Episode 1 of Yasuke begins with a brief history lesson. After 150 years of feudal chaos, three heroes emerged to unite Japan. At the center of this is Nobunaga Oda, an audacious autocrat and an accomplished warrior. However, his final power play resulted in disaster.
Welcome to Kyoto 1382. War rages as lasers blind the sky. Red-eyed demon march within the Dark Army ranks, led by a sinister, shadowy presence. The Dark Army are unstoppable, leading to Yasuke arguing with his Lord, Nobunaga. He’s all but given up, stumbling about the palace drunk and accepting his fate.
Yasuke meanwhile, refuses to accept defeat and wants to continue fighting. Nobunaga eventually pierces his own heart with a sword, allowing Yasuke to finish the job by beheading him.
Fast forward 20 years and Yasuke has survived the skirmish. He’s going by the name of Yassan now and he’s living a humble life as a fisherman. The only remnant of his old life is a charred banner of his master hanging up in his cabin.
Young Ichiro swings a sword at Yasuke at the local bar, who refuses to fight back. “War brings peace. Peace brings freedom,” Ichiro claims, as Yasuke simply sighs and walks away.
Ichiro heads home, where his sister Saki mysteriously omits a brilliant blue light and destroys his wooden sword. This is enough for Saki’s Mother to decide to take Ichiro up to the doctor. And they’re going to use Yasuke’s boat to get them there.
Eventually Yasuke agrees to take them, reflecting back on moments in 1579 where Yasuke found himself an outsider. Upon arriving in Japan, the men and women there curiously commented on his skin colour.
Back in the present, the boat ride continues but somehow the lake suddenly freezes up completely. Four assassins arrive, asking Yasuke to hand over the child. Yasuke refuses, showing his skills by fighting against these four different warriors.
It’s a slickly choreographed fight too, with Saki’s Mother, Ichika, even joining in. When she’s struck by the robot and starts bleeding, Saki suddenly omits a blinding pulse that sends the group sprawling.
The Episode Review
Yasuke kicks off with a pretty decent opening episode and an unusual slice of anime. With English voice acting accompanied by short bursts of Japanese, this is a very different stylistic choice from other anime. The result is a bit of a mixed result.
The moments in the past for example, with Yasuke arriving in Japan with everyone speaking English, feels a little jarring.
However, there’s definitely some interesting elements with this series and the whole background surrounding this black warrior and the dark army itself is enough to keep you watching.
The ending with Saki’s blinding power is perhaps a little cliched; we’ve seen this “chosen one” story a million times before across different mediums. However, it’s still early days and there could be more twists in the tale to come. We shall see!