Yasuke, the black samurai

A new Netflix anime is reclaiming an African’s History

The new Netflix anime that was released this week set in the 1500s in feudal-era Japan is seeking to reclaim the history of the world’s first black Samurai, Yasuke.

Yasuke is a real-life African man who arrived in Japan in 1579 according to historical reports. He served under Shogun Nobunaga Oda who is said to have come close to unifying Japan. According to Thomas Lockley who wrote African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, when Nobunaga first met Yasuke, he didn’t believe his skin was black and ordered Yasuke to be scrubbed clean.

Yasuke‘s life is the inspiration behind Netflix’s new anime of the same name created and directed by LeSean Thomas and the Japanese animation studio MAPPA, executive produced by LaKeith Stanfield, who voices Yasuke, and Flying Lotus, who produced the soundtrack. Chadwick Boseman was tapped to voice Yasuke before his death in 2020.

The anime combines historical facts with fantastical elements of fiction for the 6-episode first season. The anime introduces Yasuke where history suggests he met Nobunaga, at a market in Kyoto; Yasuke arrived in Japan with an Italian Jesuit named Alessandro Valignano on an inspection tour.

Unfortunately, his real name, birth and country of origin have been lost to time.

Yasuke is currently streaming on Netflix.



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