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Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 9 - Adventures of Zatoichi
Zatoichi enters a town on the eve of the New Years festival. While staying at an inn, he befriends two women with a connection. One woman, Miss Saki, is searching for her lost father, the leader of a village nearby. Her father disappeared while going to report the wrongdoings of the local intendant, who is in league with gang leader Boss Jubei. The two are jacking up the taxes of the struggling villagers and keeping the excess money for themselves. The other woman, the inn owner, is busy caring for her brother, a low level crony of Jubei who was sent to assassinate the Miss Saki's father and now finds himself taking the fall for the crime instead of being promoted.
Fair Zatoichi entry. Pretty much the standard plot for an Ichi film- the corrupt leaders in league with gangsters oppressing the townspeople, Ichi aiding some ladies in need of help. He finds another rival in the employ of the gangsters, a swordsman for hire out to prove himself and desperate to face Ichi, all despite the fact the Ichi tries to make friendly with him. One of the standout moments involves Ichi overemphasizing his blindness and tripping up the gangsters on a staircase. As they get forceful, he gives one a quick swipe with his sword, the man goes tumbling, Ichi says "Oops.", and sends them scurrying away in fear.
The real change up and what makes this film standout is in its reveal of a little more of Zatoichi's past. The town is located next to Mount Myugi, where Zatoichi was separated from his father eighteen years before. In the town, Ichi meets the local drunk, who claims a similar incident, perhaps, making him Ichi's long lost father. This father connection makes a nice parallel between Miss Saki and Ichi, both searching for their fathers and forced to confront the world on their own.
The film was directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda, who previously directed Zatoichi on the Road and would go on to direct the classic Daimajin as well as a few more Zatoichi's (including the Japanese/HK crossover Zatoichi Vs. the One-Armed Swordsman) and some Sleepy Eyes of Death films.
The DVD: Home Vision Entertainment
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The elements are in fair shape. They do show the marks of time, like some spots, grain, and softness here and there, but overall contrast and color are in good shape. There are a couple of night scenes, including the finale, that are a bit too dark and could maybe use some tweaking. But, as a fan of 60's era Japanese film, and especially comparing it to the terrible grainy, washed out Zatoichi vhs, the transfer should be more than adequate for fans of the genre.
Sound: Japanese Mono. Optional English subtitles. Very decent sound transfer. Because of its age, it has some of the requisite weaknesses, is low and needs a little push, as well as some pops and minor bits of hiss. Overall all though, as a fan, I expect such things and the presentation is fine. Great sub translation.
Extras: Chapter Selections--- Collectable poster --- Trailers for Fight Zatoichi Fight, Adventures of Zatoichi, Zatoichi's Revenge.
Conclusion: Fair entry into a fantastic series. Home Vision does a nice, serviceable job with the affordable transfer, and the addition of a neat poster helps one forgive the lack of extras.
Click on the following links for reviews of the previous films: The Tale of Zatoichi, Tale of Zatoichi Continues, New Tale of Zatoichi, The Fugitive, On the Road, The Chest of Gold, Flashing Sword, and Fight ,Zatoichi, Fight.