The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi Movie Poster Image
This non-traditional samurai movie isn't for kids.
  • R
  • 2004
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Strong female and blind characters.


Extreme and graphic violence, death of parents, suicide portrayed as honorable.


Cross-dressing character, prostitution, child molestation (off-screen).


Brief strong language.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that many people die in this movie and never by natural causes. Characters are harassed, beaten, and killed, which in turn motivates more deaths. Children are orphaned by thieves, leaving them to fend for themselves through servitude and then prostitution. Addiction to gambling threatens the livelihood of one character, while the lives of all characters are threatened by the gangsters that rule the town. One character commits suicide to prevent a loved one from having to act dishonorably. A male character prefers to dress as a woman.

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byellie April 9, 2008

great movie

this movie's great for fans of Kill Bill or Quentin Terantino. seriously, it's pretty cool. the blood isn't all that realistic really, and the... Continue reading

What's the story?

Introduced in the early 1960s, Zatoichi is now an archetypal character in Japanese film, inspiring dozens of films and numerous television shows. Ichi is a blind masseuse ambling from town to town until some injustice or threat cause him to reveal his incomparable swordplay and samurai-styled sense of honor. This time around, Ichi (Takeshi Kitano) wanders into a village under siege by rival gangs, just as a talented, young ronin and two justice-seeking geishas tip the balance of one gang's power and paranoia. The result is bloody, with skirmish after skirmish leading to the final fights, when the formerly ambivalent Ichi is drawn into the fray.

Is it any good?

Takeshi Kitano, both as director and actor in the character of Ichi, seems to be blending more modern influences with the older themes. While revenge is the common driver of most movies in this style, it is rare that a director will dwell on the psychological impact of the violence that inspires the revenge. In this case, a young boy is driven to prostitute himself (implicit, off-screen) to provide for himself and his sister when their parents are killed by gangsters.

The movie's pervasive blood gushing is done with computer animation, which lends a strangely toned hue to the many fight scenes. While Kitano's first period piece is far from traditional, fans of the samurai swordplay genre will welcome his style.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of a character like Ichi, whose inability to see makes him a symbol of justice and of power cloaked in a facade of powerlessness. What might explain the enduring popularity of this character?

Movie details

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