Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guest Blogger: Sarah O.

Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman who Captured My Heart

Ok, so Zatoichi is not the best looking guy in the world. So what if he lost his sight and can’t see me? It’s what’s inside that matters anyway, right? His other senses are finely tuned; he gives a mean massage; he is a killing machine. What’s not to love?

Zatoichi is a fascinating and entertaining Japanese series featuring a swordsman, who was stripped of his title of samurai because he is now blind. This character is played delightfully well by Shinsaro Katsu. So, what does a man do when he can no longer make a living protecting the rulers of the realm? Become a masseur, of course. He plays this role to perfection – it allows him into the lives and homes of royalty, rogues, and geishas. It allows him to fight crime and injustice, since no one expects a disabled man to be the hero. Yet he is.

Zatoichi is kind of like America’s classic comic book heroes; compare him to the George Reeves Superman of the 1950’s. Zatoichi is both human and superhuman. In this respect, he is mystical – why can he defeat scores of samurais and criminals that have perfect sight and similar training? He wears a disguise, much like Clark Kent and Peter Parker, by acting ordinary, if not feeble. He plays up the fact that he walks bow-legged and with a cane (concealing his sword). He is abused by society, but yet he fights for the goodness of that society, and succeeds in the end. He lives like a pauper, but makes money from dice games and from giving the occasional massage. He seems to be quite good at it too.

There are 27 movies in all, and Mentor Public Library has five of them: New Tale of Zatoichi, Zatoichi on the Road, Zatoichi the Fugitive, The Tale of Zatoichi and The Tale of Zatoichi Continues. The series started in 1962 and ended in 1973. Zatoichi enjoyed television fame during this time, too. The success of the character is evident. He is endearing and universal. He is sympathetic and reliable.

The influence of these movies runs deep. Fans of Kung Fu will enjoy Zatoichi’s travelling lifestyle and sense of justice the movies impart. Fans of Kill Bill should also take notice. Quentin Tarantino might never have imagined this movie if not for these types of movies. Tarantino appears totally fresh because the fight scenes are so stylized, but Zatoichi is gritty; his moves look possible. Back in those days, flying through the air and jumping four stories up (with no running start) was only imagined in the written word. Zatoichi also does not have the amount of crazy thick spurting blood that Kill Bill does, which might come as welcome relief for some. The destruction Zatoichi leaves in his wake though, is as impressive as Kiddo’s, and he does it blindly.

This all being said…is it a wonder that he captured my heart? And the best thing about Zatoichi? My dad finally approves – he’s the one who introduced us.

If you like these movies, please let us know at: or 440-255-8811 ext. 216 – we’ll buy more!

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