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An enduringly popular figure of Japanese historical legend, Sanada Yukimura was a Sengoku/early Edo era general who reached Folk Hero status with record speed after his death. His usual appellations are "the bravest warrior in Japan" and "crimson war demon." He owes his fame to his badassness during the Siege of Osaka.
Yukimura's real name was Sanada Nobushige - the name "Yukimura" is a later construction, and it was never used during his life. His youth was a turbulent time for the Sanada: as the second son of a highly respected samurai and tactician, Sanada Masayuki, he was first sent to the Uesugi as a hostage in return for military assistance, and later he was sent to serve Toyotomi Hideyoshi while the rest of the Sanada allied directly with Tokugawa Ieyasu. During the first Eastern-Western conflict Yukimura and his father sided with Ishida Mitsunari, but Ieyasu emerged victorious and Yukimura was exiled, barely avoiding execution (his older brother, Ieyasu's son-in-law, interceding on his behalf). He spent the next 14 years in exile, until he received a secret message that the remaining Toyotomi allies were regrouping to rise against Ieyasu.
During the first campaign of the Siege of Osaka (1614-15, also known as the Toyotomi clan's last stand) Yukimura was in charge of planning the defense of Osaka castle, which he did so well that the castle was nigh impregnable. After the two sides signed a temporary peace agreement the outer defenses of the castle were destroyed, so Yukimura saw a lot more action in the second campaign. His most famous fight was the battle of Tennouji, the last desperate effort of the Toyotomi army. When it became apparent that they weren't going to win, Yukimura reportedly said: "Well, the war is over - all is left for us is to fight to our hearts' content. Our goal is Tokugawa Ieyasu's head!" He launched a head-on assault and managed to break through the defenses of Tokugawa Ieyasu's personal army, tore down his flag and forced Ieyasu to flee and even consider seppuku. However, the Tokugawa forces greatly outnumbered Yukimura's already tired troops, and once they got over the panic the tables were turned. Reinforcements were late, and in the end Yukimura himself was too exhausted and bleeding from too many wounds to go on - most accounts say that unable to fight any longer, he let himself be killed by the enemy soldiers. His death completely demoralized the Toyotomi forces, and by the next day the siege was over.
Yukimura's bravery at Osaka earned him his enemies' respect. Tokugawa Ieyasu regarded him as the most dangerous general in the enemy camp, and later claimed that Yukimura was the one he most wanted to have a drink with in the afterlife. Date Masamune was likewise impressed, and after Yukimura's death he helped many of his family members and former vassals, while allowing his vassal clan the Katakura to shelter three of Yukimura's children by adopting/marrying them into the family. Shimazu Tadatsune, famous badass on his own right, gave Yukimura the epithet "the bravest warrior in Japan".
However, almost immediately after his death rumors began circulating about Yukimura. Many people said he only faked death to escape with Toyotomi Hideyoshi's heir so that the Toyotomi may rise once again. Other rumors said he went into hiding to prepare for revenge on the Tokugawa. Word of mouth embellished his heroics in battle, and legends were born about his death. In record time the badass but humble general Sanada Nobushige had transformed into Sanada Yukimura, model samurai, passionate and fearless warrior, loyal until death, with a heartwrenchingly tragic fate. Unsurprisingly he was especially popular among those who opposed the Tokugawa shogunate (causing some headache to Yukimura's older brother who was a Tokugawa vassal), but the shogunate also made a point of praising his loyalty and steadfastness. During and after the Meiji period Yukimura gained a more general appeal, getting younger and younger in the process, so in less historically accurate works he's usually depicted as a young man. (The real Yukimura died at 49.)
Due to his historical red armor, in fictional works Yukimura usually wears mainly red. He's usually the Red Oni if there is a Blue Oni available, is often Hot-Blooded and is associated with fire. He also tends to use fancy spears, historically his weapon of choice. He's often assisted by a group of fictional ninja called the Sanada Ten Braves (Sanada Juuyuushi) whose most prominent members are Sarutobi Sasuke, Kirigakure Saizou and Kakei Juuzou. He usually wears the Sanada clan's crest: six coins given to the dead to pay for crossing the river of the underworld, which symbolizes the motto "Always ready to die for a worthy cause."
