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Zatoichi (1989)

Zatôichi (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Drama | 4 February 1989 (Japan)
Older, wiser but still a wandering loner, the blind, peace-loving masseur Ichi seeks a peaceful life in a rural village. When he's caught in the middle of a power struggle between two rival... See full summary »


Shintarô Katsu


Tatsumi Ichiyama (screenplay), Shintarô Katsu (screenplay) | 3 more credits »


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Action | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Zatoichi returns to his home village for the first time in over ten years to find much has changed and that corruption abounds.

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Yukiyo Toake, Eiji Okada
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

After accidentally causing an old lady's death, Zatoichi seeks out her daughter to atone for the tragedy, consequently getting into all sorts of trouble.

Director: Shintarô Katsu
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Kiwako Taichi, Kyoko Yoshizawa
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Two of Japan and China's greatest heroic swordsman find themselves caught in a plot to protect a young child. But will national distrust and simple misunderstanding keep the two kindred spirits apart?

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Jimmy Wang Yu, Watako Hamaki
Drama | Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

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?

Director: Kihachi Okamoto
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Shintarô Katsu, Ayako Wakao
Drama | Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

On the road, Zatoichi meets a dying pregnant woman and delivers the child moments before she passes. Honor bound, he sets out to find the next-of-kin who he discovers have their own problems.

Director: Kazuo Mori
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Rentarô Mikuni, Hisaya Morishige
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Zatoichi promises to deliver a maiden safely home but finds two dangerous gangs have a mysterious interest in the young girl.

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Shiho Fujimura, Ryûzô Shimada
Drama | Adventure | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

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.

Director: Kenji Misumi
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Jûshirô Konoe, Miwa Takada
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Promising to make a delivery for a dying man, the blind swordsman Zatoichi comes across the usual crime gangs but also meets a blind monk who brings into question his use of violence.

Director: Tokuzô Tanaka
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Shigeru Amachi, Jun Hamamura
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

In a town where debt-ridden peasants are being ruthlessly exploited, Zatoichi is forced to take sides between a cruel yakuza boss and his seemingly altruistic rival.

Director: Satsuo Yamamoto
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Rentarô Mikuni, Kô Nishimura
Drama | Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Zatoichi runs afoul of some evil fugitives, working for a corrupt law official.

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Kayo Mikimoto, Kyôsuke Machida
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Zatoichi, while fighting off the usual group of gangsters, meets the apprentice of the swordsman who created his blade, who relays bad news about the sword.

Director: Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Shiho Fujimura, Yoshihiko Aoyama
Drama | Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Zatoichi is tricked by a crime gang into killing a man. Realizing his mistake, he sets out to protect the dead man's sister, who is conflicted in accepting his help.

Director: Kenji Misumi
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Yoshiko Mita, Makoto Satô


Credited cast:
Shintarô Katsu ... Zatôichi / Ichi, a zatô in the Tôdô-za
Kanako Higuchi Kanako Higuchi ... Boss Han Bosatsu
Takanori Jinnai Takanori Jinnai ... Inspector Hanshu
Ryûtarô Gan Ryûtarô Gan ... Boss Goemon (as Takehiro Okumura)
Yûya Uchida Yûya Uchida ... Boss Akabei
Toyomi Kusano Toyomi Kusano ... Ume
Tsurutarô Kataoka Tsurutarô Kataoka ... Tsuru
Miho Nakayama
Ken Ogata ... Rônin / Masterless samurai
Norihei Miki ... Zatoichi's friend
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Naonori Aihara Naonori Aihara
Ryo Akashi Ryo Akashi
Buntaro Aoyanaki Buntaro Aoyanaki
Yosuke Ara Yosuke Ara
Gô Awazu Gô Awazu ... Kame


Older, wiser but still a wandering loner, the blind, peace-loving masseur Ichi seeks a peaceful life in a rural village. When he's caught in the middle of a power struggle between two rival Yakuza clans, his reputation as a deadly defender of the innocent is put to the ultimate test in a series of sword-slashing showdowns. Written by Tokyo Shock

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Darkness is his ally [USA] See more »


Action | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

4 February 1989 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Shintaro Katsu's Zatoichi See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Katsu Production See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


On the morning of Monday 26 December 1988, in the movie village (eiga-mura) located in the mountains of Kanami, Ryûtarô Gan (age 24) - eldest son of Shintarô Katsu - stabbed Yukio Katô (age 34) in the neck with a katana long sword, while performing in an action scene for this film. Katô was taken unconscious to the Okayama University Hospital (Okayama Daigaku Igakubu Fuzoku-byôin), where he died as a result of massive blood loss from the neck wound. Hiroshima Prefectural Police determined that the incident was one of professional negligence causing death (gyômujô-kashitsu chishi). See more »


