Zatoichi (1989) Poster

(1989)

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Zatoichi returns - older and wiser
coolcorn4 December 2004
All hail the genius of Shintaro Katsu for creating such a non-stop movie hero. He will always be Zatoichi in my heart, so it is heartening to know that he finished off his legacy as Zatoichi with a 26th film made thirteen years after he "retired" the character in crippling defeat in 1973. He also co-wrote and directed - his only triple threat in the history of the series. But while the movie is certainly fun, and at times very sweet, it has some flaws that don't quite allow it to live up to the excited originality of its predecessors.

The character of Zatoichi is older and wiser, but generally remains as we remember him. The fighting scenes certainly have zing and gore, with buckets of blood pouring whenever someone gets so much as a paper cut (including one particularly horrific blood-soaked scene of a villain continually slicing a subordinate in a drunken fit). And even though it was filmed in the late 80s, Zatoichi #26 doesn't lose any of the series' period-piece charm (in fact, the cinematography and is quite good).

Shintaro Katsu is at his most doddering and charming as the now-elderly Zatoichi. He is downright tender and sweet when he entertains a group of children, meets a traveling band of fellow blind masseurs, humbly succumbs to prison torture, uncomfortably accepts gifts from an old friend, or tries to understand the color red. He's fiendishly clever showing up a bunch of gamblers who are more than willing to try and cheat a blind man at dice. And he is even kinda sexy as he enjoys a seductive hot bath with a naked young yakuza powerhouse (Rowr!). It's nice that the film is attentive to the character and he certainly seems more reflective, but the story only truly comes to life when Zatoichi gets down to slicing up some arms, noses, and torsos. Those scenes are unfortunately infrequent, and while the gore is certainly excessive in the most wonderful way, the choreography is sloppy and somewhat uninspired. Katsu was approaching 60 at the time of filming, hardly a young pup, so he can't be faulted too much for toning down the acrobatics - or squatting, as the case may be.

The biggest flaw, one that doesn't make the film unwatchable but less likely to enjoy repeated viewings, is that it is overlong by half and bogged down in a plot that...well, just doesn't make any darn sense. Instead of a single foe for Zatoichi to focus on, the film features an abundance of ill-defined villains, a weepy samurai, the previously mentioned sexy yakuza leader, a shifty rival gang-leader, an imprisoned rebel, a young mother with a huge brood of kids, and Katsu's own son in the closest to main villain role as a gambling big-wig. They over-fill the story with sub-plots of battling each other for supremacy, expanding gambling empires, trading antique firearems, and ordering the gradual slaughter of each supporting character - most of whom die at each other's hands rather than by the sword-cane of our blind anti-hero. There's so much extraneous plot that there are long stretches where Ichi himself is pointless, and indeed, it feels like another film were made around him.

As a lesser sin, there is a lot to be said against the film's use of a cheesy 80s pop ballad - in English, no less. But it certainly adds the right touch of hilarious cheesiness right after a particularly gory Zatoichi bloodbath (sample lyric: "Looking at life through the eyes of a looooner"). Fortunately, it only pops up in one scene, and the rest of the music is appropriately old school.

I'd say this entry into the series is one you should see... oh, maybe fifth. Start with the first film, The Tale of Zatoichi, which is low on actual fighting, fitting more in the tone and style of Kurosawa's style of traditional samurai film. Then go to one of the middle period films - take your pick from the 17 titles currently reissued on DVD by Home Vision Entertainment, they are all fun and ridiculous in their own way (I recommend The Fugitive, but just because I had the chance to see it on the big screen). Then don't miss 1970's Zatoichi Meets Yojimo, a must see thanks to the presence of Toshiro Mifue, and probably the funniest in the series. And finally, jump to Takeshi Kitano's 2003 Zatoichi remake. Kitano's tribute is better than this 1989 entry, and covers many of the same themes.

Plus, much better music.

