,

My wife last interest in due to the subtitles so I ended up watching it on my IPad and using headphones whilst she binge watched Phil and Kirstie’s Love it or List it!

I have a heap of 20mm Samurai to paint but the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is remote so Command and Colours: Samurai Battles it will be!

All the best,


Mark Cordone said...

I loved the original series and the book and have been looking forward to the remake since I came across the trailers. I'm just starting an Oriental themed RPG campaign so this should serve as inspiration. I've also been acquiring figures for a foray into 28mm samurai. (Like I need another project! 😁)

David Crook said...

Hello there Mark,

Oriental themed RPG? That brings back some memories of playing Bushido back in the early 80s. I had a selection of 28mm Warlord samurai but gave up on them as I now have a whole pile of 20mm to tackle at some point.

So many projects, so little time!

All the best,


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Happy days watching the original series when I was at Uni .. it was very popular.. 40 or 50 students would cram into the Junior Common room to watch it on the TV.. those were the days before we all had our own TV's and iPads or tablets.. blimey.. so long ago...

David Crook said...

Hello there Steve-the-Wargamer,

I remember that the book and TV series spawned a whole gamut of samurai figure ranges and games. The new version is visually really impressive and I am sure my observed niggles are probably just me being me.

If you get the chance to watch then do so but it is very different to the original in terms of the viewpoint.

All the best,