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Yasuke - What We Know So Far

Anime is experiencing two renaissances at once. First, streaming platforms are producing and airing original titles to win over audiences — this has resulted in shows such as Aggretsuko and Devilman Crybaby. Second, some non-Japanese producers are diving headlong into anime culture and creating their own Western anime shows — like Castlevania and Blood of Zeus — or teaming up with Japanese producers to marry the best of both hemispheres. Yasuke is the latest in a long line of these collaborations.

As the upcoming Netflix anime's title suggests, this production is a tale about Yasuke, one Japan's most oft-forgotten heroes (via BBC). He was one of the first Africans to set foot on Japanese soil. Before long, not only did he speak fluent Japanese, he was also one of the most trusted samurai to ride under the banner of famed feudal lord Oda Nobunaga. Yes, the very same Nobunaga who tends to be portrayed as a demon-dabbling conqueror in video games and anime. Reality truly is stranger than fiction. Since the historical Yasuke isn't exactly common knowledge, especially in the West, this might be the first you've heard of him or the anime sporting his name. Here's what we know so far about Yasuke.

When is Yasuke's release date?

If you visit the Yasuke anime page, you will be greeted with a two-sentence logline and the option to have Netflix remind you when the show becomes available. That's convenient and all, but when will the show become available? According to the Netflix press site, Yasuke will air universally on April 29 at 3 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. However, once Yasuke releases, that will probably be it. The press site claims the show will be a "six-episode series," so don't expect a second season. 

Yasuke was originally unveiled in November of 2018, alongside other anime adaptations of titles such as Cagaster of an Insect CageAltered CarbonPacific Rim, and Trese. While Netflix primarily maintained radio silence on Yasuke during development, the platform is gearing up for the encroaching release date with a slew of new information. With luck, the show will be worth the wait.

Who is in the cast of Yasuke?

Netflix has spent more time touting the brains behind the operation than the actors. But, the company has let slip whose voice audiences can expect to hear, even if it is just one. The only voice actor announced so far is LaKeith Stanfield as the title character. Stanfield has quite the resume, as he has played Snoop in Straight Outta Compton and Patrick Haynes in Snowden. Moreover, Stanfield has some relevant experience in voice acting and similar Netflix properties. He voiced Guy in BoJack Horseman, and more importantly, he was L in Netflix's 2017 live-action adaptation of Death Note.

As of writing this article, Netflix has yet to provide a list of characters or actors who will voice them outside of Stanfield. But since this is Yasuke we're talking about, historical figures who played a significant role in the real Yasuke's life, such as Oda Nobunaga, are a foregone conclusion. Then again, Nobunaga stars in virtually every anime about feudal Japan, whether or not it makes historical sense. But, the actors who will voice these characters are more mysterious than Yasuke's birth name.

What is the plot of Yasuke?

Since Yasuke is inspired by the real, historical Yasuke, the anime must be a slightly fictitious retelling of his life, right? Well, since the Netflix press site states the anime is "set in alternate fantastical Japan" in which mechs stride alongside magic, we're guessing striving for realism is not on the show's docket. According to the site, Yasuke starts off the show trying to "maintain a peaceful existence after a past life of violence." However, between the warring lords who use Yasuke's village for a battlefield, and the mysterious girl who is targeted by "dark forces," that dream drifts further away each day.

While this basic elevator pitch of a plot provides key elements such as character motivations, it also raises several questions. For example, who are the battling warlords, and what is Yasuke's "violent past"? And, will Oda Nobunaga once again be typecast as a vicious and brutal antagonist who makes faustian bargains to conquer Japan? Since Yasuke takes more than a few liberties with its world, it might do the same with its history. But, we won't see the true scope of the anime's divergence until April 29.