The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi The movie is set in 19th century Japan.

Zatoichi is a blind vagabond who makes a living from gambling and giving massages. But underneath his humble exterior is a superior swordsman. He defends the innocent against rival Yakuza gangs. Takeshi Kitano directed the movie. His other works include Hana-Bi (1997), Kikujiro (1999), Brother (2000), which was also the first movie he shot outside Japan, and Dolls (2002). Zatoichi is the 11th film that Takeshi directed. He also stars at Zatoichi in the movie. Since the success of Hana-Bi in 1997, Takeshi has been recognized as a leading figure in international cinema. Hana-Bi won Venice’s Golden Lion and was named Best Non-European Film by the European Film Academy. His credits in films made by nonJapanese filmmakers include, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ (1995), and ‘Tokyo Eyes’ (1998). The movie also stars Tadanobu Asano as Hattori, the bodyguard. Tadanobu First came out in the TV show, ‘Kinipashi Sensei,’ when he was 16 years old. His debut film came out in 1990 entitled, ‘Bataashi Kingyo.’ His first major success was in 1993 with the film, ‘Fried Dragon Fish,’ and his first international success was with the film, ‘Maboroshi no Hikari’ in 1995. Other stars include Mishio Ogusu (Shinran: Shiroi Michi, 1987) as Aunt O-ume, Yui Natsukawa (Shikoku, 1999; When the Last Sword is Drawn, 2003) as Hattori’s Wife, and Guadalcanal Taka (Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, 2001) as Shinkichi. The film’s general feel is very old. As is well known with many Japanese films, Zatoichi lacks so much in background music. This gives the movie a very natural feel and it does the movie very good. Being set in 19th century Japan, the movie doesn’t require much special effects. The special effects were only limited to appendage cutting and blood squirts, which I found to be so Rurouni Kenshin. And of course, like any sword-themed movie, this one has a lot of nice sword fighting sequences that are above the likes of Kill Bill. One swordfight sequence is when Zatoichi had to finally fight Hattori. Hattori had it all planned. He had watched and observed Zatoichi’s movements and techniques and has developed a counter-attack that would ultimately defeat Zatoichi. However, at the last moment, when they were about to draw their swords, Zatoichi switched his sword grip, from his usual reverse grip to a common forehand. This took Hattori by surprise and was defeated by Zatoichi. The movie also has interesting twists. One being Zatoichi discovering the identity of the head of one of the Yakuza gangs. There was a lot of finger pointing and identityswitching there, but in the end, it was the bartender. Zatoichi didn’t kill him and blinding him instead. Though the movie carries a familiar plot and formula; travel, encounter trouble, beat badguy, and travel again; it is, however, made up by its humor. This may be a samurai-cutand-slash, action movie but it does contain humor; some of them subtle and some obviously slapstick. Here are a couple dialogues (among others) from the movie that I found funny:

Shinkichi: Aren’t you betting? Zatoichi: I’ll just watch for now. Shinkichi: Watch? But you’re blind. And Shinkichi: I have to say, it’s incredible. You really look like a woman. Does make-up make men beautiful? Geisha Seitaro ‘Osei’ Naruto: It doesn’t work on everyone. It depends on the face. Near the end of the movie, Zatoichi reveals his eyes. The blind swordsman could actually see. He just likes having his eyes closed. Now, with eyes open and with vision, he trips on a rock on the road. The movie had an end dance sequence. It was a combination of Kabuki theater clog dancing and African-American tap style. The sequence included all the villagers in the movie but not Zatoichi. What can I say? The movie is great though it really isn’t for everyone. It is definitely not for the faint of heart nor is it for those who give a scream for every slash or blurt out ‘tsk, tsk, tsk’ for every hack. Trust me when I say I’d kick you out of the movie house if you do that. I may describe this movie with this statement: Oh, how the violence caresses me.

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