Netflix will introduce the world to a fresh new science fantasy anime series titled Yasuke on April 29, as reported by Collider. The streamer promises to deliver six episodes of samurai swordplay, occult encounters and even giant robots, all while telling a narrative inspired by real-world historical figure Yasuke, who was one of the first African slaves with a presence in Japan’s imperial court, Collider reports.
Yasuke is allegedly set in an alternate version of feudal Japan where mecha and magicians intermingle: “Samurai warrior Yasuke, the greatest ronin never known… returns to his life of sword-fighting and violence in order to protect a mysterious girl from dark forces and bloodthirsty warlords,” via Collider. The series takes major creative liberties with the ancient personage who inspired its titular role, voiced by LaKeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Judas and the Black Messiah). The real Yasuke who lived in the sixteenth century allegedly never fought outside of his time in the daimyo Oda Nobunaga’s imperial militia, meaning he could not be described as a ronin, and he is typically referred to as a page or bodyguard in Nobunaga’s courtly employ, according to CNN.
The series is created and directed by LeSean Thomas (Black Dynamite, The Boondocks), who previously held similar duties on the Netflix fantasy adventure anime Cannon Busters, which was based on his own limited-run comic book series of the same name. Thomas is joined on the executive producer side of things by Steven Ellison A.K.A. Flying Lotus (Kuso, Perfect), who pulls double duty as the series’ in-house composer, according to Collider. The Los Angeles-based experimental hip-hop producer is no stranger to the world of Japanese animation. He has a working relationship with a living legend of the medium, Cowboy Bebop creator Shin’ichirō Watanabe (Space Dandy, Macross Plus). The two have collaborated on multiple occasions, starting in 2017 with Watanabe’s short-form Blade Runner 2049 prequel film Blade Runner Black Out 2022. The short is reportedly being spun off into an Adult Swim series titled Blade Runner: Black Lotus, as reported by Deadline. You can check out Flying Lotus’s first brush with the world of anime by watching Watanabe’s short film below:
Flying Lotus has an additional connection to the story of Yasuke. The concept of a Black ronin wandering through a technology-enhanced version of ancient Japan likely sounds familiar to anime enthusiasts who are aware of the Afro Samurai miniseries, which was allegedly inspired by Yasuke’s legacy, as reported by CNN. The original score for the miniseries and its 2009 sequel film Afro Samurai: Resurrection was composed by Wu-Tang Clan member The RZA (Kill Bill, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), who toured Europe with Flying Lotus in the late 2000’s, according to XLR8R. Takeshi Koike (Redline, Lupin the Third: The Blood Spray of Goemon Ishikawa), who worked as an animator on the Afro Samurai pilot and designed the opening title sequence for Watanabe’s Samurai Champloo series, is even credited as Yasuke‘s character designer, Collider reports.
The first six episodes of Yasuke arrive on Netflix on April 29.