Zatoichi, the legendary blind swordsman who moonlights as a masseur, is back in Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues. As the name suggests this film continues the tale of Zatoichi that began in Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi.
Nearly, a year has passed since the events of The Tale of Zatoichi, and Ichi is travelling back to the location of the previous film to pay his respects to a dead friend. On his way, Ichi is asked to massage a lord who is passing through town. We soon discover that the lord is a little strange, preferring to massage Ichi instead. The two swap phone numbers and Ichi promises to call in the morning but the lord’s minders feel that Ichi has heard and felt too much and must be silenced — permanently. Their initial attempts at assassination fail (of course) and further goons must be hired. In the meantime we are introduced to the mysterious one-armed swordsman Yoshiro (Tomisaburo Wakayama), who seems anxious to confront Zatoichi. Will they battle? Well, yes, of course they will! But will Zatoichi have the skills to win?
It is difficult to examine this film without making comparison to the original Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi, which is to its detriment. Whilst Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues is an enjoyable film, it lacks the depth of the original. This is most notable in the development of relationships between characters. The original dedicated a large amount of time fleshing out each character and their relationships with one another. The Tale of Zatoichi Continues on the other hand, decides to spend more time on fight scenes (which is definitely not a bad thing).
Probably the biggest problem with this one is that, with a run time of 72 minutes, it feels more like an episode of a series than a stand-alone film. Even the ending is a cliff-hanger which requires another episode for explanation. That is not to say that it can’t be enjoyed as a stand-alone film: all necessary background information is conveniently retold as Ichi revisits important locations, making the film easier to understand. The shortness of time also cramps the plot, as there are so many side-plots introduced throughout the film, many of which are not resolved.
Overall, Zatoichi: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues remains faithful to the Zatoichi story and character outlined in the first film. It’s action packed, and has some great fight scenes. However, as a stand-alone film, it’s let down by trying to doing too much in a very small amount of time. On the other hand, if you see this film as episode two of the Zatoichi series, then it’s a great continuance of the story, leaving you hanging for episode 3.