After an artist is threatened by the yakuza into creating valuable but highly illegal pornography, the law aims to execute him. Zatoichi, having been honor bound to protect the man and his family, must now run against the law.
Zatoichi tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
Ichi is staying at an inn when a woman dies. Her dying wish is that Ichi take her son to his father, an artist living in a nearby town. After arriving in the town, Ichi finds out that the father has been forced by a local boss to create illegal pornography to pay off his gambling debts. Ichi makes it his mission to save tha man and reunite the family, even though it brings him into conflict with a samurai he sort of befriended on his way to the town Written by
Scott Hamilton <stomptokyo.com>
One of the most stylistic and gripping Zatoichi films
Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi is such a memorable character not only because of his talent with a sword, but because he acts justly in an unjust world, even as a member of the yakuza "gangster" caste, an outcast of normal society, a nobody in status compared to a samurai; often, in fact, labeled a criminal. No one respects him for his honor, but only for his ability to kill. The world around him is based on fear, corruption and evil, and even the people that are good are invariably weak in the face of the strong and corrupt.
This Zatoichi story is unique. The blind swordsman is at a traveler's inn with a woman and her child when the woman dies. Her dying request is that Ichi take the boy to his father. Unfortunately the father is trapped in a plot to produce forbidden images on pottery and plates -- artistic renditions of women that are often hardly even suggestive, but in those days were outlawed. It is over pottery designs that much violence is to occur thanks to corrupt officials, evil yakuza, and the twisted justice of the government.
Zatoichi has often been juxtaposed with a costar acting as a foil. In ZATOICHI CHALLENGED that foil is a child on the road with Ichi. This pairing elicits just the right combination of emotion and personality from the blind swordsman, giving his character added depth and feel. It is very gratifying to see Zatoichi in a fatherly role.
Ichi deserves more empathy and respect in this film. The father-son story device, the twisted justice of the government samurai, and the stylistic energy of the film are the perfect background for what Ichi's character symbolizes. Here Ichi is complete; an excellent protagonist.
The final battle scene takes uncommon form -- the added effect of the snow alone makes it magical. It is more stylistically shot than most Zatoichi battles, it seems edited with emphasis on emotion rather than action, and it ends in a very atypical way. Here the action seems to be balanced well in benefit of the story and style of the film. This makes the action for its own sake all the more beautiful to watch.
Also see the father-son device used in another excellent samurai series, Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami), starring Shintaro Katsu's brother, Tomisaburo Wakayama.
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