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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.
Itinerant masseur and master swordsman, the blind Zatoichi, is near the village of his teacher, Hikonoichi, so he decides to visit. He learns of Hikonoichi's recent robbery and murder and the imprisonment of his virginal daughter, Osayo, in a brothel. Through friendship with Denroku, a local dice thrower and devoted father, Ichi uncovers an unholy alliance between the governor and the area strongman: among their scams is falsifying tax records to put farmers in debt, then forcing their daughters into prostitution at the boss's brothel. With help from Denroku's daughter, Otsuru, Ichi comforts Osayo until he can provoke showdowns with the villains and their henchmen. Written by
Most Zatoichi movies are like simple fables where the underdog stumbles into a problem and uses his sword to defeat the almost cartoonish villains and make things wonderful again. The stories are unbelievable, but the movies are enjoyable because Shintaro Katsu brings so much humility and charm to his role.
This film is much different from the other Zatoichi films that I have seen. Through deceit, murder, and trickery the village leaders have forced villagers to incur debts they are unable to repay in any way except to put their daughters to work in the brothel. The brothel is owned by the village leaders. If the daughters attempt to escape or do not cooperate they are beaten, locked in a storehouse and starved. The movie graphically depicts the abuse in the brothel. There is a very disturbing scene where Zatoichi is giving a brothel customer a massage and in the background you can hear the screams of a reluctant new girl being beaten.
Zatoichi gets involved in this situation when he goes to visit his old teacher and discovers that the teacher had been killed and the teacher's daughter had to work at the brothel to repay the teacher's debt.
The corruption in the village goes very deep and affects many people. The more trouble the corrupt leaders get into, the more they plot killing and framing people for the killings. The corrupt leaders are able to get honorable men to do almost anything to keep or get their daughters out of the brothel. This rampant corruption makes it impossible for Zatoichi to trust anyone fully. To fix the problem, Zatoichi seems to have to fight an entire army. When the movie ends, you wonder if there are any able bodied men left alive in the village or if Zatoichi has killed them all.
If you are looking for a typical light Zatoichi movie, you will not like this one. If you are looking for a dark, powerful, thought provoking move, this is the one.
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