ZATOICHI TV SERIES, VOL. 2: EPISODES 6-9
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 09/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As with many of the TV episodes of Zatoichi, this one is outstanding. Volume 2 in the series boasts three magnificent episodes. Moreover, episode #8: "An Unforgettable Flower," is worth giving this volume 5-stars alone. Plus we have the late Mikio Narita on episode #6: "Pouring Rain." His performance in the 12th Zatoichi film "Zatoichi and the Chess Expert," make for one pleasant viewing. The 12th film "Zatoichi and the Chess Expert," has always been amongst my favorite of the Zatoichi films. Plus episode #9: "The Two Zatoichi's," is great; and even though it borrows a little from the film Zatoichi #11: "Zatoichi and the Doomed Man," I actually like this shortened version even better. And I do like ALL of the film versions. That's how great these 2nd Television episodes really are. [Stars: 5+] The episodes are as follows:
#6: "POURING RAIN." This is a very good episode. The late Mikio Narita [he died in 1990], makes this an enjoyable episode to view. Karakkaze (Mikio Narita) entertains us once again, only this time on TV. I have always liked his role as Jumonji in ZATOICHI #12: "ZATOICHI AND THE CHESS EXPERT." And in fact rank it right up there with not only one of the greatest Zatoichi films of all-time, but one of the greatest Samurai films of all-time. The episode begins with a prostitute who follows Ichi around. There is a reason for this. What is her connection to Ichi? And why does she wish him ill will? The film also has a side story going on dealing with the selling of women into prostitution: All through the greedy hands of the yakuza bosses. Moreover, Ichi begins to follow the prostitute who does not like him around to find out why she harbors such hatred for him. Yet, when the women finds herself in trouble, it is Ichi who comes to the rescue. There is good action in this film and the usual Ichi humor. [Stars: 5]
#7: "A BIRD LANDS ON ICHI." Ichi is hired by a yakuza boss to kill a rival clans members for 10 ryo. However, the fight is interrupted by a stranger who tells both sides that the land that they are on is hunting grounds which belongs to the lord. When the boss whom Ichi is with orders this man killed, Ichi interferes and prevents this strangers death. Or does he? There is more to this stranger than meets the eye. Moreover, he is a ronin and has a unique fighting skill. Ichi has a falling out with this boss and gives back the money. This stranger is invited by Ichi to eat with him, and Ichi learns a little more about this man. The fight scenes [never bloody] are too silly--as this ronin does not like to kill. This is the weakest of ALL the Zatoichi TV or film episodes, but even ones such as this one that fall short are still worth the watch. A testament to just how great the TV series were. [Stars: 3]
#8: "AN UNFORGETTABLE FLOWER." In the opening Ichi saves a women attempting to kill herself. Right afterwards, however, a group of 6 yakuza thugs show up to drag her away: for she is in service as a prostitute to the yakuza boss. This does not last long though, as Ichi dispatches 5 of them, sparing one. This women does not want to continue doing what she has been forced to do--as she was sold to the yakuza. Moreover, this is a Zatoichi love story. And an outstanding one at that. There is beautiful cinematography in this episode as the scenery is outstanding, which adds to this great film of Ichi falling in love with this woman, and she with him. I really liked this episode a lot, as it shows Ichi in love with a women, and the great lengths he goes through to make his and her life a happy one. One sees Ichi happy for the first time in his life. He has finally found love. However, a third party is about to interfere with his plans--and this changes everything. As Ichi is wronged, he is going to make those responsible pay dearly. This film is really great. The narrative flows wonderfully and this episode has a great ending. [Stars: 5+++]
#9: "THE TWO ZATOICHI'S." This film has some terrific cinematography. This is a great episode--and the accompanying music is a delight to the ears. Now, this episode borrows slightly from Zatoichi #11: "Zatoichi and the Doomed Man." But only slightly. And even though I really like the film version, I like this TV version a lot more. Plus the twist in the TV version has been modified quite a bit. The characters in this episode give outstanding performances. Moreover, the comical elements thrown into this episode a great. Make no mistake, however, the comedy and action are both great. As with the film ZATOICHI #11, someone is impersonating Ichi. However, it is a friend from childhood who has no idea that Ichi is the real ZATOICHI. It has been 20 years since they last met, and Ichi does all he can in order for his friend to quit impersonating him. However, he never reveals that he is the real Zatoichi. His friend is doing this at the urging of a wicked women, who also happens to be a dice gambler, in order to steal money from the yakuza. His friend also happens to be blind just like Ichi. There is great intrigue and backstabbing in this episode that I do not wish to reveal and spoil for you, however, this is a really good episode. And when you see the interaction of the yakuza boss and the wicked woman who is deceiving everyone; you cant help but laugh out loud at the expression on the face of this yakuza and his tirade when he finds out the person he hired is not really Zatoichi. The ending of this episode is outstanding! A GREAT entry to the TV series. [Stars: 5+]"