The Tale of Zatoichi (Zatôichi monogatari)
Directed by Kenji Misumi
Written by Minoru Inuzuka from a short story by Kan Shimozawa
Daiei Motion Picture Company
Zatôichi: It’s like being stuck in a bog; it’s not easy to pull yourself out once you’ve fallen in.
I had been looking forward to starting this series and the first entry did not disappoint.
The hero Ichi is blind. He used to work as a masseuse before self-studying sword fighting and becoming a gangster. As the series begins, he arrives in a new town looking for a previous acquaintance and is insulted by the locals. We soon learn that it is a grave error to get on the wrong side of Ichi. When his acquaintance, the boss of the local gang, comes he orders that Ichi be treated with tender loving care. Secretly, the boss wants to start a gang war with the gang in a neighboring town and hopes to use Ichi as his big guns.
In the meantime, Ichi meets the samurai that has been hired by the rival gang. The samurai is dying of consumption. The two form a special bond though it appears that they must inevitably face off. Ichi also forms a special bond with the sister of the no-good lackey of “his” boss. The movie culminates in some awesome mayhem.
There are 26 films in the series and luckily it starts off with a bang. The absurd hero actually works perfectly in context. I was expecting lots of swordplay. I wasn’t prepared for the sensitive story that leads up to it. I’m looking forward to the next one. Recommended.