I had to talk about this potential Assassin’s Creed Red leak, as I found the approach if true, quite interesting, and could yield some interesting narrative telling.
The most recent leaks I’ll be talking about comes from an undisclosed inside source, via Insider Gaming. According to the leak, we should expect to see a female Samurai character and the as-yet-unseen Shinobi who is “understood to be an African refugee, that learned the way of the Creed.” The female Samurai isn’t something out of the norm in Feudal Japan, as they were known as Onna-Bugeisha back then. They were members of the bushi (warrior) class in feudal Japan and were trained in the use of weapons to protect their household, family, and honor in times of war. So that’s cool!
The African refugee is the interesting one. I can already see certain people lose their minds over the idea of playing as an African Shinobi in Japan. In fact, I have already seen people make the claim that since Assassin’s Creed Red is set in Japan, the main characters should be of Japanese origin. Quick to call it Blackwashing or SJW nonsense. However, that’s never been the rule. Look at Assassin’s Creed Black Flags, set in the West Indies (a subregion of North America, surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea), however, the main character Edward James Kenway is a Welsh-born British privateer-turned-pirate, yet no one had any issues with that narrative spin at the time. There are also side characters like Irish Assassin Shay Patrick Cormac whose story is set in North Atlantic and Haytham Kenway, the British-born Templar in America.
The point I am making is that, there’s no set rule that a protagonist of an Assassin’s Creed game has to be born in said region. Now, to answer the question people are asking, where there Africans present in Feudal Japan for Ubisoft to pull a new character out of? Yes, but not a lot. In the mid-16th century, Africans arrived in Japan alongside Europeans as crew members, servants, and slaves. Only Yasuke, the African slave turned samurai became a notable figure in Japanese history. We don’t know if there were others who were out left behind, sold, or escaped while docking in Japan. It gives room for Ubisoft to work something out. Basically, don’t expect to see Africans walking around Feudal Japan.
Anyways, I have an idea of who or what this African refugee Assassin could be. My first thought was Yasuke, given that Assassin’s Creed is set between the 14th and 16th centuries, it could yield a great opportunity to use Yasuke or a copy of Yasuke’s history to tell an interesting story. By a copy, I mean just like the story of Yasuke, Ubisoft will likely just create a brand new original character, who came to Japan as a refugee, likely sneaking onboard one of the European ships and escaping when he had the chance. Left stranded in a foreign land, he’s forced to fend for himself as he’s treated as a foreigner, something to be expected for that time. One way or another, he encounters the Creed in Japan who then give him a second chance at life serving the Brotherhood. We follow his journey as he learns the language, the custom, and more importantly the Creed itself. Through him we’ll get to learn about the complex political dynamic in Japan at the time, even given options to choose who to spare and who to kill. Not only that, but since he’s a foreigner, he’ll be met with a lot of hostility, and we’ll get to see how that will shape is view on fighting for people that are not his own.
Anyways, that’s just one of the many ways they could tell the story of this refugee. Of course, just like you, it did take me for a surprise that Ubisoft would opt for this angle of narrative, however, maybe they’re trying to be unique. Who knows! Hopefully, this character is as interesting as Bayek of Siwa or Ezio Auditore da Firenze. If he has just 50% of their personality and story, he’ll be alright.