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The Tale of Zatoichi Continues – Review

by Dane Benko

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One year after the events that unfolded in the first film, Zatoichi travels back to the Joshoji Temple in Sasegawa to pay homage at the grave of Hirate as promised after his death in the previous episode. He makes his way as a traveling masseuse, holding off bandits with his sword skills and general affability, until he has the misfortune of being hired to massage the mentally instable Lord Kuroda from Edo, whose vassals attempt to hide his madness by sending a hit out on Zatoichi. Now the blind swordsman is being hunted down by samurai and gangsters on their payroll (headed by the Boss Kanbei) all while being followed by a mysterious swordsman named Yoshiro who seems to have insight into Zatoichi’s own past.

Directed by Zazuo Mori, the second installation of the Zatoichi series is full-fledged jadai-geki, going lighter and more action packed than the relatively sober first movie. The movie starts with a bunch of bullies about to attack Zatoichi and builds from there through progressively numerous and capable foes until he is confronted with an entire gang at the end. The fights are graceful and not as chaotic as previously, and Zatoichi is getting better at sensing things further and further away.

However, Continues is still a rather sober look at Zatoichi’s loneliness as he reminisces over his friend Hirate, his lost love Chiyo, and toward the wellbeing of Tane from the previous movie. As he gets closer to Sasegawa, his old boss Sukegoro from Iioka makes his reappearance and things seem set for an epic showdown as he, Kinbei, assorted samurai, and Yoshiro all descend upon Joshoji.

Unlike the finality of the last episode, the reemergence of Sukegoro and the roll out of the lost love in Chiyo provides a pointer toward a longer underlying path Zatoichi is traveling, though to where is unclear. Now that his past has caught up and he continues to gain an infamy in the countryside for his swordsmanship and political insight, the landscape looks a little more troublesome for him in the coming sequels.

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Author: Dane Benko

Dane is an independent filmmaker and freelancer in Albuquerque, NM. Japanese cinema is a particular fascination of his.

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