More Zatoichi
December 10, 2011 10:38 PM   Subscribe

Zatoichi (previously) is the story of a blind Japanese masseur; drifter (he also sometimes thinks of himself as a gangster, in a self-effacing way); uncanny gambler; and, master swordsman. The series is some 25 films long (not including the TV series), not including the 2003 American release with Takeshi Kitano playing the lead role, instead of Shintaro Katsu.

Zatoichi walks the dual paths of tragedy and the scales of justice; he is not without self-pity for his fate, but he always seems to overcome that with effort, determination, and a rigid adherence to moral character. The Zatoichi films always seem to come out in a way that one would expect, but along the way there are multiple scenarios, surprises, and epic battles between pure good and evil. They are very compelling. Currently, all episodes are available on youtube.

There are some duplicates here (MeFi's previous post lists 5 films); this post lists the first 12 films, and 9 installments of the TV series. [IMPORTANT: Only the very first link to each movie is listed; from there, the next link is usually found immediately on the upper right, near the top of the suggested movie list, on the youtube interface) - it's easy to figure out] I have just finished watching the first eight films, and they're great!

The first two Zatoichi films are in black and white; the rest are in color. Shintaro Katsu is outstanding as Zatoichi; he brings a lot of nuance to the character, who appears to take on more complexity as the films progress. The beautiful Japanese actresses that play the various roles in the series are also superb actresses in their own right. Remember, each link is for part 1 of that particular film, the remaining parts of each film is present in following links, on the right side of the youtube page.. They follow pretty much in order. Have fun!


Zatoichi - 01 - The Tale of Zatoichi (part 1)

Zatoichi - 02 - The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (part 1)

Zatoichi - 03 - New Tale of Zatoichi (part 1)

Zatoichi - 04 - Zatoichi The Fugitive (part 1)

Zatoichi - 05 - On The Road (part 1)

Zatoichi - 06 - Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold (part1)

Zatoichi - 07 - Zatoichi's Flashing Sword (part 1)

Zatoichi - 08 - Fight Zatoichi Fight (part 1)

Zatoichi - 09 - Adventures of Zatoichi (part 1)

Zatoichi - 10 - Zatoichi's Revenge (part 1)

Zatoichi and the Doomed Man - 11 - (part 1)

Zatoichi and The Chess Expert - 12 - (part 1)

TV series:

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E01 - A Challenge of Chance (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E02 - The Flower That Bloomed with the Lullaby (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E03 - A Memorial Day and The Bell of Life (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E04 - The Kannon Statue That Was Tied (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E05 - The Heartless Man Touched By Compassion (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E06 - Pouring Rain (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E07 - A Bird Lands On Ichi (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E08 - An Unforgettable Flower (part 1)

Zatoichi TV Series - S01E09 - The Two Zatoichis (part 1)
posted by Vibrissae (17 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
Oh holy buddha. I knew the Zato TV series was out there but I never found any of it. Now it's all on YouTube. This is a gold mine.

I started watching the 1st TV show, I found it quite comprehensible in Japanese without subtitles,. But then, I have watched tons of Zatoichi films. Others might want to consult a Yakuza Japanese primer. It kind of freaks me out that I am this fluent in gangster chatter.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:26 PM on December 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Just hit the "cc" button for subtitles, charlie don't surf.

Awesome post, Vibrissae!
posted by Kevin Street at 11:47 PM on December 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh man, when I was in high school I was SO jealous of my friend whose cable plan had IFC, and Zatoichi was entirely the reason why. Thanks!
posted by solotoro at 12:27 AM on December 11, 2011

There was a new Zatoichi movie released last year -- Zatoichi the last. Haven't seen it yet though, so I've no idea whether it's any good or not.

There's a torrent out there somewhere that's a virtually complete collection.

Also: That Yakuza Japanese Primer is good enough for a FPP all of its own, charlie don't surf.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:48 AM on December 11, 2011

Zatoichi is excellent and Takeshi Kitano is excellent, but the CGI blood in Kitano's Zatoichi movie? Not at all excellent.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:56 AM on December 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

the CGI blood in Kitano's Zatoichi movie? Not at all excellent.

The tap dancing finale more than compensates though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:03 AM on December 11, 2011 [9 favorites]

This is a fantastic set of links. I once saw Zatoichi in a Norwegian cinema in the original Japanese with Norwegian subtitles and was amazed at how much I could understand just from Shintaro Katsu's body language.
posted by arcticseal at 2:52 AM on December 11, 2011

This is amazing, Vibrissae. Thank you.

An that tap dancing scene? Best part of the entire movie - and it's a pretty damn sweet movie.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:19 AM on December 11, 2011

An that tap dancing scene? Best part of the entire movie.

Check out the faces of the cast from 3.40 in in the clip that I linked to. The director slows down the action to make it easy for you.

I don't believe I've ever seen so many actors in any other movie openly having that much fun.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:28 AM on December 11, 2011

thank you for this Vibrissae! when i first was getting into chanbara movies the Zatoichi series was one that seriously stood out. i look forward to checking them out all over again.
posted by jammy at 6:32 AM on December 11, 2011

Some lists of all the films or episodes made include 26 films. One of which the Shintaro Katsu family will not release the rights to.
The Wiki lists 26 original films of which I've seen maybe 10. All amazing.
I saw a DVD set online years ago that had 25 "episodes" but I was sure it was a bootleg and didn't want to shell out that much for shitty copies. Kickin myselk now of course. Now about the best you can do besides you local DVD store is this place.
If you like this style of Japenses story telling I recommend the Book (rather than the film adaptations), Miyamoto Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji.
posted by gigbutt at 7:07 AM on December 11, 2011

From the yakuza primer, a bit of levity:

うす- Usu is an expression of respect for senior yakuza entering a room. Get a group of friends to bow and say usu when you enter the classroom or a restaurant. Be sure to refer to a friend or teacher as oyabun (Godfather).
posted by zippy at 7:46 AM on December 11, 2011

There was a new Zatoichi movie released last year -- Zatoichi the last. Haven't seen it yet though, so I've no idea whether it's any good or not.

Oh hell. I hadn't heard about that one. I think we're going to have to separate Zatoichi films into canonical and non-canonical. Katsushin = canonical. Then they started making non-canonical films, first the horrid crap with Beat Takeshi, and then I heard there was a film with Zato the hot woman warrior. Yes, I think I would go see the hot female Zato. But from this new trailer, I can see absolutely no reason I would want to see this new, undistinguished film.

I"ve seen all the Zato films except that one that is out of print and locked away, and then somehow I missed "Zatoichi vs. Yojimbo" which is rather hard to find. Especially with these TV shows, there is plenty of canonical Zato to go around. I know the TV shows are basically eternal reruns on Japanese TV, they're popular enough to remake some material, but I wish they wouldn't.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:41 AM on December 11, 2011

Aha, zippy, I just heard "usu" in something last night and was slightly puzzled.

There was a film with the very beautiful Ayase Haruka as a blind traveling female musician/swordswoman, implied to be Zatoichi's protege or something. (Ichi, 2008, not to be confused with Ichi the Killer.)
posted by wintersweet at 10:28 AM on December 11, 2011

Great post! Just fyi, Hulu has a bunch of the movies up also, and the quality is generally much higher.
posted by slickvaguely at 6:52 PM on December 11, 2011

I've now see all these episodes and they've truly been great. Thanks again, Vibrissae.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:17 PM on December 24, 2011

Only 10 more films to go.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:39 PM on December 24, 2011

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