THEN watch this one. And after that, you've only got 22 more to go as well as the television series and the ridiculous U.S. remake Blind Fury with Rutger Hauer (an abomination if considered as part of the Zatoichi series, but a hilariously bad stand-alone film) before you have completed the Zatoichi cannon.
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Not brilliant, but pretty damn good.
bloodandpopcorn23 May 2004
Zatoichi is a very strong film from the man himself, Shintaro Katsu. I won't say too much in this review, but this is a very strong entry to the Zatoichi series. It has its faults, but most of the time it is a beautifully shot piece that connects extremely will to the viewer.

The fights are great, and really make me kind of sad that Takeshi Kitano decided to go the CGI route in his version of Zatoichi. Here, the arterial sprays are real. And it is one amazingly blood-stained opus. Evidently, Shintaro's sun (the main villain) actually killed an extra during shooting! A crime or total dedication to one's character, you be the one to decide.

Some of the film's major problems: That wretched 80s English song. It's horrible. Whenever it plays, you drop out of Katsu's world. Why it is in there, I'll never understand. It's possible that the song alone (played twice) keeps this film from being great. Another problem: Zooms. I have no problem with snap zooms or very deliberate zooming shots, they can be great especially in older films, but here, the zooming is sloppy. It's as if the DP doesn't know what shot he wants, so he messes around with it as he goes. This problem only occurs maybe three times, but when it does, it stood out to me.

Otherwise, a great film. The faults I find with it are relatively minor quibbles.

Kitano's 2003 update is a better film, but this is arguably more fun and more fulfilling to Zatoichi fans.

The Media Blasters DVD is great! Surprisingly nice anamorphic transfer, good original Japanese audio with very legible English subtitles. Not much as far as special features go, but the film alone is enough to make this a worthy purchase.
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7/10
Poor Ending to a Great Series
jofus22417 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I became familiar with the character Zatoichi on IFC's Samurai Saturdays a couple of years ago. When the movies suddenly disappeared from their rotation, it prompted me to sign up for Netflix and see them all, in order.

First the character. Zatoichi is a blind "anma" or masseur (common occupation for the blind in that era) that travels the countryside, never stopping for long in one place. Behind this unassuming appearance is a master swordsman, which combined with super human hearing makes him virtually unstoppable (very few throughout the series get the better of him). While technically a "yakuza" (defined sometimes as gangster, sometimes as gambler), Zatoichi is Japan's Lone Ranger, Zorro, Batman or Robin Hood. Considered an outlaw by authorities (often vile characters themselves), he lives by a simple moral code and is generally a folk hero amongst the Edo-period villagers he encounters in his travels.

The bulk of the movies (there are 26) follow a pretty basic formula. Zatoichi comes to town, meets and mutually respects a Ronin or Samurai, befriends a sweet young thing or a hooker (with a heart of gold), becomes aware of depredations by the local yakuza boss or government official, gambles, displays his amazing swordsmanship (usually to discourage the boss or official), and is finally pushed too far by boss or official resulting in the wiping out of their underlings and themselves, unhappily fighting aforementioned Samurai or Ronin, and finally leaving the woman crying his name as he wanders off unseen.

The formula works well through the first 20 or so movies, then starts getting repetitious as they reuse gags. This happens around the time that TOHO takes over from the defunct DAIEI as the production company. While the production values of these later movies are generally higher, it's offset by more graphic violence and sexual situations. The star of the movies, Shintaro Katsu, co-produced movies 16 through 26 as well as directing numbers 24 and 26. Which brings us to number 26, Zatoichi (1989).

There was a gap of 16 years between the last 2 movies and it shows. The character, as is expected, has aged considerably in this period. He's heavier (aren't we all?) and has more grey in his hair. He is still, however, the potent weapon we've come to love over the series. But sadly, it's not, pun intended, executed well.

