Blind masseur and master swordsman, Zatoichi, is tired of killing. He journeys to his old village looking for peace, but is pursued by the brother of Boss Kanbei, a man he's killed. Back home, Ichi connects with Banno, his teacher, who seeks prestige and has arranged for his younger sister, Yayoi, to marry into a wealthy samurai family. Ichi and Yayoi realize they are in love, but Ichi's request for her hand meets with Banno's derision. Ichi is also drawn into Banno's plot to kidnap the son of a wealthy man, ostensibly to aid the Mito Goblins, a gang of thieves on the run; but Banno wants to keep the ransom. Ichi wants harmony and love, but can he escape a destiny of violence?Written by
An emotionally driven second half pardons for a plodding beginning
New Tale of Zatoichi is the third entry in the franchise centered around the skilled blind swordsman with the strong moral compass. It's also the first movie of the franchise to be shot in color. However, it's also the weakest part of the franchise thus far but still an above average experience. Zatoichi is hunted down by the family of a yakuza he killed in the previous film when he is unexpectedly saved from trouble by his former master. He agrees to stay with his former master and his younger sister and also visits his solitary grandmother. What seems to be a joyous reunion soon turns sour when Zatoichi realizes how his master has changed for the worst. His former master tries to marry his sister to a man whom she doesn't love, kills unarmed people for unjustified reasons and cooperates with a ruthless gang of criminals by taking advantage of his pupils' rich parents. Zatoichi can't ignore the truth and ends up challenging his former master to a decisive duel.
The third installment of the Zatoichi franchise must be separated into two parts. The first half of the movie is quite pointless and could also be told in five minutes or less. We follow Zatoichi traveling across rural Japan and meeting former friends and foes. The movie plods along and is only average at best because of an imprecisely meandering plot. Up to that point, the film could be considered an at best average slice of life or road movie. Things however improve by a few notches when his former master's sister proposes to Zatoichi. From then on, the characters are developed in depth, philosophical topics such as dishonor and honor are discussed and the movie skillfully mixes beautiful fight choreography with a tragic love story. The second half of the film is the most emotional passage of the franchise as we witness Zatoichi's desperate quest for love, peace of mind and renaissance which he simply cannot find as he is constantly challenged, judged and haunted by the demons of his past.
In the end, despite being the least interesting part of the franchise thus far, New Tale of Zatoichi is still worth your attention because of an emotional second half that pardons for a plodding first half. The movie stands out with a sad, melancholy and gloomy touch and makes the viewer empathize with the haunted swordsman more than ever before. Fans of the franchise should definitely watch this film while occasional martial arts fans should rather try out the first installment, The Tale of Zatoichi.
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