Of the record-high 40 original anime programs Netflix is launching this year, none may be better pedigreed or more timely than “Yasuke,” a six-episode series about Japan’s only known Black samurai premiering April 29.
Voiced and executive produced by Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”), scored and co-produced by Grammy nominee Flying Lotus, with Grammy winner Thundercat collaborating on the opening song, animated by studio MAPPA Co., Ltd (“Jujutsu Kaisen”), designed by Takeshi Koike (“Redline”) and created and directed by LeSean Thomas (“Cannon Busters”), “Yasuke” is more than just a nod toward diversification and representation in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s an open embrace of both — arguably a first for Japan’s anime industry.
The historical record on Yasuke is scant, leaving large gaps that the artists fill with a smorgasbord of supernatural and sci-fi anime tropes. The result is a headlong rush through a tangle of plots that is at times spread too thin for the sprawling cast to bear — but with gorgeously animated flashes of brilliance, especially in the battle scenes, that may leave you pining for the broader canvas of another season.