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Anime / Yasuke

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The Black Samurai rises!

Yasuke is a Netflix original anime series co-directed by LeSean Thomas (of Cannon Busters fame) and Takeshi Sato with animation production by MAPPA. It premiered on the streaming platform in April, 2021.

Centered around the historical figure of the same name, the series follows an African-born samurai named Yasuke, who rose from a lowly servant of an overseas merchant to a trusted member of Oda Nobunaga's inner circle, sending shockwaves through the warlord's culturally conservative court. Twenty years after Nobunaga's death during the Incident at Honno-ji, Yasuke has become a masterless ronin, making his living as a simple ferryman. His destiny would be changed, however, when he is given the task of protecting Saki, a young sickly girl with incredibly mystical power. With the forces of darkness after Saki for her power, the Black Samurai of eld must take up arms again to safeguard her and see that she gets the life-saving treatment she needs.


It will also get a Manga Adaptation for Shogakukan's Monthly Spirits magazine by Satoshi Okunishi. It will first launch in the magazine's August issue this year on July 27.

General Tropes

  • Accidental Murder: It's implied though never directly stated that Saki accidentally killed Ichika when her powers went haywire. Granted, Ichika had suffered a serious wound from Haruto beforehand, so she likely wouldn't have survived otherwise.
  • Action Girl: Natsumaru, as expected of a retainer of Nobunaga. Ichika, befitting another member of her clan, also briefly shows herself to be fairly combat-capable during the first encounter with the mercenary group before being blindsided by Haruto's laser cannon. Saki later develops into one after gaining better control over her powers.
  • A Father to His Men: While not everyone in Nobunaga's court was a fan of him, he did win the loyalty of some by looking past the circumstances of their birth and elevating them as a reward for their deeds, including Yasuke (an African-born foreigner) and Natsumaru (a woman).
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  • Alien Sky: The sky over the Dark Daimyo's domain is covered by violet swirling clouds.
  • Alternate History: Aside from the out-of-place elements like magic and robots, the series takes some liberties with Warring States history: according to official records, Yasuke had been captured by Akechi Mitsuhide's forces after Nobunaga's death and given back to the Jesuits. No records exist of him after this. In this series, Yasuke escaped the Jesuits' captivity and lived as a ferryman until his meeting Saki.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Nikita is a huge, muscular woman who has no shortage of male admirers.
  • Anachronism Stew: A few seconds into the show, a Humongous Mecha shows up at Honno-ji, letting you know right off the bat that this will not be a purely historical work.
  • Animal Motifs: Butterflies for Saki and a mix of spiders and moths for the Dark Damiyo. (Spiders because of all the webbing and using People Puppets, moths because of her shape and her tendancy to hang out surrounded by candles as a metaphor for how hungry she is to devour more light. Both creatures spin cocoons, which she also uses). In the final battle the Dark Damiyo also manifests centipede-like limbs which, in Shinto, represent corruption.
  • Arm Cannon: Haruto can transform his forearms into energy cannons that can shoot either plasma beams or deep-freezing endothermic bolts.
  • Ax-Crazy: Abraham. He seems to delight in subjecting people to Cold-Blooded Torture and rants and raves like a lunatic while electrocuting Saki.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Yasuke and Saki, though Saki is pretty badass in her own right thanks to her supernatural powers.
  • Badass Preacher: Abraham proves to be an incredibly dangerous opponent.
  • Barrier Warrior: Morisuke's main power is to create barriers.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Yasuke let his beard grow unkempt in the 20 years since Nobunaga's death. He trims it to a more stylized beard when he becomes Saki's protector.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Nikita is a huge woman who turns into an even bigger were-bear.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Who knew both Yasuke and Nobunaga fought monsters in their day?
  • Berserk Button: Haruto does not take kindly to being called an abomination and nearly zaps Abraham over it.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as the Dark Daimyo's forces are about to overwhelm Yasuke's army, the mercenary group arrive to turn the tide back in Yasuke's favor.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted, the only member of the mercenary group to survive is Achoja.
  • Black Knight: Yasuke was Nobunaga's black knight, in more ways than one. The Wardock Chief, meanwhile, is the Dark Daimyo's dark knight.
