Yasuke is an anime series created by Lesean Thomas and starring LaKeith Stanfield, Darren Criss, Noshir Dalal, Dan Donohue and Dia Frampton, alongside other cast members.
Netflix anime series Yasuke comes with a solid historical background. The series, whose protagonist is voiced by the extremely talented LaKeith Stanfield, is an all-rounder. It merges history, myth and folklore so well that you’ll be transported to a world that will leave you in awe.
Yasuke was thought to be the first African samurai who worked under the Japanese daimyo Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga, regarded as the first Great Unifier of Japan, thought at first that his skin was painted with black ink. However, after some scrubbing, he realised that it wasn’t, in fact, painted and thus took an interest in him. However, I won’t go too deep into the historical aspects of Yasuke’s life and you can go to his Wikipedia page for more information.
So, Yasuke starts off when Nobunaga performed Seppuku after he was betrayed by his samurai general Akechi Mitsuhide. We then shift to where Yasuke is in the present and the story goes back and forth between what was and is. However, there’s also much action involved when Yasuke has to take care of Saki, after promising his mother of doing so.
There’s a lot to enjoy in Yasuke. First and foremost, the story itself is fascinating and creator Lesean Thomas has done an excellent job at mixing the various components at play here. There’s not a moment when one thing overpowers the other and thus history, magic, folklore and myth combine in a delicious way to give birth to an interesting show. Combined with the sleek animation style, it’s great to watch.
The action sequences and the background score, additionally, are great as well. The minds behind the latter are Flying Lotus, who received two Grammy nominations previously. The sequences in themselves flow beautifully and there’s always a seriousness and urgency to it all. The music goes hand-in-hand with the action taking place on-screen and is very on-beat.
I think character development, too, is pretty great but Yasuke’s themes, including power, trauma and honour (and probably loads of PTSD) overwhelm everything else. It’s interesting to watch nonetheless and along with the fight sequences, make for a breathtaking few hours. Additionally, I felt that the runtime was pretty short for a series of this calibre and it probably would’ve benefitted from a longer runtime. However, short runtimes are (secretly) almost always a win in my book.
Another striking thing about Yasuke is that the anime’s primary language isn’t Japanese. When you start watching a show such as this, you almost always expect it to be in Japanese. However, this one throws you off the loop a little bit because it’s predominantly an English show which sometimes has a little bit of Japanese spoken here and there.
Summing up: Yasuke
Yasuke is different right from the get-go because of its Black protagonist. It’s great to watch not only for the mystifying story and protagonist, great music and breath-taking action sequences but also for the fact that anime doesn’t see many, if any at all, Black characters (especially samurais!). With talents such as LaKeith Stanfield in the mix, you know you’re in for a great watch. Definitely give this one a viewing.
Yasuke is streaming on Netflix.
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