The plotting of Zatoichi On The Road is fascinating in the way it mainly consists of stupid bad guys making terrible plans that occasionally succeed in spite of themselves, at which point they immediately find a way to screw it up. There’s something almost Coen Brothers-esque about the way events unfold here, particularly in regards to the patently untrustworthy Ohisa, who, in her very first line of dialogue berates her husband for being broke and then robs her dead husband’s corpse five minutes later; and the boss Doyama, who wants to hire Ichi due to his reputation as a peerless swordsman, but for some reason assumes that he’ll be easy to betray and kill once his services are no longer required.
Some Thoughts On Zatoichi On The Road: For the first time in all six of these films, I felt a noticeable dip in quality. The final showdown, in which Ichi kills all the yakuza bosses rather than fight for one side or the other since they’ve both demonstrated their total lack of honor, just didn’t connect like I wanted it to. Confusing blocking and editing deflated some of the power. And I wholeheartedly agree with Victor that characters make some dumb, scripted decisions that most real humans wouldn’t make. (Like when Ichi lets Otimsu travel alone in the caravan? He’s too smart for that). It felt disjointed and rushed. Which… you’d likely tend to feel when you are on your 3rd Zatoichi film of 1963…
In two elegant opening shots, Zatoichi on the Road reintroduces us to our titular character, surprising gamblers everywhere with his acute senses and wandering alone along the fields, until he’s met up with Kisuke, emissary from Doyama, here to recruit our blind friend to a battle between Kizuke’s Boss Kihozo, and Boss Tobei of Shimozuma.
Like Victor, I too found the opening sequence of Zatoichi On The Road synonymous with a James Bond film. In fact, Ichi himself parallels Bond in many ways, while also winking at traditional hero stereotypes. Ichi is dangerous, debonair, and deceitful. Women, young and old, love him, from youthful virgins to gray-haired and toothless grandmothers. He does not expect to pay for casual sex, and in the singular case when he did try to pay for comfort (in The Tale of Zatoichi Continues) the woman refused, stating that his memorable companionship was sufficient compensation.