The formula is broadly followed but is muddled with a plodding storyline and too many characters. Perhaps the subtitles aren't giving the proper translations, but characters come and go and their relation to the story and interplay with other characters aren't made clear. A good 20 minutes could be shaved off of this film and would only result in a tightening of the plot. Which is a damn shame, since this his last appearance as Zatoichi and you want to savor every last minute of this film. But sadly I didn't.

See the movie for closure. If you're like me you'll be left wanting more (which is how it should be) and wishing for a more fitting end to a franchise that spanned 27 years and lots of great movie moments.

Now don't even get me started on Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi (2003)...
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10/10
Excellent; Shintaro Katsu's masterpiece! Surpasses last Kurosawa samurai films.
chrisdfilm5 June 2002
The best of the Zatoichi series, with Shintaro Katsu appearing very spry for someone who was almost sixty at the time. If you watch expecting non-stop swordfight pyrotechnics, you're going to be disappointed -- although there are several spectacularly choreographed swordfights, especially the massacre at the climax as well as some surprisingly bloody gore (it should be remembered Katsu produced the Lone Wolf and Cub movies starring his real-life brother, Tomisaburo Wakayama). This is very much a saga type picture, with blind masseur Ichi approaching elderly status but still wandering the backroads of 1860's Japan, gambling and being pursued by bounty hunting yakuza and lone wolf killers. One of the rewarding things about the film is that Katsu encounters old friends like beachcomber Norihei Miki. He also befriends a destitute artist samurai (Ken Ogata) who is conflicted by the bounty on Ichi's head but dismayed because fatalistic, wisecracking, warmhearted Ichi is the only person he can relate to! There are many other great character actors here such as pockmarked Yuya Uchida as one of the craven yakuza bosses. Katsu's real-life son, Takanori Jinnai appears as the scarfaced young upstart rival boss out to take control of the whole territory. A beautiful film that is very poetic and poignant as well as being exciting. Very evocative of the period, unlike many other samurai films made since the mid-80s, and, in my opinion, far superior to Akira Kurosawa's final samurai pictures, KAGEMUSHA and RAN. Contrary to one of the other reviews here, this is anything but a mishmash of elements from earlier entries.
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4/10
Let it be.
TheJackie23 August 2010
The positive response this film has received here on IMDb makes me think that most people didn't truly appreciate the originals, and what made them so unique and beautiful.

It seems as if Shintaro is barely acting. He has lost most of his mannerisms, and the rich facial expressions have all disappeared. The violence is obscene and the drama is lifeless. The camera work and a lot of the music is just plain awful.

I wish I hadn't seen it. I have such a deep love and respect for the originals, and the younger Shintaro's acting ability. Watching this was really painful. Please, take my advice, give this one a miss and re watch one of your old favourites instead.

Unless of course, all you watched zatoichi for was the swordplay.
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5/10
Can't really recommend this one.
Liwataki2 March 2008
Looked forward to seeing this last version by the original actor. But, aside from the color photography, violent swordsmanship, and invocations of past films, which deserve praise (if you recall the bloodless b&w films of the 60's), I really had trouble with the plot lines and trying to follow along the meandering trail of who was who, what was what, and why they were doing what they were doing.

There were a lot of characters featured here, and the connections among them were not very clear. A scar faced villain appears early on, and then shows up toward the end to complete the circle. A woman who seems to have unexplained authority seduces the hero and then drops completely from sight. A minor character shows off his remarkable skill in effecting a kill and then dies rather unexpectedly and without fanfare at the end.

The sword fighting in this movie explodes with unexpected suddenness, after long scene setting or mood setting intervals, in various parts of the film. The depiction of violence is pretty good, but some scenes are absurd, such as the one in which a leader who has donned a make shift suit of armor made up of metal coins (ryo pieces)is stabbed repeatedly and spurts blood all over, like that braggadocio knight in the first MONTY PYTHON picture.

