Yukimura's real name was Sanada Nobushige — the romantic name "Yukimura" is a later construction, and it was never used during his life. His youth was a turbulent time for the Sanada: as the second son of a highly respected samurai and tactician, Sanada Masayuki, a vassal of Takeda Shingen, he was first sent to the Uesugi as a hostage in return for military assistance, and later he was sent to serve Toyotomi Hideyoshi while the rest of the Sanada allied directly with Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the first Eastern-Western conflict Yukimura and his father sided with Ishida Mitsunari, but Ieyasu emerged victorious and Yukimura was exiled, barely avoiding execution (his older brother Nobuyuki, Ieyasu's son-in-law, interceding on his behalf). He spent the next 14 years in exile, until he received a secret message that the remaining Toyotomi allies were regrouping to rise against Ieyasu.
During the first campaign of the Siege of Osaka (1614-15, also known as the Toyotomi clan's last stand) Yukimura was in charge of planning the defense of Osaka castle, which he did so well that the castle was nigh impregnable. After the two sides signed a temporary peace agreement the outer defenses of the castle were destroyed, so Yukimura saw a lot more action in the second campaign. His most famous fight was the battle of Tennouji, the last desperate effort of the Toyotomi army. When it became apparent that they weren't going to win, Yukimura reportedly said: "Well, the war is over - all that is left for us is to fight to our hearts' content. Our goal is Tokugawa Ieyasu's head!" He launched a head-on assault and managed to break through the defenses of Tokugawa Ieyasu's personal army, tore down his flag and forced Ieyasu to flee and even consider seppuku. However, the Tokugawa forces greatly outnumbered Yukimura's already tired troops, and once they got over the panic the tables were turned. Reinforcements were late, and in the end Yukimura himself was too exhausted and bleeding from too many wounds to go on - most accounts say that unable to fight any longer, he let himself be killed by the enemy soldiers. His death completely demoralized the Toyotomi forces, and by the next day the siege was over.
Yukimura's bravery at Osaka earned him his enemies' respect. Tokugawa Ieyasu regarded him as the most dangerous general in the enemy camp (he even tried to get Yukimura to switch sides, to no avail), and later claimed that Yukimura was the one he most wanted to have a drink with in the afterlife. Date Masamune was likewise impressed, and after Yukimura's death he allowed his vassal clan, the Katakura, to shelter three of Yukimura's children by adopting/marrying them into the family. Shimazu Tadatsune, famous badass in his own right, gave Yukimura the epithet "bravest warrior in Japan".
However, almost immediately after his death rumors began circulating about Yukimura. Many people said he only faked death to escape with Toyotomi Hideyoshi's heir so that the Toyotomi may rise once again. Other rumors said he went into hiding to prepare for revenge on the Tokugawa. Word of mouth embellished his heroics in battle, and legends were born about his death. In record time the badass but humble general Sanada Nobushige had transformed into Sanada Yukimura, model samurai, passionate and fearless warrior, loyal unto death, with a heartwrenchingly tragic fate. Unsurprisingly he was especially popular among those who opposed the Tokugawa shogunate (causing some headache to his brother Nobuyuki), but the shogunate also made a point of praising his loyalty and steadfastness. During and after the Meiji Restoration Yukimura gained a more general appeal, getting younger and younger in the process, so in less historically accurate works he's often depicted as a young man. (The real Yukimura died at 49.)
Due to his historical red armor, in fictional works Yukimura normally wears red. He's usually the Red Oni if there is a Blue Oni available, is Hot-Blooded and associated with fire. He also tends to use fancy spears, historically his weapon of choice. It's common for him to be assisted by a group of fictional ninja called the Sanada Ten Braves whose most prominent members are Sarutobi Sasuke, Kirigakure Saizo and Kakei Juzou. He usually wears the Sanada clan's crest: six coins to pay for crossing the river of the underworld, which symbolizes the motto "Always ready to die for a worthy cause."
Examples of works referencing Yukimura:
- Sanada Sandaiki is a late 17th century novel responsible for codifying many Yukimura tropes and legends, such as the Sanada Ten Braves. It spans three generations of Sanada: Masayuki, Yukimura and Yukimasa (one of Yukimura's sons who died at Osaka) and their fight against the Tokugawa. (Note that it was written less than two generations after Yukimura's death.)
- There are a number of anime/manga characters named Sanada and/or Yukimura as an often tongue-in-cheek nod. Examples include Sanada Yuki in Tsuritama, Sanada Genichirou and Yukimura Seiichi from The Prince of Tennis (who are often shipped together as Sanada/Yukimura), Yukimura Seiichirou from Maid-Sama!, etc.
- Samurai Warriors
- The first game takes the usual Yukimura tropes and plays them mostly straight. He starts out serving Takeda Shingen, which is more than a little anachronistic since, historically, Shingen died when Yukimura was a small child. Here he has a single female Kunoichi (that's what she's called) standing in for the Sanada Ten Braves.
- Samurai Warriors 2 isn't much more accurate, as Yukimura is one of the Takeda cavalrymen at Nagashino only a few years after Shingen's death. He's still starting amongst the Takeda in Samurai Warriors 4, along with his big bro Nobuyuki. Starting from Spirit of Sanada, he also got Sarutobi Sasuke on his side, along with Kunoichi, and finally stops being in service of Takeda since his father Masayuki is playable and takes that place properly, since Yukimura was still a small child when Shingen eventually died.
