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Swordplay movies can come with pretty high standards, and the kind of
production that might have been forgiven with 50s and 60s epics have to
be rethought as we approach modern treatments. Fact is, ICHI is a
fairly traditional version of the Blind Swordsman, though Haruka Ayase
has a one-two punch of strong acting and good lucks. Dressed in rags,
glowering, and compelling, Ayase is entirely convincing. Takao Osawa
has winning chemistry with co-star, playing the drifter who had
accidentally blinder his mother years before.
The swordplay sequences are shot in mixed slow and regular motion, digital blood spurting everywhere. Despite the carnage, her blade is always clean, her fingernails perfectly manicured, and always looking breathtaking under the worst of situations. ICHI is not, however, about realism; it's an adventure-romance, and anyone looking for complete accuracy will be disappointed. The real problem comes with the villains - Riki Takeuchi, usually good with pulp roles, overdoes his role as baddie - a fault that's shared by other antagonists.
The most satisfying swordplay yarns have original writing along with thrilling fights, but ICHI only the second part of the formula. As a result, the story is agreeable albeit rather ordinary.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rethink, and perhaps continuation of the story of Zatoichi, the blind
swordsman. here the blind masseuse and gambler has been replaced by a
blind woman who is a trained musician. As the film begins she is
looking for a certain man. One can pretty much assume that she wants to
kill him. While staying with a blind woman some toughs decide to rough
up her host when they won't pay for her services. A wandering samurai
named Toma tries to help, but its Ichi who kills the men. Following
Ichi Toma ends up hired as the protector of a village built around a
town. They think Toma killed some of the gang that had been running
rough shod over them, but it was actually Ichi. As the gang moves to
take revenge, Toma and Ichi grow close. How it all plays out is the
Some people really don't like this movie. I've seen somethings that have blasted the film for not being a real Zatoichi film. Some people have taken it to task for having poor performances, especially in the lead. I really liked the film. I had no problems with Haruka Ayase as Ichi. I found her fine for what the part is. This is not a real restart of Zatoichi, its more a continuation with flashback sequences implying that the elder Ichi was this girl's father. Its a film that is going in a different direction.
I have no trouble with the film being anything other than its own thing. You can't really compare it to the best of the Zatoichi series since its not really fair since those films had a couple of chances to hit their stride before they got it right. Its certainly better than the weakest of the series which could be downright dull. If I were to pin point the films flaws it would e the over length, I don't know if the film really needs to be two hours. Certainly it felt longer while watching it than when it was over. The other flaw is that the films budget at times makes it seem almost like a TV movie, especially with the use of computer generated blood.
I like the film a great deal and would recommend it, especially if you let the film do what it wants to do and not take for what its not, say a continuation of Beat Takashi's take on the characters. Worth a rental or an evening at the movies.
Between 7 and 8 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I haven't seen the original films in the '60s and '70s, but I watched
the 2003 Zatouichi starring "Beat" Takeshi, which was a very strong
This remake starring Ayase Haruka has its share of improvements, but just as many shortcomings.
Sori Fumihiko's direction, as with "Ping Pong", was wonderful. Cinematography was very beautifully done, and the slow motion in action sequence for dramatic effect was spontaneous and enjoyable.
One thing that really impressed me was the music. I saw the name "Lisa Gerrard" under musical scores in the opening credit. My first impression was, "huh? A Japanese jidaigeki with foreign sounds? Unthinkable!" But it turned out to be incredibly dramatic and accommodated every scene perfectly.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the casting. Ayase Haruka was really beautiful and cool as the blind assassin, but she was hopeless in a particular singing scene, and some other 'everyday' scenes. I can't help but to notice how blood wasn't spilling all over her face like the 2003 version. An inevitable consequence of an idol film. Nakamura Shidou as the villain was outright horrible. He severely overacted and made the film feel incredibly cheesy. Although I'm a huge fan of Kubozuka Yousuke, I must admit his presence was too modern for an edo-period film like this. He just seemed out of place, talking like a modern teenager. Only Oosawa Takao fit the role and delivered a decent performance.
