Ichi honors the classic tale of the blind samurai while casting the legend in breathtaking new light. In a role traditionally played by men, award-winning actress Haruka Ayase is both tender and brutal.Beautiful Ichi wande... more »rs blindly from village to village, searching for the sightless swordsman who long ago taught her to kill. Her technique is exquisite and explosive, her defenses as impenetrable as the darkness in which she moves. Many along her solitary path are touched ? some by the sound of her delicate music, others by the edge of her lethal blade.« less
"Historical samurai dramas are the Japanese equivalent of the Western except that they still maintain their credibility. This is a reworking of the popular Zatoichi the blinds swordsman series, with a blind female musician trying to track down the person who may or may not be Zatoichi and who may or may not be her father.
I like the structure as more and more is revealed about the two main characters over the course of the film through the use of flashbacks which can, early on, sometimes be misleading. Toma, the samurai whom Ichi protects, at first appears to be nothing more than a coward but he is more than that and there are resonances which I don't want to spoil. The two leads are absolutely fine in their roles, the cute kid who helps Ichi is bearable, but the villains tend to be over the top. In particular the chief bad guy comes over like a psycho samurai Quentin Tarantino, whom he rather resembles.
It's attractively photographed with several striking snow scenes. There is a strong emotional content and lots of brooding silences, profundities, and deep thoughts -this is a samurai movie after all. There's even more blood, lashings and lashings of it as our heroine wades through the bad guys using her special backhanded slicing technique. The climax features even more blood and carnage with bad guys against good guys, hero against villain, heroine ag... ah, that would be telling.
I had a good time watching this. Sequel, please. I have the UK edition. It's in Japanese with English subtitles. No extras apart from a trailer."
Quite Solid in its Presentation
ONENEO | Buffalo, NY | 12/23/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ichi is one of those films that I've been meaning to tackle for some time. The look, the feel, the mood, and the mythological elements are all of undeniable Asian influence. Yes there are undefeatable principles at play within that span beyond the swordplay and action elements in the foreground. Before we look at the excellent philosophical tones of the picture, let's get the hard facts out of the way.
Coming in at a 120-minute runtime, Ichi consists of the full-length feature film on a single disc housed within a standard clamshell DVD case. The show wears an appropriate if not slightly conservative Restricted ® rating due to violent imagery, swordplay, digital gore and a healthy dose of character-driven drama.
Language options are typical sub & dub meaning both the original Japanese vocal track is present as well the choice of an English dub (either presented in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound) with the option of running English subtitles available with either vocal track.
The story, which has to be watched to be fully understood (or appreciated for that matter), goes something like this: Ichi, the female incarnation of the legendary blind swordsman Zatoichi, is herself a blind master of the blade and roams about town with her shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese guitar) in a mission to locate the man who helped raise her. Alone the way she happens upon no shortage of unsavory characters (rapists, thieves, and hustlers) looking to take advantage of her. Ichi is no pushover, as the baddies soon discover in dramatic visual style, and defends herself with spectacular swordplay time and time again. Shot in a blend of slow and regular motion segments, and with digital blood spurting wildly, the film is a testament to the charms of Asian cinema (and calls to mind some of Quentin Tarantino's frequent homage in films such as "Kill Bill").
As the prose develops, so too does the cast increase with Ichi herself gaining the companionship of a young male traveling partner despite the fact that she is by far the better sword wielder. Haruka Ayase's performance as Ichi seems to depend heavily upon the viewer's expectations going into the film. I found her to be convincing enough and somehow proud despite her attire of rags but it appears as though fans of Shintaro Katsu's original Japanese television incarnation of the mythos are quite divided on this casting choice.
Villains, as is par for the course in these situations, are a bit over the top in my opinion (Nakamura Shidou in particular). However, while this may be a large detractor in an American big budget film, the Japanese have a habit of making the unbelievable believable through gritty ambiance and dialog that doesn't oversimplify character motivations.
Shooting locations and cinematography are particularly noteworthy for their massive scope and stunning vistas (particularly some of the snow segments, which can send a chill through even the most well-wrapped blanketed viewer).
