Age of Samurai Battle for Japan is a brand-new Netflix docuseries that history buffs can enjoy. While it only debuted this week on the streaming service, the list of top shows by Netflix has already claimed number eight. SPOILERS AHEAD!
So what should you expect watching this docuseries?
“The year is 1551, and Japan is in shambles.” A narrator establishes the setting: a country divided, where powerful landowner daimyo govern their clans and provinces with an iron fist. This is the Sengoku Era, a time when civil war was rife and family members were slaughtering one another in a bid to gain power. The death of daimyo Oda Nobuhide has created a power vacuum in the Owari Domain. The ruling family’s brothers, relatives, and various retainers are competing for power, but the chosen heir is a man called Oda Nobunaga. Enter the Samurai.
Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan combines reenactments with jump cuts to mostly English-speaking historians to provide an oral history of the Sengoku Period and the exploits of Nobunaga Oda (Masayoshi Haneda). The 1560 Battle of Okehazama, a decisive turn for Nobunaga and his allies, and a significant one for the country’s future conclude the first episode of Age of Samurai after considerable bloodshed.
“The significance of samurai in the Battle of Okehazama is that all of a sudden, you have the three men who will form the fate of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, coming together,” as one scholar puts it. And Nobonuga begins his bloody expansion campaign, marching on Kyoto with the aim of reuniting Japan under his rule.
Honor, bravery, martial arts abilities, and above all, fidelity to a warrior’s master (daimyo) are at the heart of Bushido values. Bushido was founded on ethics rather than religion. A samurai is taught frugality, righteousness, bravery, benevolence, respect, integrity, dignity, loyalty, and self-control from an early age. Warriors poets, is what the samurai thought about themselves.
When it comes to the battles how did they make it authentic?
In an interview with Den of Geek, The showrunner Matt Booi says, “We leaned on some of the best storytellers, not just the best academics,” Booi says, “people who can not just download the knowledge but also do it in a way that is coherent but also entertaining, because a lot of these theories, concepts, and even names would be very alien to so many of our viewers.” It was incredible to have people unpack this for us like we did.”
When it came to the authenticity of the Armour This is what Booi told Screen Rant:
It was a big deal, trying to get those right. We worked with our costume designer… In some cases, we were lucky enough to get some that had been made for other Japanese productions. In other cases, they were constructed. We approached it from a lot of different angles. Some of them had very specific pieces of armor we wanted them to have. Those had to be custom-made. In other cases, we were able to get away with pieces that had been made in Japan for other productions.
The focus for us was, first and foremost, telling an incredibly entertaining story that was going to resonate with viewers. That was our driving goal all the time. We are, of course, obsessed with getting the history right and making sure our historians are laying the history out in the right way, but ultimately, we want to tell a great story that’s going to draw viewers in.
This is not directed to just history buffs. This is directed to people who love a great story. That’s ultimately what this is about. It’s not a six-hour discussion on the intricacies of Japanese politics and the military. It’s really about three guys who are trying to do the impossible. Their nation has descended into the brutal, all-out civil war being waged by some of the most ferocious fighters of all time, and they’re all trying, in their own ways, to bring order to that chaos and become the one person who can rule Japan. That’s what this story is about.
Bringing order to chaos, and how difficult it was for all of them. That’s really the engine driving this. I think people who love a great story are going to be drawn into this because it’s ultimately very personal.
Cast list for the Samurai Docu Series:
- Hiro Kanagawa as Narrator
- Masayoshi Haneda as Nobunaga Oda
- Masami Kosaka as Toyotomi Hideyoshi
- Hideaki Ito as Masamune Date
- Hayate as Ieyasu Tokugawa
- Wilfred Lee as Shibata Katsuie
- Philippe Koo
- Seiji Hino as Ishida Mitsunari
- Elina Miyake Jackson as Lady Nene
We recently talked about the legendary Samurai Yasuke. We do not know if they will talk about him in the series, but he and Nobunaga became good friends. “Oda assumed that Yasuke was either a guardian demon or “Daikokuten,” a prosperous deity commonly represented in temples by black statues (Daikokuten is in of itself an interesting character that arrived in Shinto Japan, via a Buddhist depiction of a dark-skinned Indian Goddess). You can find the article here.