Zatoichi the Fugitive (1963)

zatoichi the fugitive poster 1963 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10
Movie Info

Movie Name: Zatoichi the Fugitive

Studio:  Daiei Studios

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Martial Arts

Release Date(s): August 10, 1963 (Japan)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

zatoichi the fugitive sumo wrestling shintaro katsu

That’s just cold Zatoichi…now you’re humiliating sumo wrestlers too

Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu) continues on his path but finds himself the target.  Someone has put a price on Ichi’s head and Ichi must find out who and why.  When he is reunited with Otane (Masayo Banri), he learns Otane’s life has not developed as she plans.  Now Ichi finds he might be entering a trap and the reasons will shock him.

Directed by Tokuzō Tanaka, Zatoichi the Fugitive (座頭市兇状旅 or Zatōichi Kyōjō tabi) is a Japanese Chambara samurai film.  Following The New Tale of Zatoichi also released in 1963, it is the fourth entry in the long running Blind Swordsman series.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film in its Zatoichi:  The Blind Swordsman box set (Criterion #679).

I like samurai film, but hadn’t seen any of the Zatoichi films (that I know of) until I bought the box set.  As individual films, the Zatoichi movies are so-so, but watching the films in their natural development arc is more interesting.

zatoichi the fugitive ending battle shintaro katsu

Could we move to land before we start fighting again?

The movies essentially have to have a self-contained story and hopefully adds a bit to Zatoichi’s past along the way.  Like many samurai films, there is a lot of questions of honor.  Zatoichi feels a debt to his attempted assassin Kisuke and his mother…leading to an odd bond.  In addition to this entry has the return of Otan who appeared in the first two films and was painted as a potential romance for Ichi in the movies…but Otan proves to not continue on a love interest following this film.

Shintaro Katsu has settled in as Ichi.  He is the star of the series and generally he is paired with a rival, and Jutaro Hojo who is married to the Otane character (he actually wounds Ichi in a one-on-one fight which is meant to be shocking and show his skill).  Masayo Banri returns in this film to reprise her role as Otane and is fine in her turn, but doesn’t stand out.

zatoichi the fugitive vs jutaro hojo

Come at me, bro!

The movie looks good like most of the film.  The previous film was the first entry in color and the film (like a lot of samurai films) relishes the bright colors of day and cool colors of night.  The whole last sequence throw down is a lot of fun.  Opposed to some samurai films from the period, the Zatoichi films aren’t as bloody or gory (which is plus or minus depending on the style of film you prefer).

If you like the Zatoichi films, Zatoichi the Fugitive continues a strong and solid line of films.  It isn’t the most explosive or expansive film, but it feels more like a TV series with really long episodes…which isn’t a bad thing.  Zatoichi continues his trek and you’d be wise to follow it.  Zatoichi the Fugitive was followed by Zatoichi on the Road also in 1963.

Preceded By:

The New Tale of Zatoichi (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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