Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

2 Seasons

The colossally popular Zatoichi films make up the longest-running action series in Japanese history and created one of the screen’s great heroes: an itinerant blind masseur who also happens to be a lightning-fast swordsman. As this iconic figure, the charismatic and earthy Shintaro Katsu became an instant superstar, lending a larger-than-life presence to the thrilling adventures of a man who lives staunchly by a code of honor and delivers justice in every town and village he enters. The films that feature him are variously pulse-pounding, hilarious, stirring, and completely off-the-wall.

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Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
  • The Tale of Zatoichi

    Episode 1

    Directed by Kenji Misumi • 1962 • Japan

    The epic saga of Zatoichi begins. As tensions mount between rival yakuza clans, one boss hires a formidable but ailing ronin as his clan’s muscle, while the other employs a humble, moral blind masseur named Ichi. With its lightning-fast swordpl...

  • The Tale of Zatoichi Continues

    Episode 2

    Directed by Kazuo Mori • 1962 • Japan

    THE TALE OF ZATOICHI proved so popular that a follow-up went into production the same year. Here, Zatoichi is hired to give a massage to a powerful political official who, he discovers, is mentally ill, a secret that the nobleman’s retinue is det...

  • New Tale of Zatoichi

    Episode 3

    Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka • 1963 • Japan

    Zatoichi is back, and in color! Hoping to leave violence behind, the blind masseur wanders to a village, where he meets an old friend fallen on hard times. With a corrupt clan leader squeezing citizens dry and the brother of a past nemesis out...

  • Zatoichi the Fugitive

    Episode 4

    Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka • 1963 • Japan

    Zatoichi triumphs at a village wrestling match, much to the chagrin of his yakuza opponents. The defeated gang members pay a hotheaded ronin to take out the masseur; unbeknownst to them, the hired assassin is married to a former flame of Zatoi...

  • Zatoichi on the Road

    Episode 5

    Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1963 • Japan

    The itinerant Zatoichi comes across a dying man, who begs the masseur to escort a young woman back to her family in Edo. The honorable swordsman agrees, but in so doing, he catapults himself between two warring yakuza clans, each with its o...

  • Zatoichi and the Chest of Gold

    Episode 6

    Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro • 1964 • Japan

    After arriving in a small village, Zatoichi finds himself accused of stealing the citizens’ hefty tax payments. To clear his name, he must face off against a corrupt official, a succession of hired blades, and a bullwhip-wielding titan, played...

  • Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword

    Episode 7

    Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro • 1964 • Japan

    The blind swordsman is shot and nursed back to health by kind strangers. He soon discovers that his saviors are caught between sparring crime lords; bound by honor, Zatoichi stays to ensure their safety. Along the way, we learn more about the ...

  • Fight, Zatoichi, Fight

    Episode 8

    Directed by Kenji Misumi • 1964 • Japan

    While on the road, Zatoichi befriends a young mother right before she is savagely murdered. Promising her that he will hand over her baby to its father, the blind masseur embarks on an adventure both sentimental and beset by perilous action. Th...

  • Adventures of Zatoichi

    Episode 9

    Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1964 • Japan

    The blind swordsman wanders into a town to celebrate the New Year. There, he befriends a young woman whose father has gone missing; as he tries to help her find him, he becomes entangled in a web of corruption and a series of tragic twists ...

  • Zatoichi’s Revenge

    Episode 10

    ZATOICHI #10
    Directed by Akira Inoue • 1965 • Japan

    Nearing the village of his sensei, Zatoichi decides to pay the teacher a visit, only to learn that he has been murdered and his daughter forced into prostitution. Ichi’s investigation into these injustices uncovers a corrupt alliance between go...

  • Zatoichi and the Doomed Man

    Episode 11

    ZATOICHI #11
    Directed by Kazuo Mori • 1965 • Japan

    An elderly prisoner accused of murder begs Zatoichi to find evidence of his innocence. The blind swordsman, for the first time, chooses not to help, but fate has other plans for him. Director Issei Mori, who played a significant role in getting ...

  • Zatoichi and the Chess Expert

    Episode 12

    ZATOICHI #12
    Directed by Kenji Misumi • 1965 • Japan

    Kenji Misumi, who directed the first installment of the ZATOICHI series, returns with this tale in which the blind swordsman once again finds himself the protector of a child: a little girl pursued by both devious family members and bloodthirs...

