Zatoichi: On the Road

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) has been summoned to a small village by a local gang leader, who wishes to hire his services as a bodyguard. As he treks to the village, he encounters a band of rival gang members and while he is able to fend off the attackers, he soon finds himself bound in a situation by honor. A dying man asks him to protect a maiden named Mitsu and deliver her back into the hands of her family, to which of course, Zatoichi agrees. The young woman has been through an ordeal already, so the blind swordsman simply wants to make sure she is returned home, where she will be safe and comfortable. But as it turns out, he isn’t the only one interested in the maiden, as both gangs in the area seek to kidnap her. This poses a conflict for Zatoichi, as he is bound by honor to ensure the safe passage of the maiden, but he also has some loyalty to one of the gangs, since they have hired him. As he is forced to take a side in this important situation, will he allow his professional duties to interfere with his sense of honor?

The fifth cinematic adventure of the blind swordsman Zatoichi is a great one, especially in terms of storyline & character development. I really enjoyed the storyline here, as it offers a terrific premise and then gets even better as things unfold, until we’re given a good ending sequence, just a very well written installment. In a series with twenty-six volumes, you know we’re going to get inside the mind of our central character, but even here in this fifth adventure, Zatoichi is explored in new ways and his inner conflict is well handled here. Then again, with Shintaro Katsu back as the legendary blind swordsman, we should have expected nothing less than a superb performance. In his fifth effort within the role, Katsu seems even more impressive than before, as if he gets more inside Zatoichi with each new installment. That’s good news of course, as this is a more character & plot driven adventure, so his excellent performance really enhances the material and of course, he handles the sword with ease as well. Another great episode of the Zatoichi series and without a doubt, this one is more than recommended.

Video: How does it look?

On the Road is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As this treatment is almost identical to that of the previous two releases in the series, I’ve simply moved my comments from one of those reviews to this one. Thanks to Home Vision’s restoration work, this is one good looking presentation in all respects. The print still has some debris, but there isn’t too much and on the whole, the print looks very clean. The colors look bright and while not that rich, it seems to be as intended, as the hues are consistent throughout and don’t appear washed out, per se. No troubles with contrast either, as black levels look sharp at all times. I think fans of the series will be quite pleased, as Home Vision has done some fine work here.

Audio: How does it sound?

A solid, though unremarkable mono option is used here and on the whole, it handles the material in fine fashion. As expected, 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 mono and the material’s age prevent any kind of 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 some original theatrical stills.

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