One of the major differences in this Zatocihi episode from previous ones is that the "bad-guys" seem to be more realistic in this film. In many of the past Ichi films the villians seemed liked bumbling idiots. In this one, director Kimiyoshi Yasuda, who directed several of the Zatocihi episodes, gives the villians a more realistic feeling. Also, the film is quite brutal. And although there is the standard Zatoichi fare that follows almost all of the episodes, this one stands out with just a little bit more in violence.[Such as chopped off limbs]
One of the greatest actors in Japanese cinema is also in the film: [Takashi Shimura] of "Ikiru" fame stars as Dr.Junan. It is always a treat to see him in any film. And especially in the Zatoichi series. The cinemantography is not as good as many of the earlier episodes, or the later ones for that matter. Little of the Japanese countryside is shown in the film. Also, there is less humor from Ichi that had become his established trademark in earlier episodes. And as for Ichi's cane-sword, well fans of his will not be disappointed in his usual high body count at the end of the film. I found the film highly enjoyable [not great] but enjoyable, and would recommend it to all.