You have to suspend your disbelief that a blind man can survive against 30 or 40 or 50 to one odds, especially in one case where the bad guys have guns. Is the hero gifted like the Marvel Comics hero Daredevil with extraordinary hearing? And extra sensory perception? Well, that is the only explanation for his survival. Or the absolute incompetence of his enemies in being able to formulate a plan of attack against him.

So many plot lines, so many unresolved issues. Zatoichi is like a tornado who comes to a village, gambles a bit, massages a bit, plays with kids, makes friends here and there, and then sweeps away many lives, leaving death and destruction, and then goes his lonely way down a dirt road. Ordinary folks may come out and cheer (as at the end of this film) for the presumed end of some oppression, but you are left wondering where were these people throughout the movie. What happens after he leaves? Finally, there is so much ethnic tradition being depicted here that many people may have a hard time understanding what is happening. So, I can't recommend this film highly -- unless a film goer has a lot of familiarity with the previous films featuring Zatoichi and can tolerate some of the problems I referred to above. Maybe the color photography may make things bright. "Painting the Clouds with Sunshine," as that old song goes. Here, though, it's blood red.
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8/10
Rich, beautifully crafted film from a master of samurai cinema
houseofjames6 November 2005
Shintaro Katsu is an actor who needs no introduction. Having played the rascal Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, in 26 films, he knew exactly what made those films so indelible. Though he had directed a few smaller films in the past (including Zatoichi in Desperation), this was his largest budgeted and most personal work.

Zatoichi: Darkness is his Ally, is a breathtakingly beautiful film, shot with almost totally natural lighting. In fact, the photography of the film is near brilliant in it's lighting and set-up. Katsu's handling of the action scenes is absolutely top-notch. Kudos must be given to the final set piece, which I dare-say may be one of the best sword battles in Chanbara film history.

But it is Katsu's moving, final performance as the wandering swordsman, that gives this film it's weight. His mere presence is so compelling, and his carrying of even the smallest of scenes so capable, that you wish the film would just continue forever, just to bask in a master actor's radiance that much longer.

Some people may balk at the slightly episodic (and convoluted) storyline, but there are so many beautifully handled scenes, you can easily forgive any of the films flaws. Samurai film fans, take note, this is one movie you don't want to miss.
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3/10
Not the same at all
galensaysyes22 March 2006
This is to the Zatoichi movies as the "Star Trek" movies were to "Star Trek"--except that in this case every one of the originals was more entertaining and interesting than this big, shiny re-do, and also better made, if substance is more important than surface. Had I never seen them, I would have thought this good-looking but empty; since I had, I thought its style inappropriate and its content insufficient. The idea of reviving the character in a bigger, slicker production must have sounded good, but there was no point in it, other than the hope of making money; it's just a show, which mostly fails to capture the atmosphere of the character's world and wholly fails to take the character anywhere he hasn't been already (also, the actor wasn't at his best). I'd been hoping to see Ichi at a late stage of life, in a story that would see him out gracefully and draw some conclusion from his experience overall; this just rehashes bits and pieces from the other movies, seasoned with more sex and sfx violence. Not the same experience at all.
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3/10
a very depressing and poor end to the series
MartinHafer25 May 2005
When I read MOST of the other comments, I felt they were way too glowing for this movie. I found it had completely lost the spark found in the earlier Zatoichi movies and just goes to prove that after a long absence from the screen, it's often best to just let things be. I completely agreed with the Star Trek analogy from another reviewer who compared the FIRST Star Trek movie to the original series---millions of excited fans were waiting and waiting and waiting for the return of the show and were forced to watch a bland and sterile approximation of the original.

The plot is at times incomprehensible, it is terribly gory (though the recent NEW Zatoichi by Beat Takeshi is much bloodier) and lacks the heart of the originals. I didn't mind the blood at all, but some may be turned off by it (particularly the scenes with the severed nose and the severed heads). In addition, time has not been good to Ichi--he seems a broken and sad man in this film (much, much more than usual)--and that's something fans of the series may not really want to see.

