Plot: What’s it about?
As she ventures home, a young woman with an infant crosses paths with the blind swordsman, Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu). The two strike up a friendship, but fate has a cruel plan in mind for all three of them. An ambush is staged to take down Zatoichi, but it is the woman, not the swordsman who walks into the trap. By the time the gangsters realize she isn’t Zatoichi, she is dead and her baby is left without a mother. As he feels responsible for the woman’s death, Zatoichi takes the infant and pledges to return him to his home, no matter what dangers and distance are involved in the trek. The gangsters haven’t given up on their plans to kill the swordsman either, so they’ve taken to following him on his current path. That means Zatoichi must remain alert at all times, to fend off the assassins and protect the child. This makes every battle more dangerous, as he has to think about the infant’s safety, as well as his own. In addition to the company of the child, he also finds a companion in a prostitute, who was reluctant to assist the swordsman, but soon agreed to help return the child. As time passes, the two become more attached to the infant, something neither of them expected to happen. When they reach their destination, will the reunion be a smooth one, or does more trouble lie ahead for Zatoichi?
This marks the eighth picture in the Zatoichi series, but don’t assume that the blind swordsman has run out of gas. The previous film in the series, Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword was a slight let down, but we’re back on track with Fight, Zatoichi, Fight. The premise, Zatoichi’s journey with an infant in tow, might seem on the corny side, but the storyline works well and this proves to be another solid installment. Shintaro Katsu is back once again in the main role, giving a terrific performance and making the best of his young costar. He is able to play off the infant in natural fashion, which allows for many memorable sequences. A few of the old baby cliches are seen, but they’re still effective and don’t overshadow the material. In fact, this movie is able to balance the new element with the established series conventions, so fans shouldn’t worry that the unusual costar throws off the expected Zatoichi elements. The same kind of well crafted sword battles are found here, as well as the usual story elements, but in Fight, Zatoichi, Fight, there is some added emotion you don’t find in all the installments. This gives the movie a special edge, but it still remains true to the Zatoichi series, so fans will be most pleased. I recommend Fight, Zatoichi, Fight to all fans of the series, as well as those interested in samurai cinema in general. This picture brings the series back after a down volume, so fans can return to the franchise without hesitation.
Video: How does it look?
Fight, Zatoichi, Fight is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an excellent visual presentation, one that is free from almost all defects. The print looks pristine in most scenes, with no grain and minimal debris to be seen. This allows for such a clean, sharp visual presence, you won’t be able to believe your eyes in some instances. I found the colors to be bright and bold, but within a natural scope, while flesh tones are normal throughout. The black levels are superb here also, as even the darkest of scenes looks smooth and refined. This is simply a top notch visual treatment in all respects, so kudos to Home Vision.
Audio: How does it sound?
A solid, though unremarkable soundtrack is used here and on the whole, it handles the material in fine fashion. You’ll hear some hiss, pops, and other signs of wear are evident, but not as many as you might assume. In addition, these errors never become a distraction and as such, I doubt anyone will complain too much. The original Japanese language is preserved, with clean and sharp vocals that never become harsh or muddled. The limits of the material prevent any kind of real dynamic presence, but the music and sound effects come through well enough, all things considered. This disc also includes optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.