"Zatoichi: Vol. 2: The Tale of Zatoichi Continues"
The second installment of ZATOICHI picks up a year after the first one left off. In fact, one of the things I'm beginning to like about these films is the careful attention paid to the continuity between stories. So, while it's not really essential to see them all in order, since they all end up the same anyway, it certainly adds some nice nuances to be familiar with the characters and back storyI wasn't kidding when I said they all end the same way. In fact, the stories all have the same general elements to them so far.
1)Zatoichi wanders into a village 2)He inadvertently does something to piss off the local Yakuza, who are then out for his blood. 3)There is a fifty/fifty chance that the main bad guy is an old nemesis, or the relative of an old nemesis looking for revenge. 4)At least one woman professes her love for him; her advances are gently rebuffed because he is not good enough for them, or is still in love with someone else, or because being with him would put them in danger 5)Big-ass fight at the end (and sometimes in the middle as well).
This time the village he wanders into is the same one he left in the last film. The local Yakuza are still pissed off at him, but that won't deter him from visiting the grave of Kanbei, the friend and noble samurai whom he was forced to kill in a duel at the previous film's conclusion. He runs across old flame Otane (Masayo Mari), who is now engaged to marry a carpenter, but still pines for him (no pun intended). He also takes up briefly with a lady of the evening who reminds him of his greatest lost love - a woman who ran off and left him for another man when he became blind.
Meanwhile, he continues to cross paths with an old nemesis, a Ronin turned highwayman named Yoshiro (The great Wakayama Tomisaburo). As the tension between them builds, and some surprising facts about their past are revealed, the final showdown between them is not just inevitable, but mandatory.
Lone Wolf and Cub fans will be happy to see Wakayma in this installment, looking fifteen years younger and at least thirty pounds lighter. Although he doesn't do all the fancy sword tricks he later became famous for in the LW&C series, he nevertheless manages to sneak a fancy move in here and there, such as an elaborate twirl of the Katana before re-sheathing - just a little something extra to remind folks who the bad motherfucker in the room really is. The final duel is exciting, and his final scenes with Zatoichi (real-life brother Shintaro Katsu) are both amusing and touching.This is the last film of the series shot in black and white, and the production values seem to increase slightly with each installment. The sword choreography becomes a bit more elaborate as well. Samurai fans will continue to be pleased.