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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Zatoichi 10: Zatoichi's Revenge (Zatoichi nidan-giri) (1965)

"The best flavor isn't when you have a little mustard with the oden; its when you have a little oden with the mustard."
- Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu)

Review By: Joy Howe and Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 12, 2004

Stars: Shintaro Katsu, Norihei Miki, Mikiko Tsubuchi
Other Stars: Takeshi Kato, Fujio Harumoto, Schiko Kobayashi
Director: Akira Inoue

Manufacturer: Ascent Media
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, prostitution)
Run Time: 01h:23m:06s
Release Date: August 19, 2003
UPC: 037429178621
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-A-C+ D+

DVD Review

What an interesting world one visits when introduced to the Zatoichi series. This installment, #10, is the first one that I've seen, and it's a delightful blend of Western style cops-and-robbers morality meeting the artistic and martial arts traditions of the East. Each episode stands alone and doesn't require any back story from prior episodes.

Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) is a blind man who wanders the Japanese coutryside, righting wrongs and doing good. We first see him on the road, bouncing along in the sunshine on the back of a hay cart, eating a rice ball, grateful for the warm sunshine. He's actually rather sloppy and plain looking. He eats with abandon, rice getting all over his face and a rice ball falling to the ground as he catches a bit of it with one grubby finger. Its fairly clear that he is blind and has slightly halting movements. We quickly come to see, though, that there is a certain gravitas, both emotional and physical, in the conduct of his daily affairs. We next see him in the fog on a country path, beset by two bandits who attempt to rob him, but with quick movements, he dispatches them.

Zatoichi realizes he is by Azabu Bridge and reminisces about an old friend, Master Hikonoichi. He decides to detour into the town to visit his old friend who used to give him guidance in the art of performing massage. He very quickly finds that things have changed: Hikonoichi has been killed recently and his daughter is locked up and beaten for refusing to go into prostitution.

When Zatoichi visits her, he realizes that the feudal overlord bureaucracy has corrupted the entire society of the town and many of the girls are being forced to serve the samurai middle management rulers. Zatoichi meets a local croupier who brags about his ability to throw dice games, and invites him to show up next time he is dealing. The rest of the story unfolds from there. I am reluctant to give away any more of the plot, but it unfolds nicely and is fun to watch. One gets a very vivid sense of the power wielded by the top-down, many-layered management of that era's society. The Zatoichi stories are set in the 1800s, when indeed there was a very closed, controlled society in Japan.

Nearly bloodless deaths are the standard for all of Zatoichi's battles. He displays almost a magical realism, single-handedly dispatching numerous enemies at once, with almost no effort. There is great subtle humor in seeing one wave of five opponents fall, to be replaced with yet another five. There is little of the more realistic and muscle-bound action that we associate with the Jackie Chan type of modern action flick.

The filming is nicely done, with some atmospheric shots of scenery, and there's a fair amount of humor in the interactions. There is an understated and artistic sense to the entire production that is a treat to watch unfold. A fair number of POV shots contribute visual texture and add to the exotic sense of this drama. The superhuman abilities of the man with no sight add a mythic and humorous touch. The supporting actors all are written and played as fully rounded characters. Perhaps it is their wide range of facial expression that helps them seem individually likeable or wicked. Zatoichi is a delightful character that I am glad to meet. Even though I mentioned a cops-and-robbers analogy at the start of this review, the Eastern twist, the setting, sensibilities, and ethos, does make one wonder who indeed influenced who. Or, perhaps, these wandering do-good valiant knights are required in all societies and need no external prototype.

This installment in the Zatoichi series is notable for having a main title musical theme that is clearly influenced by the spaghetti westerns that were then just coming into vogue, with prominent guitar (not exactly an oriental instrument) jangling over the credits. But perhaps that's appropriate, since Zatoichi himself is not unlike the iconic Man With No Name of Leone's pictures, wandering from place to place to right wrongs.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Vision continues to render these anamorphic 2.35:1 films with pleasing transfers. This picture features a very attractive source print with excellent detail and crisp clarity. There are some mild sparkles in difficult-to-render segments, such as heavy mist or moving water. Moderate artifacting is visible on quick pans. Colors and skin hues are well rendered; Suyo's red kimono in particular is eye-poppingly vivid without being oversaturated.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: While there is some mild hiss and background noise throughout the feature, I didn't find it significantly distracting. The most problematic audio is during the opening titles, where the theme is badly distorted and clipping is rampant. It's frequently painful to listen to. Happily, after the credits end the background music sounds quite fine indeed for a mono track, and the dialogue has good presence. This would garner a high 'B' if not for the issues with the main titles.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Adventures of Zatoichi, Zatoichi and the Doomed Man
Production Notes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Other than a brief set of production notes (really just an appreciation), the sole extras are trailers for this wave of Zatoichi DVDs, volumes 9-11 inclusive.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Even if this is the type of film you think you will dislike, I think that you will be very pleasantly surprised on viewing it. Worth owning.


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