I guess most of the blame should be placed on the script, which not only set the tone of each character (that the actors were not capable of...), it failed to illustrate the most important feature of the character Ichi. When I watched the 2003 version, what impressed me about the character was that he can be so deadly even though he was blind, merely using the sound of opponent charging and feeling of enemy presence. This remake, however, completely failed to show how the character was strong as she was, and also ignored the weaknesses, such as the scene where the crowd was making a lot of noise, but she was still able to easily defeat her opponent.
The movie had nice action and few touching scenes, but plagued by miscasting and a weak script that also over-dramatized the story. Not nearly as good as the 2003 version in my opinion, but still fun enough to watch.
Epic! I loved this movie! The action scenes are really cool. the swordplay is a lot of fun. there are some bullet-time action scenes. the classic blind samurai portrayed through a lonesome girl is very intriguing. it's going to catch your attention and take you into ichi's world. ichi is special because, we feel for her, become attached to her, and don't want to see her suffer. "ichi" envelopes you through sound and hearing. we all know she is blind, and develop a keen sense of the sounds that trigger events. the shots are very cool, soothing, and warm colors express vibrancy and visual sensation. the play on sounds pulls the viewer into "ichi's" vision-less world. it's easy to fall in love with the main characters, because they have so much personality, and are very charismatic. i highly recommend this movie! It was awesome from beginning to end!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ichi is a blind woman with a gift, she is a expert swords woman.
However,she has chosen to remain isolated, in search for her father. On
her journey she encounters a samurai who fears killing people, a
village plagued by the Yakuza.
Ichi is a film that focuses on the story rather than action and although the action is always great, it holds the audience's attention with likable characters and at times its very intense. The actors are all brilliant in their roles, and really give the film some depth. When the final fight finally does arrive, we've seen the lives of the characters making the end very satisfying, as well as sad.
I had totally forgotten about Zatoichi until I saw some of the other
reviews. But there were no similarities btw the two films, and I don't
think there were supposed to be either. So this film stands on its own
merits (or lack thereof).
Ichi starts off kind of weak, with some hokey dialogue. But the hokey dialogue does play off as somewhat endearing btw Toma, the insecure samurai trainee and Ichi, the cold and bleak musician. The story and the relationship btw Toma and Ichi are developed decently, so we are kept interested in the movie throughout. However, the film's pacing is rather clunky and some of the symbolic imagery and the profound dialogue isn't set up well and comes across rather forced. It's almost as if the director is making up for plot holes by inserting random bits of poetic images and dialogue that aren't set up well and don't make that much sense.
The action is more or less decent, but the climactic fight scenes are too short and simplistic. All in all, it's not a great action film, not a great romance, and not a great drama, although it aspires to be all three. It's a film that's OK for killing time with, but I wouldn't set aside any part of your day with it.
Having seen other movies about the Zatoichi legend and having been less
than entertained and having ended up ejecting the disc about half way
through, it was with some hesitation that I sat down to watch this 2008
take on the legend.
I will say this this 2008 version was particularly stylish and interesting compared to the other ones I have seen. It stands out as it is heavier on the action and the acting, than the older movies that are heavier on the melodrama.
The movie is easily summarized for those not familiar with the legend of the blind swordsman. Ichi (played by Haruka Ayase), a blind traveling musician, is seeking out her mentor, and on her travels she meets up with Toma Fujihira (played by Takao Osawa) and the end up in a feud between the Yakuza and a gang of thugs.
"Ichi" has some good action scenes and sequences that were nicely choreographed, and they used a great combination of slow-motion and regular motion camera work to enhance the action. And the sword fight scenes were spices up with spray blood, although there wasn't actually any gore, so it was tastefully done. Oddly enough, though, with her skills with her sword, Ichi never got any blood on her and was always pretty and clean.
