Yasuke, the legendary African samurai, joins Samurai Warriors 5

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Koei Tecmo has four more combatants for the upcoming Samurai Warriors 5, with the legendary African samurai Yasuke among a handful of newcomers.

Like everyone in Samurai Warriors, Yasuke is a larger-than-life depiction of a real-life figure—in this case, a man who was brought from Africa to Japan as part of a Jesuit mission, and ended up becoming a samurai in service to Nobunaga Oda. There’s little record of Yasuke’s origins, but theories suggest he came from Mozambique. His life in Japan is better documented: his size and strength impressed Oda, and he entered the warlord’s service, eventually becoming a retainer and fighting in the attack on Honnō-ji where Oda was forced to commit seppuku.

In his Samurai Warriors 5 character profile, Yasuke is described as someone who “is genuine in nature and firmly stands by Nobunaga, regardless of his lone wolf tendencies,” and who has mastered the Japanese language despite being from a foreign country. His character design blends Japanese and African influence, and his weapons of choice are brass knuckles.

There’s been a lot of pop-cultural interest in Yasuke of late, not least of all thanks to an upcoming Netflix anime created by LeSean Thomas (The Legend of Korra, Children of Ether) and animated by Studio Mappa (Yuri!!! On Ice, Kakegurui). Rather than a historical account, Yasuke is a fantasy set in an alternate reality combining elements of magic and technology, and sees the man get dragged into a struggle between daimyo while trying to leave his legacy as the Black Samurai behind him. For a more historical perspective, Thomas Lockley’s Yasuke: The True Story of the Legendary African Samurai (2017) is a good place to start.

As well as Yasuke, Koei Tecmo’s latest announcement revealed a few other fighters for Samurai Warriors 5, bringing the total number to 27. Samurai Warriors staples Hanzō Hattori and Magoichi Saika are back, and there’s another newcomer in Sanadayū Momochi, head of the Iga ninja and a close friend of Hideyoshi. Other characters making their series debut in Samurai Warriors 5 include Mitsuki, Toshimitsu Saitō, Shikanosuke Yamanaka, Kazuuji Nakamura, and Sena.

Samurai Warriors 5 is currently in development for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It launches July 27 this year.

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Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.