copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

The plot is not too complicated. Zaitochi, a blind masseur who is also an excellent swordsman, comes to a city ran by the local mafia. To the same city comes a couple consisting of a sick woman and a depressed Ronin, also an excellent swordsman who is looking for work. The bitter ronin quickly finds work as a mafia bodyguard. It all builds up to a rather surprising ending, particularly for a Zaitochi fan.

The plot is simple but well build. Zaitochi comes to town and hears a story after a story told by those who have suffered at the hands of the local mafia boss. An exception to the orderly build would be flashbacks that feel a little out of place at times. There is a good amount of well placed jokes and even whole scenes devoted to jokes to give the movie a colorful flavor.

The characters are very macho, as characteristic for many Manga action characters. Everyone's true strength and skill is hidden and everyone waits until the last moment and then shows it off.

It's hard to judge the Japanese dialog if you don't speak the language and one would be quick to blame the English subtitles (which were quite bad), but sometimes one could draw no other conclusion other than something really corny or stupid was just said. However, many Japanese movies concentrate on the story and the artistic side, rather than the dialog so it's understandable. "Artistic" is plenty in this movie from the use of music to the dancing.

The action itself is a combination of good swordsmanship and some of the worst special effects I've ever seen in a movie. The first Star Wars would probably be ranked higher when it comes to special effects. Wounds and blood have all been (badly) drawn with the PC. And this is an important issue considering that the movie is an action-movie.

The camera work is quite solid. The acting is done by the Eastern actors who are known even in the West, with Takeshi Kitano playing Zatoichi (as well as directing and writing).

Zatoichi can be recommended to anyone (except for those who don't like violence), whether you are a western blood-thirsty teenager, a Japanese middle-class citizen or just Zatoichi fan.

Zatoichi (2003)