As a Japenese Samurai Movie fan I think that Zatoichi: The Fugitive is the best of the series. The character of Zatoichi is very compelling and each story helps you identify with this Blind Swordsman who always trying to do good for others. Every culture and every generation offers its own mega-series of richly detailed, sharply defined fictional worlds. Beginning in the early-1960s, the Japanese created the phenomena known as Zatoichi. This 4th episode of Zatoichi begins with a more comical sendup than in previous episodes.
The film begins with a price on Ichi’s head; and an inexperienced swordsman by the name of Kisuke, tries to claim this reward. He fails of course, and as he lays dying he informs Ichi that his mother Maki, is with the yakuza. Therefore, Ichi embarks on a trip to see the mother, and inform her what has happened. Shintaro Katsu displays a wide range of emotions as Zatoichi and his display of swordmanship is excellent. Action scenes aside, obviously, for a series set in the past, Zatoichi: The Fugitive offers a glimpse of Japanese traditions. Also, there are so many characters, I was often confused. Luckily, the acting was the movies strongpoint and everyone turned in earnest performances.
So, what makes this different from the last three Zatoichi films? Besides the fact that it’s the second film in the series to be in color, Zatoichi: The Fugitive takes the emotional side of the main character one step further. The plot is Slightly different than the usual mold. I dug what Ichi was trying to do, and protecting the young heir seemed like an interesting foil for our character. Unlike the later films in the franchise, The Fugitive is not a kung-fu fighting extravaganza. Always alert and fighting for good, Zatoichi may be Yakuza, but he respects his enemies and warns them.
Zatoichi is a noble man caught up in an unnoble criminal world. Based on the title alone, you know he is a fugitive on the run for crimes, but they are never fully explained. This 1963 movie shows the life of the common man in Japan as Zatoichi operates in a state of subterfuge and intrigue with the Japanese underworld. In conclusion, as Zatoichi tries to find out why a price is being offered for his life, he discovers a community has been torn apart by violent feuding from rival bands of criminals. The events that follow are exactly why I think this film has everything you would want in a samurai movie and one you should seek out immediately.
Also, for those interested, Japan Society has an upcoming screening of the film Zatoichi, the Fugitive in New York on Friday, January 22, at 7:30 PM.
Ticket info is as followed: $11/$7 members, students & seniors. Buy Tickets Online or please call the Japan Society Box Office at (212) 715-1258, Mon. – Fri. 11 am – 6 pm, Weekends 11 am – 5 pm.