Zatoichi, the wandering masseur and master swordsman, is a mercenary hero with a difference: he's blind, and no less deadly for it. In his debut, Ichi shuffles into a gangster-run town like a wry con man, fleecing the dim-bulb gambling thugs and sponging off a local mob boss who wants the deadly Ichi on his side in an impending gang war. Released the same year Akira Kurosawa unleashed Yojimbo
, stocky Shintaro Katsu's modest and soft-spoken Ichi couldn't be more different from the dynamic Toshiro Mifune's swaggering and arrogant Yojimbo. Director Kenji Misume can't match Kurosawa's searing cynicism or dynamic action, but when Ichi finally lets loose after avoiding conflict for the entire film, his spare, sudden attack makes a startling contrast to the usual flashing swords and furious movements. Zatoichi returned in 25 sequels and a long-running TV series, always played by Shintaro Katsu.
The newly restored DVD features a small stills gallery, a fold-out insert with an essay by Tatsu Aoki (a self described "Ichi Freak"), and four collector cards. --Sean Axmaker
From the Back Cover
This is the movie that introduced the legend of Zatoichi and its star Shintaro Katsu, ushering in a new era of the Japanese samurai film. Practicing his trade as a masseur in a small province, Satoichi finds himself caught in a turf war between rival yakuza gangs. Aware of Zatoichi's reputation as an undefeatable swordsman, yakuza leader Sukejoro tries to hire him-unsuccessfully-as a mercenary. But it's too late. The other gang leader, Shigezo, hires a warrior with an equally fierce reputation to challenge Zatoichi. Thus the legend of Zatoichi begins with intensely choreographed battle scenes and an expertly crafted story.