Japanese Movie Listing - Zaotichi

While technically this page is about all Japanese movies I've collected or reviewed that begin with the letter Z, in reality this means the page is all about the Zatoichi series of movies. Long live Zatoichi!

All Zatoichi movie reviews were written by fan Daniel Richard. Note that in some cases the original Japanese title differs from the new names they use on the DVD, and that the dates Amazon use don't match either. Check the plot to make sure you get the right one.

Zatoichi: The Life & Opinion of Masseur Ichi (Zatoichi Monogatari) (1962)
The longest-running (26 films) and most successful series in Japanese film history featured an unlikely hero, the blind masseur and gambler, Zatoichi. Expertly portrayed by Shintaro Katsu for well over a decade, the Zatoichi character became an instant favorite with this, the very first installment. This classic chambara film set the tone for the many that followed with its exquisite story-telling and breathtaking action. Zatoichi finds himself caught in a bloody feud between rival gangs in the small province of Shimosa. Each is vying for supremacy, with yakuza Boss Sukegoro of Iioka desperately seeking the blind man's services, knowing he is a skilled swordsman. Sensing an all-out bloodbath may occur at any moment, the rival gang boss, Shigezo of Sasagawa, has hired his own swordfighter, a samurai named Hirate. Warring yakuza gangs, deadly mercenary swordsmen, honor and duty...all of the elements that have made the Zatoichi films loved worldwide are here. The odyssey begins.

Zatoichi: The Return of Masseur Ichi (ZOKU ZATOICHI MONOGATARI) (1962)
The second installment in the long-running action series finds Zatoichi, the blind masseur and gambler, hired to massage a distinguished lord. Our hero soon discovers the lord to be insane and totally out of control. Once he leaves, the lord's vassals are dispatched to silence the blind man as he knows too much. The samurai are no match for Zatoichi as he repels every attempt at his life with the lightning fast draw of his cane sword. However, the wholesale slaughter of his samurai vassals doesn't deter the lord from enlisting the help of local gangsters to stop Zatoichi. They too find the blind man no easy target. Memories of his past are later rekindled when Zatoichi confronts yet another foe, the mysterious one-armed samurai named Yoshiro. It seems Zatoichi and Yoshiro were once suitors of the same woman and must finally deal with an unsettled score. The part of Yoshiro is played by Shintaro Katsu's real-life brother, the late Tomisaburo Wakayama who at the time went by the name Kenzaburo Joh. Wakayama later gained fame in the ultra-violent LONE WOLF samurai film series.

Zatoichi: Masseur Ichi Enters Again (SHIN ZATOICHI MONOGATARI) (1963)
Zatoichi heads home for some quiet, and his teacher's sister offers herself to him. The teacher is now corrupt and the conflict engulfs them all.

Zatoichi: Masseur Ichi, The Fugitive (Zatoichi Kyojo Tabi) (1963)
Upon arriving in the town of Shimonita, Zatoichi, the blind swordsman and gambler, is suddenly attacked by a young stranger. Easily defeating his assailant, Zatoichi learns of a bounty on his head from the dying man. Feeling pity, our hero soon locates the dead man's widowed mother, tells of the tragedy and offers her money. Later, while searching for the person offering the bounty, the blind man discovers a mounting struggle between rival town gangs. When a new boss is named by one of the gangs, yakuza from miles around arrive to pay homage to the new gang leader. Among this unsavory group are the most notorious killers and swordfighters in Japan. Afraid of no man, Zatoichi, however, is surprised to see an old love now married to Gajuro, a hated samurai-killer. Will long forgotten emotions cloud our hero's judgment, thus endangering his life as he faces his most deadly foe?

Zatoichi: Masseur Ichi on the Road(Zatoichi Kenka-Tabi) (1963)
A fight is brewing between rival yakuza bosses, and Zatoichi, the blind masseur and gambler, again finds himself caught in the middle. Notorious as a deadly swordsman, our seemingly docile hero is wooed by both gangs to join the upcoming battle. But Zatoichi is soon side-tracked when he agrees to escort a runaway chambermaid back home. As was the custom of the day, Omitsu, the young daughter of a rich merchant served as a maid to an influential lord in order to learn the skills of high society. However, Omitsu is forced to flee for her life when she injures the lord during a failed attempt to rape her and is hotly pursued by the lord's men. Other thugs and opportunists soon learn of the rich girl on the run and try to rescue her from Zatoichi with hope of receiving a reward for her safe return. An exciting blend of intrigue and suspense set against a background of yakuza warfare and bloody swordplay.