Referenced in The Return of the God of Gamblers (1994) See more »


Tsugaru Jongara Bushi
Sung by Kazuko Matsumura
See more »

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User Reviews

Zatoichi returns - older and wiser
4 December 2004 | by coolcornSee all my reviews

All hail the genius of Shintaro Katsu for creating such a non-stop movie hero. He will always be Zatoichi in my heart, so it is heartening to know that he finished off his legacy as Zatoichi with a 26th film made thirteen years after he "retired" the character in crippling defeat in 1973. He also co-wrote and directed - his only triple threat in the history of the series. But while the movie is certainly fun, and at times very sweet, it has some flaws that don't quite allow it to live up to the excited originality of its predecessors.

The character of Zatoichi is older and wiser, but generally remains as we remember him. The fighting scenes certainly have zing and gore, with buckets of blood pouring whenever someone gets so much as a paper cut (including one particularly horrific blood-soaked scene of a villain continually slicing a subordinate in a drunken fit). And even though it was filmed in the late 80s, Zatoichi #26 doesn't lose any of the series' period-piece charm (in fact, the cinematography and is quite good).

Shintaro Katsu is at his most doddering and charming as the now-elderly Zatoichi. He is downright tender and sweet when he entertains a group of children, meets a traveling band of fellow blind masseurs, humbly succumbs to prison torture, uncomfortably accepts gifts from an old friend, or tries to understand the color red. He's fiendishly clever showing up a bunch of gamblers who are more than willing to try and cheat a blind man at dice. And he is even kinda sexy as he enjoys a seductive hot bath with a naked young yakuza powerhouse (Rowr!). It's nice that the film is attentive to the character and he certainly seems more reflective, but the story only truly comes to life when Zatoichi gets down to slicing up some arms, noses, and torsos. Those scenes are unfortunately infrequent, and while the gore is certainly excessive in the most wonderful way, the choreography is sloppy and somewhat uninspired. Katsu was approaching 60 at the time of filming, hardly a young pup, so he can't be faulted too much for toning down the acrobatics - or squatting, as the case may be.

The biggest flaw, one that doesn't make the film unwatchable but less likely to enjoy repeated viewings, is that it is overlong by half and bogged down in a plot that...well, just doesn't make any darn sense. Instead of a single foe for Zatoichi to focus on, the film features an abundance of ill-defined villains, a weepy samurai, the previously mentioned sexy yakuza leader, a shifty rival gang-leader, an imprisoned rebel, a young mother with a huge brood of kids, and Katsu's own son in the closest to main villain role as a gambling big-wig. They over-fill the story with sub-plots of battling each other for supremacy, expanding gambling empires, trading antique firearems, and ordering the gradual slaughter of each supporting character - most of whom die at each other's hands rather than by the sword-cane of our blind anti-hero. There's so much extraneous plot that there are long stretches where Ichi himself is pointless, and indeed, it feels like another film were made around him.

As a lesser sin, there is a lot to be said against the film's use of a cheesy 80s pop ballad - in English, no less. But it certainly adds the right touch of hilarious cheesiness right after a particularly gory Zatoichi bloodbath (sample lyric: "Looking at life through the eyes of a looooner"). Fortunately, it only pops up in one scene, and the rest of the music is appropriately old school.

I'd say this entry into the series is one you should see... oh, maybe fifth. Start with the first film, The Tale of Zatoichi, which is low on actual fighting, fitting more in the tone and style of Kurosawa's style of traditional samurai film. Then go to one of the middle period films - take your pick from the 17 titles currently reissued on DVD by Home Vision Entertainment, they are all fun and ridiculous in their own way (I recommend The Fugitive, but just because I had the chance to see it on the big screen). Then don't miss 1970's Zatoichi Meets Yojimo, a must see thanks to the presence of Toshiro Mifue, and probably the funniest in the series. And finally, jump to Takeshi Kitano's 2003 Zatoichi remake. Kitano's tribute is better than this 1989 entry, and covers many of the same themes.

Plus, much better music.

THEN watch this one. And after that, you've only got 22 more to go as well as the television series and the ridiculous U.S. remake Blind Fury with Rutger Hauer (an abomination if considered as part of the Zatoichi series, but a hilariously bad stand-alone film) before you have completed the Zatoichi cannon.

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