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The hit series “Shogun” is exposing more people to Japanese history. But how accurate is it?

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Between samurai warriors charging into battle, romance and political maneuvering that would put “Game of Thrones” to shame, it’s not hard to see why the FX series “Shogun” has become a breakout hit. But there’s something else the show has going for it: history. In Hollywood, history is often more of a guideline than a guiding principle. But in “Shogun,” FX’s new adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 historical novel, history takes center stage in a way that threads the needle between dramatic storytelling and historical accuracy, says Michael Thornton, a visiting assistant professor of history at Northeastern University who specializes in Japanese and East Asian history.

“Shogun” takes place in 1600 at the end of the Sengoku period as Japan is still recovering from civil war. When the taiko, or prime chancellor, dies, leaving an underage heir and a power vacuum, the leading members of the Council of Regents begin to battle for control. All of this occurs at a time when European presence in Japan is restricted largely to Portuguese Catholic priests and merchants, but other Western forces are starting to bang at the doors.

“They really are trying to capture a lot of both the domestic politics and the international relations, both of which are really dynamic, historically speaking, at the end of the 16th and into the early 17th century,” Thornton says. “Everyone is sort of standing in for a broader array of complexity, but I would give an undergraduate lecture on that time that’s about at that level of complexity.” Thornton adds that Japan’s period of isolation from the West is more well known than this earlier period, but the show has excelled at making what could easily be an overwhelming history lesson into something compelling and largely accurate.

Read more at Northeastern Global News.

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