The Tale of Zatoichi Movie Review
In this, his first feature film appearance, now appearing on DVD, Zatoichi shows the same kind of gumption that makes Clint Eastwood's characters such unlikely heroes -- but heroes nonetheless. For starters, what audience will identify with him? He's a blind masseur who lives by the Yakuza mercenary code, wandering from village to village while vanquishing his tormentors with a sword he wields with deadly accuracy. Though blind (and, let's face it, ugly and nearly obese), he can still toss a candle into the air, draw his sword, and slice it in two... lengthwise, with both sides still burning.
There's something about Zatoichi that makes him endearing to the common man, the Japanese laborer, maybe, who feels that even though he's put-upon at work, he might be able to slice a candle in two.
The story in his debut film is really a miss, however -- Zatoichi finds himself stuck between warring Yakuza factions, saddled with a middling love story and an obvious conclusion. But maybe that's what the Japanese audiences were looking for: No surprises.
Aka Zatoichi Monogatari.