new Shogun adaptation coming...

Well, the penultimate episode has arrived, and I was watching the clock, wondering if they were going to do justice to the material they covered here. They did, although I do have a couple of complaints.

There is sooooo much in the book that they could have easily made this a 12 episode series, yet they keep 'creating' events that never happened or altering those that did, instead of taking the stuff that DID happen, covering it properly and giving it room to breathe. Nobody expects a scene-for-scene remake of the original miniseries, but at least don't mangle the source material! There is no need- Shogun is just about the perfect novel as it is.

There are a couple of 'core' concepts to the story that have been mistreated here. One is Blackthorne himself. He is based on the real-life William Adams, the first Englishman to reach Japan, and it happened very much the way Clavell wrote it in Shogun. Central to the story is the conversion of Blackthorne from a European man to a European man with a Japanese heart- a transformation catalyzed by his relationship with Mariko and her teachings. She teaches him how to be Japanese, and he teaches her what it means to love someone with a whole heart, in the western way. The Blackthorne we get in this version has not made that change in any way shape or form- now he's just a European man who speaks Japanese and, for some strange reason, walks really funny. Did the actor injure himself on set or something, or can he just not walk in tabi?

In this episode you see Mariko and Blackthorne act like they are so much in love, but nothing we've seen before now really shows us how they arrived at this point. If nothing else, she's treated him with a mild contempt for most of the show. They totally skipped over the trip to Yedo, which is where Blackthorne and Mariko created a world within a world for themselves for the duration of the journey, their love blossomed, and his outlook truly transformed into a Japanese one.

In this episode, Mariko asks Father Alvito to 'drink cha from an empty cup.' It's used almost as a throwaway line. In the original, Mariko had already gone to lengths to teach Blackthorne (and thereby the audience) what she means by this. It's a profound concept.

Another mishandled character is Yabushige. (Kasigi Yabu). His openly flip-flopping loyalties and actions are internally inconsistent with feudal Japanese culture. In the book and miniseries, he has the lineage and ambition to become Shogun himself, but he hides it all in his inner heart, and I'm curious to see how they properly resolve this character's fate after the shambles they've made of it here. Clavell understood Japanese culture and Bushido, I don't think the writers of this version really do.

Yabushige was the one to serve as Mariko's second for her seppuku when Kiyama failed to show, not Blackthorne. Her suicide was also to have taken place in full public view, in a garden, to achieve the desired effect of her mission. This was a bungled scene as written, although brilliantly acted.

The crap about Mariko being raised with Ochiba is all made up tripe, as is the meeting between Mariko and her son. In addition to never happening in Clavell's narrative, her son's words and actions in this episode are completely western and completely non-Japanese. It's not possible for the scion of a samurai family to reject the notion of loyalty to his liege lord, go against his family's wishes, or threaten to disown his mother. Obedience, duty, and sacrifice would have been ingrained into his personality from the day of his birth. The word samurai itself means 'to serve.' The things he voices, if he felt them, would be locked solidly behind the 8th fence in his inner heart, never to be spoken of. And if he felt the shame of his family, he would consider committing seppuku, not whining to his mother. And I just spent a whole paragraph complaining about something that never even happened in the book. All this screen time could have been better spent on the events actually surrounding Mariko. Blackthorne's rudeness to Lady Ochiba and Yaemon at the end of that meeting would have resulted in his immediate beheading by the guards- an unbearable insult. Just more proof that this version of Blackthorne is no closer to 'going native' than he was at the beginning, but again, something completely made up for this TV version.

All my own whining aside, this was a good episode. Liked the battle scenes as Mariko tried to lead the hostages out of Osaka. The ninja scenes were a little dark and hard to see, but the production values were excellent. I'm not sure how Yabu's betrayal is going to be exposed now, as those familiar with the original story know how he was outed in the end. Of course, in this version, Yabu pretends loyalty no nobody anyway, so it hardly matters.

Interested to see the wrap. Now they have to waste time on resolving things that didn't need resolving, like moving Blackthorne into Toranaga's 'camp' when he never actually left it. IRL, Toranaga would never trust him again, and probably just order his death as punishment for his disloyalty as hatamoto and retainer. But we'll see some sort of 'western-style' reconciliation, no doubt. All in all this has been an excellent production. I'm something of a purist and a perfectionist when it comes to TV and movie adaptations, so I know I'm easily frustrated. Despite those frustrations, I fully acknowledge the brilliance of this production and the excellence of the actors. In summary, I still love it and plan to buy it on physical media.

