Zatoichi 2: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (Zoku Zatoichi Monogatari) [DVD]
Screenplay : Minoru Inuzuka (story by Kan Shimozawa)
MPAA Rating : NR
Year of Release : 1962
Stars : Shintaro Katsu (Zatoichi), Yoshie Mizutani (Osetsu), Masayo Mari (Otane), Kenzaburo Jo (Nagisa no Yoshiro), Yutaka Nakamura (Kagami no Sanzo), Sonosuke Sawamura (Seki no Kanbei), Shosaku Sugiyama (Tamigoro), Tamiemon Arashi (Kai Yoshida), Yoshito Yamaji (Yahei)
In Zatoichi 2: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (Zoku Zatoichi Monogatari), the titular blind masseur/swordsman, one of the most famous recurring characters in all of Japanese cinema, once again finds himself caught in a series of battles not of his own making. Although essentially peaceful, Zatoichi tends to find himself constantly enmeshed in violence--trouble follows him everywhere.
The narrative here picks up a year after the events of the first film, Zatoichi 1: The Tale of Zatoichi, in which he was caught in a turf battle between two rival yakuza gangs and was eventually forced to do battle with an honorable ronin samurai whom he had befriended. Zatoichi's goal is to return to that village and pay his respects at the samurai's grave. Along the way, he is hired to give a massage to a traveling feudal lord, and during the massage it becomes clear that this lord is thoroughly insane, a fact that his men have been trying to keep secret. Thus, they are sent out to try to kill Zatoichi before he tells anyone, which leads to what must surely be the most oft-recurring line in the Zatoichi films, where once character berates another because he couldn't kill "a simple blind man."
Of course, Zatoichi is anything but a simple blind man, and The Tale of Zatoichi Continues thickens his backstory with hints about long-last family and the old, but still unhealed wound of a broken heart. Zatoichi may be an incomparable swordsman (dozens of men can come at him at once, and he still takes them all out), but this entry in the series firmly establishes his deep humanity and his capacity for hurt. Actor Shintaro Katsu, who played Zatoichi in all 26 films and some 100 TV episodes over three decades, moves deeper into the character, and his performance is more fulfilling here than it was in the first film. You can feel the character beginning to gel, as the careful balance between his superhero-like physical and mental prowess and the emotional tragedies he faces come more into focus.
While in the first film he was forced to do battle with a samurai whom he had befriended and developed a deep respect, in this second entry he finds himself face-to-face with a notorious one-armed samurai (Kenzaburo Jo, Shintaro Katsu's brother) who has a hidden connection to Zatoichi. Although he saves Zatoichi's life early in the film, he holds a deep seated hatred for the blind swordsman, and it is of little surprise that their final battle takes place on the same bridge that was so central in the first film, essentially playing out the same violent tragedy in which Zatoichi must do battle with someone about whom he cares.
The Tale of Zatoichi Continues features more action and swordplay than the first film. It is shorter, tighter, and spends less time setting up characters and scenarios, as much of this work has already been done. Zatoichi's incredible swordplay is central here, as there are several sequences in which he takes on a dozen or more adversaries at once, emerging with nary a scratch.
One of the most interesting things about watching Zatoichi do battle is that, as he says at one point, because he is blind, he can only respond to others' movements, thus he can never initiate battle. His style of battle becomes a dance of intricate responses, although the final frame of The Tale of Zatoichi Continues continues a sudden burst of premeditated violence that is thoroughly unexpected and adds a new dimension to Zatoichi's character, contributing to the further depth and resonance that would be explored in the later films.
|Zatoichi 2: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues DVD|
|Audio||Japanese Dolby 1.0 Monaural|
|Distributor||Home Vision Entertainment|
|Release Date||May 14, 2002|
| 2.35:1 (Nonanamorphic) |
As with the Zatoichi 1 DVD, the cover of Zatoichi 2 boasts a "fully restored image," and while the image is completely clean of any nicks or scratches, it was transferred in nonanamorphic widescreen, resulting in a generally soft image. The lack of anamorphic enhancement restricts the detail level, particularly given the film's narrow Daieiscope aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The black and white image has little in the way of contrast; rather than sharp blacks and whites, the image is grayed out and a bit fuzzy, which makes it particularly difficult to follow the action in the darkest sequences.
|Japanese Dolby 1.0 Monaural|
The original one-channel soundtrack shows its age, although it is not particularly distracting. There are a number of dull pops here and there and some ambient hiss, but nothing unexpected.
| Stills Gallery|
Contains 10 -and-white stills from the film.
Copyright © 2002 James Kendrick