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Shogun Episodes 1-4 Review

Updated: Mar 29

Lord Toranaga sits and gazes forward.
Lord Toranaga pays his respects to the Taiko.

Source: FX

Overall: 8.4/10

Story 8.3/10

John Blackthorne is a gifted ship's pilot. And he’s trying to take the crew to Japan. Only they’ve had a streak of bad luck. Not everyone makes it to the end of the journey. But those who lay eyes on Japan are in for a rude awakening—especially John. He encounters a world of court intrigue and deadly games that most outsiders are ill-equipped to play. 

Shogun's creators use everything at their disposal to spin this epic tale. It’s all given meticulous thought. The visual feast of stunning costumes and colorful set designs serve as a backdrop for the politics and court intrigue that these interesting and complex characters play with one another. 

John Blackthorne aims his guns.
John Blackthorne refuses to give up his guns.

Source: FX

Character 8.5/10

Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) doesn’t want power or to reclaim his family’s legacy. He only wants to fulfill his oath to protect the heir to the shogunate. He has no love for the foreigners that have come to his country. But he is willing to use whatever weapon he has at his disposal to defeat those who want to see harm come to the heir. Enter John Blackthorne. Their survival depends on what they can forge together.

John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is a British Privateer who hates the Catholics. He wants to defeat them at all costs. He hopes to create wealth and power for himself while preserving the lives of his crewmates. The only problem is that his fortunes are tied to Yoshii Toranaga.

And Toranaga, at the outset, seems outmatched. But looks can be deceiving.

Yoshii Nagakado (Yuki Kura) is a boy playing at shogun. It’s not clear what repercussions his ill-advised actions will have. But war seems to be on the wind anyway. One thing is for sure though. Papa Yoshii will not be pleased. 

Toda Mariko (Ana Sawai) wishes to serve God and Toranaga. But this viewer would wager she’ll find out pretty quickly that you can’t serve two masters. Her eyes are certainly open about what the Portuguese want and about John's previous exploits. What will she do now?

Usami Fugi (Moeka Hoshi) mourns her dead husband and child. She wishes to leave this world. But since she has been forbidden, she yearns for purpose. It seems she may have found one in John. 


Kashige Yabushigi (Tadanabo Asano), the twisted sadomasochist, is an opportunist. He will follow where the winds of victory take him and claim he was headed there the whole time. He's certainly not someone you want to show your back to. 

Kashigi Omi (Hiroto Kani) is a conniving little worm. It would appear that it runs in his family as he will do anything to appease his uncle Yabushigi

Father Martin Alvito (Tommy Bastow) straddles the fence nicely. He’s Portuguese. He knows all of the Jesuit’s dirty secrets and seems to support them. Will his feelings for Mariko get in the way?

Vasco Rodrigues (Nestor Carbonell) hates the English. But in the brief time he’s known John, he’s come to respect him.

Kayama Ukon Sadanaga (Hiramoto Ida) is a regent closely tied to the catholic church. But his devotion is based upon how much wealth he can accumulate and how far his ties to the church can fuel his rise to power. 

Sugiyama (Toshi Toda) comes from the wealthiest samurai family in the country. He supports Ishido. But his motivations haven’t become clear yet.  Perhaps they will reveal themselves as the series moves forward. 

Ohno Harunobu (Takeshi Kurokawa) is another regent with close ties to the Catholic church in Japan. His leprosy drew him to the Jesuit embrace. He is a supporter of Ishido. But he is another regent whose motivations are not clear. 

Ishido Kazunari (Takehiro Hira) wants to eliminate Toranaga. Toranaga’s family lineage threatens Ishido and the heir's power. But Ishido’s motivations might not be altruistic. He may want to eliminate the other regents when Toranaga is out of the way. Once they're gone, what would stop him from eliminating the heir to the shogunate for his own gain?

Toda Mariko smirks at Usami Fugi, while Fugi aims her gun.
Usami Fugi defends John Blackthorne to Mariko's surprise.

Source: FX

Final Thoughts

It’s not much of a stretch to say that Shogun is an incredible epic. Every aspect of the storytelling has been carefully planned to paint this beautiful dance on a knife’s edge that these characters play with each other. This viewer can’t wait to see where it’ll all lead. 


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