For 14 film's Zatoichi's trusty cane sword has been his constant traveling companion. An extension of his body, it is what keeps the blind masseur from being a victim of his own handicap. And what should happen if it should fail him?
That is the question of "Zatoichi's Cane Sword" ("Zatoichi Tekka Tabi" or "Zatoichi's Violent-tempered Journey"). Through his usual gambling shenanigans, Zatoichi finds himself on the wrong side of a group of local gangsters. Seeking shelter, he hides with an old blacksmith, who reveals the secret of Zatoichi's famous cane sword. It was forged by a master swordsmith, the blacksmith's former master. But Zatoichi has tested the strength of the forging for too long, and the sword will break if it is used again. Zatoichi leaves behind the useless sword as a token or remeberence for the blacksmith's former master, and seeks a new path.
Feeling helpless and weak without his protection, and fearing for his handicap for the first time in years, Zatoichi abandons his violent, wandering life and takes up a position as a masseur in a local inn. All seems well for a short while...but this is a Zatoichi film, and it isn't long before his good heart drags him into the inn's troubles, and he needs to arm himself again.
"Zatoichi's Cane Sword" is a good chambara flick, with all the elements that make the series good film after film. Seeing Ichi brought to a state of helplessness with out his sword is an interesting twist, as is seeing him afraid for perhaps the first time. As always, Shintaro Katsu brings out the heart in the character, and even though the ending comes as no surprise, the journey is a good one.