I guess you can refer to “Ichi” as part of the official Zatoichi canon since the story of Ichi is one the reflects the effect Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman had on the people of Japan during his travels. Though not a remake or a reboot of the Zatoichi series, “Ichi” is an unofficial spin off that takes from the film series and creates its own branch off of an epic story about a beautiful young Goze who is taking a journey to find her savior before finally lying down to die. Haruka Ayase is incredibly beautiful and fierce as the Goze Ichi who spends most of her life wandering around from village to village trying to survive one more day while on a search for something in her life that’s kept her motivated to fight ever since she was a child.
Even though “Azumi” was clearly adapted from a quite visual fantasy comic book, that doesn’t mean it lacks any of the emotion or complexities it attempts to inject within its epic scale. “Azumi” is quite possibly one of the most visually amazing samurai epics I’ve ever seen. From sweeping landscapes, to rather fantastic battle sequences, Kitamura’s film is a pure gem to watch, and the long run time makes it all the more rewarding experience, because it will be difficult to turn away from and watch end. Filled with colorful characters, memorable villains (Saru is my favorite: played well by Minoru Matsumoto), and a wonderful heroine, “Azumi” is the tale of a young girl discovered by the side of her mother’s body. Taken in by a sympathetic wanderer and his three sons, she grows to be a powerful samurai warrior in a dojo led by her master.
This is Tarantino’s fourth film after a self imposed hiatus in filmmaking. Originally set to be one whole film, the studios made him split his long story into two films, possibly for franchising opportunities, but who knows? I watched “Kill Bill” with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child looking onto his first action film, and Tarantino’s first attempt at the action genre, and I was stunned. The “Kill Bill” franchise has become a hit, commercially, critically, and with Tarantino’s fiercely devoted fan base, who have stuck by the prolific director. Tarantino manages to set yet another precedent with “Kill Bill” which is simply a brilliant movie. I admit, I’m not a fan of Tarantino’s, he makes brilliant work and “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” are excellent, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. “Kill Bill Vol. 1” has me re-considering my thoughts, though.
This is the same old revenge flick we’ve seen in every Japanese martial arts film, and western, and Tarantino knows that, and that’s his mission, to make a film of his very own, his very own revenge flick paying tribute to his favorite films, his very own film that resembles a Japanese exploitation saga right down to the theme music, which is beautiful from funkadelic soul, to Japanese pop, to the theme song of “The Green Hornet” that really had me high. This movie is not only a thrill to watch but is also a good game you can play called “spot the reference”. There are dozens of movie references here, and hell, it could make a good drinking game. For every movie reference you spot you take a shot.
This elegant love letter to the samurai and to the old world Japanese culture takes place in the late 1800’s, the civil war era, an ex-confederate soldier Captain Nathan Algren, a drunken has been is tortured by his past after being forced to slaughter an Indian village during Custer’s last stand is now a has been who advertises guns for the Winchester company until he’s approached by friend Zebulon Grant played very poignantly by Billy Connolly who makes an offer to Algren to re-claim his respect as a soldier and take a job from the Japanese government to modernize their army to fight against the rebels, an army of Samurai’s, a dying breed from the old world, who are being led by a mysterious leader known as Katsumoto.