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Crimson Sky Only Means One Thing in 'Shōgun'

shogun
Crimson Sky Only Means One Thing in 'Shōgun'FX

War is coming in Shōgun. It's not a secret. The exciting FX drama series, which is set in 17th-century feudal Japan, keeps foreshadowing bloodshed. At the end of episode 4, Mariko (Anna Sawai) flat-out states, "It is war." Now, if you're a history buff, you already know that this period in Japanese history erupts into one of the country's deadliest battles. So, in episode 6, when Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) discusses a raid on Osaka Castle that he dubs "Crimson Sky"—we can guess what that means.

Though Toranaga's trusted advisors do not discuss the specifics, it's clear from their conversation that the battle plan is mapped and codenamed. The best way to think of "Crimson Sky" is to compare it to "Operation Neptune"—the allied naval invasion of Normandy during World World II. It's just a codename meant to get everyone on the same page—even if the secret plan's obvious name somewhat gives it away. Operation Neptune? Yeah, I bet that one takes place at sea. Crimson Sky? Probably means we're going to see red. Maybe mafia movies were right to just call every task... the thing.

Shōgun is based on James Clavell's 1975 novel of the same name, which dramatically recontextualizes the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate following the Battle of Sekigahara. In Japanese history, it's highly unlikely that Tokugawa—Toranaga's real-life counterpart—charged Osaka with the name "Crimson Sky" in mind. I'm not sure how easily it translates, but there's no record of the great lord giving a codename to his plans. "Crimson Sky" certainly evokes a certain mood, but any spy who reported to his enemies that Tokugawa was planning "Crimson Sky" could probably figure out what that meant for them. There's a non-zero chance that Toranaga is just really excited to play Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge—the high-flying arcade video game from 2003—but that won't debut on Xbox for another 400 years.

Where Shōgun excels—outside of dreaming up cool names—is in its ability to show how to stay in power once it's yours. Anyone in this time period an just gather an army and waste them away on an offensive assault. Toranaga has bigger plans than that. He's vying for the shogunate. The only way to earn the 260-year-long reign that his name is so famous for? It's to make sure that Japan actually wants him to step in and take over. But don't get me wrong, people—"Crimson Sky" will still be more than worth the wait.

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