Yasuke, a samurai of African origin who served as a retainer under the Japanese daimyō Oda Nobunaga! The Netflix adaption tells the story of the first African samurai, and what I thought was going to be a historical animated event turned out to be something else!
To summarize it, a suspiciously peaceful boatman once known as the Black Samurai is pulled back into conflict when he takes a little girl with mysterious powers under his wing. That’s the premise of the series.
The story is what I had a bit of an issue with. A lot was “changed” to meet a more modern take, which would have been fine yet it didn’t stop there! “Yasuke” included sorcerers, a shape-shifting woman-bear, astral-plane duels, and giant robots in feudal-era Japan, all of which was fun to look at, yet had no substance. It felt incoherent, random and nothing was really explained. By explain, I mean why does a robot exist in this world with weaponry from the 21st century, yet that kind of technology isn’t found anywhere at all! This many other questions will arise as you watch Yasuke!
We were just thrown into this world and it felt like we were expected to just go along it! We also had jumped back and forth through time decades to help us understand Yasuke more and why he is the way that he is and the trauma he is dealing with as a Samurai and as a foreigner, and to be fair that was the most interesting part of the story. I wanted Yasuke to be a story to introduce us to him, his origin, and his story, however, that was glossed over rather fast. I wanted to see his journey, coming from a foreign land and having to adapt! I understand that records of him are scarce and yeah, liberty would be taken but it didn’t feel satisfying. What help however was the animation and the vibrant world of Yasuke!
Once the flashback started slowing down, focusing more on the present things just got crazier and I started losing interest. As mentioned, sorcerers, shape-shifting woman-bear, astral-plane duels, and giant robots were all part of the story and in my opinion, is what made it less appealing. Yes, it’s obvious that the story is loosely based on the historical figure, however, if you take away Yasuke, you’ll soon realize that the story is kinda generic and rushed. Even the final battle had no impact. Speaking on that, the villain’s motive really wasn’t all that strong. Yeah, she’s starving, but why was the little girl her opposite? Why in her final moment did she elude to a cycle of a sort? What exactly makes the magic in this world what it is?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this series once I was done. Yes, it’s great that we got to see an animated Yasuke (hoping for more to come), however, what I wanted was a more grounded story, something similar to Vinland Saga, one that pays respect to a relatively unknown figure. Instead, the story we got an action-packed show, that focused on being flashy!