Onward to the finale! (And sorry for the mini-novel here...)

I completely understand where you're coming from and ages ago i was in the same boat for a different novel ( The Physician by Noah Gordon and the movie adaptation of the book).

I was also a bit surprised by how secondary Blackthorne seemed to appear in this show, at least in the second half of it, and while we had several scenes and episodes that explained their developing feelings the producers and writers decided to focus their attention more on the political drama and make the japanese characters more central. I love it and am not upset about it because what we got is so utterly brilliant it's easy for me to "forgive" straying from the novel.

Since they changed quite a bit from the novel i am now more than curious how the show will conclude for certain characters. Some things will have to happen for it all to make sense but i am really interested in the details now.

In related issues i have watched some reaction videos for this episode and all of them were powershocked by the end. Not quite Red Wedding devastated but you felt that Mariko has gotten close to the audience and they thought she was safe after she won the political battle. The book and the show didn't pull any punches and it's a big reason why i love it for decades, ever since i read it as a teenager and watched the original 80s show.
 
saw the finale - it was not at all what I expected - but I think they stuck the landing, it feels satisfying and I got outsmarted by Toranaga a final time ;)

I expect Toranaga to attack - including with cannons - I'd be very disappointed otherwise, so many costly sacrifices...
but maybe he'll also just kill Ishido and then surrender or something out of left field...
Really hoping they stick the final episode and landing of the stories/arcs.

Loved how Blackthorne wished Fuji well ("best nun") and that they helped each other to release the remains of their loved ones to the ocean together.

Buntaro - what an anticlimactic end - just WTF

Looking back Mariko's red lip gloss during one of the final episodes could have been a subtle hint that she and her mission is "crimson (red) sky".

I am really confused however as to why we see the flash forward scenes of old Blackthorne in England on his death bed and why has he - what I believe is - Mariko's rosary/cross? Did he outlive Toranago and/or was able to flee?
Toranaga clearly has no plans to let him leave ("will have to destroy the ship again") and Blackthorne put Mariko's rosary/cross into the ocean.


I'm looking forward to dig into all the accompanying videos, actual history and more, including a rewatch.

Shogun - what an amazing masterpiece of a TV series :adore:
 
And there it is, the finale has come to one of the best miniseries in recent years. Perfectly planned, executed and leaving on a high note the way all shows should ( but sadly most overstay their welcome).

I honestly love that they didn't go full Samurai and show that massive battle at Sekigahara, which was an actually historic battle where Tokugawa Ieyasu, the inspiration and historical figure that formed the basis for the character of Toranaga, won and ushered in a peace period that lasted until the mid 1800s. No huge action in this one, just people being shell shocked by the events of the last episode and coming to terms with the new reality and some reveals.

As i knew the story already the broad story points were familiar to me but still the show did so much with the book that i am simply in awe. I am still a huge fan of the 80s show but this one is superior on so many levels because it doesn't go for the easy storybeats and simple action but focuses on much harder to achieve elements like well written characters that have been portrayed by actors at the top of their game.

I rarely get emotional over scenes but Blackthorne sitting with Fuji looking over the garden with Mariko missing ("No translator") and the sea burial they do later on had me choke up hard.

Apart from the fallout of Mariko's death and the resulting turmoil Yabushige / Tadanobu Asano dominates much of the episode as he is ordered to pay for his crime and gets his affairs in order. His conversation with Toranaga is fascinating to watch as he makes peace with his fate and uses the opportunity to get clarity which he only achieves in part because "Why tell a dead man the future?" ( a line so awesome in itself and in context it sent a shiver down my spine).

If this show doesn't clean out the major awards i don't know anymore.


saw the finale - it was not at all what I expected - but I think they stuck the landing, it feels satisfying and I got outsmarted by Toranaga a final time ;)



I am really confused however as to why we see the flash forward scenes of old Blackthorne in England on his death bed and why has he - what I believe is - Mariko's rosary/cross? Did he outlive Toranago and/or was able to flee?
Toranaga clearly has no plans to let him leave ("will have to destroy the ship again") and Blackthorne put Mariko's rosary/cross into the ocean.