The downside is that this simply isn't a piece of Asian cinema that will capture and hold the attention of the casual viewer. The pacing and plotting often become a bit bogged down upon themselves with an excessive of moments of silent reflection, brooding sighs, and artistic framing. For the most part this all works, but there will invariably be those a bit put-off by the pace fluctuations throughout (especially those viewers accustomed to the fast-cut American method of contemporary filmmaking).
The sound score is perhaps the biggest surprise with some really nice keys that go a long way in complementing the whimsical backgrounds.
In all, the picture works best when approached as a visually striking romp through a fairly historically accurate setting. Digging too deeply into the mythos seems to reveal complaints in many forms and the cast is a bit too inconsistent to win over the masses. Perhaps such complaints sound harsh, but the truth of the matter is that there is a lot of entertainment to be found here so long as you don't let expectations of grandeur bury it. "
Haruka Ayase Rules as the FEMALE ZATOICHI!!
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 12/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"ICHI THE BLIND SWORDSWOMAN (2009) is a redux of Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman; the classic Jidai Geki TV series. Directed by Fumihiko Sori, (Vexille, "Ping Pong"), with screenplay by Shimosawa Kan; this film switches the gender of the lead character, has significant improvements but it also lacks some of the original's strengths. "Ichi" stars beautiful Japanese bikini model/actress Ayase Haruka, and this is her follow up role to "Cyborg She" (which I will review later). The film is a departure from the stylistic style of Kitamura's "AZUMI" and is a welcome return for director Sori to his action roots after the fun-filled "Ping Pong".
Ichi (Haruka Ayase) is a beautiful, blind musician who travels this Edo period Japan with her traditional Japanese guitar and a walking stick--well, a walking stick at first impression, but inside, she hides a razor sharp katana. Ichi may be blind, but she is also a skilled swordswoman. In her quest to find the man who helped bring her up, she comes across swindlers, rapists, gangsters who want to take advantage of her disability. Ichi fights back with her remarkable sword fighting skills. Sometime during her travels, she meets up with a cowardly, dishonored samurai named Touma (Takao Osawa, Aragami) who she ends up saving from angry gamblers affiliated with the Banki Gang. The pair unwittingly become entangled in a turf war between the Shirakawa and Banki clans battling for supremacy in a small inn town of Bitou. Ichi may find the answers she is looking for in the person of the leader (played by Shido Nakamura) of the Banki group of cutthroats--and the resolution of the conflict may reveal the fate of the man she is looking for.
"Ichi" is a film that is very commercial in its appeal. It has the charm to attract the younger generation as well as samurai aficionados, as well as electrify the male testosterone because of Haruka Ayase. This actress is beautiful, and although she barely wears any make up, and this role has wearing rags, her close ups are enough to add excitement and you can tell that she has a model-like statuesque figure. Ayase became well acclimated to the action genre after "Cyborg She" and she does have the presence that can grab attention.
The film may have the somewhat stereotypical themes of redemption, revenge and compassion as is quite familiar with jidai geki films, and I don't deny that the film has certain weaknesses in its premise. I don't mind stereotypical storylines, but film feels a little routine. Ichi was brought up by a Goze group of blind performers and she was exiled when she was sexually abused. The Goze faction of musicians are an odd lot, their rules are certainly fleshed out but I was left asking for the reasons as to why such rules would apply. Yes, "Ichi" does have a lot of emotions going for it, and her links to a certain blind swordsman does manage to entice our attention. The problem is, the film is filled with over-the-top characters that threatens to overshadow its tone. Director Sori is responsible for such anime hits such as "Vexille" and "Appleseed", and you can see the costume designs by our villains look very anime-inspired. Also, the bumbling samurai played by Takao Osawa has his interesting qualities, I can buy his reasons for not wanting to use his sword but this fact overstays its welcome as there were times in the last act that I almost screamed "Draw your sword, dammit!" Of course there is a developing romance between Touma and Ichi, but the film doesn't develop this too much.
Well, does "Ichi" deliver in its action sequences? Yes and no. Yes, the fights are very cool to watch and they are quite kinetic in its execution. There are also a very good number of them, Ichi is on display as she quickly dispatches her assailants with quick thrusts and stabs, complete with very nice posturing, "Ichi" provides great eye candy. There are also a significant use of slow motion to display Ayase's moves--this would normally bother me, but I am willing to forgive its use this time around. Director Sori also doesn't make Ayase's character seem too invincible, Ichi does have her female vulnerabilities, as skilled as she is, she is a woman and has her limits. Ichi has a strong advantage when she fights in the dark, but may have more of a handicap when there are some loud noises. As for why I also said no, well, the fights may look cool, but they were lacking some credible impact in its narrative. The script hampers the action sequences, because while it does attempt to carry emotion, it doesn't feel climactic. I guess the set ups were also too simple and they can be very routine.
