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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Errors in judgements and travelling companions, April 1, 2005
This review is from: Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (DVD)
A chess master, one who is so jealous of his own talent that he kills any player who beats him. A woman, disguised as a man, traveling with her brother and fleeing some unknown hunter. A beautiful, gentle lady and her wounded child, dying but without money to buy medicine. A blind masseur, with an uncanny swiftness and ability with a sword. These are the cast of characters that set the stage for the 12th Zatoichi film, "Zatoichi and the Chess Expert" ("Zatoichi Jigoku tabi:" literal translation "Zatoichi's Trip to Hell.")

This is one of the best Zatoichi films that I have seen. The characters make for an interesting mix, each likable and formidable in their own way, but each harboring secrets that make them vipers hidden in the brush. The Chess Expert becomes Zatoichi's ally and traveling companion, each maximizing on the talents of the other to earn money. And Zatoichi needs money, to buy medicine for the poor child who was wounded in a sword fight that the masseur was involved in. The child's mother, beautiful and sorrowful, falls slowly in love with Zatoichi, even though she must betray him. The sister and brother are wild cards, somehow shattering the peace of the trip, as murder follows in their wake.

It all comes to an explosive finish, with companions battling companions, and secrets stripped bare. The melancholy love between Zatoichi and the beautiful woman is heart rending, though doomed. An excellent chambara flick all around, and a great Zatoichi film.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zato Ichi Is Possessed By The Demon Of Compassion., November 29, 2005
By 
rsoonsa (Lake Isabella, California) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
The state of blindness does not hinder the swordsman masseur, Zato Ichi, in this well-crafted tale of pre-modern Japan, as he is determined to do what is correct by assisting a young girl's recovery from a severe wound suffered in tangential fashion during a sword-fight involving gangsters in the bandit-ridden country. Of the approximately 25 Zato Ichi films, this must rank as one of the better ones, as Shintaro Katsu who portrays the sightless samurai during the entire series, permits us to see more of the inner man behind the warrior facade, aided by an interesting story written by Kan Shimozawa, who contributes the most complex scenarios of this group of works. In early civilized Japan, all masseurs were blind, as then they could not look upon the bodies of their clients, and Zato Ichi ("Ichi the Masseur") is following this tradition, but he is as well an inordinately successful warrior with his cane sword, mastering with cold aplomb each challenge by aggressors, no matter how many they might be. Ichi is a prototypical loner who makes his way in this work, as in all others, by massaging, while handsomely adding to his income through his cheating skills at gambling, since he is also an inveterate confidence man, yet one who makes mistakes and these errors in judgement serve in strengthening his accessibility to the viewer. There is a pleasingly intricate plot, which places Ichi as a travelling companion of an itinerant samurai named Jumonji, played well by Mikio Narita in his first cinematic role, who is the chess expert of the English language title, and the two interact with several other groups of characters in a neatly-woven narrative. The complicated scenario is capably handled by veteran director of samurai motion pictures, Kenji Misumi, who later added other outstanding Zato Ichi films to this first one in his list, as he balances the interwoven dramatics neatly and nicely. Reasons for the societal and artistic success of this series are manifest in this film, wherein Ichi represents values which most peoples are struggling to identify and capture, with the blind swordsman becoming an iconic figure as he stumbles and totters, rather than riding, into the sunset, after completing his clash with evil.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better ones in the Zatoichi series, September 24, 2002
By 
W "W" (South of the border, West of the sun) - See all my reviews
Zatoichi films were produced by different directors and the results varied from one to another. Misumi Kenji, who also directed the very first one, seemed to always spend more film footage on character development, resulting in more matured story lines with better-defined personalities. This "Zatoichi Jigokutabi" ( Zatoichi, trip through hell ) was one of the best in the series. Narita Mikio, playing the character Jumonji, was one of the most interesting villains to show up in the episodes, and, Hayashi Chizuru, as the sister seeking vengence, was the most attractive actress to appear in the 1960's Zaitoichi episodes.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, August 4, 2005
By 
Ryan "Eagle1701D" (Long Island, NY USA) - See all my reviews
I am a huge fan of Zatoichi and I've collected alot of his films. This is among the best. I definitely would recommend this and other Zatoichi movies if your a fan of samurai cinema.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, but more than good enough, September 4, 2004
This review is from: Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (DVD)
Zatoichi is one of the most solid film series around. I've yet to see all of the entries, but of the dozen or so I have seen (including Katsu's 1989 rehash of the character and Takeshi Kitano's 2003 reinterpretation of it), there isn't a rotten egg in the bunch.