This was a very sorry return for Zatoichi. Unless you are like me and want to see EVERY Zatoichi film, this one is very skipable. See one of the earlier versions or the 2003 ALL-NEW version.
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10/10
Shintaro Katsu's Crowning Achievement
HallowLooyuh9 December 2018
For better or worse, Shintaro Katsu's career was defined by his portrayal of Zatoichi, the wandering masseur and blind swordsman of the yakuza. I think it's definitely for the better, because Zatoichi is and will be remembered as one of the most enduring characters in international cinema history.

The Zatoichi series began in the early 1960's and was a popular television saga in Japan. The movie releases extended the series' appeal, and enhanced the fame of Katsu and his Zatoichi character by bringing them both to an international audience.

While casual viewers or dilettante observers of the Zatoichi saga might discount the movies due to their ultra-violent content or seeming appeal to male-only audiences, such opinions would surely lack credibility.

The Zatoichi stories are carefully-written morality plays in the context of feudal Japan and its world of starving peasants and oppressed citizenry, corrupt government lords, gangsters and itinerant samurai. Amid this squalor, there are also bountiful instances throughout the series that illustrate and celebrate the inimitable beauty and uniqueness of Japan; its music, art, wardrobe, family life, social decorum, food, drink, natural resources and environment, architecture, etc.

As a human being, and because of the underlying universality of the storytelling, it is only natural to be able to connect on both a visceral and intellectual level with the people in these tales and their struggles, even if the swordsmanship and particular traditions of ancient Japan depicted are experientially unknown to you.

This movie, better known as "Darkness is His Ally," also as "Zatoichi 26," was the final installment of the Zatoichi saga. Directed by Katsu, it is impressively detailed in every respect -- scripting, shot selection, editing, pace, music, production design, set design and more.

Despite the domination of male-oriented scenes, in this movie as well as the entire Zatoichi series, women are regarded with high esteem, even reverence; not only for their beauty but also because of their wisdom. One very tender sequence in this movie between Zatoichi and young Oume, played by Miho Nakayama, echoes this series-wide attribution of bodhisattva- or goddess-like status to women.

Another unforgettable sequence in this movie is the time-arresting, unspeakable beauty of vocalist Kazuko Matsumura's performance of a somber, traditional Japanese song called the "Jongara Bushi." It's a duet she sings in a bar/restaurant/hotel with a shamisen accompaniment. Her folk singing style, gliding through microtones rather than using vibrato, still sends chills up my spine. For me it is one of the most memorable live vocal performances in a movie ever.

Shintaro Katsu was well known as a Kabuki actor and musician prior to taking the role of Zatoichi. He was also a writer, producer and director. His artistic conflict with Akira Kurosawa on the maestro's film "Kagemusha" is well documented, as were his brushes with the law for marijuana use (a major taboo in Japan to this day). His was a restless artistic spirit, and one can imagine that the singular strength of the Zatoichi character perhaps handcuffed his creative diversity and aged him prematurely. He passed away in 1997 at only 65 years old.

Even if Katsu felt his creative palette was unfulfilled, the world will still be forever appreciative and enriched for what he gave us: One of the most enduring cinematic characters of all time -- Zatoichi.
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A strong and unique entry in the Zatoichi series
Ore-Sama27 February 2016
If you're not familiar with the Zatoichi series, it's the samurai equivalent of "Godzilla". From the 60's to early 70's, twenty five films were made about a blind swordsman who gives a good massage, gambles like no other, and of course, cuts down lots and lots of bad guys. Unlike the "Godzilla" films (fan as I am of them), the Zatoichi films were typically well plotted, albeit formulaic. They were generally light hearted affairs with little sprinklings of darker subject matter. "Zatoichi in Desperation" was the first time the star took the director's chair, and it was a bleak as hell, psychedelic film unlike any other in the series. With this twenty sixth film, he took the director's chair once again.