Zatoichi: Masseur Ichi and a Chest of Gold (Zatoichi Senryo Kubi) (1964)
Zatoichi, the itinerant blind masseur-gambler, travels to Itakura Village to pay his respects at the grave site of a gambler he killed in a sword-fight several years ago. Despite his efforts to avoid it, trouble always seems to find our mild-mannered hero. Serving as ample proof are the countless graves of his victims that dot the countryside. In this adventure, Zatoichi is mistakenly accused as an accomplice in the robbery of gold meant to pay village taxes. He also discovers that a longtime friend, the benevolent yakuza chief, Boss Chuji, is also framed in the robbery. An intriguing game of cat and mouse ensures in proving the innocence of both men and recovering the stolen gold coins. The key role of the samurai killer, Jushiro, is played by Tomisburo Wakayama who at the time went by the name of Kenzaburo Joh. Interestingly, Wakayama is the real-life brother of Shintaro Katsu and later gains fame starring in the popular Lone Wolf samurai film series.

Zatoichi: Masseur Ichi's Flashing Sword (Zatoichi Abare Dako) (1964)
While taking flight from gangsters seeking revenge, Zatoichi, the wandering masseur and gambler, finds himself caught in a volatile feud between rival yakuza bosses. Headquartered on opposite sides of a large river near the town of Kajikazawa, the bitter rivals are at odds over the rights to ferry passengers across the waterway. One group is led by the benevolent Boss Bunkichi Tsumugi who owns the ferry franchise. The other gang is headed by the devious "Stammering" Yasu who wants the ferry business for himself. Yasu uses every means necessary, from bribery to murder, in his attempt to wrest control of the franchise from Tsumugi. As expected, Zatoichi sides with the kindly Tsumugi who welcomes him in his home, not suspecting the blind masseur is in fact a notorious swordsman. Fireworks soon erupt over the skies of Kajikazawa in celebration of the O-bon season, as well as at the river bank where Zatoichi confronts the evil gangsters and their mercenary sword-fighters in a bloody showdown!

Zatoichi: Fight, Zatoichi, fight! (Zatoichi Kessho Tabi) (1964)

Zatoichi: The Adventures of a Blind Man (Zatoichi Sekisho Yaburi) (1964)
With the New Year soon approaching, Zatoichi, the blind masseur and swordsman, is on his way to Kasama Town for the holiday festivities. Although the inns in town are full, our hero manages to find shared accommodations with some kindly travelers. Ichi later discovers one of his inn-mates to be a young girl named Osaki who is searching for her missing father. It appears that Osaki's father, a village leader, mysteriously disappeared while traveling to Edo to protest the oppressive rule of the local magistrate. The magistrate, Kashima, allied with gangsters led by Boss Jimbei, is responsible for killing Osaki's father. The murder was a desperate attempt to keep the government from discovering their crimes of murder, extortion, and terror at the expense of the frightened townspeople. Always a champion of the weak, Zatoichi and his deadly cane sword are again caught-up in a web of intrigue, bloody sword fights and death!

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman's Revenge (Zatoichi Nidan Giri) (1965)
Revenge is but a swordstroke away...

Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (Zatoichi Sakata Giri) (1965)

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman & the Chess Expert (Zatoichi Jigoku Tabi) (1965)
On the way to Mt. Fuji to ring in the New Year, Zatoichi meets a masterless samurai named Jumonji, and expert chess player. Because Zatoichi also plays the game well, Jumonji befriends the blind masseur and they soon become traveling companions. They board a ship for Enoshima Island, the pair soon become involved in a heated dice game and easily win all the money from some unsuspecting hoods. Upon reaching shore, the travelers are accosted by the hoods and in the ensuing sword fight, and innocent young girl is seriously injured. Taking full responsibility for the girls's misfortune, Zatoichi later gambles all of his money to pay for expensive medicine needed for a cure. Is Jumonji a friend or foe? Zatoichi soon discovers that chess is not his only passion...Jumonji is also an accomplished killer!

Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (Zatoichi Umio Wataru) (1966)

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman's Vengeance (Zatoichi No Uta Ga Kikoeru) (1966)
Zatoichi, the blind masseur and wandering gambler, stumbles upon a gang of thieves huddled over a dying man. A master swordsman, Zatoichi effortlessly mows down the evil band with one lightning stroke. In his final gasp, the dying man pleads with his rescuer to deliver a bag of money to someone name Taichi. Who is Taichi? Where does he live? On a mission of mercy to fulfill a dying man's final request, our hero finds himself again on the road to adventure. As luck would have it, Zatoichi meets up with a blind priest who leads him to the once quiet and peaceful town of Ichinomiya. No longer a sleepy haven, the place is now overrun by yakuza or gangsters. Here Zatoichi not only discovers the mysterious Taichi, but also finds bloodshed and death!

