Shogun Was a Thrilling Epic, But Do We Really Need a Second Season?

The Anjin is concerned about bloated TV shows.


In 1980, a television event captured America’s attention. From September 15 to September 19, viewers tuned in for a sweeping adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 novel Shogun. The series earned a Golden Globe, an Emmy, and even a Peabody, but a week later the story was over and gone. The miniseries was recut for a theatrical release, but there was no surprise ending setting up the Anjin’s further adventures.

Forty-four years later, that’s about to change. And while good television may come out of this, it’s still a problem for Shogun’s story — and television as a whole.

FX’s new Shogun adaptation has been just as successful as its predecessor, and because it aired weekly, it managed to keep viewers hooked for longer. However, it was still an adaptation of a single novel and was advertised from the beginning as a limited series, meaning it was a one-off story meant to stand alone.

Hiroyuki Sanada will apparently return as Lord Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun Season 2.


That changed last week when Deadline reported that Shogun star Hiroyuki Sanada had signed a deal with FX to return for a Season 2. The timing is especially curious, as word arrived soon before the submission deadline for the Emmy awards, and Variety reports the series may be entered into the Drama series category, not the Limited Series category.

Moving beyond the novel is a big decision, although it’s not entirely unprecedented. The most relevant example is 2017’s Big Little Lies: the HBO series was also based on a novel and billed as a miniseries, but when it proved popular, the book’s author wrote a novella to serve as the basis for Season 2.

The method gave fans more of a popular series, but the original ending’s finality was difficult to move past. Shogun is setting itself up for a similar problem. The series ended exactly where the book ended, so any further adventures may feel like the story is being stretched beyond its natural limits, potentially dragging down its quality.

How can Shogun continue its story after such a definitive Season 1?


While Clavell wrote multiple novels in his Asian Saga, it doesn’t seem like they can inspire a direct sequel. Shogun is set in Japan in 1600, while the next book in the timeline, Tai-Pan, is set during the Opium Wars almost 250 years later. With Hiroyuki Sanada already signed on for Season 2, it would be difficult to move the action to a completely different era — and a completely different country. Lord Toranaga is presumably not a time traveler, although that would be quite the twist.

Shogun captured over 1000 pages of historical epic and political drama in 10 episodes. Most of its heroes saw their stories come to definitive ends. It was a grand adventure, but is it worth returning to without more source material? Most TV shows either meet their demise as Watchmen Season 1 or live long enough to become Game of Thrones Season 8. We can only hope Shogun avoids the latter’s fate.

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