Having defeated almost all of the bad guys in the previous two films, Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi and Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, Zatoichi returns to do battle with yakuza thugs and sore shoulders in Zatoichi: New Tale of Zatoichi!
When we last left our hero, in The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, he had just killed his brother, a gang leader, and a multitude of hired goons. In New Tale of Zatoichi, Zatoichi, wanting to escape the violent life, decides to return to his home village. Unfortunately, escaping one’s past is difficult to do, and Ichi is doggedly pursued. He arrives home to find his old teacher, Banno no longer a respectable swordsman: he is now a sword for hire.
Meanwhile, a relationship develops between Zatoichi and Banno’s sister, but will Banno welcome a blind-man into the family? There is also a gang of thieves roaming the streets looking for rich people to kidnap. Will Zatoichi come to save the day?
Zatoichi: New Tale of Zatoichi is a fine film and probably the strongest in terms of character development of the three Zatoichi films so far. Katsu is convincing as a man suffering the terrible burden of so many deaths at his hand. His greatest desire is to leave his past behind and start anew, but he knows that if he does, it will only result in pain and suffering for those he holds dear.
On the other hand the film does have some problems. The most notable problem is that director Tokuzo Tanaka tries to fit a considerable number of story threads into the film, which, while it may all work out in the end, can feel confusing during the film.
In a similar vein, it may be difficult for some to watch this film without having watched the previous two films. Unlike The Tale of Zatoichi Continues, in which a recap of prior events is incorporated, there is nothing for New Tale of Zatoichi. However this shouldn’t cause too much distress, as the plot, for the most part, is fairly self-contained.
Overall Zatoichi: New Tale of Zatoichi succeeds in continuing the story of the legendary sword-fighting masseur, whilst at the same time adding considerable depth to Ichi’s character. At times, the complexity of the story can be a problem but in the end New Tale of Zatoichi is a terrific film, full of love, loss, and plenty of sword fighting.