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The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi Blu-ray Review

  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, Thai
  • Region: ABC
  • Discs: 1
  • Rating: R
  • Studio: Miramax
  • Blu-ray Disc Release Date: September 15, 2009
  • List Price: $39.99
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Purchase The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
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Overall

The Film
rating4
Video Quality

Audio Quality

Supplemental Materials

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

More Screen Captures (15 Total)

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG and thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film


Fans of Asian martial arts cinema will immediately recognize the character Zatoichi as the character of dozens of martial arts films and over a hundred television episodes. The blind traveling masseur and swordsman who uses his heightened sense of hearing to overcome master swordsmen across Japan was originally conceived as a minor character by Daiei Studios but went on to become a popular figure in Japanese entertainment.

Director Takeshi Kitano has crafted his own film based on the character. Directing and acting in the starring role, Kitano has in The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi created a film that is definitely heavier on style than it is on substance, but it is undeniably entertaining nonetheless. With comic undertones running throughout, the story take elements of Kurowsawa’s Seven Samurai and Yojimbo and adds a twist of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western style

Set in Japan’s Edo period, Zatoichi comes to a village overrun by bandits that are ruling with iron fists. Zatoichi allies with two geisha who are there looking to avenge their parents’ death against the leader of the bandits. He must also battle the bandit’s bodyguard, a ronin with lethal sword skills.

The story is not always cohesive, but the comedy helps lighten the atmosphere and smooth over the rough patches. Of course, Kitano’s visual flare is always aesthetically pleasing, even at its bloodiest moments. He never goes over-the-top with gore, but there is a fare amount of violence as to be expected in a samurai-type film.

The fight scenes are marvelously staged and brilliantly choreographed and the ending offers a twist that has to be seen. It ties together the lighthearted and comedic undercurrent of the film in a “gotchya” sort of way.

Video Quality

Zatoichi arrives on Blu-ray with its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio intact in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encoding from Miramax. The film’s slightly muted color palette and original grain structure are well preserved here, with strong details in both foreground and background shots. Blacks are solid and stable, and shadow detail delineation is very strong. Contrast is perfect with no sign of clipping. There are no compression artifacts or post-processing misdeeds evident in Zatoichi, making it a very solid release straight through.

Audio Quality

Unfortunately, Zatoichi only has an English dubbed version provided in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix with the original Japanese language track provided in Dolby Digital 5.1.  The English dub sounds good, with a wide soundstage, lots of ambience and atmospheric effects in the surround channels and ample amounts of low frequency extension. The original Japanese Dolby Digital track is mastered at a higher level, with the dialogue sounding more forward and high frequencies a little harsher. Despite how good the lossless mix may sound on this release, I have to mark this down for failure to provide the original language track in a lossless variety.

Supplemental Materials

The supplements on this disc will allow viewers to delve deep into the details of the production of Zatoichi.

The supplements available on this release are:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Special (1.33:1; 480i/60; 0.39.57)
  • Video Interviews (1.33:1, 480i/60):
    • Katsumi Yanagishima, Cinematographer (0:04.27) The cinematographer discusses his filming method and using silver retention to soften the color palette in Zatoichi.
    • Norihiro Isoda, Production Designer (0:05.41) — Isoda discusses building the entore period set from scratch for the filming of Zatoichi.
    • Kazuko Kurosawa, Costume Supervisor (0:07.00) — The costume design of Zatoichi.
    • Tatsumi Nikamoto, Master Swordsman (0:04.26) — Nikamoto discusses training the actors in swordplay.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

Miramax has come with another strong outing for this thoroughly engaging, well-acted and choreographed martial arts film on Blu-ray. Disappointing as it may be that the original Japanese language track is not provided in a lossless option, I’m confident that fans of this genre will not be disappointed with the overall quality of this presentation or this film.

Purchase The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
on Blu-ray from CD Universe

Shop with us for more Blu-ray 
titles at Amazon.com

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