Zatoichi the Fugitive

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Zatoichi the Fugitive
Directed by Tokuzo Tanaka
Produced by Masaichi Nagata
Written by Minduru Inuzuka
Seiji Hoshikawa
Starring Shintaro Katsu
Miwa Takada
Sachiko Murase
Music by Akira Ifukube
Cinematography Chishi Makiura
Release date
August 10, 1963
Running time
86 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Zatoichi: The Fugitive (座頭市兇状旅 or 'Kyōjō tabi') is a 1963 Japanese Chambara film directed by Tokuzo Tanaka starring Shintaro Katsu as the blind masseur Zatoichi, originally released by the Daiei Motion Picture Company (now known as Kadokawa Pictures). Zatoichi: The Fugitive is the fourth episode in the 26 part film series devoted to the character of Zatoichi.


Ichi (which is the main character's name, Zato being the lowest rank in the Todoza) is attacked by a young yakuza man he has never met. The man is despatched and tells Ichi that he did it to get ten ryo reward for his mother. Ichi travels to the mother's town and enters a local wrestling match and defeats several sighted opponents. While Maki, the young man's mother, accepts Ichi as honorable for confessing to the death, the opponents, part of a local Yakuza gang, seek to reclaim their honor by claiming Ichi's life.

Meanwhile, Ichi stays at an inn in the town and comes across a woman he carried passionate feelings for, and possibly still does, by the name of Otane (whom Ichi affectionately calls Tane). Tane is not married to a carpenter, as she planned when last seen in a film, but to a quick tempered ronin named Tanakura. She tells Ichi that she and her husband have done many bad things. The inn keeper's adopted daughter Nobu is in love with the young inheritor of the banker position for the local yakuza but her father does not approve of him. An older yakuza man sees the inheritor as weak and wishes to move in on the territory and demands that Ichi be killed or the inheritor will lose his position.

In front of the yakuza leaders during their celebration which Ichi interrupts Tanakura, displaying his prowess but also as an act of showing Tane belonging to him, cuts Ichi's tea cup in half. In response, Ichi cuts a sake bottle in half while it is still being held.Tanakura admits defeat and establishes himself as Ichi's "rival" in this film[1] because of his act.

The inheritor tells Ichi that the yakuza have taken Tane hostage. He rushes to the burnt out inn where Nobu had been found as a child and sees that Tane is safe and well. The yakuza surround the inn and attack, one using a rifle, with the inheritor and Nobu and Ichi still inside. Tane goes outside and pleads with her husband not to attack, that she loves him and that she wants him to stay alive which will not happen if he faces Ichi. However, Tanakura is determined to claim the now 300 ryo bounty on Ichi's head and to despatch this rival to his wife's affections. Tane mistakenly partly draws his sword and he kills her instantly. Nobu sees this and tells Ichi. The news sends Ichi into a rage, he bursts outside, slaughters most of the several dozen yakuza then faces Tanakura in what is one of the most critically revered duels in the Zatoichi series.[2][3] Ichi's sword is broken but he stabs Tanakura with a dagger hidden in the sword's handle. As he dies Tanakura says that Ichi did not know Tane but only had a romanticised image of her, that the ambush was actually her idea to get the reward.

The film concludes with Maki wishing that Ichi was her son, Ichi calling her mother and Ichi placing Nobu's hand in the hand of the young yakuza banker before he again wanders away alone.




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