Ichi honors the classic tale of the blind samurai while casting the legend in breathtaking new light. In a role traditionally played by men, award-winning actress Haruka Ayase is both tender and brutal.
Beautiful Ichi wanders blindly from village to village, searching for the sightless swordsman who long ago taught her to kill. Her technique is exquisite and explosive, her defenses as impenetrable as the darkness in which she moves. Many along her solitary path are touched – some by the sound of her delicate music, others by the edge of her lethal blade.
This visually stunning Japanese swordplay drama is an attempt at revising the venerable and exciting Zatoichi films and television series, which concern a blind masseur whose lowbrow nature concealed his deadly prowess with a blade. Here, the sightless hero is a woman (Ayase Haruka) in search of another blind man (the original Zatoichi, it is assumed) who taught her to defend herself before disappearing from her life. Unfortunately, the gender switch is the only real deviation from the tried and true Zatoichi format, which star and occasional director Shintaro Katsu perfected in 26 films and a television series between 1962 and 1989. Takeshi Kitano starred in and directed a more adventurous update in 2003 (complete with a musical number), so while Ichi
is largely superfluous, it does feature a fine performance by Haruka, some lovely photography, and muscular and bloody combat choreographed by Kuze Hiroshi, who worked on several films for Akira Kurosawa. The DVD includes only a trailer for supplemental features. --Paul Gaita