HomeAAPI ActorsRemake of Shogun explores the stories of its Japanese characters

Remake of Shogun explores the stories of its Japanese characters

The new Shogun, hailed as the Game of Thrones of feudal Japan, is set to air on February 27th. The 10-episode limited series is made with greater focus on the stories of the Japanese characters and made collaboratively with cultural experts.

Shogun is based on James Clavell’s 1975 best-selling novel about an English sailor who lands in Japan in the 17th century in search of riches but ends up adopting the lifestyle of a samurai. It was first adapted into television back in 1980, where the most memorable part of the popular NBC mini-series was its White male star Richard Chamberlain.

Gina Balian, co-president of FX Entertainment told the New York Times that while reading the novel, she discovered that the story devotes considerable lengths to exploring the Japanese characters.  “I thought that there was a story to be told that was much wider and deeper,” she said.

The remake will feature a robust cast of Japanese American actors. The first name credited is Hiroyuki Sanada who plays a Japanese lord, and he is also a producer of the show. Sanada told the New York Times that he was disappointed by the original series, “As a Japanese, I wanted to see something more real at the time, to be honest,” he said. 

The 1980s series was also criticized for its emphasis on the western point of view, and the remake will bring more attention to the lives of the Japanese characters.

“We see the story through Toranaga’s eyes, Lady Mariko’s eyes, so many Japanese eyes,” Sanada told USA Today, “That’s the intention of this version, to not see this story through one set of eyes this time. And to it make as authentic as possible.”

Rachel Kondo, who wrote and co-produced the show with her husband Justin Marks, is ethnically part Japanese and born in Hawaii.

“I said, ‘Oh wow, look at my chance to connect with the culture I identify with and how I was raised,’” Kondo said in an interview with the New York Times. “Very quickly in the process I came to understand that not only am I not Japanese, I’m Japanese American, which is completely different.”

The New York Times reported that the writing room for the show consisted almost exclusively of Japanese women. The husband and wife duo worked with Mako Kamitsuna, a film editor from Hiroshima and Eriko Miyagawa, who brings an impressive portfolio consulting other Western-made films set in Japan, including Martin Scorsese’s Silence.

The series had to cancel its original plans to shoot in Japan due to the logistical complications of the COVID pandemic, according to USA Today. Instead, the crew recreated 17th century Japan near Vancouver, Canada, that featured painstakingly detailed and historically authentic architecture and interiors.

“There’s nothing that exists, not even in Japan, that looks like it looked in 1600. So you really are building it from scratch,” Marks told USA Today. “But that was nothing compared to getting 300 extras out every day in full outfits, looking absolutely right and moving right.”

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