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Netflix’s Yasuke Is The Anime Adventure Series You Need To Watch This Week

Loosely based on a real-life warrior, Yasuke features the voice of a 2021 Oscar nominee.

Netflix

Netflix

From the creator of Netflix’s Cannon Busters comes Yasuke, a new animated series loosely based on the historical figure of the same name, aka “the first African samurai who actually served the legendary Oda Nobunaga," a famed Japanese daimyo known as the nation's "Great Unifier."

Netflix

Netflix

The show will follow Yasuke, believed to be the first Black man to enter Japan nearly 500 years ago. Set in an alternate, fantastical version of the country, Yasuke is called back to his samurai lifestyle "in order to protect a mysterious girl from the dark forces,” per Netflix.

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Creator LaSean Thomas told High Snobiety he wanted a “fresh voice” for Yasuke (LaKeith Stanfield). "Japanese animated shows that are dubbed in English have created a peculiar, stereotypical audio pattern when it comes to English voice actors in Japanese animation,” he said.

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On Stanfield’s casting, Thomas continued, “Lakeith has a very distinct voice... you know it when you hear it. And it was a great idea to have him on board. And that was Netflix's idea, not mine.”

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Other characters, all designed by Takeshi Koike (pictured above), will be voiced by actors including Takehiro Hira, Maya Tanida, Ming-Na Wen, Gwendoline Yeo, Paul Nakauchi, Dia Frampton, Darren Criss, and Amy Hill in the series’ English version.

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Achoja, the Beninese shaman who works for the show’s antagonist, is the creator’s favorite and is introduced as a nod to the Nanban trade period in Japan. Thomas also told Polygon that Achoja represents the limitless variations of the Black experience.

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Thomas, who also serves as the series’ director, writer, and executive producer, first pitched Yasuke to Netflix in 2017. He told High Snobiety that he purposefully chose the “classic redemption hero story arc” to ease new audiences into the genre.

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“I wanted to show Yasuke being a bad-ass, being dope, and inspiring as a character," added the series' composer Flying Lotus. "Yes, he's had a traumatic life, but I didn't want to dwell on certain things that we see so much in Black cinema and Black culture.”

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Attached from its early stages, the musician also spoke to the style of music he chose: “I wanted to do a synthesizer-inspired sound that I had never done before with Japanese percussion, African percussion, and obviously hip-hop elements to make all those universes intertwine.”

Netflix

As for what sets Yasuke apart from other shows US viewers watch, Thomas explained, “I think a lot of American anime fans tend to watch children's shows... Those shows are usually for kids, and the storylines tend to be spelled out the way the comic books are spelled out.”

Netflix

"This is an original storyline, a three-hour story with a beginning, middle, and end," Thomas continued, noting that he focused on brevity, tightness, and including "elements of the world to give an idea that [it's] dangerous, and that there's a lot going on."

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Yasuke arrives on Netflix on April 29, and viewers should be forewarned that the entire series is only intended to run for six 30-minute episodes, so there likely will not be a Season 2.

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