After the Shogunate fell, Japan was thrust into a bloody civil war for unification. Several warlords fought for dominance, the most feared was Oda Nobunaga, a bizarre ruler who fought with muskets and wore western knights' armor. Of all Nobunaga’s eccentricities none was more mysterious than his appointment of an African born man to the rank of samurai. This is the true story of Yasuke the African Samurai.

Character designs by Remus and Kiki

Yasuke was the first foreigner to be promoted to the rank of samurai. Yasuke’s origins are surrounded in mystery but we do know that he was an African man who traveled to Japan with Alessandro Valignano. Oda Nobunaga was fascinated by Yasuke and appointed him as a samurai. After Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed Nonbunaga, Yasuke fought to avenge his master.

Oda Nobunaga was a warlord during Japan’s war for unification. Nobunaga’s an eccentric character who was known for wearing European Knight’s armor and pioneering the use of muskets in warfare.

Mōri Ranmaru was Oda Nobunaga’s shudō. It’s a kind of master and apprentice role with a homosexual component. It was a common practice of samurai of that period to take a younger male lover to increase military bonding. It’s an interesting aspect to samurai culture that is isn’t explored often in martial arts fiction.

Otohime is a Kabuki actress, storyteller and Yasuke’s love interest. Though not based on a real historical figure Otohime is named after a mythical princess who lives at the bottom of the sea. The wave patterns in Otohime’s kimono reflect her folkloric origins.

Alessandro Valignano was an Italian Jesuit missionary spreading Christianity throughout Asia. He’s the archetypal “Holy Roller” who is concerned with riches as much as religion. He acted as Yasuke's guide and taught him Japanese.

Akechi Mitsuhide was one of Nobunaga’s generals who winds up stabbing him in the back. For Mitsuhide's design I wanted someone who is obviously sketchy. Comics have moved away from mustache-twirling bad guys for so long that I think they're due for a comeback.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was Nobunaga’s right-hand man who ends up unifying Japan at the end of the waring states period. Hideyoshi used to be a mere sandal bearer but after proving himself in war Nobunaga promoted him.

Miyamoto Musashi was a warrior who fought with two swords in a martial arts style of his own invention. Musashi would travel across Japan challenging the strongest in the land to duels which he always won. For the purposes of our story he acts more like a force of nature or an embodiment of death.

© 2016 by TITO W. JAMES.

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