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.
Ichi seeks out on a pilgrimage to 81 temples, exploring spirituality to atone for his bloody past. On the way, Ichi stumbles into a village that's being bullied by a violent Yakuza boss and his henchmen. After killing a young, hired assassin, Ichi is led back to the young man's village by his peculiar horse. Upon learning that her brother is dead, Okichi (Yasuda Michiyo) grabs a sword and attacks Ichi, either in an attempt to avenge her brother or in an attempt to commit suicide by forcing Ichi to defend himself. After injuring Ichi, Okichi tends to his wounds, nurses him back to health, and begins to have feelings for him. The Yakuza boss still wants Ichi dead in order to take over the village and now Ichi alone must deal with the boss and his gang, the young woman's feelings and a village full of cowards, who will not stand up for themselves! Written by
The general standard for Zatoichi films is fairly high - though you can expect the same motifs and themes from one movie to the next. Zatoichi's Pilgrimage brings the series to a new level. Our blind swordsman (Kintaro Katsu) is troubled by his violent past, and vows to visit a circuit of shrines until the gods give him an answer to his spiritual quest. This quest brings him into contact with a group of brigands who all but rule the area, and he's left with little choice but to reassess his spiritual quest.
The screenplay is especially intriguing. Zatoichi's pilgrimage begins as a sea voyage, and the water theme repeatedly makes its way into the plot. In the hope of realizing his quest, a rider- less horse follows the blind swordsman to where he's most needed - suggesting that Zatoichi may have already found his destiny. An assured storytelling makes this one of the more satisfying of the long series.
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