The Tale Of Zatoichi Continues/Review

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< The Tale Of Zatoichi Continues
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The second movie of the Zatoichi franchise aptly named The Tale of Zatoichi Continues might seem like a quick cash grab at first. Indeed there was a sense of closure the way the previous film ended. Still, the makers wisely kept it open-ended enough that a sequel was entirely plausible.

Unlike the later entries of the series, which became pretty episodic, the movie starts a year after the prequel when he returns to the same village to visit the grave of the ronin Miki Hirate. The same person he had defeated and buried at the end of the first movie. As he is massaging an influential nobleman for some quick money, he realizes that the guy is insane and can’t hold sway over the place if the truth comes out. The nobleman’s retainers try to get him killed to hide the fact, fearing that Zatoichi might reveal the truth. Though Zatoichi manages to dispatch the people sent to kill him quickly, it sets in motion the chain of events leading to a final confrontation with the same gang he fought for in the prequel.

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Amidst all this is a mysterious one-armed swordsman Yoshirō (Tomisaburō Wakayama, Shintarō Katsu real-life brother) who is at one moment his protector and another his formidable adversary. It turns out Yoshiro is Zatoichi’s brother who has his reasons for wanting him dead.

Watching the real-life siblings playing reel life siblings brings a strange joy, especially when knowing that Tomisaburō would go on to be most famous for playing the titular Lone Wolf ronin in the Lone Wolf and Cub series a decade later. The series has often had Zatoichi go up against and sometimes even team up with slightly modified versions of some of kung fu and samurai cinemas iconic characters like The One-Armed Swordsman (Jimmy Wang Wu) and Yojimbo (Toshiro Mifune).

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In retrospect, it would have been great if he did go up against the Lone Wolf character Ogami Itto, and though we know it doesn’t happen, the confrontations between Yoshiro and Zatoichi give you a small idea of what could have been.

It is heavily implied that the bone of contention between the two might partly have caused their disabilities and could be the consequence of their shared past. In a scene where the two accidentally meet at a restaurant, they have a slight alteration about who gets to spend the night with a prostitute staying there. They begin to describe a woman they both loved who had the same name, not letting anyone else know that the woman in question is the same person.

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Hugh Hefner once famously said when asked, “Hef, how do you get so many bitches?”. His response was, “Well, for starters, I don’t call them bitches”. A little manners goes a long way, and it becomes evident in the restaurant scene when the prostitute chooses to stay with Zatoichi due to the disrespectful way Yoshiro treats them.

When Zatoichi decides to let it be and move on to be the sweet-natured but deadly ronin that he is, Yoshiro decides to be bitter about it and lash out at the former no matter what. The scene where they talk about the woman they both loved when he speaks about her with tenderness, and Yoshiro talks about her with scathing damnation. That tenderness says a lot about Zatoichi as a character.

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If you think all this would lead to a brutal final confrontation between the two, let us say it would not be what you expected. The Tale of Zatoichi Continues might not have the surprise element of seeing this character pull the rug from under his adversaries. It is a lot tighter than its predecessor due to its short running time, making it a sequel worthy of the series canon.

Alif Majeed is a contributor to Grindhouse Cinema Database. You can find a list of all his reviews HERE.

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