Who is Anna Sawai, Shogun's Lady Toda Mariko actress the internet can't stop raving about? | Web Series - Hindustan Times
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Who is Anna Sawai, Shogun's Lady Toda Mariko actress the internet can't stop raving about?

Apr 21, 2024 03:57 PM IST

Anna Sawai and her undeterred acting chops are here to stay. Dig into her filmography beyond Shogun.

As our strides inch closer to the Shogun season finale, we can't not talk about the one actress who's recently bent all major internet trends in her name with her emotionally explosive delivery in Episode 9. Whether you've watched the FX historical drama based on James Clavell's 1975 novel or not, the inevitable epic glory of this series has swept over all kinds of audiences in all directions. With inescapable weekly trends doing the rounds, the Hiroyuki Sanada-led series sits atop the 99% Rotten Tomatoes score (opening with 100%).

Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko in Shogun.(Instagram)
Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko in Shogun.(Instagram)

It's easily one of those shows that you're probably still not watching but should be, and its wholehearted, engrossing world-building and characters are a testament to historical fiction narratives coming to life like never before. If you're still not caught up on the feudal Japanese drift of the show, then you may have missed out on why Anna Sawai or her character, Lady Toda Mariko, claimed the top spot among last week's trending keywords. 

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The answer is not going to put a smile on your face due to the tragic bent of the answer. However, that still shouldn't act as a deterrent, pushing you away from hitting the play button on this soon-to-be-completed 10-episode series.

While one may indisputably revere Sawai's unmatched acting chops in Shogun as her career-best performance, a quick recapitulation of her past projects is bound to leave your mouth wide agape. The recent Hollywood debutante may be a major driving force in this year's best-limited series thus far, but she already has other equally momentous career heights - critically acclaimed as well as a mainstream blockbuster franchise hit - under her belt. 

It's time you opened your heart to her art because you won't be disappointed – and this isn't the last you'll see of her.

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Who is Anna Sawai?

The Japanese actress-singer-dancer born in New Zealand kicked off her professional future at the young age of 11. Ultimately, five years later, in 2009, she landed her debut film role in the martial arts flick Ninja Assassin. The 31-year-old multifaceted artist is also a former (and original) member of the J-pop girl groups ARA (disbanded) and Faky.

She quit the latter band in 2018 to pursue acting and eventually forayed into the familiar domain by taking on supporting roles in series like Colors and Haji.

Anna Sawai movies and TV shows

In 2019 Sawai's British crime drama Haji found critical acclaim on BBC Two. Subsequently, mainstream traction followed when she was cast in Justin Lin's F9: The Fast Saga. Despite stepping into a franchise overshadowed by the fame of pre-established veterans, Anna held her own.

As the movie came out in 2021, once again, professional success followed her, and she was chosen to helm the leading lady's role in Shogun. Simultaneously, another outstanding opportunity knocked at her door and she found her footing in the Apple TV+ hit series Pachinko alongside an impressive cast. It also stands renewed for a second season.

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Along the way, she secured a spot in yet another massy franchise - Godzilla. Leading the Monarch: Legacy of Monsters series on Apple TV+ as Cate Randa, she found her way into the second TV title in the Monster-verse. Premiering in late 2023, Monarch opened to significant praise and will be returning for another season on the streaming platform.

While she's already flexed her chops in these various fictional universes, her proactive stance as a dutiful samurai-woman in Shogun is a force to reckon with. Despite being situated in a historical narrative, wherein Hollywood has often consciously benched such characters, Anna's Lady Mariko, thankfully, isn't reduced to a trope.

Her short (so far) yet expansive filmography is a testament to her unbending will that won't just dwindle to the status of parenthesis in a male character's story. Shogun has become just as much of a narrative centred around and driven by Sawai's powerful presence with an earth-shaking impact that tugs at your heartstrings, if not more.

Tune into Shogun Episode 10/finale on Tuesday, April 23, on FX and Hulu/Disney Plus Hotstar.

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