  • Body of Bodies: In the final battle against the Dark Daimyo's forces, she fuses all of her soldiers into a gigantic Kaiju to destroy the village's magical Deflector Shields.
  • Book Ends: At the end of the series, Yasuke reunites with the young boy whom he defended from an angry swordsman after coming to Japan. Now a grown man, he learns that he is the younger brother of Natsumaru and bequeaths her sword to him.
  • Boom, Headshot!: This is how Ishikawa dies, an arrow to the head.
  • Carnival of Killers: The mercenary group is made up of a Russian were-bear, an African shaman, a woman with a giant sickle, and a sentient robot.
  • Churchgoing Villain: Abraham is a preacher.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Nikita is telekinetically torn apart by the Daimyo's sorcerers.
  • Cruel Mercy: After Saki drains the Dark Daimyo of her power, the Daimyo begs Yasuke to kill her and put an end to her misery. Instead, Yasuke opts to leave her a suffering husk so that she may be judged by those she has subjugated.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Abraham is set up as a major threat, being the employer of the mercenary group, but is killed in the third episode, with the Daimyо taking over the role from there.
  • Disney Death: Yasuke gets a hole run through him trying to defend Saki from the Daimyo. After Saki drains the Daimyo of her power, she seals up his wound with her magic, reviving him.
  • Downer Beginning: The series opens with the Incident at Honno-ji, Nobunaga's death, and Yasuke awakening from a nightmare that relives that fateful night.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Ranmaru, Nobunaga's page and lover, looks very feminine.
  • Dumb Muscle: Haruto is the largest member of the mercenaries first sent after Saki, and is rather slow on the uptake.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Achoja is uncomfortable when Abraham is subjecting Yasuke to a bit too much Cold-Blooded Torture.
  • Evil Old Folks: The Dark Daimyo is an elderly female demon, while Abraham is an old priest.
  • Faceless Mooks: Most mooks cover their faces with either helmets or masks.
  • Fantastic Racism: Abraham clearly thinks Haruto is an mechanical abomination. Haruto doesn't take too kindly to it, and Nikita has to separate them.
  • Feeling Their Age: Yasuke is at least in his late forties or early fifties, and hasn't seen active combat in twenty-years. It shows. While he's still a definite badass, compared to the One-Man Army he was in his time in Nobunaga's service he's clearly lost a few steps, spending a good portion of his current fights on the defensive, and needing Saki to save him at the last minute more than once.
  • Fighting Spirit: Achoja fights by summoning sword-wielding spirits. When combined with Morisuke's abilities, he's able to summon an absolutely colossal one.
  • Fish out of Water: Yasuke when he first came to Japan.
  • Frame-Up: Abraham falsely accuses Yasuke of murdering Saki and Ichika. Nothing much actually comes of this other than ensuring that Yasuke can't return to Saki's village until the Dark Daimyo is defeated. By the time Yasuke and Saki do return back, word's spread exonerating him.
  • Genius Bruiser: Yasuke is not only a capable swordsman, but intelligent and well-spoken, which went a long way to currying Nobunaga's favor. Nikita, similarly, is equal parts strong and shrewd.
  • Going Native: Yasuke adopts the samurai clothing, hairstyle, and lifestyle after he starts living in Japan.
  • Historical Fantasy: The story takes place during Nobunaga's time. With magic, monsters, and robots.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Not the case with Nobunaga this time around, but for Akechi Mitsuhide, who became The Dragon to the Dark Daimyo after betraying Nobunaga at Honno-ji. Also the case for Hattori Hanzo: historically, he was an ally of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Nobunaga's generals and successors. In this series, Hattori and the ninja of Iga opposed Nobunaga.
  • Honor Before Reason: Discussed in regards to the samurai. When Yasuke first came to Japan, he observed a young boy about to be killed by an older swordsman for daring to question his honor. Nobunaga's retainers (including Natsumaru, the boy's elder sister) were honor-bound not to intervene...but Yasuke was not beholden to those standards.
  • Horns of Villainy: Kurosaka wears a prominent horned helmet and she's a ruthless enforcer of the Daimyo. Same with the Dark General/Akechi Mitsuhide, whose horns are red.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Yasuke is a huge African man, who were already taller than the average Japanese, while Saki is a young girl who barely reaches his waist.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Abraham, who looked disconcerting in his human guise, is outright grotesque when he brings his full might to bear.