Many have commented on the, shall we say, dense plot. Rival gangs fighting over guns, over women, a rebel who becomes Zatoichi's hesitant rival, a group of children, a gambling prostitute- even at near two hours, it's a lot to take in. It's a departure from the other films which were generally very well plotted. The thing though is those films generally paired it down. This has so much going on and the way it all wrapped up seems an after thought.

For me, this isn't enough to sink this film. "Zatoichi in Desperation", the previous directorial effort of the man himself, showed a visual flare and atmosphere completely unique to the series, and he seems to be building on it here. The colors and soundtrack are for the most part, exceptionally well done and do so much for the mood.

That's exactly what this entry is: a mood film. The other Zatoichi films are all about building up bad guys for an eventual catharsis when Zatoichi either strikes down or humiliates them. In this we get the bleakness of "Desperation" mixed in with a tenderness and bittersweetness "Conspiracy" had but much more. It's more comparable to a film by Antonioni in that regard, where feeling and mood carry more weight than the plot and characters (though this comparison is superficial: this movie is nowhere near as masterful or in depth as the masterworks of Antonioni) Many seem to complain about the bleak tone and graphic violence. First off, violence and bleakness are not flaws, they are choices, and simply saying "gore, dark, bad" is not valid criticism. Secondly, why would someone watch a samurai movie if such things are a turn off to them? With that said, I can certainly see valid reasons why someone would dislike this film. If you go into this wanting an action film (and really, why wouldn't you expect that from a Zatoichi movie?), while the action scenes themselves are well done, they are very few and far in between. There's also not a whole lot of momentum in the film. Part of being this kind of mood film is a lack of such, which is somewhat at odds with an action piece. and there is no denying that the characters and plot are, well, not quite nonsensical but lacking. I found Zatoichi's political minded friend to be fairly interesting, but his plot mostly stays under the radar and it's popping up towards the end seemed random. Nothing ever quite comes fully together. It's definitely a fragmented film, which is something of a double edged sword in this context. Also strange are the cheap fade to black transitions often used. Considering this is supposed to be the high budget Zatoichi film, this is a very strange choice for me.

and as has also been mentioned, many elements are repeated from previous films. Just in terms of plot and character, it comes off as what you would get from putting a handful of other entries into a blender.

However, when all is said and done, I did enjoy this movie. It's what I call a "trip", a movie that carries me on it's mood and leaves an impression equivalent to that of a dream: near unexplainable in impact, but an impact none the less.

If you go into this with the expectations of an exciting action film, you'll get it in small doses, like a full course meal handed to you in small servings at a time. However if you go in without expectations, you might end up liking it. After twenty five Zatoichi films, most following the formula, I'm glad that we got something a bit different.
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10/10
A nice farwell for Katsu
artstupid31 January 2004
This is by far the goriest of the Shintarô Katsu series. The image of Zatoichi holding a severed head while slashing attackers is one I may use for my next tattoo. Blood spurts and flows in rivers. The story is well executed, nostalgic, and has the welcomed addition of nudity! It was hard to believe that Zatoichi actually had sex with a gorgeous tattoed naked yakuza girl in a hot spring. It was even more incredible that at age 69 Shintarô Katsu pulled the scene off, and it was quite erotic! That has to be one for the cinematic record books.

The only thing I found that didn't work in this film was a very 80's Michael Bolton like theme song sung in English! Luckily it only occurs with the vocals twice. Other than that minor flaw, this is in the top 5 of the Zatoichi catalog, and I've seen them all. Highly Recommended!!!
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One of the worst swan songs ever sung in movie history
CyniLogical25 May 2015
This 26th also the last of the Zatoichi series indeed is the worst one among the 26 episodes. Shintarô Katsu in 1989 looked fat with natural gray short hairs, he directed and produced this one, added lot of modern stunts, his katana sword's ghost-like flashing cuts now got crimson blood splashed out of his opponents' bodies, unlike the early episodes, only cut but no blood coming out. we got chopped off hands, arms, legs even heads rolling on the ground. we saw him cured the sword in a hotel room. then we saw at the first time he finally got the chance to make love to a beautiful Yakuza local chief in a hot spring.