The movie was driven by a good story, and helped along by some pretty good acting. I must applaud Haruka Ayase for her portrayal of Ichi, because it was really nicely done; emotional and beautiful. The movie did suffer from the acting of Shidô Nakamura who played Banki, the leader of the thugs, it was overdone and very staged.
There was a lot of good camera work in the movie, and lots of nice scenes. They made good use of the scenery in the movie, and the sets were working quite well. And the costumes and props were working well in favor of the movie as well.
For a live action Manga, then "Ichi" was a good movie, entertaining and full of action. I was glad that I watched this, despite of my former bad experiences with the older movies. Recommendable for those who like feudal Japanese swords fighting movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I read a lot of the negative reviews in here, most seem to be around comparisons with other movies but I saw it as a movie in it's own right. In doing so I was not disappointed. Ichi is a goze who is travelling Japan in search of her mentor, who was the actual Zatoichi. She was born blind. As an infant, Zatoichi rescued her and left her in the care of a group of goze, visiting her and secretly teaching her the techniques Zatoichi had mastered. After being abused, she is exiled by the goze. She pleaded to the man who had abused her to say nothing happened, but he refused and she killed him. She wanted to see her mentor one last time before she died, so she began searching for him. While on her search, she gets involved in a war between residents of a small village ruled by a yakuza gang and a group of bandits, Banki-to. It is all beautifully shot and acted. The main character has been criticised in here for no personality, whereas I saw lots of personality and emotion, subtlety done as is often the case with Japanese women. And Haruka Ayase as Ichi herself is stunning and beautiful and at the same time a convincing swords-woman. Also the film is not as bloodthirsty as some in this genre such as the Azumi series. Overall I would definitely watch this again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For people who love the Zatoichi films, many will no doubt watch this
film hoping to see their beloved character and stories recreated for
the 21st century. Although the Takeshi Kitano version of Zatoichi
(2003) did manage to recapture much of this original magic, the bottom
line is that this new film really ISN'T a Zatoichi films--too much is
different from the original tales. Shintaro Katsu (the original actor
for the series) died some time ago and apparently Takeshi Kitano is not
up for another film in the series (though apparently there IS another
Zatoichi film coming out in 2010 starring Shingo Katori). Like the old
saying goes, "you can't go back"...or, at least it's very hard to.
Here, there really is not Zatoichi as we know him but instead Ichi is a blind woman--a blind woman who seems like the old Ichi in some ways and definitely not in others. Yes, she's great with the sword and is blind...but otherwise, she is oh so different. Katsu's and Takeshi's versions had a sense of humor about them as well as foreboding. Haruka Ayase, on the other hand, seems to be mired in the depths of depression--saying far less and doing far less during the course of the film. Sure, she can fight (though not as good as the other Ichis, as in the first "boss battle", she gets her butt kicked), but most of the time she seems much more distant and disconnected than the old Ichi--probably even clinically depressed. Though, there's no denying that Ayase is incredibly beautiful--something no one would ever accuse the male Ichis of being! Yet you wonder, with so much going for her (despite her blindness), why didn't she just settle down and have a happy life?! The Zatoichi of old could not because he had to make up for his violent past as a member of the Yakuza--but why was this Ichi so sad and on her own--acting like a total outcast?! Even with the montage scene, her actions through the film didn't seem to make total sense. This was a weakness in this film.
Another weakness, and this is a big one, is that the new Ichi was actually NOT the main character for much of this movie. Instead, so much of the tale has to do with a samurai who refuses to fight--though his reasons seemed a bit silly to me--especially late in the film when so many died because of his inner struggle. In many ways, he just came off as a pathetic and somewhat annoying guy--certainly NOT someone around which to base a movie (get over your fear of the sword already and be a man!). Additionally, the son of a slain town leader also commanded much of the screen time and was a dominant figure in the film--and probably the one most will like the most in the film. Much of the time, Ichi was simply out of commission and unavailable for the fighting.