  • Husky Russkie: Nikita is a female version of the trope, being a tall and muscular Blood Knight.
  • Hypocrite: In episode 3, Yasuke is (falsely) accused of murdering Saki. A man in the crowd says they should never have trusted Yasuke since he is a foreigner only for a woman to point out that Abraham, the person accusing Yasuke of killing Saki, is also a foreigner and isn't anymore trustworthy than Yasuke.
  • Implied Love Interest: They don't share any specifically intimate scenes together in flashbacks, but it's suggested that Yasuke and Natsumaru were at least romantically interested in each other.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: The mercenary group's supernatural abilities (and the fact that one of them is a sentient robot) are never given an explanation.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Historical reference. Nobunaga originally thought Yasuke was covered in dirt when he first saw him. When it became apparent that his skin was naturally dark, he was surprised.
  • Irony: Abraham, a preacher, is killed by a giant cross.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Yasuke, after Nobunaga's death.
  • Light Is Not Good: Abraham has white hair, gray eyes and wears white priest robes, but is a deranged psychopath with freaky powers.
    • The Dark Damiyo is, of course, surrounded by darkness, but is herself white-colored and surrounded by candles, as if she is hoarding all the light for herself.
  • Little Miss Badass: Saki is a young girl with incredible psychic powers who only becomes even more powerful as the season progresses.
  • The Lost Lenore: Yasuke is still haunted by the death of Natsumaru, specifically because he was the one who killed her after finding out she was actually a spy sent by her clan.
  • Magic Pants: Nikita's leather pants manage to stay on even in bear form. For that matter, none of the rest of her clothes seem to be damaged by the transformation.
  • Mask of Sanity: Abraham tries to come across as a pious man, but it's clear at a glance just how unstable he is beneath the surface. After Yasuke resists his interrogation, he completely loses it and subjects him to Electric Torture with abject glee.
  • Mind over Matter: Saki's spiritual abilities typically manifest as psychokinesis, moving objects and people with her mind.
  • Mook Horror Show: Yasuke's battle with the ninjas of Iga ends with a lot of dead ninjas.
  • Mutants: Abraham is stated to be one, which apparently explains his powers.
  • Offending the Fool: Haruto has a "slow" A.I. which makes it difficult for him to understand jokes or insults. In episode 3, Abraham calls the mercenaries "fools, incompetents and an affront to God and nature" (the last one is implied to specifically refer to Haruto in particular) causing the robot to pull his Arm Cannon on him. Earlier, Achoja says "His [Yasuke]'s brain's scrambled worse than the walking scrap heap" and as Haruto leaves with Nikita to look for Saki, he realizes that Achoja was referring to him.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Both Nikita and Ichikawa. Nikita because it's easier to shapeshift that way, and Ichikawa because of Fanservice.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Nikita transforms into what can only be described as a were-bear. Even outside of her beast form, she still retains the furred ears and prominent fuzz along her cheeks.
  • Overly-Long Name: Yasuke's birth name. Nobunaga struggled to remember it and gave him his new Japanese name (Based on the fact that he heard Yasuke is from the 'Yao People').
  • Politically Correct History: A Justified example, and an example of Shown Their Work: while Nobunaga's reputation for his ruthlessness was not undeserved, he is also shown to be quite liberal for his time, accepting Yasuke and Natsumaru — a foreigner and a woman, respectively — as retainers, surprising and disconcerting the more culturally conservative members of his court, as well as enemies such as the Iga.
  • Power Fist: In episode 3, Abraham beats up Yasuke using a pair of golden brass knuckles. When placed together, the lettering on them spells "Dextera Domini" which is latin for "Right Hand of God".
  • Psycho Electro: Abraham is an utter psychopath who has the ability to turn his arms into grotesque fleshy roots that conduct electricity.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The mercenary group works only for payment. When Saki kills Abraham, they part with Saki and Yasuke with no hard feelings, despite the fight Yasuke put up against them. They consequently have no problems working with Yasuke and Saki to fight the Daimyo's forces when Saki contacts them with the promise of twice (later raised to three-times) their usual rate.
