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 comes upon a dying man who asks him to give a bag of money to "Taichi". Zatoichi has no idea who this is but when he comes upon a small town harassed by gangsters, he finds that "Taichi" was the man's young son. Along his travels he also met a blind monk who makes Zatoichi question his murderous lifestyle. In trying to help the town, Zatoichi kills some gangsters and becomes a hero to the boy. He must make a choice of whether to use non-violence and set a good example, or violence and set the boy on the wrong path in life. Written by
Fred Cabral <email@example.com>
Just when you thought that people who translated these titles couldn't get more unimaginative, we get Zatoichi's Vengeance (#13). We already had Zatoichi's Revenge a few films ago, and besides, who does Zatoichi take vengeance upon in #13? Whom or what is he avenging?
Well, anyway, this is the final entry directed by Tokuzo Tanaka. The previous film tried to change the plot formula a bit, but #13 brings us back to the basics; Zatoichi encounters a dying man and promises to deliver his message/money on to his relatives, he enters a town contaminated by a greedy yakuza boss and his gang of disposable thugs, he disposes of the thugs, faces off against an obligatory black-clad ronin (gotta love those), before taking out the final boss.
What makes this entry special is that some depth is added into the storyline through the appearance of a blind biwa-playing priest who questions Zatoichi's liberal approach to violence and how it may affect the local kid who sees Zatoichi as his idol (one can't help but wonder if this sub-plot relates to actual kids who comprised the theatrical audience for these films). Additionally, the ronin sub-plot is well thought-out this time (and Mayumi Ogawa, who plays his ex-wife, is really beautiful). It may interest you to know that the ronin is played by Shigeru Amachi, who also appeared in the first Zatoichi movie.
While it's somewhat true that if you've seen one Zatoichi film you've seen them all, some of them do play around with the formula better than others do. This one is among the most entertaining entries so far.
Highlight of the film: the bridge battle scene where the foes try to disturb Zatoichi's hearing by pounding huge taiko drums to disorient him (this is the premise for the Criterion cover art, which just looks baffling if you're unfamiliar with the film). The silhouette choreography is insane.
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