Now this is the key, however. If you DON'T consider this a Zatoichi film and simply accept it on its own merits, it IS a very good film. Sure, it's not enough like the old films...but is this perhaps asking too much in the first place?! Given that it's not really a Zatoichi film and you don't assume it will be, it's good entertainment throughout--even if the leading lady seems half asleep during the film due to her severe depression. Plus, despite the same name (which means 'number one'), she isn't supposed to be the same character--just a girl who was trained by him. The direction, music, special effects, most of the acting and even the story are all quite good. The biggest weakness was in the motivations for Ichi and the wimp--both seemed a bit hard to believe as they were written.
By the way, unlike the early Zatoichi films, this one is a lot bloodier and has a bit of nudity and adult content--so be forewarned--especially if you show it to your kids or minister or mother.
Beset by tragic circumstances, often instigated due to her unfathomable
beauty, the cruel fates bestowed upon her poignantly explored over the
course of the feature, Ichi (the enthralling Haruka Aysae), a goze (a
blind performer, who serenades people with her vocal talents and
shamisen playing capabilities), with uniquely outstanding sword
fighting skills, provided by a master she longs to discover, is forced
to wander alone, after been accused of nefarious activity that was not
of her own doing.
Set during an unidentified ancient period in Japanese history, the self-titled Ichi combines exceptional cinematography that wondrously captures the environments, while at the same time, the lavishly rich musical score heightens the beauty of the environments, and the poignancy of the horrible occurrences the leads are forced to endure. The bloody violence that accompanies the fight scenes is neither over the top, nor too little, and much like the rest of the feature, efficaciously encapsulates what can only be perceived as an accurately brutal portrayal of how cruel and barbaric, yet at the same time, vivid, life in this particular period could have been.
Touma (Takao Osawa) is a swordsman on a pilgrimage, and though he is capable of pretentiously boasting about his capabilities, he finds himself unable to draw his sword, for reasons that are conveyed over the course of the plot. The decision to not automatically reveal the back-story of the two leads brilliantly makes both characters mysterious and enchanting, as we hang on their journeys, in the hopes of discovering more about them, the depth provided to their characters been exceptionally orchestrated. Upon venturing into Ichi's life, she is forced to defend him against members of the villainous Ban-ki gang, their deaths spurring a vendetta, cast by their fellow members.
Led by the antagonistic Banki (Shido Nakamura), a once revered Samurai, past events left his face hideously scarred, though these afflictions are not nearly as grotesque as his mind, this man being turned into a lunatic warrior with a thirst for bloodshed, his violent origins having a direct link to Ichi, which is again further developed as the plot progresses. Accompanying Banki are a collection of equally violent men, one of whom being Izo (Riki Takeuchi), a fighter who proves to be almost as equally terrifying as his leader.
On their journey, Ichi and Touma come upon a town run by the Shirikawa's, a family consisting of Chobee (Akira Emoto) and his son, Toraji (Yosuke Kubozzuka), both of whom are members of the Yakuza, their township been plagued by continuous raids from the wretched Ban-ki gang, the local governmental personnel been unwilling to provide support. With the help of Kotaro (Ryosuke Shima), a young boy, Ichi is able to explore the town, during which she punishes members of the Ban-ki gang, Touma taking the credit for this particular brand of justice, which causes the town to hire him as their protector, unknowing that he is in fact incapable of providing the assistance they require, as the advances by the enemy continue to rapidly escalate.
As Ichi and Touma begin to spend more time together, a unanimous form of understanding and respect begins to grow between them, as the two traveling individuals discover they need each other for separate reasons. It ought to be noted, some of the sexual content in the film evolves around rape, and though I personally loathe films that use rape, or the threat of rape, as a form of entertainment, in the case of Ichi, this hideous act is used to not only realistically depict the horrors of the climate, but strengthens the sympathy we feel towards specific characters.
Although I have not previously witnessed the Zatoichi films this particular feature carries on from, so am unable to offer a comparative analysis, Ichi is a moving film with an equal amount of heart, brutality, character, depth and action, which elegantly and continuously captures the attention of its audience with the use of adventurous direction and poetic beauty.
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