Zatoichi: The Fugitive

January 28, 2012 5 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

After he defeated several of its members in a wrestling contest, a local gang has taken offense to the presence of Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu). Of course, the blind swordsman and masseuse has no fears about the bounty the gang has placed on his head, especially since he has more pressing matters to tend to. It seems an old flame of his has become involved with one of the gang’s leaders, so he chooses to remain close to the village, even though he is a wanted man and sure to be hassled. When a hired assassin comes after him, Zatoichi tries to stay calm and in control, but then a tragic turn sends him over the edge. As he battles the ronin, an innocent woman is slain by the rogue’s sword, which enrages Zatoichi. This event sends him on a spiral of violence and after the dust has settled, almost the entire gang has been eliminated. Soon enough, it is time for Zatoichi to face off with the gang’s leader, a gifted, but somewhat rattled warrior. Will Zatoichi’s temper prove to be his edge in the fight, or will it simply cost him his focus?

This is the fourth installment in the Zatoichi series and while it takes a more methodical approach, it still delivers on all fronts. The Fugitive does have a well crafted sword battle, but this volume is less about action and more about characters, so the story is enhanced and we’re shown more of Zatoichi’s depth. And that involves a more human rendition of Zatoichi, as opposed to the almost unstoppable machine as seen in previous installments, though Shintaro Katsu’s performance remains true to the character’s established tone. Although those interested in just the action element of the series might be let down by the slower pace and lack of frequent swordplay, I found this to be a very effective production. The film has a solid premise and as it unfolds, it becomes more complex and really expands into a terrific storyline, complete with a dynamic sword battle toward the movie’s closing moments. I think this fourth Zatoichi adventure is more than worth a look, as it continues the high standard for this excellent series.

Video: How does it look?

The Fugitive is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is an impressive visual presentation, thanks in no small part to Home Vision’s restoration efforts. As a result, we’re presented with a clean source print that has only minor defects, as well as a sharp, clean overall image to experience. The colors have a little flatness in a few scenes, but seem bright enough in most, so no complaints there. As far as contrast, I found detail to be high and black levels look good, leaving me to score this one rather well. I commend Home Vision for their work here and of course, hope to see this kind of transfer on all their Zatoichi releases.

Audio: How does it sound?

A mono soundtrack is present here, which preserves the original Japanese language and while not too memorable, this is a solid track. I heard little in terms of distortion, while hiss is absent and that’s great news, without a doubt. The music here is quite good and is well presented, though of course, it isn’t too expansive, thanks to mono’s limitations. The sound effects follow the same order, as they sound good, but also restrained to some extent. But this isn’t exactly new showroom material, so I think we can cut it some slack. The dialogue is sharp and never gets muffled much, so even if you can’t understand what they’re saying, at least it sounds clean. This disc also includes English subtitles, should you need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes some original theatrical stills.

Disc Scores