- Spirit of Sanada follows history much closer thanks to the promotion of Yukimura and Nobuyuki's father, Masayuki. In fact, the entire story gives focus to Yukimura growing up from a young child to a mature adult.
- In Pokémon Conquest he's basically the same as in Samurai Warriors, except that they play up his association with fire by giving him Charizard as his best link Pokémon. Incidentally though, he's not quite as Hot-Blooded as one would probably expect, he's more of an honourable Worthy Opponent (which, coincidentally, is often how the Pokédex portrays Charizard). He even speaks quite politely, using 'watashi' and honourific language.
- Sengoku Basara takes the usual Yukimura tropes (plus a good dose of wide-eyed naivety) and turns them up to eleven, presenting Yukimura as a ridiculously Hot-Blooded young warrior with two spears, fire powers, and a tendency to scream at the top of his lungs. He serves Takeda Shingen, who regularly punches him in the face, and has a ninja squad led by Sarutobi Sasuke serving under him. He also has a rivalry with Date Masamune (an exaggeration based on how their forces actually did meet in the Osaka Campaign, but only once, and aside of Masamune's personal respect post-mortem, there weren't many other times they fought and clashed). Also reached Memetic Mutation status whenever he and Shingen start a series of Say My Name in the form of "OYAKATA-SAMA!" "YUKIMURA!" "OYAKATA-SAMA!" "YUKIMURA!" "OYAKATA-SAMA!" "YUKIMURA!" (rinse and repeat). His voice actor is Soichiro Hoshi.
- Ironically, this version of Yukimura also shares a voice actor in English with the Samurai Warriors version, Johnny Yong Bosch.
- Brave10 on the other hand, gleefully subverts the "model samurai" stereotype, portraying Yukimura as a lazy, calculating Chess Master who is just Obfuscating Stupidity. In the anime he's voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa.
- In Samurai Deeper Kyo he's a cheerful, easy-going Bishounen (who is a lot older than he seems), and a genius tactician who wants to take over Japan. Is very fond of adding little hearts to his sentences and is a Master Swordsman powerful enough to be one of the selected few able to clash swords with the invincible Kyo and live to tell the tale. His Historical Beauty Upgrade is actually lampshaded in an extra from the manga. Voiced by Megumi Ogata.
- Samurai Girls features a gender-flipped loli version, voiced by Rie Kugimiya.
- Ryo/Sanada Ryou in Ronin Warriors is modeled on Yukimura, complete with fire element. Takeshi Kusao voiced Ryo here, possibly making an Actor Allusion to his portrayal of Yukimura in Samurai Warriors.
- In Gate 7 by CLAMP he's... a teacher at a day care nursery. Also, an Extreme Doormat, though he can be quite badass if need be.
- He also appears in the first Kamen Rider Den-O movie, portrayed by Jinnai Tomonori.
- There are two musicals about Yukimura performed by the Takarazuka-esque group Osaka Shochiku Revue: Sanada Yukimura ~Yume Moyuru~ ("Burning Dream") and YUKIMURA ~waga kokoro honoo no gotoku~◊ ("My heart is like a blaze"). Needless to say they're not going for historical accuracy.
- A Gender Flipped version is a member of the StuG III crew in Girls und Panzer.
- In Jōjū Senjin!! Mushibugyō he's one of the main antagonists, reappearing a century after his supposed death as a sort of insect-human mutant with butterfly wings. He has flaming red hair and eyes, has the Sanada crest tattooed on his cheek, and he is followed by his usual entourage now called the Sanada Ten Great Insects (also in insect form). He doesn't care about protecting the weak, and wants to lead the world into a new era. In the anime his voice actor is Jun'ichi Suwabe.
- The 1959 Toei Animation anime Shonen Sarutobi Sasuke (release in the US in 1961 as Magic Boy) shows him as a fairly bland Prince Charming type who helps Sarutobi Sasuke defeat an evil witch and her bandit gang.
- The NHK Drama Sanada-Maru revolve around the lifetime of Yukimura and his clan. Popular enough in Japan that both Koei and Capcom made spinoffs of their hack and slash games to follow the drama's popularity: Samurai Warriors: Sanada-Maru and Sengoku Basara: Yukimura-Den
- Sanada Yukimura has The Cameo in the ending cinematic of Nioh, and the game's second Downloadable Content is titled "Defiant Honor", where Yukimura and the Siege of Osaka are the focus. He's basically an Anti-Villain who exudes honor and respect amongst his men and even William and fought for the loyalty with his Master, Lady Yodo...until eventually he has had enough of Maria manipulating her and turned against them to knock some sense to Yodo. In a way, he avoided his fate of dying in the charge at Osaka (Sasuke took his place). However, he still chose to die in the crumbling castle of Osaka to stay with his dying master to the end.
- The Battle Cats, depicts him really strangely. He is a bird general with Wolverine Claws and has jet boosters in his Evolved Form before getting crimson-coloured wings in his True Form.
- In Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams Sanada Yukimura is mentioned en-passant by Soki and Ohatsu as a possible dialogue topic during the boat trip to Kyushuu. While he's apparently exiled at Kudoyama, both heroes express a great deal of respect for him and claim that he could take over the country if he really wanted. He does appear in Onimusha Souls as one of the avaible Daimyo, and one on the side of Humanity rather than Oni or Genma.
- Sanada Yukimura Gundam from SD Sengokuden Bushin Kourin Hen is based off of him, and he can shift between his Normal Form and Dragon Form. His Dragon Form made a brief cameo appearance in Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE.