LaKeith Stanfield is lending his voice to a very extraordinary historical figure. Entertainment Tonight reports the “Sorry to Brother You” star will lead the voice cast of “Yasuke,” a new anime series from Netflix in which Stanfield portrays the first African samurai of the same name.
The actor has lent his voice to other roles, including Guy from Netflix’s animated series “BoJack Horseman,” and has narrated the “Cults, Explained” episode of the streaming platform’s “Explained” docuseries.
The announcement came as the streaming giant unveiled a new line of anime programs slated to premiere on the platform during a press run at the 2020 Netflix Anime Festival livestreamed from Japan on Monday, Oct. 26.
“A village in danger, a mysterious child, warring daimyo, and the greatest ronin never known all clash in a Japan of magic and mechs,” the platform tweeted. “Learn the story of the first African samurai when LeSean Thomas’s Yasuke, voiced by Lakeith Stanfield, arrives next year.”
The story of Yasuke takes place in a war-torn medieval Japan as the warrior struggles to maintain a peaceful living after leaving behind a past riddled with violence. However, Yasuke is thrown back into battle when a local village becomes the epicenter of a warring daimyo. He is soon tasked with the mission of transporting a mysterious child targeted by dark forces.
As historians tell it, Yasuke was said to have been born in 1555 in what was then Portuguese Mozambique. He was reportedly sold into slavery and later landed in the care of Italian Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano, who asked the man to accompany him on a mission trip to Japan.
The arrival of the 6-foot-2 Black man in Japan in 1579 sparked a commotion, catching the eye of legendary warlord Oda Nobunaga. The daimyo was in awe of Yasuke’s stature. He characterized Yasuke as “handsome” and someone who possessed “the strength of 10 men,” as recorded in the “Lord Nobunaga Chronicle,” the principal Japanese source that describes Yasuke.
Under Nobunaga’s training, Yasuke rose to notoriety as a high-ranking samurai. Although conflicted by the violence from his past, the warrior “embraced samurai culture and became a useful warrior for the warlord,” Gregory Widen, the director said to be producing the period action film “Black Samurai” on Yasuke’s life, has explained.
Unfortunately, the soldier’s career was short-lived. After a year, Nobunaga was overthrown by one of his former generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, in June of 1582. Nobunaga and his supporters were forced to perform the ritual suicide of seppuku. Luckily, Yasuke was spared as he returned to Valignano and lived in obscurity until his death.
LeSean Thomas created and directed the series. He also co-executive produced alongside Stanfield. Flying Lotus will provide the music for the soundtrack. Yasuke is set to be released sometime next year.