An orphan boy and forbidden pottery
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 08/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Poor old Zatoichi picked the wrong room for the night. Staying at an inn, he is forced to share a room with a sick woman and her son. Within minutes, the woman dies in Zatoichi's arms, and begs him to take the boy to his father, and artist named Shokichi. And the journey begins.
"Zatoichi Challenged" ("Zatoichi chikemuri kaido" or "Zatoichi's Spurting Blood Road") is a complex story, with many mini-stories within the quest for Shokichi. Along the way, the two meet a Kabuki troupe who find themselves in the middle of a contest between two rival bosses. A strange and powerful Samurai seems to cross Ichi's path at many random points. Leaving the Kabuki troupe, Ichi and the boy find Shokichi, but then discover a spiderweb of corruption and intrigue, as Shokichi is forced to design illegal pornographic pottery that is sold at a high price to collection lords. The identity of the mystery Samurai is revealed. A showdown is inevitable.
The dual-natured story of "Zatoichi Challenged" is unusual, but interesting. The connecting thread is the growing affection between Zatoichi and the boy, an affection that must eventually be severed. As Zatoichi knows, he is no fit father figure, and the boy's real family must be found and protected.
There is a great final duel between Zatoichi and the mystery Samurai, even more impressive that the usual movie-ending slaughter as Ichi destroys 30-40 mooks at a go. The mystery Samurai is powerful, honorable, and perhaps more skilled than the blind masseur himself. It is really up in the air as to who will win, and the the consequences will be."
#17: THE FORBIDDEN ART
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 09/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Entry #17 of the Zatoichi series is very unique. First of all, this is an extremely good Zatoichi episode, with a much different ending than many of the others. In the film, Zatoichi enters an inn to stay the night, but must share it with a sick woman and her young son. During the night the sick woman dies. However, before she dies she begs Zatoichi to take the boy to his father Shokichi [Takao Ito]. Along the way Zatoichi becomes very attached to the young boy: but as his way of life is not safe for this young boy he knows that he must part ways with him. Therefore, it is importatnt that he find the father. The young boys only link in the world now that the mother is dead.
Along the way, Zatoichi comes across a mysterious and unknown samurai [Jushiro Konoe]. This samurai shadows Zatoichi along the way. Who is he? What does he want? Well, apparently the boys father is in the pornography business. Tame by any means, but forbidden by law under penalty of death. However, Shokichi--a talented artist, is not doing this of his own bidding, he is being forced to do this artwork on pottery by an evil warlord. And as for the mystery samurai? Well, he is a government official. And more importantly he has the official sanction of the state to enforce the law, which means carrying out the death sentence.
Therefore Zatoichi must comply with the laws of the land. He must turn over Shokichi. Or will he? Moreover, this mystery samurai is no slouch with the sword. He is an expert swordsman as good--if not better than Zatoichi. Plus the samurai is honorable and carries himself with dignity. The mystery samurai has his orders and must carry them out--under no exception. But Zatoichi, being who he is by nature, defender of the weak and oppressed, will he allow the samurai to do this? Knowing that Shokichi is being forced against his will to make this art, will Ichi allow this execution to proceed? The conclusion of the episode is most unusual and I do not wish to spoil it by telling you, however, this episode is definetly different than his other "wipe up the town" endings. There is an unusual ending with this samurai. A VERY DIFFERENT kind of ending. Highly recommened."