Blind masseur and master swordsman, Zatoichi, is tired of killing. He journeys to his old village looking for peace, but is pursued by the brother of Boss Kanbei, a man he's killed. Back home, Ichi connects with Banno, his teacher, who seeks prestige and has arranged for his younger sister, Yayoi, to marry into a wealthy samurai family. Ichi and Yayoi realize they are in love, but Ichi's request for her hand meets with Banno's derision. Ichi is also drawn into Banno's plot to kidnap the son of a wealthy man, ostensibly to aid the Mito Goblins, a gang of thieves on the run; but Banno wants to keep the ransom. Ichi wants harmony and love, but can he escape a destiny of violence? Written by
George Lucas credits Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress for inspiring him to create R2-D2, C3-PO and the Star Wars saga. But what about The Empire Strikes Back? The story that featured Luke finding a teacher, and also Luke dueling with his father? Similarities abound in this tale of Zatoichi's return to his village, seeking peace and love and an ending to his Yakuza lifestyle.
However, regardless of whether or not Lucas may have been inspired by this film, it certainly has enough drama and pathos to capture anyone's imagination. In this third Zatoichi film, Shintaru Katsu (Zatoichi) really pulls out all the stops. This is Katsu at his best. Sincere, humble, compassionate, and deadly.
Zatoichi finds he is very unhappy due to the many sins and killings that he has racked up. He is full of regrets and remorse. Zatoichi decides to return to the village where he was born, so he can see his grandmother and any of his old friends.
He meets his Sensei during a duel as he is entering the village, and he returns to his Sensei's training academy. Zatoichi is full of admiration and appreciation for his Sensei, but what does his Sensei really think about Zatoichi? The Sensei's younger sister sees Zatoichi as a sensitive and loving person, but she does not know his history. After the Sensei has set her up to marry into a wealthy family, she falls in love with Zatoichi. When the Sensei finds out, Zatoichi learns where he really stands with his teacher. Will she still love Zatoichi when she knows all about him?
Meanwhile, the brother of a Yakuza that Zatoichi killed in the previous film is challenging Zatoichi to a duel and seeking to kill him. Fate intervenes several times to keep the two Samurais from dueling. Finally, the most dramatic moment of the film happens when the two of them meet after Zatoichi has promised to change his life. The scene is as powerful as anything you will ever see in a film.
Finally, when Kingo is kidnapped by the Tengo clan, the whole story and all of its sub-plots converge in the forest when Zatoichi seeks to help the youth and finds his destiny. Can he keep his promises? Will he be able to get married to the woman he loves? Will she still love him when it is all over? Will he ever see his loving grandmother again? Will his Sensei ever see Zatoichi as more than just a blind man? Can Zatoichi stop the criminals from preying on the poor? Can Zatoichi find the peace he was looking for in the village of his birth?
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