Just a quick heads up that if you head on over to Hulu you can now find the first 6 films in the Zatoichi lineage online and for free thanks to film preservation heroes, the Criterion Collection. Not familiar with the blind masseur who wanders ancient Japan hiding a deadly skillset? Let's have a quick rundown of Japan's fascination with the character, then. To Wikipedia!

  • The cinematic legend first came to life in 1962 in the film Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman.
  • There are 26 films in the original Zatoichi line, the last one appearing in 1989. It was never revealed what caused his blindness or how he became such a proficient swordsman.
  • Takasehi "Beat" Kitano directed and starred in a 2003 resurrection of the character (this was my first introduction) titled simply Zatoichi.
  • Takashi Miike (he of Audition fame) once directed a Zatoichi stage play.
  • A television series based on the character ended a two year run in the '70s with 112 episodes under its belt.
  • The 2008 film Ichi is a spiritual successor that hints its title character, this time a female blind swordsman, is the daughter of Zatoichi.
  • The 1990 Rutger Hauer flick Blind Furry is a loose Americanization with one awesome poster to boot.
That's a lot of blind swordsman going on. And now you too can see how the cultural obsession began by hopping over to Hulu. Big thanks to 24FramesPerSecond for the heads up.