Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

Why ‘Shōgun’ is a Must-Watch for your 2024 Movie List

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TCNJ chapter.

Jonathan van Tulleken’s “Shōgun” has been a very promising American-Japanese miniseries that showcases the intense political rivalries that dominated 17th century feudal Japan. 

Tulleken only plans to release one season with 10 episodes. Personally, based on how it’s panned out, 10 episodes is not enough.

The series centers around John Blackthorne, an ambitious English sea pilot who sets his sights on creating a Pacific Islands trade route to disrupt the Portuguese trade system in Asia. His destiny takes a wild turn when he’s taken hostage by Japanese militants on the coast of a Japanese fishing village.

At the same time, the storyline also focuses on Lord Yoshii Toranaga, a legendary Japanese warlord who will eventually — albeit, reluctantly — become the shōgun, the most powerful Japanese military leader who is the de facto ruler of Japan. 

Throughout the seven of the 10 episodes that have been released so far, Blackthorne’s journey has been addicting to see unfold. His witty remarks in the presence of the serious Japanese soldiers also provides comic relief in the right places given his precarious situation.

Although, the miscommunication between Blackthorne and his captors was frustrating to watch because if he didn’t have a poor or vindictive translator, he wouldn’t be in a life-or-death predicament. I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of Blackthorne’s character being killed off so early in the season, or at all for that matter. At the same time, Blackthorne’s undetermined fate did add to the excitement as it keeps me guessing whether he’ll live to see another day.

Meanwhile, the political intrigue is captivating as well. To give some context of Japan’s political sphere, Toranaga is initially part of a council of five regents in Osaka, Japan; they were put in power after the last emperor died and plan to remain that way until the next heir comes of age. 

Tulleken relies on the odds weighing heavily against the protagonist to build up suspense throughout the series: Toranaga is the only good egg out of the five regents which makes him an outcast in the group as the decisions of the corrupt council are mainly dictated by one of the regents, Ishido Kazunari. However, Kazunari is worried that Toranaga has gained too much power with his many alliances he formed after the death of the emperor. 

At risk of impeachment due to Kazunari’s fears, Toranaga carries out a risky escape from Osaka with his loyal men, including Mariko and Blackthorne. 

Toranaga’s escape plan depended on the trust of his inner network of spies as well as his closest confidantes which kept me on my toes, wondering whether anyone close to him would end up betraying his confidence. 

For now, the series ends on a cliffhanger, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself. On that note, I’m excited to see what fate has in store for Toranaga in the next episode. 

You can start watching the series here on Hulu. 

Hi! I'm Chiara and I'm an English major at TCNJ. When I'm not writing for Her Campus or frantically typing up an article for The Signal, you can find me reading, hanging out with friends, or curling up with my cat and watching a movie.