I went into Yasuke a bit weary but excited. I liked the last Netflix Original, DOTA: Blood of the Dragon despite its flaws, and was hoping Yasuke would have at the very least the same level of quality.
Unfortunately, instead of the Champloo inspired thrill ride I was hoping for, I instead got a frustratingly mediocre fantasy action show that fails to make use of the creative liberties they’ve taken. The addition of robots and magic only serve to accentuate the lack of originality in the script and direction of the show.
There’s nothing new to be gained from watching Yasuke other than an even deeper appreciation for Champloo for being an anachronistic samurai show that was willing to use its historical license to tell a wacky and engaging adventure story.
Yasuke instead opts for yet another droll prophecy plotline which constantly sidelines Yasuke’s (the title character) own plotline which while traditional, was a hell of a lot more interesting than magic chosen one plotfuckery.
Yasuke’s arc of coming to terms with his status as a servant, his betrayal by the one he thought would best understand him, and his undying loyalty to Nobunaga, all fall by the wayside in favor of boring magic battles and cliche villains.
The characters are all uninspired except for Yasuke himself, and that hot Russian bear lady who unfortunately gets the most brutal death in the entire show. There are attempts to make you care for certain characters, but we are never given enough time to meet them, and it all ends up feeling incredibly rushed.
The production overall ranges from occasionally great to serviceable. There’s no energy or style to the show, and the synth soundtrack isn’t nearly as memorable as their sister Netflix show, DOTA: Blood of the Dragon.
I have no problems with anachronistic stories that take liberties with their historical fanfiction.
In fact, I relish those kinds of creative endeavors due to the freedom but Yasuke lacks any ambition with its premise to be interesting. Sticking robots and magic onto your boring script does not spice it up, any more than adding ketchup to vanilla ice cream does not make it a better dessert.
Overall, Yasuke was disappointing. It’s got some cool moments here and there, but it is marred by the incredibly bland premise and lack of well-developed characters besides Yasuke, who himself gets sidelined in favor of said bland premise. Yasuke may not have anything offensively bad about it, but there’s nothing particularly good about it either. While I would love to see Yasuke used in more stories, this was not the way to go about it.