The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi

If you are like me, which you aren’t because you probably do not compare Freddy Got Fingered to Citizen Kane every chance you get, but if you are anything like me you like samurai flicks, and if you are me you love samurai flicks. Most of the samurai films I’ve seen, and it’s probably the same for you, are Kurosawa flicks, Yojimbo, Ran, and of course Seven Samurai. Thinking about it seems that before Zatoichi the only samurai movies I had seen were by Akira Kurosawa (unless you count Kill Bill, which I don’t because it takes place in modern-day and it’s more kung fu with samurai stuff thrown in) there are also a couple great japanimations out there about samurai that i recommend (Samurai Champloo and Afro Samurai) but for live action samurai bad-assery Zatoichi is my first non-Kurosawa.

Zatoichi was released in 2003 and was directed by the incredible Takeshi Kitano who also stars as the titular blind badass. We meet him on a dirt road sittin’ on a log, like a frog.

Not this frog though

A group of bad guys take Zatoichi’s cane/sword away from him and laugh at what they think is a poor blind man. so Zatoichi (spoiler) kills them really fast. (end spoiler) This scene is unconnected from the rest of the movie, it’s like a short film where the moral of the story is “Don’t fuck with old blind dudes”

Zatoichi the movie is about Zatoichi the blind killing machine righting wrongs in a village for no reason. He just kind of decides to help a nice vegetable woman and ends up helping her degenerate gambler nephew and a couple of vengeance seeking geishas (cool geishas not geisha who write boring memoirs)

That’s kind of a testament to Kitano’s talent as a filmmaker and a story-teller. This flick has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood action flick but it still finds a way to tell a deep, involving story that takes place in a very real, very relatable village with realistic people, it’s not just a hollow shell where violence takes place.

Oh but violence does happen. Incredible violence ranging from a few quick exchanges where Zatoichi ends thugs who try to take advantage of an old man to a couple full set pieces that rival anything done by Hollywood in the past 20 years.

One battle in particular towards the end is astounding. Zatoichi has to get in to a building and take out a high-ranking gang fellow. To accomplish this task he must first cut through ten guys, which he does in a ballet of superb violence, then when he gets into the gang dudes room the gang dude pulls a revolver, Zatoichi promptly uses his sword to show the guy what Zatoichi thinks of guns.

This is essentially what he thinks.

I whole heartedly recommend The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi to all fans of samurai films, and to most fans of good stories. I also recommend anything else directed by Takeshi Kitano.


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