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman's Cane (Zatoichi Tekka Tabi) (1967)
In this adventure, Zatoichi, the blind gambler and swordsman, hitches a ride with an acting troupe on their way to the town of Tonda. Upon arriving, he discovers the place overrun by yakuza. Undaunted by the gangsters or their crooked dice game, Zatoichi proceeds to win a bagful of gold coins. In retaliation, the thugs attempt to kill the blind man but are instead slain with a flash of his cane sword. A retired swordsmith named Senzo observes the fight and marvels at the blind man's skill. Examining the cane sword, he discovers it to be forged by his old teacher. Senzo declares the sword's life to be over as it will surely break when claiming its next victim. Shocked and confused, Zatoichi swears off killing forever and leaves the sword with Senzo for safe-keeping. Will our hero kill again...or instead face death unarmed and alone? Listed by "Martial Arts Movies" as one of the ten best martial arts movies of all time.

Zatoichi's Rescue (Zatoichi Ro Yaburi) (1967)

Zatoichi Challenged (Zatoichi Chikemuri Kaido) (1967)
A helpless child, a mysterious stranger, and the challenge of a lifetime...

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman & the Fugitives (Zatoichi Hatashijo) (1968)
In this adventure, the blind masseur Zatoichi agrees to massage a bunch of ruffians who are actually thieves and killers led by the infamous gangster, Genpachiro. The thugs don't really want a massage, merely a victim to slowly torture in fun. Alas, they are saved from certain death at the hands of Zatoichi when their leader returns and ends their game. Aware that the mild-mannered masseur is an expert swordsman, Genpachiro avoids a fight an leaves to seek refuge with the local Yakuza gang boss, Matsugoro, who conveniently is also an officer of the law. Upon joining forces, both gangs soon begin a reign of terror over the entire countryside. Zatoichi, always a protector of the innocent is again caught in the fray and soon confronts deadly swords, razor-sharp throwing daggers and unexpected gunfire! Severely wounded and outnumbered, Zatoichi is in a fight for his very life!

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman Samaritan (Zatoichi Kenka Daiko) (1968)
While attempting to collect a gambling debt for the yakuza boss Kumakichi, whom he owes a favor, Zatoichi, the blind masseur and gambler, is forced to kill a young man named Unokichi. Unokichi's sister, Osode, later arrives with money to satisfy her brother's debt having sold herself to a brothel but alas she is too late. Zatoichi soon discovers that Boss Kumakichi cares little about the money and used him to kill Unonkichi just to get at his beautiful sister. It seems that Osode is a desired pawn to be traded as part of a lucrative business deal. Discovering his treachery, Zatoichi steps in to save Osode from the parasitic gangster and his henchmen. Caught in the ironic dilemma of having to rely on her brother's killer for protection and seeking revenge herself, Osode becomes the reluctant companion of the blind swordsman. Bloodshed and violence soon erupt as our unassuming hero must again use his deadly cane sword to dispense justice!

Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (Zatoichi To Yojinbo) (1970)
Shintaro Katsu is the one and only Zatoichi, the lovable, blind masseur and roving gambler who, when innocent lives are threatened, becomes the ruthless blind swordsman who can slaughter a dozen men before they know what hit them. Toshiro Mifune recreates his famous role as the mercenary bodyguard Yojimbo whose amazing swordsmanship has been unmatched until now... Weary from a bloody battle, Zatoichi returns to a once peaceful village only to find it overrun by gangsters who have hired Yojimbo to protect them and the stolen horde of the government's gold which they have concealed somewhere in the village. To free the village from tyranny and restore peace to the village, Zatoichi must team up with Yojimbo and stir up the rival factions to flush out the hidden treasure. Together they must outwit and outfight the gangsters, hired assassins and government spies until ultimately they face each other in a duel where winner takes all...

Zatoichi's Fire Festival (Zatoichi Abare Himatsuri) (1970)

Zatoichi Meets His Equal (Zatoichi Yabure! Tojin Ken) (1971)

Zatoichi at Large (Shin Zatoichi Goyo Tabi) (1972)

Zatoichi's Conspiracy (Shin Zatoichi Monogatari - Kasama No Chimatsuri) (1972)

Zatoichi in Desperation (Shin Zatoichi Monogatari - Oreta Tsue) (1973)

Zatoichi (Zatoichi) (1988)

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Note that since each of these movies was seen by a normal human being, what you read here is just one person's opinion :) Your own opinion may of course be different! If you notice that a movie listing is missing or incorrect, please Contact Me (Really!! WRITE ME!!!) so I can update the list!

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