Anime Review: Yasuke, the First Black Samurai

Eric Fontaine ’22


Yasuke is a real life black samurai who served under Oda Nobunaga in 1579. Nobunaga was one of the most important feudal lords in Japanese history and a unifier of the country.

In the anime, Yasuke is an African man who was taken to Japan as a servant yet became a samurai. During the war his general commits Harakiri (a Japanese ritual suicide), because his men were losing terribly in combat. Trying to escape his past, Yasuke moves to a small village. But unfortunately for him, he can’t let go of the turmoil and pain. This anime excellently tells the story of Yasuke, and the extra anime flair of mechas and magic makes for an all around amazing show. The animation is fantastic, and the story telling will keep you pondering, “What could happen next?”Yasuke will keep you engaged the entire time you’re watching. The story itself deserves five gold stars out of five. And don’t even get me started on the fight scenes; everyone knows that every great anime needs phenomenal fight scenes. Let me tell you:Yasuke has some of the most exhilarating and gruesome fights that I have ever seen in my life. Seeing Yasuke using his samurai skills to eliminate enemies is such a thrill.

A very interesting aspect of Yasuke is the phenomenal music accompanying the anime. Yasuke is scored by producer Flying Lotus, famous for his instrumental records which sport features from the likes of Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Thundercat. Thundercat, a renowned bassist, vocalist, and anime nerd, sings the opening.

This opening is very unique for an anime intro, forgoing the usual high energy tracks that usually accompany the credits for a spacey—but not vapid—track. This fits perfectly with the tone of Yasuke, an anime with exciting, but not over-the-top with its action. This mellow opening falls more in line with the somber mood of the show. The scoring of the rest of the anime switches between a traditional Japanese style and slow hip hop instrumentals. Flying Lotus know perfectly when to employ both of these styles, with neither overpowering the other or becoming overused. The show is a landmark for black representation in anime and it’s great that so many talented black musicians were able to contribute, with names like Denzel Curry appearing on the official soundtrack.

Despite it being new, Yasuke has quickly become one of my most highly recommended anime to watch and it might crack my top five favourite animes.

Photo Credit: The Japan Times/Roland Kelts

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