Hiroyuki Sanada as Lord Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun

Sharpen Your Katana, ‘Shōgun’ Is Coming Back For More

They thought it was over. They thought wrong. The epic historical drama series that was Shōgun is returning for a second season.

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The series, based on James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name, wowed audiences across the globe with its phenomenal storytelling, acting, and design, and now it’s coming back for more. Japanese-led stories are currently experiencing an all-time high in popularity with Western audiences. While the country has become a go-to vacation destination thanks not only to its phenomenal food, stunning natural beauty, and unique culture, due to the weak yen, media from and about the country is also experiencing a massive surge in interest.

Alongside Shōgun, shows such as Blue Eye Samurai and Tokyo Vice have also captured audiences’ imaginations while anime is experiencing a boom in interest globally. Shōgun‘s first season has been one of the highlights of television this year so far, becoming FX’s most-watched show ever, based on global hours streamed.

What happened in season one?

Lady Mariko, played by Anna Sawai, deep in thought in Shōgun

The story follows a Dutch sailor who gets shipwrecked off the coast of Japan during the feudal years and finds himself thrown into a world of rituals, customs, and political machinations. The story is based on the real-life events of Tokugawa Ieyasu, considered one of the three Great Unifiers of Japan. At this time, a sailor, William Adams, landed on Japan’s shores and won the confidence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, earning himself the title hatamoto (bannerman).

The novel is inspired by the above events but is a work of historical fiction. Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes Lord Yoshii Toranaga and William Adams becomes John Blackthorne. Blackthorne is shipwrecked on Japanese shores and is dragged in front of Toranaga, who sees the benefit of having Western knowledge on his side, especially with war on the horizon. While Blackthorne is immersed in Japanese culture and aids Toranaga in his political plans, he also falls in love with Toranaga’s translator, Lady Mariko, who has her own story to tell.

The end of season one saw the victory of Toranaga, who is now positioned as one of the most powerful men in Japan, steering the country forward. Blackthorne is left wondering if he should return home or stay in Japan.

What will happen in season 2?

Hiroyuki Sanada as Toranaga in Shogun, riding a white horse

After months of uncertainty, Shōgun‘s co-showrunners, Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks, have announced that a second and third season are on the way. But how can this be, given that the first season covered all of Cavell’s novel? There is no more source material. Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Kondo said,

There’s a lot of chaos, but creative chaos. We’re throwing everything that we have at the wall, seeing what sticks. It’s been exciting and nerve-racking because, obviously, this is uncharted territory—we don’t have a road map, we just have history.

The couple have already headed back to Japan to do more cultural and historical research, as well as dive into the author’s own history. The pair have the support of Clavell’s estate, as well. Given that the author died in 1994, they will be looking through the work he left behind. Though he may never have written a sequel to his novel, he spent three years researching the feudal period in Japan. The estate is now run by his daughter, who will return as an executive producer.

Marks talked about how he is planning the future for seasons two and three, adding,

There’s a lot of great conspiracy theory in history… and those little darker corners are what we’ve really enjoyed exploring,. The third season is really an ending. We know where it starts, and we know where it ends, and we know who is there on that journey. We’re just focusing on part two right now to really make sure we can get to that point. But part two is, as second chapters go, kind of a darker chapter.

Who is returning?

We know that actor Hiroyuki Sanada, who played Toranaga, will return to his role after reports came to light in May that he had signed on to continue. The actor believes that, though they don’t have the novel to work from anymore, they have “his spirit and the taste of storytelling,” adding, “All his DNA is in our bodies, I believe.”

For those who have seen the season one finale, we know who lives and who died. Likely, the cast who made it out alive by the end of the season will return, such as Cosmo Jarvis, who portrayed John Blackthorne. Anna Sawai’s time as the phenomenal Lady Mariko is sadly over. Though the actress is open to coming back in the form of flashbacks, she doesn’t feel it’s necessary to shove it in just to keep her on board.

I don’t want them to write something just to have her in it, like it feels a little forced. I’m happy. I just want to watch it as an audience. I was telling them I’m happy to go to set and like walk the dogs or be with the horses, that’s my next job.

When can we expect the next season?

The script is still underway for the second season, and the showrunners and producers are very unlikely to announce anything until they are sure they have gold to work with. It took quite some time for the first season to hit screens, having been greenlit back in 2018 and only landing on FX and Disney+ earlier this year. That being said, thanks to the success of the first season, the second season will likely get underway much faster. Still, it could be some time before we can return to this particular feudal Japanese story.

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Laura Pollacco
Laura Pollacco (she/her) is a contributing writer here at The Mary Sue, having written for digital media since 2022 and has a keen interest in all things Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and anime. She has worked for various publications including We Got This Covered, but much of her work can be found gracing the pages of print and online publications in Japan, where she resides. Outside of writing she treads the boards as an actor, is a portrait and documentary photographer, and takes the little free time left to explore Japan.