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The World of FX’s Shōgun

The World of FX’s Shōgun

What happens when you combine the grand, gory battles of Game of Thrones with a historically accurate depiction of Japanese culture in the 1600s and the drama of a period piece? You get FX and Hulu’s new original series, Shōgun, and critics are already raving about this groundbreaking historical action drama: in fact, it received a rare perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Here’s our guide to watching Shōgun with DIRECTV, so you don’t miss a minute of the samurai sword fighting and Machiavellian plot lines. We’ve also put together a list of other films and TV shows that you can watch before the premiere or afterwards, if you’re in the mood for even more samurai action.

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WHAT IS FX’S ‘SHŌGUN’ SERIES ABOUT?

FX’s Shōgun, an original adaptation of James Clavell’s bestselling novel, is set in Japan in the year 1600 at the dawn of a century-defining civil war. Producer Hiroyuki Sanada stars as “Lord Yoshii Toranaga” who is fighting for his life as his enemies on the Council of Regents unite against him. 

When a mysterious European ship is found marooned in a nearby fishing village, its English pilot, “John Blackthorne” (Cosmo Jarvis), comes bearing secrets that could help Toranaga tip the scales of power and devastate the formidable influence of Blackthorne’s own enemies — the Jesuit priests and Portuguese merchants. Toranaga’s and Blackthorne’s fates become inextricably tied to their translator, “Toda Mariko” (Anna Sawai), a mysterious Christian noblewoman and the last of a disgraced line. 

While serving her lord amidst this fraught political landscape, Mariko must reconcile her newfound companionship with Blackthorne, her commitment to the faith that saved her and her duty to her late father. 

The 10-episode limited series features an acclaimed Japanese cast, unprecedented for an American production, including Tadanobu Asano as “Kashigi Yabushige,” a notorious backstabber and close ally of Toranaga; Hiroto Kanai as “Kashigi Omi,” the young leader of the fishing village where Blackthorne’s ship was found; Takehiro Hira as “Ishido Kazunari,” a powerful bureaucrat who is Toranaga’s chief rival; Moeka Hoshi as “Usami Fuji,” a widow who must find new purpose amidst her lord’s fight; Tokuma Nishioka as “Toda Hiromatsu,” Toranaga’s trusted general and closest friend; Shinnosuke Abe as “Buntaro” (“Toda Hirokatsu”), Mariko’s jealous husband; Yuki Kura as “Yoshii Nagakado,” the brash son of Toranaga with a strong desire to prove himself; Yuka Kouri as “Kiku,” a courtesan renowned for her artistry throughout Japan; and Fumi Nikaido as “Ochiba no Kata,” the revered mother of the heir who will stop at nothing to put an end to Toranaga and his threat to her son’s power.

Shōgun is created for television by Rachel Kondo & Justin Marks, with Marks serving as showrunner and executive producer alongside Michaela Clavell, Edward L. McDonnell, Michael De Luca and Kondo. The series is produced by FX Productions.

WHERE CAN YOU WATCH ‘SHŌGUN’?

Watch FX’s Shōgun Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX with DIRECTV Ch. 248. 

OTHER SHOWS AND MOVIES LIKE ‘SHOGUN’

The samurai are near-synonymous with Japanese history and culture, and there’s been no shortage of tales featuring them in film and television. Here are some other samurai-centric movies and TV shows that are similar to Shōgun for you to add to your watch list.

‘JAMES CLAVELL’S SHŌGUN’ (1980)

For all of the hype around it, the FX/Hulu version of Shōgun is not the first time a limited series has been made based on the novel. The first on-screen adaptation of Shōgun actually came in 1980, five years after its original publication, as a four-part miniseries on NBC. Nearly one third of all American viewers tuned in to watch the miniseries, which helped catapult Richard Chamberlain to household name-level fame and contributed to his nickname “the King of the Mini-Series.” Watch the full miniseries here.


‘THE LAST SAMURAI’ (2003)

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Tom Cruise stars in this 2003 samurai classic as U.S. Army Captain Nathan Algren, who is hired to travel to Japan in 1876 to train the Imperial Japanese Army as it fights a rebellion led by a group of samurai. When Algren is captured by that samurai force, he is exposed to a different, more traditional way of life and discovers a new purpose.

The Last Samurai is an original story made for the big screen, but Algren’s journey from desperate foreigner to trusted samurai ally is remarkably similar to Blackthorne’s in Shōgun and involves many of the same themes.


’47 RONIN’ (2013)

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47 Ronin, the 2013 epic historical fantasy action film starring Keanu Reeves, follows Kai, a half-Japanese, half-English warrior who leads a group of masterless samurai, or ronin, on a mission to avenge the death of their lord at the hands of one of the shogun’s nefarious advisors.

47 Ronin draws much more heavily on elements of fantasy films like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones and on magic from Japanese folklore, but it, too, has many parallels to Shōgun.


‘BLUE EYE SAMURAI’ (2023)

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Blue Eye Samurai is a 2023 historical fiction anime series from Netflix that follows a mixed-race, female Japanese samurai, Mizu, who after becoming fed up with the intense discrimination she faces, sets out on a quest to exact revenge on those who have wronged her in the past.

Produced in the classic Japanese animation style, Blue Eye Samurai explores themes of race, class, belonging, and vengeance, as seen through the eyes of someone whose existence flies in the face of most of the social norms of 17th century Japan.


‘YOJIMBO’ (1961)

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Another samurai tale set in the Edo period, this movie follows Kuwabatake Sanjuro, a ronin who wanders the Japanese countryside before inserting himself into a gang war raging in a local city. Yojimbo features plenty of political maneuvering between the gang’s leader, with Sanjuro working both sides as he pits them against each other to rid the town of both groups.

Another connection to Shōgun: Sanjuro’s character is played by legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who played Shōgun’s Lord Toranaga in the 1980 version of the series.


‘THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI’ (2002)

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The Twilight Samurai offers a very different take on the samurai lifestyle, focusing less on martial prowess and sword-fighting (though there is plenty of that!) and more on the aspects of the Bushido code involving honor and duty. The story centers around Iguchi Seibei, a low-ranking, impoverished samurai who loses his wife to illness and pushes aside many of his samurai duties to prioritize caring for his daughters and ailing mother. Eventually, he is forced to put his swordsmanship skills to use again when an old friend returns to town and forces his hand.

The Twilight Samurai received critical acclaim for exploring a unique angle on samurai life, including 12 Japanese Academy Awards and a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2004 Oscars.

WATCH ‘SHOGUN’ ON DIRECTV

Sharpen your katana and tighten your armor. You can watch Shōgun and your other favorite samurai movies and TV shows on DIRECTV. Watch FX’s Shōgun Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX with DIRECTV on Ch. 248. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who created FX's Shogun?

Justin Marks, who also wrote the box office hit Top Gun: Maverick, and Rachel Kondo.

What is Shogun's release date?

February 27, 2024

What is a Shogun?

The shogun was a feudal Japanese military ruler. These leaders were the de facto rulers of all of Japan from around 1185 AD to 1868 AD.

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