- Susan Morrison

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun. (Picture: FX/Colin Bentley)Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun. (Picture: FX/Colin Bentley)
Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun. (Picture: FX/Colin Bentley)
My dear Yorkshire husband thinks he can speak Japanese. This is entirely the fault of the latest Disney+ sensation, Shogun, based on James Clavell’s 1970s novel.

By jings, they liked a big book back then. I read it and seem to remember it was hefty enough to do service as an actual coffee table. It was, indeed, a heavyweight novel. They were all huge. Arthur Hailey, Jackie Collins and Barbara Taylor Bradford were all banging out blockbusters that doubled as bicep training. Taylor Bradford’s first novel, A Woman of Substance,' weighed in at 16 and a half pounds.

Shogun has hit the screens before, famously in the 80s with Richard Chamberlain in the lead. A brilliant actor. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday, which for some reason, made me quite chuffed. The 80s one was sparing on the subtitles, but this version has gone all in. We’re hearing a lot of Japanese.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now, my husband does not like subtitles. Why, he says, should he watch the telly and then be expected to read something? A fair point and well made. Subtitles are not always a good idea. You can get the feeling you’re missing something.

Back in the 80s I went to the Filmhouse to see a Japanese film, Akira Kurosawa’s Ran. For some reason you had to say it like that, directors name and all, especially in the bar. Great bar. For that alone, let the Filmhouse flourish.

The subtitles were in white, not a good idea in a film boasting a lot of pastel silk costuming. In front of me sat two or three young Japanese lads who howled with laughter at various points, whilst everyone else stared at bits of words on the screen that appeared to tell one of the characters to disembowel himself. Clearly something got lost in translation.

This new Shogun is fantastic. The Yorkshire husband is totally committed to the fate of Lord Toranaga, he tells me. At least I think that’s what he’s saying. I’m planning on introducing him to Scandi Noir next, so let’s see how long it takes before he starts barking “Tak” at people.