Zatoichi on the Road (1963)

It does feel overly-plotted, but this fifth ‘Zatoichi’ installment builds up to an all-out street gang war.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dir. Kimiyoshi Yasuda
1963 | Japan | Action/Adventure/Drama | 87 mins | 2.35:1 | Japanese
Not rated (likely to be PG13)

Cast: Shintaro Katsu, Shiho Fujimura, Ryuzo Shimada
Plot: Zatoichi promises to deliver a maiden safely home but finds two dangerous gangs have a mysterious interest in the young girl.
Awards: –
Source: Kadokawa

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
Spoilers: No

A young woman of royalty becomes a pawn in an escalating war between two rival gangs, and that doesn’t include several more characters who try to nab her for their own personal gain. 

She’s worth a hell lot of gold coins, but our blind neighbourhood masseur cares more for her safety after an old man asks him to protect her in his dying breath. 

In this massive tug-of-war, the shrewd Zatoichi has a few tricks up his sleeves—some of the best parts of the film are scenes of him manipulating those who try to take advantage of him. 

“You dare turn on me?”

We have a new director on board in Kimiyoushi Yasuda, after Tokuzo Tanaka helmed the previous two. 

One thing that is most obvious in this fifth installment is that it feels overly-plotted, and of course, part of the reason is there seems to be too many supporting characters to take care of within its short runtime of 90 minutes. 

But if you are patient enough to let it all build to its all-out street-war climax (surely inspired in part by Kurosawa’s Yojimbo two years back), you will probably find the movie a decent entry. 

The fight scenes seem to get bigger in scope with each passing film, yet Zatoichi is not fazed by the prospect of an early death.

Grade: B



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