The Tale of Zatocihi Continues (Zoku Zatoichi Monogatari) Review

Released in Japan just six months after the first film, the second Zatoichi film is almost certainly one for completists only. At 72 minutes The Tale of Zatoichi continues is also rather short and contained within is very little in the way of plot or character development.

Hired as a masseur to the Kuroda (or Kurata – translations seem to vary) House, Zatoichi discovers that the lord there is suffering from a mental illness. Rather than risk letting this information get out the samurai of the Kuroda House are dispatched to get rid of Zatoichi. This is, of course, not so simple.

Running alongside this plot line is a separate story of a man on the run from the law and we soon discover that this is actually Zatoichi’s brother, Yoshiro. Cue family revelations about dramatic events in the past, that we never witness but sound like they could have made for a good film, and a bloody showdown with all interested parties being bested by Zatoichi.

The action in this climactic battle is gripping and well executed in parts but Kazuo Mori’s direction is not particularly remarkable and the cinematography by Shozo Honda does little to frame the sequences in a way that makes them dynamic or interesting. The one surprising and impressive aspect is Katsu’s performance throughout these action scenes, which is nuanced and rather limber for someone who already seems a little out of shape.

The second Zatoichi is something of a disappointment following the rich character moments in the first film – alluded to here but never reached with scenes in which Zatoichi visits Hirate’s grave – and the swifter pacing and higher body count are not enough to make up for the rushed feeling that pervades the whole film. Fans of the Lone Wolf films may want to seek it out though, if only for the chance to see Katsu’s actual brother Tomisaburo Wakayama as his on screen brother.