Afro Samurai began as a Japanese Manga created by Takashi Okazaki in 1999. The original Manga ran in Nou Nou Hau which was an avant-garde Manga anthology. The series ran from September of 1999 to May of 2000. The series was inspired by creator Takashi Okazaki’s love for Hip Hop, Soul, and American culture. Afro Samurai is one of many Manga/Anime to merge African-American culture and Hip Hop with Japanese culture and Anime. Afro Samurai gained a much larger audience in 2007 when it was adapted into a five episode Anime miniseries. The series came about when one of Takashi’s friends decided to create a limited amount of action figures based on characters from the series. One of the figures found its way to a producer at the Japanese Studio Gonzo. In the three years that it took for the series to come to fruition, Gonzo managed to produce a trailer which would eventually make its way to none other than the voice of Afro himself, Mr. Samuel L. Jackson. The Afro Samurai Anime was the love child collaboration of Takashi, Samuel L. Jackson, Gonzo, and the Wu-Tang Klan’s own RZA. Afro Samurai would go on to also spawn the sequel tv film Afro Samurai: Resurrection as well as a video game. For a few years now there has been talk of a live action adaptation of Afro Samurai and as a huge fan I couldn’t resist the chance to finally do a fancast.
Keith Stanfield as Afro Samurai
Afro is the series protagonist and the character through which we learn the most about the world in which we are meant to engage. Afro’s story centers around his desire to attain the Number One headband and avenge the death of his father at the hands of the gunslinger Justice. Afro’s father was the owner of the Number 1 headband and as a child Afro watched his father battle Justice, the owner of the Number 2 headband. During the battle Justice beheaded Afro’s father in front of him. This is an experience that would forever haunt Afro for the rest of his days. Afro is extremely stern, stoic, and a man of very few words. He’s generally pretty silent and an expert brutal killer. Keith Stanfield would fantastically portray the cold silence of Afro.
Anthony Mackie as Ninja Ninja
Ninja Ninja is the secondary main character of the series as he is always seen with Afro. During the series, Ninja Ninja is known to disappear and appear randomly at different points. This prompted many fans to believe that Ninja Ninja was actually a figment of Afro’s imagination, an imaginary friend if you will, which he conjured up as a means to deal with the immense trauma of his childhood. However, its later revealed that Ninja Ninja is one of the two guardians of the world and he acts as the guardian of the person that possesses the number 2 headband. This revelation revealed that Ninja Ninja wasn’t Afro’s imaginary friend, but a real being. Ninja is extremely talkative and dramatic in not just his personality but also his appearance. Ninja is loud and has no problem speaking his mind. Anthony Mackie would perfectly portray the eccentric and talkative Ninja Ninja.
Chadwick Boseman as Rokutaro
In the world of the Number 1 and Number 2 headbands, Rokutaro is the former wearer of the Number 1 headband and he is also the father of Afro. It is Rokutaro’s death at the hands of Justice that sparks Afro’s quest for revenge. Rokutaro and Justice were originally friends, but their differing views on not just life but also the headbands cause the two to grow apart from each other. Rokutaro is one of the driving influences on Afro’s life even after his death he is still an extremely important factor in his son’s life.
Takeshi Kitano as Sword Master
Sword Master belonged to the same clan as Afro’s father Rokutaro and Justice. He ran a dojo where he took in orphans and trained them to become warriors. Sword Master took in Afro, Jinnosuke, and Otsuru. Sword Master at one point was a very loyal and good friend to Afro’s father Rokutaro so it was only natural that he would take in Afro after his father’s death. Sword Master wants to protect the world from the headbands and goes so far as giving Afro a beating and telling him that they are myths and that as men they are put on earth to live not to kill. Takeshi Kitano would perfectly portray the sternness and spirituality of Sword Master.
Tao Okamoto as Otsuru
After the death of his father, Afro loses the Number 2 headband and is left beaten and broken. It is Otsuru who finds him as a child and brings him to the Sword Master’s dojo where he is trained and would later go on to befriend Jinno. Otsuru developed feelings for Afro which would persist into adulthood. When Otsuru is introduced in the series, it comes in the form of her once again saving Afro’s life. She once again finds him half dead from being blown off a cliff at the hands of Brother 6 as well as from a dose of poison. Tao Okamoto would perfectly portray the loving and caring Otsuru.
Takeru Satoh as Shichigoro
Shichigoro was a father who also happened to be the possessor of the Number 2 headband. Shichigoro shares beliefs similar to Afro’s father and Sword Master: that if you were to hide the headbands and reduce them to nothing more than legend then you could end the endless cycle of killing that follows them both. Shichigoro and Afro eventually come to blows when he finally accepts Afro’s challenge to fight for the Number 2 headband. During the battle we find out that he is Afro’s equal and Afro must resort to deception in order to win and kill Shichigoro. Shichigoro has a small son named Kotaro whom Afro gives the Number 2 headband telling him that he can challenge Afro whenever he’s ready. After starring in the live action Rurouni Kenshin film Takeru Satoh would make the perfect Shichigoro.
