Writer/Director: Minoru Inuzuka (4th film)/Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Summary: “On The Road” is a typical entry in the Zatoichi series. Ichi’s renown with a blade gets him into almost as much trouble as his skill relieves him of. There are constantly moving pieces in this one to keep up the intrigue and pacing, but overall the plot surrounds Ichi getting wrapped up in another Yakuza gang war. There’s a dying man pleading for help with his last breath, to assist a young woman in returning home to Edo. There’s Zatoichi needing to masseur for money and thereby getting, or confirming, pertinent information. There’s even the usual corrupt authority figures abusing their power in turn for money or power- all who are cut down by Zatoichi at one point or another. Curiously, however, there is no ronin challenger in this one.
My favorite part: The opening credits begin with a typical gambling scenario among the series. Zatoichi detects some cheating in a dice roll and flashes his cane sword in response to accusatory blades being drawn. With intimidation in mind, and for an advantage in the fight, he slices a candle in half and goes to town on the attacking gamblers. It’s a fun short vignette that plays with darkness and a slightly abstract style of showcasing Ichi’s lightning fast swordplay. Great way to open the film, but nothing else in the runtime can match this inventive imagery.
Why it’s great: This film is a slightly more complex variation on the staples of the series and the plot is playful with it’s machinations- however this isn’t one of the more potent entries in the series. It’s a perfectly fine addition to the series that retraces some well worn pathways.
Final Score: 3 Ryo