Shōgun | Review by: Benjamin Garrett


Shōgun is a stunning historical epic that ranks as the best show of 2024 thus far. 17th Century Japan is brought to the screen with expert care and craftsmanship. As skillfully penned as it is technically remarkable, every aspect of this limited series deserves the utmost praise. 

Based on a 1975 novel by James Clavell, the series takes real Japanese history and uses it as the base for a fictional plot. Despite not being a true story, each of the characters are based on actual historical figures, and the show-runners prioritized accuracy in bringing this chapter of Japan’s history to life. Even if you aren’t well versed in the subject matter, it’s obvious the amount of research and commitment that went into creating an authentic portrait of Feudal Japan in the 1600’s. Whether it’s the gorgeous set design or the beautifully made costumes, everything is faithfully recreated in a way that’ll fully immerse you in this world. 

The narrative sprawls across multiple cities and villages, following a number of different characters. The political power struggle between various lords and factions is the show’s main focus, but it’s the way culture, religion, tradition and loyalty play into the politics that makes this series such a fascinating watch. Not only does the show do an excellent job exploring Japanese culture, but also highlights the vast difference in European customs and religious practices. The permanence of death holds incredible weight when it’s tied directly to one’s words. 

The way the characters are written is another big part of what makes this series stand apart. Every single one of them is so thoughtfully constructed, never feeling as if they’re written to serve the show’s plot. This kind of writing adds unpredictability, but the surprises never feel out of place. It’s refreshing watching characters make choices that fit their personalities, rather than shaping them around the narrative. Each of them are also given their own arcs throughout the series that feel complete and wholly satisfying. 

Of course, much of that is due to tremendous performances. Cosmo Jarvis is brilliant as John Blackthorn as he navigates language and cultural barriers in this foreign land. Hiroyuki Sanada portrays Lord Toranaga with a quiet confidence. He’s able to convey so much through just a look. You can practically see the chess pieces moving in his mind as he navigates strategically through a tense political landscape. My favourite performance, though, was Anna Sawai, who plays Mariko with such subtle emotional grace. Her character is possibly the most complex in the series and she masters every facet of the role. 

Shōgun masterfully presents a richly detailed recreation of 17th century feudal Japan. This expertly written story is densely layered in its exploration of politics, religion and culture, but always ensures characters come first. This is must watch television.


Review by: Benjamin Garrett 

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