Warning - Lots Of Spoilers
Yasuke came out on April 29th on Netflix, and when it was first announced I was super excited. Firstly I was excited because it is based on the first black samurai, Yasuke. Secondly I was excited because LeSean Thomas created the anime Yasuke, and he has made one of my favorite animes’ Cannon Busters. So I thought I would check it out, and I finally did...and wow.
Wow not like “This is incredible!” but more like wow in a “So this is it, huh?” way.
It is not terrible, there were a few moments I enjoyed here and there, I love the main character Yasuke, the animation and fight scenes are amazing, but overall it was very confusing for me.
The first thing that confused me was the genre and the world the anime was set in.
Yasuke was promoted as a historical based anime that tells the story of Yasuke, the first black samurai in the 1580s’ but it’s not. Yes the main character is Yasuke, yes the time period is accurate to when he was alive, and yes we do get a bit of his backstory, but that is covered up with futurism, sci-fi, psychic powers, mutants, and monsters. So no it is not a historical based anime. The main focus isn’t even Yasuke's story.
The main story is about Yasuke helping this young girl Saki who has supernatural powers that the villain Yami no Daimyо̄ sees as a threat, and she wants to take Saki’s powers for her own benefits.
There are also mechas, a woman that can turn into a bear, and other powerful magis. Yeah, not a historical based anime.
I’m gonna be honest, I only saw a few clips of the trailer, saw a few teaser pictures, and so maybe I just assumed it would be a historical based anime, but I was so confused when I saw the doctor's eyes start glowing and he lifted hundreds of arrows and flew them across the field.
And I am not opposed to sci-fi anime. I’m not opposed to robots and mechas in anime. I’m not opposed to magical anime. One of my favorite anime is Cannon Busters, which is sci-fi, western outlaw type of anime with a bunch of robots and magic. The thing is though it was very clear to me the direction Cannon Busters was taking compared to Yasuke. It was very clear there would be robots, sci-fi elements, magic, and weird monsters in Cannon Busters, but not so clear in Yasuke. Especially since it is named by an actual historical figure from the 1580s’
Which goes to my next issue is that it was also promoted to tell the story of Yasuke, but we didn’t get much of a story. We get flashbacks here and there, we learn that he was a slave that travelled to Japan with his owner, and Oda the warlord of Japan took Yasuke into his army after seeing him fight someone. We see how Yasuke is treated by the other samurais, the discrimination he faced, and how Oda wanted to change and unite Japan, but many clans wanted to stay in the old ways.
That’s about it for Yasuke’s story, and for the entirety of the show it’s just Yasuke protecting Saki from mercenaries and Yami no Daimyо̄ servants. Even then there isn’t much story in the main plot. It felt like a lot of jumping around from the scenes to episode, and we don’t learn anything about the characters.
Such as Saki for example, who is the second most important character in the anime and is deemed the only person that can defeat Yami no Daimyо̄, I don’t know anything about her. We learn that her mom isn’t actually her real mom and took her away from evil people the mom was working with, but it is not clear why the mom turned her back on the evil people and wanted to protect Saki. It is also not quite clear why she has powers, and is the only one who can defeat Yami no Daimyо̄. Also her character in general was a bit bleak.
I know I should want Saki to survive, and to save Japan, but I never got a connection to her. She was just a kid with special powers, and I know she’s supposed to be the special one, but that is a common trope in all types of fantasy medias. From anime to books to movies, it is common to have a child or young teen have special or unique abilities, and the only one who can stop the villain. So although Saki is special, she is also not special. She is a common character, and we don’t really learn much about her, so I don’t really feel connected to her or found myself really rooting for her.
With Yasuke they could have done so much with him, but they only gave us snippets of his life, while Sake we never get to learn much about her, and that is due to another issue I have with the anime which is it’s length. Yasuke only has 6 episodes, each being around 30 minutes long. So that is about 3 hours to build this samurai-fantasy-sci-fi world and create well developed characters with important backstories and to lead us viewers through a plot and story of magic, robots, and samurais and make engaging action scenes. Only 3 hours to have all that in an anime? Yeah it is not going to work.
I mean it could be 6 episodes but each episode is like close to an hour long, then maybe we can flesh out this world, but it is not possible in 3 hours. Most anime’s first season has at least 10 episodes, and in the first season it is to lay down the foundation of the world of the anime and introduce the characters, then in later seasons continue expanding upon the world and dive deeper into each character, and about the final season have an epix ending of sorts.
Yasuke however tries to squeeze everything into 6 episodes. Tries to create this sci-fi samurai world with so much going on, I mean our first antagonist is a mutant priest for the first three episodes, and by episode 4 we are gearing up to face the biggest threat in Japan to save the world. The final episode felt like a conclusion to the anime, but I was not prepared at all or even excited because there was so much left to know.
I wanted to know more about Yasuke’s past, more about Saki and her personality, learn about how Yami no Daimyо̄ became so powerful, and be able to digest huge ass robots in the 1580s. They tried to put in so much into those 6 episodes, that I left with nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Maybe it’s just me, but I was very confused and a bit disappointed with Yasuke. The direction this anime took was very strange to me, and there was just so much going on that I have no idea what I watched. I thought I was gonna watch a story about Yasuke, the first black samurai, but ended up in a strange fantasy sci-fi world that has so much going on that I couldn’t understand anything.
There were a few good moments, like when the robot mercenary friend died and he just kept saying friend to the dead body, and then blew himself up in the villains army. I liked that scene, actually made me feel attached to a character, and it is sad that I was attached to a very minor character instead of the main characters.
There’s also a lot of good action, blood, and gore too, but overall not a big fan. It is more of an anime to watch when you’re really bored and want to watch something gorey and violent, not an anime to get invested into and gain a connection to the story or characters. Overall, it was a meh, but maybe I’ll watch the next season if there is one, but for now it is a meh.