The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (Zoku Zatoichi Monogatari) was the sequel to Daiei's hugely successful first instalment in the Zatoichi series. Zatoichi is depicted as the wandering swordsman, but this episode uses many of the characters and locations that were present in The Tale of Zatoichi.
Obviously the lead is played once again by the superb Shintaro Katsu, but repeat appearances are also given to Masayo Banre (Tane) and Eijiro Yanagi (Sukegoro). This film sees Katsu's real life brother, Kenzaburo Joh play Zatoichi's one-armed brother Yoshiro. Missing from the original is the capable directing of Kenji Misumi, and Kazuo Mori takes the helm instead.
Ichi enjoys the brothel
Ichi rests (above) and fights (below)
The opening scene places Zatoichi on a boat with a group of Samurai, who decide to hunt down Ichi after he slashes one of them. Within a few moments there is a heated band of Samurai demanding revenge, but a mysterious one-armed swordsman Yoshiro (Kenzaburo Joh) steps in and maims many of the swordsmen. Ichi's problems really begin when he is recruited to massage the lord at the House of Kuroda. The lord has a 'condition' (he seems insane), and they decide that Zatoichi must be killed so this secret cannot spread. Boss Kanbei is hired to kill Zatoichi, and he discovers that Ichi is on his way to Joshoji Temple to pay his respects to Hirate Miki exactly one year after killing him.
Yoshiro is also in trouble as he is a wanted gangster, and Sukegoro (whom
Ichi stayed with for 10 days in the original) expels Yoshiro from his
residence. He then follows him with an armed guard in order to capture
him. The finale involves Ichi fighting with Kanbei's men at the same bridge
where he fought Hirate one year earlier. Zatoichi slaughters all of Kanbei's
men and before he can finish off Boss Kanbei, Yoshiro steps in to fight
his brother. Both have a deadly grudge to bear against each other. Yoshiro
stoles Ichi's love, Chiyo, away from him and Ichi crippled Yoshiro. Both
are badly injured in the duel but manage to escape Sukegoro's men by jumping
in the river. Yoshiro's wounds are lethal but Ichi survives and exacts
his revenge on Boss Sukegoro.
Yoshiro makes an appearance
So much is the same and yet so much is different from the superb first adventure of the wandering swordsman. Beyond the cast and locations that are re-used, the directing holds true to the original. Mori's directing is patient and helps portray the dark and dangerous world of the wandering swordsman. Furthermore, Ichi fights with the same grace and deadly speed that make him such a compelling martial artist. However, this film reveals a darker side to Zatoichi. After rejecting the advances Tane at the end of the last episode, Ichi is quite happy to drink and debauch with a whore at the beginning of this film. We also learn that Ichi is motivated by a thirst for revenge, for the person who took Chiyo away from him.
Ichi's dosu sparkles in the heat of battle
Zatoichi also recounts his pain at losing Hirate when he revisits the spot where they went fishing. He remembers Hirate as the friend he spent his life looking for, and regrets having to kill him over a meaningless Yakuza turf war. The biggest distinction between this film and its predecessor is the increased level of action in this film. From the beginning to the end Ichi is slaughtering inferior Samurai cannon fodder with his dosu. At one point Ichi defeats over twenty of Kanbei's men, but the monumental fight is Ichi against his brother Yoshiro who eventually manage to put aside their differences after their brutal duel.
Once again this is a superb disc from Home Vision Entertainment. It was initially released as Zoku Zatoichi Monogatari in Japan and The Return of Masseur Ichi in the West. As with the earlier disc, this is also in black and white. It is once again a superb letterboxed widescreen print with re-mastered subtitles. This disc comes with a picture gallery, some more collecting cards and another Foreword by Tatsu Aoki. The presentation of the disc is also as stylish as the previous disc. .
This is unfortunately inferior to the original Zatoichi outing, but this probably says more about the outstanding merits of the original, than the shortcomings of the sequel. This will certainly please fans eager to catch more of Ichi's 'lai' technique with the cane sword, but it will probably disappoint fans that enjoyed the tension and suspense of the original. The ending seems a bit rushed after Ichi kills Boss Sukegoro, but this could be to provide a cliff-hanger for another sequel. This film is certainly not a disappointment, but what this film is lacking is another ten minutes spent with Ichi the noble and thoughtful masseur, to go alongside Ichi the deadly warrior.
Sukejoro is united with Ichi
Ichi and Yoshiro exchange blows
Brothers in arms