Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

As a bounty has been placed on his head, Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) decides to keep a low profile and take shelter in a small village. But the area is not the same as it was, as since his last visit, the village has fallen. The town is now controlled by Boss Masagoro (Masakane Yonekura), the son of a merchant who is rumored to be in possession of stolen riches. The gold was taken from the shogunate, but Masagoro has hired a special enforcer to keep the peace, the man known as Yojimbo (Toshiro Mifune). He might hit the booze hard, but Yojimbo is a skilled warrior and above all else, a cunning strategist. He serves as the enforcer for Masagoro, but also works as a spy for the shogunate and tries to reclaim the gold. At the same time, he has fallen in love with the merchant’s mistress, who serves her post against her will. Yojimbo and Zatoichi form a pact to work together against the father and son, but only time will tell if it holds. Zatoichi is hired by the merchant to be his masseur, which allows him to not only earn some wages, but also get an inside view of what happens around the merchant. He soon uses his earnings to purchase the freedom of the man’s mistress, which enrages Yojimbo. As all sides clash and unions fall apart, can Zatoichi find the gold and return peace to the village?

This is kind of like an all star affair, in terms of both characters and the actors behind them, so this is a special installment in the Zatoichi series. Of course, Shintaro Katsu’s Zatoichi is a cultural icon, but so is Toshiro Mifune, a true legend of cinema. If you haven’t seen other Zatoichi pictures, you might feel a little out of the loop here, as a lot of references are made to previous events. But with a number of Zatoichi’s adventures now available on DVD, the uninitiated can always sample a crash course beforehand. With such a combination of talent involved, you have to expect a lot from this movie, but in the end, the result is less than impressive. I mean, Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo is a solid and fun picture, but with raised expectations, it fails to fulfill its potential. But perhaps we just expect too much from this one, as it does offer a lot of humorous moments and if nothing else, its a blast to see Katsu and Mifune together. So Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo might not be as good as it could have been, but it makes for a worthwhile experience. I wouldn’t recommend this as your portal to the other films of Zatoichi, but fans of the series should be pleased. The tone is dark, but with some comic moments, plus of course, some good action sequences. So for fans of Zatoichi or samurai movies as a whole, this movie is more than worth a look. And since AnimEgo’s disc looks excellent, I am able to give it a solid recommendation.

Video: How does it look?

Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. A lot of time and effort went into this presentation and it shows, as this movie looks excellent here. AnimEgo has worked to reduce film grain and defects, as well as enhance the colors and contrast, which provides us one hell of a visual treatment. The print looks good, which allows for a sharper than expected image at all times. I found colors to be bright and bold, but within a natural scope, while flesh tones seem normal throughout. The contrast is well handled also, as black levels look stark and refined, so detail is solid from start to finish. I knew this would look good, but I didn’t expect it look this good, so kudos to AnimEgo on their efforts.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original Japanese language track is preserved here, in a solid, but basic presentation. I have no real complaints to lodge here, especially given the age of the material, but the audio just isn’t that memorable. But the basic elements come across well, which is what counts, so I guess we shouldn’t complain much. The dialogue is clean and crisp, while music and sound effects also sound good. I didn’t detect much in the way of age related flaws, but a few minor defects pop up here and there. A pair of optional English subtitle options are found here, one a traditional subtitle track and the other a cultural compass. So you can learn more about the phrases and words used, which can be helpful. If you choose to enable both, the streams are color coded, which makes it a snap to follow the action on screen.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes a selection of talent files.

Disc Scores