The flashforwards are the imagination of Blackthorne, a sort of what if if he had made other or right choices at the right time. If he had acted differently Mariko might still be alive and he would have been able to return home to live out a full life the way he wants.


I'm looking forward to dig into all the accompanying videos, actual history and more, including a rewatch.

Shogun - what an amazing masterpiece of a TV series :adore:
 
Finished this morning, and my frustrations with the adaptation eased slightly now that I've seen it in its entirety.

My God, what a magnificent effort!

I've come to realize that this version of Shogun is to Clavell's book what Peter Jackson's movies are to Tolkien's LOTR.

I'm going to spoiler the remainder of my comments for those who haven't seen this yet. Warning: it contains book spoilers as well.

If there is one overarching gripe I have here, it's the treatment of Yabushige. (Kasigi Yabu). I feel he was totally mischaracterized, to the point of almost not being a Samurai character at all. Other than that, my complaints are few.

For those not familiar with the book, Fuji is given an entirely different fate. I can accept this here because her storyline in the book is portended but not actually witnessed, because it will happen some months after the book ends. To address it on screen would have taken too much screen time and too much explanation, so this was a good alternative in a screen adaptation.

One thing I felt was very important but left out was Blackthorne's attempt at seppuku. I see now that they merely moved it and changed the circumstances of it, and in a way it makes the lack of 'Japanese-ness' of his character more palatable through the bulk of the series. In the book, Yabu demands the villagers of Anjiro teach Anjin-san the Japanese language to an acceptable level within six months. (This is about the time in the show when he is training the cannon regiment). If he doesn't learn enough, the village will be burned and the villagers slain. Blackthorne learns of this, and as Mariko has taught him at that point, in Japan there are only Japanese solutions to problems. He threatens seppuku if Kasigi Yabu doesn't rescind his decree, his bluff is called, and he goes for it. In the book, Omi is the one who stops him. Kasigi relents, and at that moment Blackthorne is reborn Japanese, for lack of a better way to put it.

Yabushige's final convesation with Toranaga serves as a visual substitute for Toranaga's thoughts in the book, allowing them to play out on screen without a separate narration, which is something this series avoided. The viewer is left to infer what is in Toranaga's 'inner heart,' but at the very end of the book, he makes it plain: His fate is to be Shogun. His fate was always to be Shogun. He doesn't ask for this, he just knows and accepts it is his karma.

Although they sort of gloss over it here, Ochiba is truly the only one who understands Toranaga. She relents in the end, refusing to allow Yaemon to take the field at Sekigahara, because she knows Toranaga will kill him if he does. His banner on the field will make no difference- Toranaga will be Shogun no matter what it takes for him to get there. In fact, she, Ichido, and the Regents were right all along, and are the good guys by the letter of the law. Toranaga is a renegade who is in rebellion and means to seize power, but he achieves the one mitigating factor: In the end, he wins.

The deathbed scenes with Blackthorne can be interpreted as one wishes. Are they real, or the hallucination of a man who was almost blown up by a ninja bomb? In the book, Blackthorne's karma is to never leave Japan. In real life, William Adams built ships and did more exploring, but he always returned to Japan, considered it his final home, and laid his bones there. He was one of two occidentals ever ranked as samurai, and the other was a member of his original crew. What of the Anjin-san in this version? I guess the viewer can decide for themselves. In all versions of the story, we ultimately leave Blackthorne in the same place: on the beach at Anjiro, engaged in his craft: ships and the sea.

I can't remember when I've enjoyed something on TV more in recent years, except For All Mankind, which is a different animal than this production anyway. I can sit and listen to people speak Japanese all day long- I love the language, and its tones and inflections. I never watch Japanese productions (or anime) dubbed in English: I always watch in Japanese, with subtitles. Same with other foreign films, particularly those in French.

Anyway, WOW!

I give this a well deserved 10/10, and the awards shows don't have a hair on their ass if they don't HEAP the accolades on this production. And I entreat you: if you loved this, read the book!
 
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Loved how Blackthorne wished Fuji well ("best nun") and that they helped each other to release the remains of their loved ones to the ocean together.

I rarely get emotional over scenes but Blackthorne sitting with Fuji looking over the garden with Mariko missing ("No translator") and the sea burial they do later on had me choke up hard.
The scenes with Fuji and Blackthorne were just beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen such a perfect portrayal of loss and grief.

