Add this to the list of my favorites!
No doubt through history tales of a blind swordsman have been told in some form or another, but I think most would envision a samurai in such a role, and this film really brought it front and center. Believe it or not the first time I ever heard the name Zatoichi was on an episode of The Boondocks, great show go watch it, but I had no idea who it was and after doing some research the quite shocking revelation was he was the star of a 25 part movie saga. Yeah. 25 movies. Starting in 1962, and ending in 1973, with only one year where not a single film of this series came out. Marvel can suck it. Long...and hard. Talk about uncommon back in the day! And the story is also something unseen, with Zatoichi staying over in a small town controlled by two rival gangs which sounds like Yojimbo territory all over again but as the movie goes on it changes it up a lot. Zatoichi is hired by one gang and is poised to fight in their small war, and eventually he meets up with another samurai named Hirate who is hired by the rival gang but a strong friendship quickly grows between them. And this was the main element that grabbed my interest, because it's handled so friggin' well! You can tell they have immense respect for one another's skills, genuinely and greatly enjoy each other's company, and harbors precisely zero ill will toward the other. They fish, share a drink, converse, and you really grow to hate the idea of them facing off at the end. On top of that Hirate has tuberculosis and is already getting closer and closer to his deathbed, and the thought of him asking Zatoichi to essentially participate in his assisted suicide just makes it that much more depressing. I absolutely adored Shigeru Amachi as Hirate and Shintaro Katsu as Zatoichi, they are amazing together and seperately. There's not as much swordplay as you would think but I honestly could not have cared less because the story is what had my attention, not that the choreography isn't some of the quickest and that the action points are boring, it's just not what I was sticking around for. The overall cinematography though is wonderful, with quite a good handful of instances where the action and cast are performing in the background and there's scenery and sets in the foreground. Which makes the composition of the shot look so damn nice, so I got nothing but praise for the production team. Really the only bad thing I could say about the movie at all is that a romance element is very quickly introduced and built up but hasn't really earned it. It is rushed, but maybe I'm just too biased towards the bromance. This is a major favorite of mine in this genre, and no doubt I'll find another big favorite before the week is out. So I give this movie a full 4 stars, 8.5/10! It's a classic for a reason and maybe one day we'll do the other 24 entries, if the gods are willing and kind. And tomorrow we have The Sword Of Doom so see you then.