What follows is review of Ichi for you. You will know that whatever it is you are doing – going away, playing games at Partypoker or buying a new car, that having the opinions of others can be really helpful. We hope that by reading the following you can decide if you want to watch the film yourself.
Can you believe that 26 Zatoichi movies were made so far? Well now there is a female twist on the ongoing saga as pop idol Haruka Ayase is Ichi, the blind musician wandering the land looking for her father. But, an instinctive use of a lethal sword ability sucks her into a feud between the chief clan of a small inn town and the mountain toughs muscling in on their turf. I thought I was going to be all for an attractive girl to step up to refresh the Zatoichi franchise and then I saw this. The lead actress was a super weak representation of the series super bad sword slinger.
Ichi herself remains a somewhat more distant figure, and although she does develop somewhat on her quest to find the man who may or may not be her father, director Sori seems oddly less interested in her as a character. The movie swings from melodrama to earnest sadness, and while the audience can see the skeleton of a love story, there’s not a lot of passion to make it a great one. There is a strong emotional content and lots of brooding silences, profundities, and deep thoughts. Keep in mind, this is a samurai movie after all.
The production values were obviously high. There’s blood, lashings and lashings of it as our heroine wades through the bad guys using her special backhanded slicing technique. Visually, the film is gorgeous, with Sori making the very most out of the beautiful countryside and bleak snowy mountains. For my money, although it has its problems, Ichi is one of the better Japanese period set action films of recent years. A sequel is not an unwelcome proposition, but an older Ichi would make for a better tale.
Through the eyes that Ichi cannot see, we reach her soul and the true relief when she finally connects with others by finding love and friendship. We care about Ichi and not about the hackneyed feud between local village overlords and a marauding mountain. This aspect for me made the plot irrelevant which is a huge minus. Also on a somber note to end this review, anyone sniffing potential girl-power credentials in the set-up will be saddened to hear it’s the bumbling male cohort that ends up saving the day, with Ichi half slain at the mid-point. Mark me down for not caring too much.