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Shogun Release Date, Cast, Plot, Trailer And More Details

Feudal Japan has become a legendary era to modern viewers, thanks to a vast variety of literature, film, and TV series set within its confines. Perhaps no story did more for the Western perception of this era than Australian author James Clavell's gargantuan 1975 novel "Shogun." A vast and intricately detailed piece of historical fiction, it imagines multiple perspectives as it brings the world of 17th century Japan to life. In 1980, the acclaimed novel reached an even larger audience when an adaptation aired on NBC. Arriving at the peak of the blockbuster TV miniseries era, the five-part project, starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune, earned massive ratings and three Primetime Emmy Awards.

It wasn't the most faithful adaptation, however, which left some fans disappointed. Luckily, times have changed. A new "Shogun" limited series is headed for FX, and it promises to be great. Here's everything we know so far about the prestige cable network's carefully considered small-screen reimagining of "Shogun."

When will Shogun be released?

FX has been at work, albeit very slowly, on a new adaptation of James Clavell's "Shogun" for years. The network ordered the show in summer 2018 and attempted to get production off the ground right away. Unfortunately, it encountered some early obstacles, and in early 2019, FX decided to ramp up production on another limited series ordered at the same time as "Shogun" — "Fosse/Verdon" — in order to give itself some time to make sure the samurai show was as top-tier as possible. 

"We just didn't think it was in a good enough shape," FX CEO John Landgraf explained to Deadline. "Our bottom line was — we just said, we need to slow down and we've got to aim higher." Producers used that delay to order additional script development and to figure out the complexities of shooting in multiple international locations.

Finally, after more than two years in limbo, filming on "Shogun" got underway in Vancouver in fall 2021. Over two years later, in November 2023, FX unveiled the first footage of "Shogun," followed by a release date. The rollout of the limited series begins on February 27, 2024, with the debut of two episodes on Hulu in the United States. FX will later air on terrestrial cable a single episode each week for the run of the show.

What is the plot of Shogun?

FX's "Shogun" will remain largely faithful to the source text, at least in terms of plot and character arrangements. The series takes place in the year 1600, when Japan was deep in its feudal period and lords ruled over every aspect of life in their ascribed area. It is this very system that Lord Yoshi Toranaga is trying to maintain after the Council of Regents conspires to shut him out, threatening his life, influence, and home.

Nearby, an unexplained and unannounced ship from Europe washes up in a small fishing community. Its operator, a British sailor named John Blackthorne, knows a thing or two about the consolidation of power. After initially meeting as enemies, Toranaga and Blackthorne team up to share their gifts of leadership and political strategizing and fight their respective enemies: the rest of the shogun lords and the Jesuits and Portuguese merchants, respectively.

Their translator, Lady Toda Mariko, soon finds her fate intertwined with both of these men. A noblewoman, Christian, and the last in a line of samurai pariahs, she attempts to balance a relationship with Blackthorne with her loyalties to her lord, family, and faith.

Who is starring in Shogun?

"Shogun" includes dozens of characters, but most of the action focuses on just three individuals: a British sailor who gets lost and winds up in Japan, a feudal lord (or daimyo) in the middle of a war, and the noble daughter of a samurai. Cosmo Jarvis, recently seen on the series "Peaky Blinders" and "Raised by Wolves," will portray John Blackthorne, the British sailor. Portraying Lord Yoshi Toranaga, the lord who holds Blackthorne prisoner before ultimately agreeing to mentor him, will be Hiroyuki Sanada, recognizable from "Lost" and "Army of the Dead." Anna Sawai, seen in "Pachinko" and "F9," is set to play Toda Mariko, the Japanese noblewoman with complex loyalties.

"Shogun" also features a large supporting cast of Japanese actors. Among them are Tadanobu Asano, Fumi Nikaido, Tokuma Nishioka, Takehiro Hira, Shinnosuke Abe, Yasunari Takeshima, Hiroto Kanai, Toshi Toda, Hiro Kanagawa, Moeka Hoshi, and Yoriko Doguchi. Additionally, Tommy Bastow, who played Kieran on "The Window," co-stars as Father Martin Alvito, while Nestor Carbonell of "The Morning Show" will portray Vasco Rodrigues.

Who is writing, showrunning, and directing Shogun?

"Shogun" marks the first screen project for award-winning author Rachel Kondo. Alongside series showrunner Justin Marks (who served as a writer on "Top Gun: Maverick" and created Starz thriller "Counterpart"), Kondo penned an original adaptation of James Clavell's 1975 novel, and is credited with writing some episodes of the new series. Both Kondo and Marks also serve as executive producers on "Shogun," alongside Michaela Clavell – daughter of James Clavell — and a number of other figures.

Other credited writers on "Shogun" include Maegan Houang ("Counterpart"), Emily Yoshida ("Sitting"), Shannon Goss ("Outlander" and "The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon"), Matt Lambert ("Into the Badlands"), and Ronan Bennett (creator of "Top Boy"). "Shogun" is primarily directed by Frederick E.O. Toye, an experienced TV helmer who's tackled episodes of "Mrs. Davis," "The Walking Dead," "The Boys," and "The Man in the High Castle."

Is there a trailer for Shogun?

On November 2, 2023, FX released the first trailer for "Shogun." Rather than outline the intricate plot, this trailer offers many evocative glimpses of its world. Shots of prayer, rituals of deference, tea service, and training sessions grab the viewer's attention. We also see British sailor Blackthorne endure violence, presumably after arriving in Japan, from both Europeans and Japanese lords. Taken together, these fascinating moments set the scene, evoke a precise tone, and show off both the beautiful and brutal imagery of 17th century Japan.

Ominous narration explains the thesis of "Shogun" and conveys the series' mood even further. "Just remember: We live and we die. We control nothing beyond that," Toda Mariko says to an incredulous Blackthorne. Lord Toranaga adds, "Every man has three hearts. One in his mouth for the world to know. Another in his chest that's for his friends. And a secret heart buried deep where no one can find it."

How will the new Shogun be different from the 1980 version?

If one's only impression of "Shogun" is the massively popular 1980 miniseries, they might believe it's a story about a white European man living in feudal Japan. But novelist James Clavell's "Shogun" runs more than 1,300 pages and 328,000 words, and contains a lot of plot, context, and development the 1980 project doesn't even begin to touch — particularly as it pertains to the Japanese characters.

"When we looked at the material, we realized this is very richly researched and richly written, very compelling and accurate portrayal of feudal Japan," FX Networks CEO John Landgraf told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's a whole lot of point of view that was omitted from the original series." The reason, according to Landgraf? NBC, the network that produced and aired the 1980 "Shogun," believed that American viewers weren't interested in the Japanese perspective. "And now, I think you have to tell the story from the Japanese as well as Western point of view," he added. Landgraf also promised more visibility for female characters, particularly samurai, and that lots of scenes would be presented in Japanese with subtitles. In contrast, the 1980 series' actors speak English throughout.