Yeah, these are the new stuff he put into this last episode. but some of the scenes were overly used again and again in former episodes so many times, such as gambling scene, purposely letting two dices littered outside of the cup, cutting fake dices, etc., etc. but the scene that he stumbled into a dirt pit on the road is too much and too lazily copied from one of the earlier episode, simply is not quite good either.

One of the worst arrangements of this series is repeatedly used so many same actors played so many different roles in different episodes. although their names or titles might not be the same, but these repeatedly showed actors were just killed by him in last episode, then same actors with the same faces showed up right in the next episode. this careless arrangement had seriously caused some viewing problems. a serious franchised series should not use so many same actors to repeatedly showed in different episodes; it's just stupid and ridiculous.

This 26th episode actually should never been made in the first place. it looked just so tiresome and spiritless. by making one like this only meant that Shintarô Katsu just wanted to cash in the last time.

Due to this series' popularity at that time, he even put some songs and sang by himself in the last several episodes, but the song in this last one was simply stupid, we got an English song! was it just because he sold this episode to some unknown American TV channel, so he got to put an English roaming samurai song in it for the American TV viewers? Well, the stupidity always amazed me.
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9/10
Wow!
masercot19 March 2005
This movie was GREAT! It wasn't the best Zatoichi movie, but it certainly was one of the best. It had EVERYTHING...the wayward samurai, the jaded but loving woman, the feuding crime bosses...and ORPHANS.

But, this was a deeper, more introspective Ichi. He starts off the movie in a jail cell and subsequently receives a hundred lashes as punishment for insolence to a judge. It becomes apparent that Ichi has a lot of friends and spreads the spirit of giving everywhere he goes...

Oh, and he also kills a lot of people...a LOT of people. And, for his age, Katsu Shintaro does amazingly well. The battles are tight, a little bloodier than before, but well staged.

One minor complaint with this movie is the sex and nudity. While not excessive, it will keep my children from seeing it until their mid-teens. It is a shame because they have seen most of the other Zatoichis...
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4/10
Yawn...
paul_haakonsen28 July 2012
Being a fan of Asian cinema I am ashamed to say that I never really seen any of the Zatoichi movies, so I picked this up from Amazon to see what they were all about, and the movie had been praised so high, so it was bound to be good.

Or so I thought.

This movie was definitely not in my liking. I found it to be boring, slow moving and rather pointless. And just to prolong the suffering, the movie is about 2 hours long. I made it through the first 55 minutes, then I simply gave up out of sheer boredom, and because nothing much really had happened.

The acting was adequate, as were the action scenes.

Sure it was nicely shot and I am sure that there is a profound meaning to the movie. I just failed to find it. I prefer movies with a little bit more action or appeal. But I am sure for fans of the Zatoichi story or movies set in feudal Japan, then this movie would be great.

Of course there is an audience for this particular type of movie, or this movie specifically, I just wasn't part of that audience. I will say that it is not amongst the worst of Japanese movies I have seen, it just failed to catch my interest.
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9/10
you must see this film
winner552 August 2006
this is the last appearance of katsu shintaro as zaotichi, and for my money the best.

if you like action films, you must see this film.

if you like Japanese film, you must see this.

if you ever wondered what 'the wild bunch' might look like in Japanese, you must see this film.

in short this is the Japanese film that crosses all the boundaries the Japanese themselves recognize; you really must see this film.

absolutely exquisitely mounted; beautifully shot and edited. the only odd flaw is the weird soul-song that functions as the theme song - but, fortunately, it is not the theme music.

everything else about this film is fine. what a great farewell to a great serial character.

absolutely, you must see this.
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