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 tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
Ichi is staying at an inn when a woman dies. Her dying wish is that Ichi take her son to his father, an artist living in a nearby town. After arriving in the town, Ichi finds out that the father has been forced by a local boss to create illegal pornography to pay off his gambling debts. Ichi makes it his mission to save tha man and reunite the family, even though it brings him into conflict with a samurai he sort of befriended on his way to the townWritten by
Scott Hamilton <stomptokyo.com>
Zatoichi Challenged is the seventeenth entry in the Japanese franchise about the blind masseur, skilled swordsman and lowly yakuza. It's an above average episode which is entertaining from start to finish. In this movie, Zatoichi shares a room with a dying mother and her child. It's the dying woman's last wish that Zatoichi takes her six-year old son to his father. The impatient Zatoichi and the energetic child soon grow fond of each other as they travel with a performance troupe that is terrorized by the men of a new pitiless yakuza boss. He gradually challenges the former boss who was very close to the performance troupe. Zatoichi soon gets caught between both clans, especially when he realizes that the child's father is hold captive by the new boss to draw sexually explicit paintings. However, the government has become aware of the scandal and has sent its own fighters out to silence all those who have been implicated. Zatoichi needs to bring a family together, confront a despicable boss and even fight the government to set things right.
There are many elements to like about this movie. First of all, the film starts like a musical with a few Japanese folk songs while Zatoichi is traveling through rural Japan. I liked this fresh idea since it wasn't overused but am aware that some critics didn't appreciate the idea. Zatoichi had already been traveling with a toddler in Fight, Zatoichi, Fight but traveling with a child that has just lost its mother, needs to trust a complete stranger and will meet a father he has never met before is a quite emotional addition which makes this film stand out. The plot might not be surprising but it's told with fluid pace and includes a few intriguing characters such as the potter and his daughter. The mysterious swordsman who often crosses Zatoichi's path is nicely played, especially in the gloomy palanquin sequence at night and in the final fight sequence. This final fight sequence must be pointed out for being one of the very best in the franchise. Everything is perfect about it, starting with the set-up and the initial dialogues, followed by the intense fight at night in a small alley under heavy snowfall and concluded with a surprisingly original outcome.
There really aren't any obvious negative elements aside the usual fact that each Zatoichi movie has quite restricted patterns which makes the franchise predictable.
Zatoichi Challenged still has enough intriguing elements to make it stand out among other films in the franchise. The movie's final fifteen minutes including one of the franchise's most memorable fight scenes are essential. Any collector or fan of the franchise should watch this film which might also serve as an appropriate introduction to those who haven't watched any Zatoichi films yet. If you watch this movie and like it, you'll be hooked and might as well watch all other films of this atmospheric, energetic and intelligent franchise.
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