Thursday, January 19, 2006

Zatoichi's Conspiracy (1973)

Unexpectedly strong finale to the long-running series features Zatoichi going back to his hometown in search of a place to rest for a while only to discover that with notoriety comes the sacrifice of any safe places. Continuing in the pessimistic vein of Zatoichi in Desperation, this is a stark and mournful entry that emphasizes Zatoichi's solitude by placing him on familiar ground so he may see how much he has lost via his way of life. He meets his sister in this episode, and his desire to finally be part of a family unit is contrasted with a group of young punks who take up with Ichi, having already formed their own quasi-family unit. For the first time in a long time with this series, we see genuine conflict stirred up as Ichi is forced to abandon the comforts he has attempted to buy into and move into action yet again, this time against an old friend who has ended up on the wrong side of morality. (The villain this time is not a Yakuza but a straight-up capitalist, which makes for a couple of interesting wrinkles.) The final battle offers more contrasts, as the tone shifts from moody to hyperviolent (there's that Lone Wolf and Cub influence peeking through again), and at the end Ichi is alone again... as he always will be.

Grade: B


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