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If you have to watch one Hulu show this May, stream this one

A man aims two guns in Shogun.
Hulu

While it doesn’t get as much love as Netflix, Hulu’s library of content is every bit as rich as its competitor’s. The best shows on Hulu are among the best shows you can watch anywhere, but if you’re trying to narrow in on one to watch, that choice can be difficult.

If you’re looking for something to binge in the month of May, Shōgun may be perfect. Adapted from a decades-old James Clavell novel of the same name and loosely based on actual Japanese history, the limited series is one of the best to come along in several years. The show, which tells the story of a British sea captain who becomes an ally to a powerful Japanese lord, is riveting from its first moment. Here are three reasons you should check it out.

It’s an easy way to overcome the subtitle barrier

Shōgun - New Extended Trailer | Hiroyuki Sanada, Cosmo Jarvis, Anna Sawai | FX

In an era where second-screening is everywhere, it can be hard to watch stuff in a different language. The beauty of Shōgun, though, is that it’s incredibly accessible even though more than half of the dialogue is in Japanese. Every scene moves at a brisk pace, and it forces you to pay attention because you have to read what the characters are saying.

Watching things in another language can be challenging, to be sure, but if you’re looking for a gateway, there are few things that are going to be easier to start with. By episode 4, you’ll forget they’re even there.

It features an emerging star and a legend

A samurai drawing in a sword, a crowd behind him in a scene from Shogun on Hulu.
FX
Shōgunis essentially a three-hander. The central characters are John Blackthorne, the English sailor, Yoshii Toranaga, the Japanese lord, and Toda Mariko, a high-born woman who serves as Backthorne’s translator. Hiroyuki Sanada, who is already a legend to both Japanese and American audiences, plays Toranaga, and is brilliant in his precision and his unwillingness to totally reveal his hand.
Anna Sawai kneels in a crowded room in Shōgun.
Mariko, meanwhile, is played by Anna Sawai, a relative unknown who delivers a genuinely heartbreaking performance that proves to be the emotional center of the entire show. These two performances are both terrific, and central to the show’s ultimate success.

It totally sticks the landing

Cosmo Jarvis wears a yukata in Shōgun.
Katie Yu / FX

The show is built around a coming war that will transform the landscape of Japanese political history, but it finds the exact right moment in that story to stop everything. Like Game of Thrones at its best, Shōgun is more interested in its central characters and the dynamics between them than it is in extended battle sequences for their own sakes.

While the show does look impressive and was clearly filmed on actual sets, what may be most impressive about Shōgun is that it seems to understand perfectly what story it wants to tell, and it tells it to perfection.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance writer based in upstate New York focused on movies and TV.
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