The New Tale of Zatoichi (1963)

new tale of zatoichi poster 1963 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Consistent and solid

Could grow tiring after multiple movies

Movie Info

Movie Name: The New Tale of Zatoichi

Studio: Daiei Studios

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Martial Arts

Release Date(s): March 15, 1963

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

new tale of zatoichi shintaro katsu mikiko tsubouchi

All the girls want Ichi

The legend of Zatoichi (Shinaro Katsu) seems to follow him.  Hunted by those he’s wronged, Zatoichi is seeking peace.  When he is reunited with his old master Banno (Seizaburō Kawazu), Zatoichi finds that Banno’s honor might be threatened by ties to the Tengu gang.  Banno’s sister Yayoi (Fujio Suga) does not wish to marry for money and finds herself drawn to Zatoichi from their previous feelings for each other…can Zatoichi give up the sword and find happiness?

Directed by Tokuzō Tanaka, The New Tale of Zatoichi (新・座頭市物語 or Shin Zatoichi monogatari) is a Japanese samurai film.  The third in the series, the movie follows The Tale of Zatoichi Continues from 1962 and is the first film in the series in color.  The Criterion Collection released the film as part of the Zatoichi:  The Blind Swordsman boxset (Criterion #679).

The Zatoichi series is a bit odd in that it is so immense…and living in present day, you know once you watch one Zatoichi movie, you still have a lot more to see.  This creates an almost TV like viewing of the series, but instead of episodes, you have entire movies that can be “blown off” if you aren’t a big fan of the story in one.

new tale of zatoichi shintaro katsu begging

Dang, I have to beg because of my girl

Like many samurai stories, the stories in Zatoichi often circle around honor and this entry is no different in that sense.  Zatoichi has lost his honor (despite being an amazing swordsman) and wanders the countryside hunted by those he has wronged.  Banno was honorable, but is also in the process of losing his honor due to his financial aspects.  His sister’s honor is tied to her brother’s honor and as a result is being dragged down with him…but she still outranks Zatoichi who has no honor or money.  The most honorable person in the story is probably Yasuhiko (played by Fujio Suga) who is trying to honor his brother by slaying Zatoichi (who Zatoichi killed in the previous film), but chooses to spare Zatoichi who has vowed to give up being a samurai to be with Yayoi.  Zatoichi breaks his vow again at the end of the film…but it is for honor.

While I found Shintaro Katsu hard to get a handle on at the beginning of the series.  By the third entry, Katsu’s performance of Zatoichi is smoothing out and as a viewer, you are getting used to it.  The series continues to introduce people you think could be interesting additions in long terms like Banno played by Seizaburō Kawazu or Fujio Suga’s Yasuhiko…but instead they are killed.  I do still have hope that Mikiko Tsubouchi could come back as Yayoi in a future entry since it feels that the characters have unresolved issues.

new tale of zatoichi vs master shintaro katsu seizaburo kawazu

You ruined my money deal and you’re trying to hook up with my sister…thanks

For the amount of movies in the series, the films look quite good.  They aren’t as stylish as an Akira Kurosawa film, but they are still high quality and have the right atmosphere for the story.  With the rate they begin pumping them out, it is amazing that they have the high standards.

Three movies into Zatoichi, the series is still fresh and fun.  I don’t know if I’ll have tired of Zatoichi near the end of the twenty-six movie run or if I’ll continue to find the story interesting and compelling…which I can imagine as the filmmakers is the biggest challenge.  The New Tale of Zatoichi was followed by Zatoichi the Fugitive also released in 1963.

Preceded By:

The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962)

Followed By:

Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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