The deathbed scenes with Blackthorne can be interpreted as one wishes. Are they real, or the hallucination of a man who was almost blown up by a ninja bomb?
OK, I can buy that alternate explanation. However, it might've been better without those scenes, as they were confusing.

I thought they were real at first, but is the cross he's holding the same one he drops into the water? I suppose there are always more crosses...
That was a big question I had. However, if it was a near-death hallucination, it would make sense he'd still have her rosary.
 
For those who've had their interest in Japanese history sparked by this, there is an excellent 6-part documentary series on Netflix called: Age of Samurai; Battle for Japan. It starts with Nobunaga, then expands into the reign of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (The real Taiko), and finally on to the regency as depicted in this miniseries, and the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu to the rank of Shogun. It's pretty good, with plenty of battle scenes, blood and guts. Almost a docudrama at times. It's ichiban!
 
Man, I really really hope for two things following the success of this adaptation:

1. Blu-Ray release
2. A similar adaptation (in regards to level of detail, etc.) of Tai-Pan. The two hour movie done back in the ‘80-90s was an abomination.

Cheers,
-CM-
 
Man, I really really hope for two things following the success of this adaptation:

1. Blu-Ray release
2. A similar adaptation (in regards to level of detail, etc.) of Tai-Pan. The two hour movie done back in the ‘80-90s was an abomination.

Cheers,
-CM-
You’d imagine it’s bound to prompt studios to look at Clavell’s other books
 
Man, I really really hope for two things following the success of this adaptation:

1. Blu-Ray release
2. A similar adaptation (in regards to level of detail, etc.) of Tai-Pan. The two hour movie done back in the ‘80-90s was an abomination.

Cheers,
-CM-

Tai-Pan needs a good treatment- a miniseries would work good for it as well. I love Bryan Brown and Joan Chen, but yeah, the old movie as a LOT of issues.
 
I noticed that when checking out Clavell’s Wikipedia page. Is it any good?

Noble House as a mini-series was pretty good - they moved the time period up to the 1980’s IIRC, while the novel is set in the 1960s with lots of Cold War/spy intrigue. John Rhys-Davies was back again as a descendent of the antagonist in Tai-pan. Good stuff.

While they could do a mini-series of Whirlwind, I think most studios would give it a hard pass, given the setting (Revolutionary Iran in 1979/1980) and today’s happenings… Yikes!

Gaijin would be pretty good, although who knows where Clavell was going with it when he passed on, as it’s really more just setting pieces in place for… something.

King Rat could probably get a re-do, although it’s already a good classic movie.

Cheers,
-CM-
 
Hoping for a BD release. Trying to watch it On Demand and it's constantly freezing, breaking up and going out of sync. That plus the constant Disney promos may cause me to do harm to my nice TV.
 
Great series, although the finale felt a bit anticlimactic. Episode 9 felt more like the climax of the series.

Did the blast knock a few screws loose in Yabushige's head, or was he pretending? He acted somewhat erratically afterwards, like trying to catch phantom catfish or asking Blackthorne to teach him how to dive and wanting Blackthorne to take him to England.

But even before the blast, I thought Yabushige was one of the more colorful characters in the series because he didn't always behave according to the strict cultural decorum.

Btw, that was some wacky poem that Yabushige composed. It fit his personality so well.

It was good to hear Toranaga tell Yabushige that Blackthorne was not important in the scheme of things.

As the series progressed, I couldn't help but wonder why Blackthorne's presence was even needed for the plot to work. Ishido and the taiko expressed no interest in Blackthorne. At times, it seemed like Blackthorne was there just for the sake of being there. Toranaga confirmed what was apparent.

This Shogun story really wasn't about Blackthorne. It was fitting that the last scene of the miniseries was that of Toranaga, not Blackthorne.

I guess watching the first Shogun miniseries, with Richard Chamberlain, led me to expect that Blackthorne would play a central role in this miniseries as well.

Sidenote. When Toranaga admitted that Blackthorne "makes me laugh", it made me think of the scene from the movie Gung Ho, where the Japanese CEO of Assan Motors says to Michael Keaton's character, "I like you. You make me laugh". It was funny to hear Toranaga say the same thing.

Sorry about that, going from the sublime to the ridiculous.
 
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