Every Blerd on the planet keeps their eyes on LeSean Thomas and what he’s doing. The Blerd himself is creating anime with a vision for Black representation purposes. Even I’ve had a few chats with him through Twitter. Since he’s released shows now, though, he removed himself from most of the social media. We can understand LeSean is very busy, and some people can be a little zealous about reaching out to him. Some of which have had issues with his latest shows.
Thus far, LeSean has dropped the anime short Children of Ether on Crunchyroll, Season One of Cannon Busters on Netflix, and his latest project, Yasuke on Netflix. However, before the release of Yasuke, LeSean Thomas sat down for a live-streamed interview through Anime News Network. The interview was mainly about Yasuke, the historical African Samurai that fought under Oda Nobunaga in Edo, Japan. Yet, a few other topics hit us (Anime Pad) and some of Thomas’s comments.
Thomas is an old-school anime fan with love for shows like Bio-Booster. You may know the live-action American movies as The Guyver soon after expressing his love for multiple genres of anime such as Mecha, Fantasy not Isekai, futuristic, and more. He hit the interviewer with this quote “I don’t make anime for anime fans.” Anime Pad doesn’t want to put words into his mouth, but we had to try to interpret that line. Is Thomas saying that he doesn’t make typical anime or traditional anime and sticking to one genre? Or is he saying he doesn’t make anime that’s popular or currently trending? Either way, it showed in Yasuke, and we got what he meant!
Yasuke the anime is based on the actual African human being who became a samurai in Japan. He served under Oda Nobunaga, a Japanese daimyo and one of the leading figures of the Sengoku period. We’ve watched plenty of historical anime and live-action shows centered around Oda Nobunaga. All wind up being great entertainment and shows. They are also all show how Nobunaga wasn’t afraid to break tradition and embrace change for the future of Japan. Samurai is an honorable title that only a Lord (a ruler of a large piece of land and people) could bestow or grant upon a person.
With this previous knowledge, viewers thought they would get something strictly like this. Yet the intro piece to the show shows a battle between samurai, fantasy mages, and mechs. Most viewers at this point will be thrown off and possibly off-put by this. This combination of genres doesn’t happen often, and if it does, it’s more on the isekai/fantasy side. However, the show quickly moves into the historical aspect of the show, and Yasuke’s Samurai path. This is the part that resonates with Anime Pad as viewers.
After the fall of Nobunaga, we are now present time with where and how Yasuke is doing as a ronin (vagabond samurai not serving under a lord) boat guy. Quickly though, the story moves into the fantasy equation with the young girl that has powers. Yasuke winds up being her protector as she searches for answers to why she has these powers and the people after her that want the powers. Thus, begins the adventure of this series.
Mappa Animation Studio does the thing in the animation department for this series. It’s not Mappa’s best work that we have seen, but it is on par with some of today’s best shows. Let’s not forget the voice acting is superb—the voice acting, whether Japanese or English dub, doesn’t matter. Stephanie Sheh, a big-time voice actor in English dub, is the casting director and used her dubbing studio for this project NYAV Post. LaKeith Stanfield does a great job in the voice role as Yasuke and is very compelling. Stanfield is also an executive producer for the show, and we can see him doing more voice-over roles. Usually, on-screen live-action actors don’t always translate well to anime. Stanfield shows his complete talent again on this project. Sheh can be significantly thanked for her direction and the talent of each actor.
Finally, a massive part of this show is the music itself. The opening melodic banger by Thundercat and Flying Lotus. Flying Lotus produced all of the music for the series. Flying Lotus is also an executive producer and credited as a writer for the show, along with Thomas and a few others. Their presence is felt throughout the show giving hip-hop, funk, classical, traditional Japanese respect and brilliance to the music for POC/Blerds.
Overall, it plays out like a one-shot movie in a handful of episodes. To us, it came off as an intro to Yasuke and this new path he could be on now. I like Yasuke, and the ending makes me believe we could get a few more seasons out of this character. A second season is in the air, though, because of how regular anime fans have received the series. Netflix is looking at that and the ratings because they’re known for cutting a show after one season of mixed reviews. Also you can grab the official collab merch for the show by Hypland and Netflix. If you don’t know who Hypland is we sat down with them for an exclusive interview.
Thomas does a great job again with another anime series for Blerd and POC. We must wonder, though, when will he have a legit hit show. This is his second whole show with one season and a short from another series. We must believe that his next venture must be a hit for fans, with no mixed reviews involved. Thomas is already in a rarity position to do what he loves. If Thomas is seen as a failure, that might be the last good run at Blerd/POC-produced anime for the demographic.