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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Zatoichi 13: Zatoichi's Vengeance (Zatoichi no uta ga kikoeru) (1966)

"You're not at home among blind people nor among normal people. You're an in-betweener."
- biwa priest (actor unknown)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: May 27, 2004

Stars: Shintaro Katsu, Shigeru Amachi, Jun Hamamura
Other Stars: Mayumi Ogawa, Kei Sato
Director: Tokuzo Tanaka

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some language)
Run Time: 01h:22m:25s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 037429193228
Genre: foreign

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

DVD Review

Zatoichi, following the adventures of the ultimate anti-hero, is a series that has unparalleled longevity. We're 13 films into the journey, and the filmmakers are still able to consistently entertain with a dazzling array of action, character, humanity and, of course, Ichi's legendary blind antics and skilled swordplay. To label these films as mere action pictures would be an injustice.

After a nighttime duel in a vacant field, the beloved Ichi (Shintaro Katsu) stumbles upon its victim, who, with his dying breath, charges the blind masseuse to take a bag of money to "Taichi." Zatoichi takes the money, knowing full well he will probably never be able to fulfill the man's request. Along the road, he meets with a biwa-playing priest, who, unlike Ichi, has been blind all his life. Where our swordsman depends on his hearing to function, the priest has moved to the spiritual, sensing the presence of others—he reads Zatoichi like a book, realizing he is no ordinary blind man. Ichi is an outsider among his own kind, and a lowlife to those who can see.

Continuing his journey, Zatoichi reaches the town of Ichinomiya, where he finds a boy named Taichi. Believing the spirit of the dead man led him to the boy, Ichi spends some time with him, but quickly becomes anxious to leave. The town has been taken over by a gang of ruthless yakuza, headed by Boss Gonzo, who force local businesses to pay staggering operating fees. Zatoichi has frequent run-ins with the gangsters, showcasing his swordsmanship in front of young Taichi without considering the consequences. Looking to earn some money, Ichi uses his masseuse skills on a disillusioned prostitute (the beautiful Mayumi Ogawa) in the local brothel. She is at rock bottom, barely smiling at Ichi's frequent compliments. Her former lover, a disgraced samurai, returns to correct the mistakes of his past and to regain her love through money, which he hopes to earn by killing our hero. Will Zatoichi prevail against the cruel Gonzo and his men?

Whew. There is quite a bit going on in this solid chapter, though the primary focus of the piece is on Zatoichi's relationship with young Taichi. After dazzling the youth with his cane sword in defense of the young lad's grandmother, the priest returns, cautioning Ichi against corrupting the youngster. He must not kill in front of the boy, who will be morally spoiled after witnessing such a display. But how can he not defend an old woman? There are many great character moments between Ichi and the priest, and later, the prostitute, whose depths of despair conjure some of Kurosawa's Dostoyevsky-inspired characters.

Of course, there is a healthy dose of action in this installment, culminating in a stunning battle atop a bridge, shot entirely in silhouette. The real drama during the battle comes from a fleet of taiko drums, used by Gonzo's men to subdue Ichi's skill by taking away his hearing. The legendary Kazuo Miyagawa (Yojimbo, Rashomon) modifies his shooting style to fit the genre, inserting the zooms and moves we come to expect from these types of pictures. Still, his eye is true, forming some familiar compositions. A somewhat subdued, yet engaging chapter.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Home Vision's transfer is stunning, showcasing a clean image that is not marred by print defects or excessive digital over-enhancement. Detail and color are good, though the film has a somewhat murky, washed-out appearance. Blacks appear more grayish, but this looks to be an accurate representation of the source material.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The monaural sound exhibits clear dialogue, music and over-the-top sound effects, but contains some noticeable hiss, pops, and minor distortion at times. Not a terrible track, but it could be cleaner.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Zatoichi 11: Zatoichi and the Doomed Man, Zatoichi 12: Zatoichi and the Chess Expert, Zatoichi series trailer
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Reprint of the film's original poster
  2. Liner notes by Michael Jeck
Extras Review: Extras include theatrical trailers for the other Ichi films listed above, including a series trailer produced by HVe, hidden in the studio's logo on the trailer menu. Informative liner notes by Michael Jeck grace the artful insert. My favorite bonus, one that is not listed on the keepcase, is a reproduction of the film's original poster. A nice touch!

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Another solid entry into the Zatoichi series, along with a fine presentation from Home Vision, makes this worthwhile.


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