Zatoichi and the Chess Expert soars on it's character development and interesting relationships between characters. However, the action here is not the best in the series. Some of the technical aspects are a little off (the way some of the quicker, shorter fight scenes are edited is often jarring and unconvincing; most of the big, important fights though are quite good), and I would have liked to spend more time with some of the characters, a common complaint that I have with many of the series' entries.

Still, this is a film not to be missed. You can't go wrong with a Zatoichi film, and Zatoichi and the Chess Expert is certainly in at least the top third of the series, if only for it's great and complex characters and relationships.

Home Vision's DVD is beautiful! One of the best transfers of the bunch. Some of the closeups were sharper than transfers of movies made in the past five years. A really great disc of a classic, if slightly faulted, film.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And Brains, Too!, May 20, 2001
By 
Another of the Zatoichi series. In this one, blind masseur and master swordsman Ichi is traveling to Enoshima on a ship, and gets in trouble with a gang for his usual gambling tricks. However, he is befriended by Jumonji, a loner, seemingly samurai, who denies the title, saying he's really a killer. Jumonji is a shogi (Japanese chess) master, and while aboard ship, the two play several games. After disembarking on the island, the thugs attack Ichi while he's playing a chess game with Jumonji, who thinks they're after him. In the ensuing fight, a passing child is hurt, and when she develops a fever, Ichi feels duty-bound to pay for her medicine and lodging. Jumonji offers him space in his carnival booth, where he earns 5-mon (?) pieces by catching them on a stick (Incredible? You don't know Zatoichi!). Ichi then buys the medicine, but is attacked on the way back. He succeeds in killing all the attackers, but loses the box of medicine. Will he find it? I'm not telling! Nor will I tell the rest of the story, but suffice it to say that the denouement of the plot really depends on Ichi's brains, and the swordplay, although exciting enough, is really secondary to the solution of a mystery, which only becomes apparent toward the end of the movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars #12: ANOTHER WONDERFUL ZATOICHI EPISODE, September 2, 2006
By 
Ernest Jagger (Culver City, California) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (DVD)
Director Kenji Misumi did a great job with character development in this 12th Zatoichi outing. As with many of the films he did with Shintaro Katsu [6 in all] I noticed he did a great job with developing the characters for the most part. And in this episode he remains true to his directorial skills. Zatoichi [Shintaro Katsu] meets a Chess playing samurai named Jumonji [Mikio Narita] who does not like to lose. Travelling together these two characters make for an interesting watch in this particular episode.

There are some good twists to this episode, and although they should be expected by now after this 12th entry, it it pleasing to see how director Kenji Misumi utilized his talents to emply these twists. Moreover, the way they are woven into this Zatoichi fare is certainly interesting. There is less blood than in most of the Ichi episodes, but the story more than makes up for this. The characters in this episode of, "Zatoichi and the Chess Expert" are a real joy to watch, and you will not be disappointed with this excellent episode. I highly recommend this wonderful film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent., July 21, 2007
This review is from: Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (DVD)
As a lover of all zatoichi films, some are better the others. This is an excellent one. The title in a way indicates the detail put into each incident/scene. Each scene has the same thought of each move as in a chess game. Enjoy the moments as well as the story, though it ends all to soon and quickly. I could have watched it for hours more. Interesting different story lines intersect and entertain. No detail of plot given so enjoy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Chess Master, March 19, 2014
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This review is from: Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (DVD)
I liked it because it brought a different element with that samurai being a chess master. I also liked the part where they are playing a game of chess and the samurai asks Zatoichi " isn't Zatoichi the name for any particular masseur of a certain rank or degree", or words to that effect. Then Zatoichi tells him "in my case it also happens to be my real name", so the samurai kind of makes a joke about it and say "so you're Kanonoichi" or just plain old Ichi. But long story made short the movie looked pretty sharp and cleaned up. It had a good story to it just like all the other Zatoichi films.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Zatoichi will be your hero, January 3, 2013
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I will not bother to write a different review for each Zatoichi movie. I have all twenty six of his movies and have watched all of them multiple times. Although the believability of a blind swordsman is next to nill, Zatoichi makes it believable because you will fall in love with the character. Shintaro Katsu is one of my all time favorite actors.
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Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, Vol. 12 - Zatoichi and the Chess Expert
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