Who Is Yasuke, the Black Samurai in Assassin’s Creed Shadows?

In Short
  • Yasuke is one of the two playable protagonists from Assassin's Creed Shadows.
  • He is an African-American male who served Oda Nobunaga during the Sengoku period as a retainer.
  • The in-game Yasuke is based on the mysterious historical figure of the same name from Japan, who is believed to have served Oda Nobunaga during the Sengoku period.

The brand-new Assassin’s Creed Shadows trailer is out and about and has already caused a wallop of excitement among gamers. Besides packing a much-requested Japanese setting, AC Shadows comes with dual protagonists named Yasuke and Naoe. However, it is the former that has caught our attention. As he’s based on a real-life figure, many are left wondering just who is Yasuke in Assassin’s Creed Shadows. Well, we decided to sit down and scour through the information to tell you just that. So, let’s begin!

Yasuke in History

Sumō Yūrakuzu Byōbu, drawn in 1605, which possibly depicts Yasuke of Assassin's Creed Shadows
Sumō Yūrakuzu Byōbu, drawn in 1605, depicts a dark-skinned man believed to be Yasuke (Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Foundation)

Even though we know Ubisoft loves to take a few creative liberties with its adaptations, Yasuke is a real-life person who existed in Japanese history. Unfortunately, the details surrounding him are scant. Very little is actually known about Yasuke, not even his actual name.

According to the available information, Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579 with an Italian Jesuit missionary named Alessandro Valignano. As per this Encyclopedia Britannica entry, Yasuke arrived in the country alongside the Jesuits as a bodyguard. The latter was tasked with Jesuit duties in the Indies, which included East Africa, South, Southeast, and East Asia.

His status upon his arrival in Japan is still a mystery. While some claim he arrived as a slaver, others mention his role as a mercenary.

Yasuke met the feudal lord Oda Nobunaga in 1581 at Kyoto, during the height of the Sengoku war. Oda Nobunaga immediately took an interest in Yasuke based on his skin color. The Lord then asked the Jesuits to hand over the Black Samurai to him so he may come under his service.

A Rinpa-style Japanese writing box depicts a Black Man wearing Portugese clothing.
A Rinpa-style Japanese writing box depicts a dark-skinned man wearing Portuguese clothing (Image courtesy: Wikimedia Foundation)

A book named The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga, written by a person serving the feudal lord, claims Yasuke might have been aged around 26-27 at that time.

Yasuke also accompanied Nobunaga in the battle of 1582 against Tokugawa Ieyasu, as mentioned in the Ietada Diary of Matsudaira Ietada. His ultimate fate is unknown after Oda Nobunaga’s death at the hands of Akechi Mitsushide in June 1582. He was present in the Honno Temple in Kyoto during the events.

The last recorded detail is him being escorted to a Jesuit mission house by Mitsushide’s men. Prevalent theories claim that Yaskue was exiled to Kyoto with the Jesuits. Other far-fetched theories also claimed the black Samurai committed Seppuku, which was a form of ritualistic suicide. However, we suggest taking these with a grain of salt.

Yasuke in Assassin’s Creed Shadows

Yasuke in Assassin's Creed Shadows
Image Courtesy: Ubisoft/Assassin’s Creed Shadows

According to Ubisoft’s official character introduction video, Yasuke follows the same history we discussed above. In Assassin’s Creed Shadows, the African-American visited Japan during the Sengoku era. Like in real life, he arrives in Japan around 1579, when the game takes place.

According to Brooke Davis, the game’s associate narrative director, Yasuke had interesting relationships with prominent Japanese figures like Oda Nobunaga and was involved with prominent factions such as the Jesuits and the Portuguese.

In-game, players will encounter Yasuke destroying the Iga province alongside Oda Nobunaga. As the game takes place during the Sengoku period, seeing him on the front lines makes sense. This is where the destinies of both characters will intertwine.

Yasuke is also a combat-heavy character in Assassin’s Creed Shadows, fitting his Samurai status. The Black Samurai will wield heavy weapons, take more damage, and fight full-frontal.

You’ll be familiar with Yasuke if you’ve watched the Netflix anime series or played Samurai Warriors 5. Our protagonist is a well-known character who has received many real-life adaptations over the years.

Hopefully, Assassin’s Creed Shadows will further elevate Yasuku. Are you excited about the upcoming protagonist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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