Real-Life Buntaro In ‘Shogun’: Did Mariko’s Husband Die In Episode 3?


Based on the works of James Clavell, FX’s Shogun is a historical drama series stuffed with political twists and turns. It revolves around the rise of Yoshii Toranaga, a tactical leader who often moves one step ahead of his enemies, which is Ishido Kazunari in this case. However, judging from the series, it seems that Toranaga has the ability to look into the hearts of men and recognize their real talent and ambitions. Toranaga knows when and where to employ a man’s strength, almost invariably yielding him the greatest benefit. For most samurai, such recognition and validation are a mark of massive respect. Because here is a leader who doesn’t consider his men disposable pawns of the war. Instead, he considers them more human than others. Such recognition makes these warriors extremely loyal to Toranaga’s cause. One of the loyal samurai in his band is Toda Buntaro Hirokatsu, whose character is loosely based on a real-life warrior, Hosokawa Tadaoki. But even though Buntaro had a lot of celebrated victories to his name, his fame was overshadowed by his immensely popular wife, Hosokawa Gracia (portrayed as Toda Mariko in the series).

Spoiler Alert

Religion has been one of the central themes in FX’s Shogun series. The series introduced us to the plight of a famous Christian convert, Mariko, who was often belittled by her husband for her religious beliefs and free mind. Her husband, Buntaro, had always been a faithful Buddhist. He blindly followed and accepted the orthodox doctrines of the Japanese Samurai culture, which Mariko’s faith didn’t align with. The first episode introduced the concept of Seppuku, an old ritual through which disgraced samurai killed themselves. Tadayoshi, a warrior loyal to Toranaga, crossed the line and tainted his lord’s honor in front of the five regents, because of which he declared Seppuku. At first, Mariko coldly informed Tadayoshi’s wife of the news without losing her composure. But the very next scene made it clear that Mariko wanted these practices to stop at all costs. Why did a 2-year-old kid have to die because of the sins of his father? Why should a woman suffer because of the death or defeat of her husband? Throughout his lifetime, the real-life Tadaoki wanted his wife, Gracia, to kill herself in case anything happened to him on the battlefield. One of many accounts centering around Gracia’s death even suggested that Tadaoki ordered his servant to kill his wife to save her honor when Ishida attacked their mansion to take her hostage.

The FX series introduced us to a chauvinistic and cold Buntaro, who also had a nasty temper. In the book, he was abusive and an alcoholic as well. James Clavell’s book further suggested that it was a marriage of convenience. Mariko’s father was accused of treason, and marrying a celebrated war hero saved her from disgrace. Mariko, however, often refused to sleep with Buntaro, which most likely hurt his ego. He wanted his wife to desire him, but Mariko had no such feelings for an abusive man. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that Buntaro had always been an insecure husband, and that was the reason why he raised his eyebrows when Toranaga started to take a keen interest in his wife’s abilities as a translator. While much of his thoughts remain in subtext, it won’t be wrong to assume that he feared that his wife’s talent would eclipse his achievements as a samurai.

In Shogun Episode 3, Toranaga feared an assassin attack on himself and his new guest, John Blackthorne, which was why he decided to leave Osaka. He created a small convoy full of trusted warriors to escort him out of the city, where Buntaro and his wife, Mariko, played a significant role. Toranaga trusted Buntaro’s ferocious skills and, therefore, wanted him to be by his side if any mishap took place. Unfortunately, it was exactly what happened. Lord Kiyama’s men attacked the convoy in the woods, forcing Toranaga to come out of hiding and reveal his true plans to Ishido’s men fighting alongside them. A war broke out between them, and Buntaro tried his best to stop the Grays from fleeing. One horseman escaped to inform Ishido about the convoy. At this point, Buntaro could very well foresee what was coming for them next and, therefore, asked Toranaga to make their way to the ports, or else they would be cornered and captured. The brave Buntaro, on the other hand, decided to stay behind and stop Kiyama’s warriors.

Near Osaka’s port, Toranaga’s convoy, after a bit of negotiation, finally boarded the Black Ship, but Buntaro was left behind. He stood there on the wharf, looking at his master for his orders. Both Toranaga and Buntaro knew what lay ahead. The Gray cavalry had surrounded him from all three sides, and there was no way out for the brave warrior. A loud cry from Toranaga made it clear to Buntaro that his master had been indebted to him for his loyalty and sacrifice. Buntaro didn’t waste a moment and unleashed his blade on his enemies with all the might he could conjure up. The ending of Shogun Episode 3 suggested that Buntaro died at the hands of his enemies, but that wasn’t the case in James Clavell’s book.

In the book, after being cornered by the enemy, Buntaro decides to perform Seppuku on the wharf and die an honorable death. A similar scene took place in the first episode, where Yabushige tried to perform Seppuku instead of dying in the sea. It would have been an honorable death for him instead of dying at the hands of his enemies. Additionally, Buntaro’s name would have been counted among the fallen heroes who died bravely on the battlefield instead of being disgracefully captured by the enemy. Buntaro was going to die with dignity, but Toranaga ordered him to surrender and plan an escape later. For a moment, Buntaro couldn’t believe what he had heard, but he eventually complied. The Grays finally took him, and Buntaro went out of the picture until he finally returned to fight in the Battle of Sekigahara to take revenge on Ishido for killing his wife.

So yes, Buntaro will most likely survive, and we will see him again in the upcoming episodes of Shogun. However, the suggestion of his death in Episode 3 will spark a romance between Mariko and Anjin, whom she might find much more sincere, honest, and understanding. The third episode of the series already suggested Mariko’s keen interest in Anjin’s beliefs and his respect for women, as he didn’t see them as mere commodities. When Anjin refused to sleep with a “pillow” worker, Mariko couldn’t stop thinking about it, and most likely, it would be these minute gestures that might sow the seed of love in Mariko’s heart. As for Anjin, Mariko is the only woman with whom he can communicate and share his heart, which is more than enough for a person like him to fall in love with her. If not, he’ll find more reasons for it in the next episodes, but their romance is inevitable. Buntaro, if kept alive by the creators, wouldn’t be able to tolerate his wife’s affair with a barbarian and would surely become a hurdle in their love story.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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