This 1980 made for Tv costume drama mini series focuses on Englishman John Blackthorne whose ship reaches Japan in 1600 only to find the country on the verge of civil war and various European factions already meddling in the countries political, religious and merchantile affairs, but which faction [or factions] should he back and what will become of the crew?
Loosely based on real events, the first thing is that the spoken Japanese is not subtitled, so we view things very much from Blackthorns understanding. This is especially so on the first disc, but as his understanding grows, there is much more spoken English [which is subtitled]. Secondly, credits and recaps have been omitted, so in effect this plays as a continuous film. Picture quality is generally good, but some paused ‘stills’ do appear grainy –not surprising for the age, while an infrequent narration helps keep you informed to various story plots and changes. It’s now hard to imagine that this series broke many USA Tv taboo’ at the time.
The first 4 of the 5 discs opens to a 22 language selection before going to a main menu offering play, audio options [English, French, Spanish], subtitles [22 languages, English for hearing impared, none] and scene selection. The final disc actually holds the extras, the making of, 3 historical perspectives and commentaries on select scenes. The discs vary in age rating between 12 to 15 as there is some strong language and violence. For those wishing to learn something about Japan and European trade around the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, then this is an entertaining start, complete with forbidden and unrequited love interest and various morality checks. Who knows, you might even learn some Japanese, even why you ‘hang’ pheasants and game.