Thursday 25 April 2024

Farewell to Shogun

I am unsure what the Japanese for ‘a bit like the curate’s egg’ is but the good parts were very good indeed!

A day later than usual I managed to watch the series finale of Shogun - the ten part mini series based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell.

My feelings about this production have probably been influenced by having read the novel umpteen times - almost to the point that I can quote vast chinks of the dialogue and text etc from memory! 

I enjoyed it for what it was - a bold and beautiful production that was visually stunning to look at and with a real feel for the subject matter but all the while ‘based upon’ the novel, which in turn was a fictionalisation of the actual historical events of the period.

For me, therein lay the problem. Without giving too much away the production played fast and loose with the events in the novel - certain incidents were out of sequence and others were changed entirely - which personally I found to be a little on the irritating side. If I were a purist I would say ‘butchered’ would be a more accurate description, perhaps with a more surgical degree of precision but chopped about all the same. I realise that adapting a book to the screen requires certain changes but I am not convinced this was for the better. Again, I blame my familiarity with the novel for this apparent ‘nit picking’. 

I also felt as though the pacing was a little uneven although trying to condense the story into ten hours of screen time was never going to be easy. In many ways it felt rather like watching an extended highlights series with the highlights sometimes in the wrong order. 

One of my tests of the value of watching something on the screen usually runs along the lines of ‘is there a game in that?’ Absolutely - my enthusiasm for all things Samurai remains as high as ever and indeed, revisiting my project for the period in some way will definitely be on the cards at some point so Shogun served its purpose in that respect.

So in conclusion I can safely say that I enjoyed it for it was but the 1980 series was closer to the book and so I shall make a point of revisiting it in due course.


Ray Rousell said...

This is still on my "To Watch" list. Why do historical series' or films always make me feel I've been hit around the chops with a bit of wet cod?

Steve J. said...

I agree that visually it was simply stunning and I loved watching how Japanese society worked then, in terms of etiquette, the power politics etc. Like you I did feel the pacing varied, with some episodes not really grabbing me at all. In fact the last episode left me somewhat cold, as it felt like they had crammed the final act into the last 5 minutes on the cliff edge, where another episode or two might have worked better?

I can't remember how the 1980's series ran in terms of storyline, so will see if I can watch it on Youtube or something similar. I did read the book, but again so long ago I can't remember the plot!

David Crook said...

Hello there Ray,

I enjoyed it - irritations aside - as it looked fantastic and really captured the all important period flavour. My only issue really was how it messed around with the story but we could say that about many historical dramas!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve J,

I agree with you about the final episode and if I was being really critical the same could apply to much of the adaptation. For all that it looked lovely and really captured the spirit of the age.

I just wish it followed the book rather more carefully!

All the best,


Independentwargamesgroup said...

I have enjoyed the first four episodes but felt that they were rushing the whole thing. They also seem have chopped things about and somehow it didn't feel right. Unfortunately Anjinn San was starting to get on my wick, I think its his Richard Burton impersonation. However all the Japanese actors were very good. I think I will get the Richard Chamberlin set back out because I think that version was closer to the book and also allowed the characters to develop slowly. And now for Shardlake, and theyve already changed the characters about a bit.

David Crook said...

Hello there independentwargamesgroup,

It definitely had issues around pacing and whilst I agree that the Japanese actors were good some of them did not look right in the roles they were playing. I was also a little put off by the butchering of the book as a whole but then that is probably because I have read it so many times!

I also want to revisit the 1980 version as it was far better paced and with more care paid to character development.

For all that though, it was visually really good to look at and the Japanese-ness was very well done.

All the best,