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?
With a price on his head, Ichi seeks tranquillity in a favorite village. Since his last visit, it has fallen prey to Boss Masagoro, the son of a merchant rumored to have stolen gold from the shogunate. The boss has hired Yojimbo as his hard-drinking enforcer, but Yojimbo is both a spy for the shogunate, trying to find the gold, and in love with the merchant's unwilling mistress, Umeno. Ichi hires on as the merchant's masseur and buys Umeno's freedom with his employer's own money. This embarrasses Yojimbo who withdraws from a pact with Ichi to stir up trouble between father and son and their gangs. As the two sides fight, Ichi finds the gold and sets up a final set of confrontations. Written by
This film brings together two of the greatest characters created in Japanese cinema. Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) is the blind swordsman who goes back to a village that he remembers as peaceful and tranquil. It has been two to three years since his last visit and he longs to get away from the constant attacks that plague him on a daily basis, as he has a price on his head. But all is not as he remembers. When he arrives to his beloved village, he finds it is torn between a father and son that have their own gangs involved in their own family feud. As a result, the village is torn between the two men as the son seeks his father's gold (which may or may not exist).
As the blind masseur becomes involved in the midst of this feud, the son's hired bodyguard (Toshiro Mifune) is introduced. Mifune ever-so-slightly reprises his role from the Akira Kurosawa films, Yojimbo and Sanjuro. It's not the exact same character, but only the most devout film buffs would see the subtle differences. As the Yojimbo discovers just who Zatoichi is and the price on his head, the two banter back and forth with threats and insults and even a few sword fights as the plot thickens.
The film keeps you guessing until the very end as to whether or not these two samurai masters will end up friends or foes. All the while, Shintaro Katsu and Toshiro Mifune give master performances in their roles as usual. What Toshiro Mifune brings to this long running series of films is a stark contrast to Shintaro Katsu's simple and quiet Zatoichi. Toshiro Mifne's Yojimbo is harsh, loud, and aggressive when comparing the two. Putting these two great actors together, while playing off one another, results in a well balanced and enjoyable opposition. We all know who the hero is but what happens between these two? Do they find resolution or does it all end in a bitter and bloody sword battle? The only way to find out is to watch.
I enjoyed this film immensely. I cannot recommend it enough to fans of Japanese period films, Zatoichi fans, or Toshiro Mifune fans. If any of those appeal to you, then you owe it to yourself to watch this film. You will find nothing but sheer delight in this great masterpiece. This is also a great entry into the Zatoichi films. Even though this is a sequel you will not be lost by starting with this film in the series. This marks the 20th film of the Shintaro Katsu Zatoichi films. It was originally shot in 1965 in color and is in Japanese with the optional English subtitles. The transfer to DVD has been masterfully handled by AnimEigo and the translation is great. I was amazed at how crisp the picture and the sound was for being such an old film. Again I cannot recommend it enough. If you have any inclination to see this movie do not hesitate. I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.
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