  • Rags to Riches: Yasuke was a servant to a merchant when he caught Nobunaga's eye and, through his deeds, rose through the ranks to become one of his retainers.
  • Rain of Arrows: In the first episode, Morisuke telekinetically collects numerous arrows around him and transforms them into an energy wave that he launches at an enemy Mecha.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Haruto is surprisingly human-like for a robot. He gets offended when called an abomination and even makes a bad ice pun.
  • Rōnin: After Nobunaga's death during the Incident at Honno-ji, Yasuke became a masterless warrior earning a modest living as a ferryman.
  • Russian Bear: Nikita is a Russian were-bear.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: Nikita has probably the most brutal and painful-to-watch death of any of the major characters in the show.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Border between type 2 and type 3. While certain events of Yasuke's life are accurate, the scale of certain technology (Pilotable mechs, self-sentient AI) are quite out there. Plus there's the magic.
  • Seppuku: The series opens with Nobunaga committing suicide during the Incident at Honno-ji, with Yasuke appointed as his kaishakunin (the warrior tasked with taking his head before the pain of self-disemboweling becomes unbearable).
  • She Is the King: The Daimyо is a female demon.
  • Sinister Minister: Abraham is a preacher who also happens to be a power-hungry psychopath seeking to conquer Europe with Saki's power.
  • Sinister Scythe: Scythe-adjacent in this case. Ichikawa fights with a large sickle-like katana.
  • Soul Power: Saki and Morisuke's supernatural abilities work this way right down to being able to astral project themselves into a separate plane of existence.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: It's implied that Natsumaru and Yasuke had a mutual attraction, but Natsumaru turned out to be a spy for her clan while Yasuke was Nobunaga's loyal retainer. Yasuke ended up killing Natsumaru during the battle with her clan.
  • Suicide Attack: This is how Haruto goes out, throwing himself at the enemy army and self-destructing, taking with him a huge number of enemies.
  • Sword and Sorcerer: Yasuke and Saki have this dynamic when fighting the Dark Daimyo in the season 1 finale.
  • Technicolor Magic: The Dark Daimyo's power glows purple.
  • The Team Normal: Ishikawa is the only member of the mercenary group who possesses no overtly supernatural powers (and isn't a giant robot).
  • That Man Is Dead: The Dark General aka Mitsuhide.
    Yasuke: It's over, Mitsuhide.
    Dark General: That's not my name, servant. I am the Dark General.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: One of the Dark Daimyo's soldiers takes a woman hostage and orders Yasuke to drop his sword. Yasuke instead throws his sword into the soldier's head with superb accuracy.
  • Title Drop:
    • In "The Old Way".
    Mitsuhide: Servants will always be servants. That is our way. The old way.
    Yasuke: Perhaps the old way should be left in the past.
    • Another one in "Pain and Blood" which is also a dialogue between Yasuke and Mitsuhide.
    Yasuke: There is no honor to be had here.
    Mitsuhike: Only pain and blood.
  • Token White: Abraham and Nikita are the only white Europeans (and Nikita might not be from European Russia) in the story besides Yasuke's unnamed former owner.
  • Turncoat: Mitsuhide turned against Nobunaga and willingly joined the Dark Daimyo both for greater power and because he was disgusted by Nobunaga's liberalness regarding who he allowed into his army, specifically Yasuke.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Saki is only an untrained child when she and Yasuke start traveling together but her insanely powerful psychic abilities enable her to repeatedly defeat powerful villains.
  • Villain in a White Suit: Abraham wears white priest clothes and he's a deranged Psycho Electro.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: Kurosaka has some prominent cheekbones and she's a servant of the evil Dark Daimyo.
  • Was It All a Lie?: After finding out Natsumaru was a spy, Yasuke questioned her if their relationship was nothing more than a lie right before fatally wounding her. As she died, Natsumaru said that what they shared wasn't.
  • White and Red and Eerie All Over: Abraham has white hair and wears a white robe and his One-Winged Angel form is a demon-like, red-skinned creature. He even retains his white hair in this form.
  • You Have Failed Me: The Daimyo kills Kurosaka for failing to kill Yasuke.