1
When it was announced that Jonathan Dumont was working on the game, many Ubisoft Quebec employees reportedly refused to work with him (with some even outright quitting) due to past allegations involving abuse and sexual misconduct. In response, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot stated that they take all allegations "extremely seriously", and that Dumont had been "appropriately disciplined" and cleared to continue working.
-1
One of the game's dual protagonists Yasuke, an African samurai, is the first main character in the series to be based on a real historical figure, but his real-life identity and status serving under Japanese daimyo Oda Nobunaga has been the subject of a contentious debate among historians. There are few scholarly/historical resources available describing him and his life, and no known resources from when he was alive that refer to him as a samurai, with the most common conclusion being his title was a retainer.

His reveal as a main character in the game on May 15, 2024 caused polarizing reactions worldwide on social media. Fans critical of the decision claimed Ubisoft were going against the series' penchant for accurate historical backgrounds and misrepresented Japan, which the series had never covered in-depth, by inflating Yasuke's role in history and not having both protagonists be Japanese (the other protagonist, Naoe, is Japanese), claiming he was not actually a samurai. Fans in support of his role claiming he was actually a samurai called these objections racist and based on narrow-minded arguments and inferences, with some going so far as to claim that Asian samurai protagonists in media were oversaturated and that critics' complaints would be the same if the game was set in Africa and starred an African protagonist. This intense fighting led to an edit war on Yasuke's English Wikipedia article, with administrators publicly calling its Talk page "a complete dumpster fire". As of June 10, the consensus that the Talk page reached appears to be that the available historical resources are inconclusive and do not confirm if Yasuke was or was not a samurai. Reflecting this, the article does not call him a samurai when covering his documented life.

This lack of clarity allows popular media to take creative liberties in adapting him, often depicting him as a high-ranking samurai, and Ubisoft took a similar direction from the outset. A press release at the game's announcement stated:

"Ubisoft Quebec wanted to include a Samurai, and Yasuke's story was open-ended enough to allow for creativity; there are still plenty of questions and speculation surrounding him. The fascinating facts, though, were undisputable: of African origin, he arrived in Japan enslaved by the Portuguese; he impressed with size, strength, and wits; he served under the Japanese daimyo Oda Nobunaga. There must have been something exceptional about Yasuke to succeed in the service of a personality like Nobunaga's, [...] and the goal has been to expound on this in [the game] through his curiosity, openness, respect for values and tradition, valor, warmth, and charisma."

While the quote's header is named "Yasuke: A Real-Life Samurai", the quote itself is carefully worded to stop short of directly calling him a samurai, with more advertising describing him as a "samurai of historical legend". Game director Charles Benoit later acknowledged his life "is surrounded by mysteries" and that "[Yasuke] told us to tell" his story seen in the game, which was also described by associate narrative director Brooke Davies as fictitious.

Creative director Jonathan Dumont elaborated in a set of interviews with Famitsu on May 15 that they chose Yasuke to fit with the story of a foreigner who fights off oppressing forces like the Portuguese slave trade's effects on Japan, while exploring a country unknown to him alongside the player, stating that they were "first looking for "our samurai," someone who could be our non-Japanese eyes". The following day, the interviews were edited to remove this quote, and to change quotes either directly or contextually referring to Yasuke as an "outsider" to being a "foreign-born samurai".
person MehDeletingLater calendar_month May 19, 2024
Game website with "samurai of historical legend" quote:
https://www.ubisoft.com/en-us/game/assassins-creed/shadows

Ubisoft press release:
https://news.ubisoft.com/en-us/article/2LH4Ael4X1TlNJY3B3aYg5/assassins-creed-shadows-launches-november-15-features-dual-protagonists-in-feudal-japan

Ubisoft Forward - June 10, 2024:
https://www.youtube.com/live/zPoJUPrCkkg#t=4602s

IGN Japan interview with Brooke Davies:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqwitaREyd0

Ubisoft article with several videos explaining historical backgrounds behind previous Assassin's Creed games:
https://news.ubisoft.com/en-us/article/6d4zQXyH0VF6z75Ab7jfss/discover-the-real-history-behind-every-assassins-creed

IGN articles:
https://www.ign.com/articles/when-and-where-is-assassins-creed-shadows-set
https://www.ign.com/articles/assassins-creed-shadows-yasuke-asian-protagonist

TheGamer article:
https://www.thegamer.com/african-assassins-creed-shadows-controversy/

Time article:
https://time.com/6978997/assassins-creed-shadow-yasuke-controversy/

Forbes article mentioning Wikipedia edit war and international reactions:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/olliebarder/2024/05/15/japanese-fans-are-puzzled-that-yasuke-is-in-assassins-creed-shadows/

Yasuke English Wikipedia article (Note: while much of this controversy occurred on English language Wikipedia, bear in mind that Wikipedia articles by themselves are not reliable sources for historical research, and the English article is not a uniform representation of the information on Yasuke across the different language versions of Wikipedia that have this article. There are varying primary, secondary, historical and pop culture sources suggested for and used in all of these articles either backing up verified information about him, or making different claims that may not be accurate.):
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuke
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Yasuke

Wikipedia administrator discussion:
https://web.archive.org/web/20240518220622/https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators'_noticeboard/Incidents#Talk:Yasuke_is_a_complete_dumpster_fire

Earliest archive of original Famitsu interview (in Japanese; English machine translations for all archives of this article compared between Google Translate and DeepL prior to publishing this submission. Deleted quote in Japanese is "まず“私たちの侍”、つまり日本人ではない私たちの目になれる人物を探していましたが、これは") (May 15):
https://web.archive.org/web/20240515185159/https://www.famitsu.com/article/202405/5194

Archived edited interview (May 16):
https://web.archive.org/web/20240516194746/https://www.famitsu.com/article/202405/5194

Latest archived edit (May 18):
https://web.archive.org/web/20240518034336/https://www.famitsu.com/article/202405/5194

Related Games