RJ Cyler as Takimoto Kougansai
Just like Ninja Ninja, Takimoto is one of the Guardians of the World and he is the spirit of the Number One headband. While he isn’t as strong or as skilled as Ninja Ninja, Takimoto is still quite powerful. He presents himself as a short black man who dresses in Ninja clothing and uses a short sword as well as a special cutting string. Takimoto is extremely sarcastic as well as loyal to his work and those that he interacts with. RJ Cyler would perfectly portray Takimoto’s sarcasm.
Ken Watanabe, Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa, Togo Igawa, Hal Yamanouchi, Sonny Chiba, and Ian Anthony Dale as The Empy 7
The Empty Seven is a group of warrior monks who seek to attain immortality and godhood through acquisition of the Number 1 and 2 headbands. While the group is called the Empty Seven, it actually consists of only 6 members with the 7th representing God. Collectively, they are fairly weak in terms of fighting ability especially in comparison to Afro’s other opponents, but their vast wealth and lack of honor makes them a real threat. The brothers’ personalities vary greatly ranging from Brother 1’s Evangelical street pimp mannerisms to Brother 6’s violent, brutish, an impulsive mannerisms. I chose this collection of men to portray the Empty Seven because they each present the opportunity to differentiate the different Brothers.
Ken Yamamura as Jinno “Kuma”
Jinno or Kuma is the second main antagonist within Afro Samurai. Jinno is one of the children who found Afro in his youth and he is directly responsible for Afro finding himself in the care of Sword Master. The two were friends until after a fierce battle with a large group of assassins seeking to take the Number 2 headband from Sword Master, Jinno watched Afro kill Sword Master. Jinno jumped off a cliff in an attempted suicide and was presumed by Afro to be dead. It turns out that Jinno would be found by Brother 6 of the Empty 7. It was this fateful meeting with Brothers 1 and 6 that would cause the mad scientist Dharman to transform Jinno into Kuma the teddy bear headed samurai. Kuma is extremely unstable, angry, and filled with immense grief. Black Mirror and The Wolverine’s Ken Yamamura would perfectly portray Kuma’s internal struggle as well as his instability and pain.
Rila Fukushima as Lady Sio
Sio is the younger sister of Afro’s former friend and nemesis Jinno. When they were younger she harbored feelings for Afro, however that was all washed away due to the murder of her adoptive family. Even though Afro wasn’t directly responsible for the death of her family, Sio still blamed him and harbored a burning hatred for him for many years. Years after the murder of her family, Sio found and convinced her brother Jinno to battle Afro. The two of them tag team Afro, defeating him and once they defeat him, they take the Number One headband as well as the jaw bone of Afro’s deceased father. Sio uses the jaw bone to resurrect Afro’s father Rokutaro and forces him to fight his son. Rila Fukushima could perfectly portray Sio’s burning hatred of Afro and her desire to see him fall.
Masi Oka as Dharman
Dharman is a cybernetic mad scientist who gained his name based on his resemblance to a dharma doll. Dharman is has multiple cybernetic arms with multiple tools attached to them which he uses for various tasks. Dharman is in the employment of the Empty Seven Clan where he was responsible for the robot ninja army, the creation of Kuma, and the afro droid. Dharman is extremely maniacal and the quintessential mad scientist. Dharman would be an extremely fun role to see Masi Oka in.
Martin Csokas as Justice
Justice is the main antagonist of the series, the very person tha set Afro out on onto his quest for revenge. Justice was from the same clan as Afro’s father and the two were once friends until life and different belief systems formed a wedge between the two driving them apart. Justice dresses in typical cowboy gear and wields two long-barreled guns. His sickly diseased blotchy skin is the result of being submerged in toxic waste which also happens to be the source of his third arm. On the fateful day that Justice decapitated Afro’s father in their intense duel he gives Afro the number 2 headband and tells them that whenever he is ready to fight a god he could challenge him. Into the Bandlands Maritin Csokas would be amazing as Justice.
I chose the Afro Samurai anime to fancast because I’ve been a huge fan for years now and this property is one that I love dearly. Afro Samurai was one of the firest depitions of Black people in Anime that I’d seen up to that point. Afro Samurai was an amazingly beautiful story set in a riveting and interesting world filled with colorful and interesting characters. With Hollywoods current obsession with adapting Anime into film, I’m hoping that Afro Samurai is added to that list and I’m hoping the property is handled with respect for the original medium and the initial cultures that the Manga was an homage to.