The cinematography is quite gorgeous, and accompanied by a somber, moody score, the film does manage to impress me in the way it plays each scene. The film's color palette leans towards the tone of Earth colors as with most jidai geki films and the atmosphere does resemble a Kurosawan samurai film, with the wind blowing dirt meant to signify a finale. The set designs are also good, they are very similar to Kitamura's "Azumi". Director Sori brought along his buddies responsible for "Ping Pong", Shido Nakamura and Yosuke Kunozuka performed well, but it just felt like a step backward when compared to their previous film together.
Ultimately, "ICHI" won't be one unforgettable jidai geki film, but the film does have its charm and the action scenes are good enough for "hack and slash" feature. Plus, there is the absolutely stunning Haruka Ayase who is just so damn attractive who roams around feudal Japan, slicing and dicing her way to her quest. The film closes in a manner that leaves it open for a sequel. Despite the film's flaws, I found it quite entertaining. Don't expect a film very faithful to its roots but just be along for the ride. This "Zatoichi" re-imagining will not make a dent on the classic status of Shintaro Katsu's original but thankfully it is a good enough diversion.
Recommended! [3 ½ Stars]
Video/Audio: 1.78 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Nice clean transfer. The film is sharp with restrained colors, favorable to earth colors. The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is strong and powerful. The English Subtitles are good but sometimes they scroll too fast.
ICHI WITHOUT THE ZATO; GREAT, BUT . . .
Roy Clark | Edge of Toiyabe Nat'l Forest, NV | 03/03/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"That's a cryptic title up there, unless you've encountered the iconic blind-yakuza-masseuse-Robin-Hood-like movie series from Japan. About 28 movies, all brilliant Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman: Vols. 1-4. (All 28 are offered at Amazon; this link hits only four).
The trick of feminizing the concept is a good idea. The swordplay action and art direction are superb. This adaptation of the Zatoichi concept just isn't as well-written as the original. I'm guessing that the stressing of humor in ZATOICHI gives viewers 'permission' to believe the over-the-edge swordplay; this version has no humor as far as I remember.
I'm keeping ICHI in my collection though. The nuances are interesting, the gender-flip too. But lacking the willingness to believe the amazing swordplay are possible detract from the acceptance of the premise. No, it's not gender-bias; I 'believe' Laura Croft's fabulous skills. Zena's too. This lady is demure, almost frail and, well, sweet. Blind, too. Then too, the plot/scripting is to a degree loose and sentimental. But that's really a subjective call.
Yes, if you're a fan of samurai slicing, this is far-better than most; get ICHI and enjoy. But do try the original Ichi, Zato.
Breathtakingly beautiful, very moving, excellent lead actors
H. Reyes | Tarrytown, New York | 03/25/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just saw this movie last night on European television (ARTE), with French sub-titles. My knowledge of Japanese cinema is sadly limited to Akira Kurosawa, and I had never heard the story of the blind swordsman everyone else is referring to. So perhaps my few modest words are for those who, like me, discovered this "legendary tale" with the film Ichi.
The story is beautifully told, and beautifully filmed as well. You really feel, during the whole (almost) two hours, you are in a different world, and this sharpens the senses into catching every glance, movement, stare and of course every element of body language... Haruka Ayase is breathtakingly beautiful -- delicate and yet showing remarkable inner strength from the very beginning. Not to mention her fascinating ability with her blade. The "blackhearted" Banki leader is almost a caricature of villainy and his Phantom-of-the-Opera style adds to his dark nature, making the ending all the more gripping.
I heartily recommend this film, and can tell you I enjoyed every minute of it. The flashbacks are cunningly done and do not confuse the viewer as they sometimes tend to do. Ichi's resilience, so well portrayed by Haruka Ayase, shines throughout the film and her image will stay with all of you lucky enough to see this extraordinary film! I will certainly buy the DVD, when it comes hopefully with something more of a bonus than just the trailer."