Film Review: “Ichi”…It compels you, it draws you to it

A Look Back: “Ichi” (2008)
Ichi-japanese-film-review-1English: …..Still Ichi
Studio: Shochiku
Distributor[s]: Warner Bros. Japan and Funimation

Review by: Ifakoya English

When your movie has the ability to make me smile just by looking at the poster. You’ve done something right.

This film is a little gem, especially to those fans of the Zatoichi films or just Chambara [Samurai Cinema] films in general. I myself, being a huge fan, did in fact squeal when I saw this film. Now, I admit that this film, and the Zatoichi films in general required the strict ability to look past the fact that the concept is pretty much impossible.

I was quickly able to look past that because the premise, no matter how impossible, is bad-ass. Blind samurai basically demolishing anything in their path? Come on. How would that not be one of the greatest concepts ever? It’s like dragons with laser cannons, it sounds ridiculous, yet so awesome that you can’t simply ignore it. It compels you, it draws you to it.

This film is like that, only with samurai and blind people.

Anyway….This movie centers around the adventure of a Goze [A blind woman] named Ichi who is traveling around Japan looking for her mentor who is ACTUALLY Zatoichi. Ichi was actually taught by Zatoichi which explains why she is so damn awesome. The big man himself taught her how to be awesome and boy did she learn it well. Not only did she grow up to be a rather fantastic musician, but she grew up to be a beauty. [Seriously the actress Ayase Haruka is….SO BEAUTIFUL it hurts! She’s also extremely talented.] Ichi is pretty much like a tornado…made of swords. She basically cuts down anything in her path, and anything in her path is basically cut down within seconds…which is what I think an actual tornado made of blades would do. I hope. Amidst her travels she comes across traveling samurai Toma Fujihira [Played by Takako Osawa who is really good looking…so that also hurts.] who “saves” her from some bandits. Toma is not quite a sword tornado, more like razor blade tumbleweed. Their meeting however marks the beginning of a beautiful story…unless you’ve watched the other Zatoichi films, because then you’ll ask yourself how long until tragedy strikes.

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[Shhhhhhhh! It’s speaking to me…]

The storyline, unfortunately, is pretty predictable and basic. Does that make it bad? No. Every story is basic at this point so at times they need to be spiced up, and Ichi does its job well. The characters and its little iterations make this simple revenge film a joy to watch, as do the homage’s to the other Zatoichi films. The template is there, but Ichi has built upon it enough to at least warrant your interest. The actors give great performances and you can feel the emotion their characters portray, which admittedly is usually pissed off or bored. The two main characters provide a great contrast to each other as one is actually a pretty cheerful and provides the optimism while the other one is quiet and sullen. The contrast isn’t jarring however as you learn that each of the characters have reasons for how they act, and display the ability to change and complement each other.   The combat itself is very entertaining and is worth the time alone. Yes, you are often watching a blind woman take on groups of people with little effort, but that is the fun of fiction. Even the villains, while I can’t take them seriously because my puny brain can’t register any villains who look as stupid as they do, even if it is accurate. I can’t let some things go but…

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[The most hardcore villains ever..]

Yeah…they would kill me, no doubt, but they would kill me while I’m laughing.

Now, the bad thing about this film? Yeah it’s predictable. It is especially predictable if you have watched more than one of these films in the Zatoichi line, or just samurai films in general. It can diminish your enjoyment quite a bit, but I’m biased so Samurai Films get special exceptions being that it’s hard to deviate from a formula that just…works. It’s not like we need aliens to appear in every film. We already got that in AVN. There aren’t really many negatives to this film.

If you haven’t seen it, see it. If you have, then see it again and marvel and then go watch the rest of the Zatoichi films. It’s worth it.

ICHI: The Movie


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