|Index||3 reviews in total|
Zatoichi's Conspiracy has our hero returning to his hometown and making the acquaintance of his "sister", a young orphan raised by the same old woman who raised Zatoichi. The bad guy is an official who also grew up in the same village and was a childhood friend of Zatoichi. He appears to be befriending the village by paying off their tax debt, but lays claim to the village quarry, which serves as the only source of income besides farming. A high point of this film is the appearance of Takashi Shimura, the hero of many Kurosawa films including Seven Samurai, as the guardian of Zatoichi's new-found sister. The ending is a little bit of a copout as Zatoichi struggles to decide whether he can bring himself to kill his old friend. A solid entertaining entry to the series.
After a 23 year absence, Zatoichi returns to his home town to find that
few remember him. But in the end the village residents will have much
to remember him by.
Of course Zatoichi is in a sentimental mood. There is a funny scene where Zato mistakenly thinks that the town has set up a big banquet in his honor and he frets over how to greet his guests and thank them. There is a touching scene where Zato comes across a Jizo (Buddha) statue along side a road where he used to play as a child. Jizo is missing his stone head, so Zatoichi gets on hands and knees to find the missing head. In the end he finds the head and replaces it on Jizo's shoulders. Zato visits the grave of his 'aunti' who breast fed him and offers sake (taking a nip himself :) ).
The second half of the film is fast paced and has an interesting story. It's a story of greed and the story is being sown by Zatoichi's childhood friend, who has returned to the village at the same time as Zatoichi. Their confrontation is predictable, but Zatoichi takes out a host of yakuza to eventually confront his childhood friend. Overall, it's a compelling story and has a lot of good action.
So this film marks the 25th film in a period of 12 years. It's interesting that the series pauses at this point. The next film (and last) will be released in 1989. I would rank Zatoichi Conspiracy higher than several of the earlier films in the series, but the Japanese public must have had enough by this point. Good work Katsu!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the previous Zatoichi film, "Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue"
(ZATOICHI IN DESPERATION or ZATOICHI 24), the film abounded with
disgusting scenes and plot elements. It certainly was the seediest and
most unpleasant of the original 25 Zatoichi films. Fortunately, here in
the final film before the series went exclusively to television (until
Shintaro Katsu came out of retirement for the 26th Zatoichi film, the
film makers decided to make the film less nihilistic and bleak. The
only real similarity between 24 and 25 was the blood--there is plenty
of realistic looking blood and severed limbs in both. But because the
plot isn't quite so dark, the film is like the series coming back to
the old formula. Now this isn't all good, because by now the films had
become VERY formulaic, but at least it was more enjoyable and offered
what fans of the franchise had long enjoyed.
At the beginning of this film, Zatoichi is back to where he grew up though no one seems to remember him. His memories, however, are amazingly clear. In fact, when Shenbei (Zatoichi's childhood playmate) meets up with Ichi, he either doesn't remember him at all or pretends not to--while Ichi can vividly recall their youth. Sadly, however, in addition to Shenbei not recognizing Ichi as a friend, he also has changed a lot for the worse. Now instead of a humble peasant, he's a magistrate who abuses his power to both starve the peasants and overwork them in dangerous quarries he just stole from the local boss. As usual, Ichi puts up with a lot of abuse from these guys until he ultimately kicks butt to restore justice.
This pattern is pretty common to almost all Zatoichi films but there were a few differences--such as how Shenbei finally gets his comeuppance as well as the presence of a gang of lowlife hippie-types who seem to randomly appear and do nasty things for no particular reason.
While this film certainly is NOT a standout film in the series, it is very watchable and is a return to the older and less vile Zatoichi film of the past.
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