First look at LaKeith Stanfield as Black samurai in ‘Yasuke’ anime

'I’m so excited for both longtime fans and newcomers to enjoy our reimagined take on this historical figure.'

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Netflix has revealed a release date for the six-part anime series Yasuke, featuring the voice of Lakeith Stanfield in the lead role. 

Created by LeSean Thomas, the tale is a reimagining of the story of the first African samurai, set in alternate fantastical Japan during the feudal era, per Netflix’s blog post. Here’s the logline:

In a war-torn feudal Japan filled with mechs and magic, the greatest ronin never known, Yasuke, struggles to maintain a peaceful existence after a past life of violence. But when a local village becomes the center of social upheaval between warring daimyo, Yasuke must take up his sword and transport a mysterious child who is the target of dark forces and bloodthirsty warlords.

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“There is a serendipitous nature about this project, how an African-American man goes to Japan to live and work amongst the very best in Japanese anime to create an anime about an African who goes to Japan to live amongst the Japanese elite and become a warrior,” said Thomas in a Netflix blog post. “Part of me deep down feels I was meant to create this adventure series with MAPPA, Flying Lotus, LaKeith & the rest of this talented team.”

Check out Stanfield as the Black samurai in the images below. Yasuke will drop on April 29.

Thomas will direct the series and executive produce along with Japanese animation studio MAPPA, director and animator Takeshi Koike and Flying Lotus.

“Yasuke is a fascinating, mysterious figure in Japanese history that’s drawn a growing interest in today’s media over the decades,” Thomas continued. “I first learned of Yasuke’s role in Japanese history over a decade or so. The children’s book, Kuro-suke by Kurusu Yoshio, featured images that piqued my curiosity. To eventually learn that he wasn’t just a fictional character, but a real person, was exciting material for an adventure story. I’m so excited for both longtime fans and newcomers to enjoy our reimagined take on this historical figure. “

Lakeith Stanfield / Yasuke

Meanwhile, Stanfield most recently played FBI informant Bill O’Neal in Judas and the Black Messiah opposite Daniel Kaluuya as Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton. In an interview with Level, the actor said he needed therapy after playing a real-life character who betrays Hampton. 

“In the scene where I had to poison him, a lot of it didn’t end up making it to the final cut, but we shot [me mixing it in] Kool-Aid, and I had to go through all those emotions,” Stanfield said. “With somebody like Daniel, who I just respect as a human and an artist, as Fred Hampton, it felt like I was actually poisoning Chairman Fred Hampton.”

“So sometimes your body thinks that’s real, everything you’re putting it through. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling so stressed out and having panic attacks. I realized going forward before I step into something like that again, maybe have a therapist,” he continued.

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Stanfield then noted that a “really cool therapist” has helped him manage his emotions after filming the drama. 

Audi Celebrates the 71st Emmys
Lakeith Stanfield (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Audi)

“It’s great and perfect for me right now. Hopefully, it continues to be the case,” Stanfield said. “It’s helped me a lot. After doing press yesterday, I had another session and it was amazing.”

“It helps you unlock things about yourself. It’s not even necessarily about the person that you’re doing therapy with, but like you said, perspectives and strategies and tools that you didn’t have access to before,” he added.

Judas and the Black Messiah is now streaming on HBO Max.

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