- Sanada Sandaiki is a late 17th century novel responsible for codifying many Yukimura tropes and legends, such as the Sanada Ten Braves. It spans three generations of Sanada: Masayuki, Yukimura and Yukimasa (one of Yukimura's sons who died at Osaka) and their fight against the Tokugawa. (Note that it was written less than two generations after Yukimura's death.)
- Samurai Warriors takes the usual Yukimura tropes and plays them mostly straight. He starts out serving Takeda Shingen, which is more than a little anachronistic, since historically Shingen died when Yukimura was a small child. He's voiced by Takeshi Kusao here, and he has a single female Kunoichi (that's what she's called) standing in for the Sanada Ten Braves.
- Samurai Warriors 2 isn't much more accurate, as it has Yukimura being one of the Takeda cavalrymen at Nagashino only a few years after Shingen's death.
- In Pokémon Plus Nobunagas Ambition he's basically the same as above, except that they play up his assotiation with fire by giving him Charizard as his best link Pokemon. Incidently though, he's not quite as Hot-Blooded as one would probably expect, he's more of an honourable Worthy Opponent. (which, coincidently, is often how the Pokedex portrays Charizard) He even speaks quite politely, using 'watashi' and honourific language.
- Sengoku Basara takes the usual Yukimura tropes (plus a good dose of wide-eyed naivety) and turns them Up to Eleven, presenting Yukimura as a ridiculously Hot-Blooded young warrior with tendency to scream at the top of his lungs. He serves Takeda Shingen and has a ninja squad led by Sarutobi Sasuke serving under him. He also has a rivalry with Date Masamune (completely historically inaccurate). Also as mentioned, reached Memetic Mutation status whenever he and Shingen start a series of Say My Name in the form of "OYAKATA-SAMA!" "YUKIMURA!" "OYAKATA-SAMA!" "YUKIMURA!" "OYAKATA-SAMA!" "YUKIMURA!" (rinse and repeat). His voice actor is Soichiro Hoshi.
- Brave 10 on the other hand, gleefully subverts the "model samurai" stereotype, portraying Yukimura as a lazy, calculating Chessmaster. In the anime he's voiced by Toshiyuki Morikawa.
- In Samurai Deeper Kyo he's a cheerful, easy-going Bishounen (who is a lot older than he seems), and a genius tactician who wants to take over Japan. Is very fond of adding little hearts to his sentences. Voiced by Megumi Ogata.
- Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Girls features a gender-flipped loli version, voiced by Rie Kugimiya.
- Ryo/Sanada Ryou in Ronin Warriors is modelled on Yukimura, complete with fire element. Takeshi Kusao voiced Ryo here, possibly making an Actor Allusion when he did Yukimura in Samurai Warriors
- In Gate 7 by CLAMP he's... a teacher at a day care nursery. Also, an Extreme Doormat, though he can be quite badass if need be.
- He also appears in the first Kamen Rider Den-O movie, portrayed by Jinnai Tomonori.
- There are two musicals about Yukimura performed by the Takarazuka-esque group Osaka Shochiku Revue: Sanada Yukimura ~Yume moyuru~ ("Burning dream") and YUKIMURA ~waga kokoro honoo no gotoku~ ("My heart is like a blaze"). Needless to say they're not going for historical accuracy.
- There are a number of anime/manga characters named Sanada and/or Yukimura as an often tongue-in-cheek nod. Examples include Sanada Yuki in Tsuritama, Sanada Genichirou and Yukimura Seiichi from Prince of Tennis (who are often shipped together as Sanada/Yukimura), Yukimura Seiichirou from Kaichou wa Maid-sama, etc.