The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962)
Directed by Kazuo Mori

The Tale of Zatoichi Continues
Zoku Zatoichi monogatari
Starring Shintaro Katsu (Ichi), Tomisaburo Wakayama (Yoshiro), Masayo Banri (Tane), Eijiro Yanagi (Sukegoro), Yaeko Mizutani (Setsu), Sonosuke Sawamura (Kanbei), Shosaku Sugiyama (Tamigoro), Tamiemon Arashi (Yoshida), Yoshito Yamaji (Yahei), Fujio Harumoto (Lord Kuroda), Koichi Mizuhara (Kanzo), Saburo Date (Mirosuke), Shintaro Nanjo (Shiraishi), Shozo Nanbu (Kashiya)

Daiei Studios, 72 minutes
B&W, 2.35:1 scope ratio
English-subtitled DVD and Blu-ray: Criterion

In this first sequel for the blind swordsman, Ichi gets himself in trouble after he learns a noble family's closely guarded secret. When he's hired to massage Lord Kuroda, Ichi discovers the man has the mental capacity of a young child, which his vassals have concealed from public knowledge to preserve the clan's reputation. Kuroda's men hunt Ichi down to keep him quiet, though as he notes he would have happily protected their secret if they'd just asked instead of trying to kill him. During the pursuit, Ichi makes his way back to the grave of Miki Harate to pay his respects one year after killing his tubercular swordman friend, just as he promised to at the end of the first film. But other specters from Ichi's past will also catch up with him in this episode.

Mystery Ronin: Shintaro Katsu's real-life brother Tomisaburo Wakayama appears as one of the all-time definitive mystery ronin adversaries, fittingly playing the role of Ichi's estranged brother Yoshiro. The soap-opera backstory is that Ichi and Yoshiro were once in love with the same woman and things got really nasty between them. So nasty that Ichi chopped off Yoshiro's arm. The one-armed brother is a fugitive yakuza on the run when he crosses paths with Ichi once again, and it's not a happy family reunion.

Ichi's Lady Friends: Ichi enjoys the company of two lovely ladies this time around. In the James Bond manner, one's the bad girl and one's the good girl. Setsu is a kind-hearted prostitute who looks just like Chiyo, the woman Ichi and Yoshiro once fought over (and she smells like Chiyo too, according to Ichi). After Ichi and Setsu take a fancy for one another, Ichi accepts her offer to spend the night together. It's one of the few times we see Ichi have a one-night stand, maybe because this early in the series he hadn't yet developed his moral code against whoring and casual sex. His second lady friend is this movie is more significant: Tane from the previous film returns, making a remarkable string of appearances that continues in Zatoichi the Fugitive.

Ichi's Amazing Feats: There's not much in the way of crazy stunts in this installment. There's one scene early on when a gang of yakuza roughnecks toss Ichi out of a ferry, and as he's falling overboard Ichi draws his sword and slashes one yakuza across the face. It happens so fast that the assailant doesn't even realize he's been cut. Later Ichi grabs a dragonfly out of the air and releases it unharmed.

Ichi Loves Kids: The young priest from the first movie returns, helping out Ichi with some valuable information.

Dice Game: This is one of the rare Zatoichi movies with no gambling scene whatsoever.

The Tale of Zatoichi Continues is the shortest of all the Zatoichi films, clocking in at a brisk 72 minutes. Yet it tells a satisfyingly full and complex story, capped off by an intense climactic duel between the two brothers. The genuine fraternal rivalry between Katsu and Wakayama makes them dynamite together, and lucky for us, Wakayama returns to play another mystery ronin in Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold.

The Zatoichi Series • Next: New Tale of Zatoichi

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