Plot: What’s it about?
Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) has been on the road for as long as he can remember, with no real home to speak of. But he once had such a home, though he left it behind over two decades back and hasn’t returned since. As fate would have it, Zatoichi will go back to his home once again, thanks to the simple flip of a coin. His lifestyle as a youth is nothing like his current one, as he was a rebel who caused a lot of trouble. He is now a man of honor, skill, and dedication however, so his return should be a welcome one. Then again, his absence has been so extensive, the chance is real that no one will remember him from his youth. As it happens, not everyone rushes to greet the blind swordsman, but some locals recall his days in the town. A woman that claims to be his sister is one those, even if Zatoichi was unaware he had such a sister. The new Superintendent of the town is also someone who recognizes him, so he isn’t seen as a stranger. A third person is one that Zatoichi knows quite well, an old childhood friend named Shinbei. His friend isn’t so friendly these days, as he seeks to fleece the town of its valuable reserves. As Zatoichi is known for his skills in such tense situations, he is asked to be the mediator between the two sides. When torn between loyalties in a crucial struggle, which side will he fall on?
Perhaps no character has been as beloved as Zatoichi, with over twenty films and a television series made under his name. Shintaro Katsu picked up the blade in each installment, which turned him into not just a movie star, but a cultural icon. In Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, the end of an era would come to pass, the last of the old school Zatoichi pictures. Katsu would return for one final adventure over fifteen years later in the 1989 film Zatoichi, but the true end was to be found here. So did this classic franchise end on a high note, or was the blind swordsman’s blade dull after well over twenty sequels? As most sequels tend to slack off, often into dismal ranges, it would be understandable if Zatoichi’s Conspiracy was a tad weak. After all, all those storylines, all those battles, sooner or later, the series was bound to run out of gas. But in this twenty-fifth installment, the blade was sharp and the usual level of entertainment was produced. I wouldn’t file this with the series’ best efforts, but without question, this is a solid movie. A little more detail about Zatoichi’s past surface, which add some depth to the entire series, while a return to his roots provides an excellent stage for this final curtain call. As always, AnimEigo’s treatment is a good one, with a brand new transfer, though little in terms of supplemental material. I recommend Zatoichi’s Conspiracy, as well as the other Zatoichi films to all those interested.
Video: How does it look?
Zatoichi’s Conspiracy is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an excellent visual presentation from AnimEigo, perhaps one of the best looking installments in their Zatoichi line to this point. 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. So unless a full scale restoration is undertaken, this is as good as Zatoichi’s Revenge is going to look.
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.