  • Zatoichi’s Vengeance

    Episode 13

    ZATOICHI #13
    Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka • 1966 • Japan

    Zatoichi encounters a dying man, who asks the itinerant masseur to deliver a bag of money to his young son; he agrees to fulfill the request, finding the boy in a village terrorized by criminals. This is the first entry to scrutinize the swor...

  • Zatoichi’s Pilgrimage

    Episode 14

    ZATOICHI #14
    Directed by Kazuo Ikehiro • 1966 • Japan

    Troubled by his violent past, Zatoichi begins a journey to a series of shrines for a dose of cleansing spirituality. But as always, trouble isn’t far behind, and the blind swordsman soon finds himself defending a widow from the self-interest ...

  • Zatoichi’s Cane Sword

    Episode 15

    ZATOICHI #15
    Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1967 • Japan

    Wearying of his wandering lifestyle, Zatoichi yearns to settle down; unfortunately, when he does so it’s in a town overrun by yakuza. He has an eye-opening encounter with the town’s blacksmith, who reveals himself to be the apprentice of t...

  • Zatoichi the Outlaw

    Episode 16

    ZATOICHI #16
    Directed by Satsuo Yamamoto • 1967 • Japan

    Zatoichi arrives in a town where a gambling house is kidnapping its poor, debt-ridden patrons. A rival establishment moves to pay those debts and free the peasants, but this second house’s seemingly altruistic boss is actually laying the gr...

  • Zatoichi Challenged

    Episode 17

    ZATOICHI #17
    Directed by Kenji Misumi • 1967 • Japan

    A dying woman begs Zatoichi to reunite her son with the father he has never met, but when the blind masseur searches for the man, he discovers that he has been forced by a local yakuza boss to pay off his gambling debts in an unusual way: by p...

  • Zatoichi and the Fugitives

    Episode 18

    ZATOICHI #18
    Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1968 • Japan

    The wandering swordsman finds himself in a small village that serves as hideout for a band of fugitives who control the town officials and enforce brutal slave labor in the local silk mill. This lean and mean entry is packed with coldheart...

  • Samaritan Zatoichi

    Episode 19

    ZATOICHI #19
    Directed by Kenji Misumi • 1968 • Japan

    Hired by a yakuza boss to eliminate an accused debtor, Zatoichi fulfills his task, only to witness the victim’s sister paying the owed amount minutes later. When the crime lord tries to possess the woman along with the cash, the blind swordsma...

  • Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo

    Episode 20

    ZATOICHI #20
    Directed by Kihachi Okamoto • 1970 • Japan

    After a two-year absence from screens, the blind swordsman returns in one of his best adventures. Zatoichi treks to a village that has always been a favorite spot of his, only to discover that it’s become a living hell, plagued by feuding f...

  • Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival

    Episode 21

    ZATOICHI #21
    Directed by Kenji Misumi • 1970 • Japan

    Cowritten by star Shintaro Katsu, this adventure pits Zatoichi against one of his most diabolical foes: a blind yakuza boss whose reign of terror and exploitation has made him nearly mythic. Guest starring the legendary Tatsuya Nakadai as a ro...

  • Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman

    Episode 22

    ZATOICHI #22
    Directed by Kimiyoshi Yasuda • 1971 • Japan

    It's East meets East when one of Japan’s action idols crosses paths with an iconic kung-fu hero from Hong Kong. While traveling the countryside, Zatoichi comes across Wang Kang (Jimmy Wang Yu), a Chinese swordsman protecting a brutally orp...

  • Zatoichi at Large

    Episode 23

    ZATOICHI #23
    Directed by Kazuo Mori • 1972 • Japan

    Zatoichi comes across a pregnant woman dying from sword wounds and helps deliver her baby. Her final request to him: take the boy to see his father. From here, the film evolves into one of the wilder rides in the ZATOICHI series, including such ...

  • Zatoichi in Desperation

    Episode 24

    ZATOICHI #24
    Directed by Shintaro Katsu • 1972 • Japan

    Star Shintaro Katsu sits in the director’s chair for this psychedelic and unremittingly bleak entry in the Zatoichi series, which is unlike any other in its grind-house grimness. A tale of innocence corrupted by sadistic, sleazy criminality,...