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Zatôichi (1989)

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 7.3/10 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 7.1/10 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 7.4/10 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 7.2/10 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 7.3/10 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
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 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 7.1/10 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 7.4/10 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
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 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 | Adventure | Action
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 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 7.1/10 X  

The blind masseur and swordsman, Zatoichi, searches for proof an imprisoned man's innocence.

Director: Kazuo Mori
Stars: Shintarô Katsu, Kanbi Fujiyama, Eiko Taki
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 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


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 Ken Ogata ... Rônin / Masterless samurai
Norihei Miki 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 »


Follows The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) See more »


Tsugaru Jongara Bushi
Sung by Kazuko Matsumura
See more »

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User Reviews

Shintaro Katsu's Crowning Achievement
9 December 2018 | by HallowLooyuhSee all my reviews

For better or worse, Shintaro Katsu's career was defined by his portrayal of Zatoichi, the wandering masseur and blind swordsman of the yakuza. I think it's definitely for the better, because Zatoichi is and will be remembered as one of the most enduring characters in international cinema history.

The Zatoichi series began in the early 1960's and was a popular television saga in Japan. The movie releases extended the series' appeal, and enhanced the fame of Katsu and his Zatoichi character by bringing them both to an international audience.

While casual viewers or dilettante observers of the Zatoichi saga might discount the movies due to their ultra-violent content or seeming appeal to male-only audiences, such opinions would surely lack credibility.

The Zatoichi stories are carefully-written morality plays in the context of feudal Japan and its world of starving peasants and oppressed citizenry, corrupt government lords, gangsters and itinerant samurai. Amid this squalor, there are also bountiful instances throughout the series that illustrate and celebrate the inimitable beauty and uniqueness of Japan; its music, art, wardrobe, family life, social decorum, food, drink, natural resources and environment, architecture, etc.

As a human being, and because of the underlying universality of the storytelling, it is only natural to be able to connect on both a visceral and intellectual level with the people in these tales and their struggles, even if the swordsmanship and particular traditions of ancient Japan depicted are experientially unknown to you.

This movie, better known as "Darkness is His Ally," also as "Zatoichi 26," was the final installment of the Zatoichi saga. Directed by Katsu, it is impressively detailed in every respect -- scripting, shot selection, editing, pace, music, production design, set design and more.

Despite the domination of male-oriented scenes, in this movie as well as the entire Zatoichi series, women are regarded with high esteem, even reverence; not only for their beauty but also because of their wisdom. One very tender sequence in this movie between Zatoichi and young Oume, played by Miho Nakayama, echoes this series-wide attribution of bodhisattva- or goddess-like status to women.

Another unforgettable sequence in this movie is the time-arresting, unspeakable beauty of vocalist Kazuko Matsumura's performance of a somber, traditional Japanese song called the "Jongara Bushi." It's a duet she sings in a bar/restaurant/hotel with a shamisen accompaniment. Her folk singing style, gliding through microtones rather than using vibrato, still sends chills up my spine. For me it is one of the most memorable live vocal performances in a movie ever.

Shintaro Katsu was well known as a Kabuki actor and musician prior to taking the role of Zatoichi. He was also a writer, producer and director. His artistic conflict with Akira Kurosawa on the maestro's film "Kagemusha" is well documented, as were his brushes with the law for marijuana use (a major taboo in Japan to this day). His was a restless artistic spirit, and one can imagine that the singular strength of the Zatoichi character perhaps handcuffed his creative diversity and aged him prematurely. He passed away in 1997 at only 65 years old.

Even if Katsu felt his creative palette was unfulfilled, the world will still be forever appreciative and enriched for what he gave us: One of the most enduring cinematic characters of all time -- Zatoichi.

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