And so it begins. Like it or not, when Disney decided to spend copious amounts of coin to bring George Lucas’ space mythology over to the mouse house, the plan was to branch off and explore as much of the Star Wars universe as possible. Rogue One (2016) represents the first in what the studio promises will be a series of anthology films, using the narrative created since 1977 to tell tales.
In R1, the main character is a young girl who teams up with a rebel officer and his droid and travels to an off-planet. There, she’s reunited with an old mentor and while plotting their next steps, the Empire shows up. The mission they develop requires a lot of help, including the efforts of former ally, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen). The force is strongest with this milky-eyed master because of his spot-on likeness to Zatoichi, a fictional character featured in one of Japan’s longest running series of films set during the 1830s and 1840s. Zatoichi is a kindly blind masseur and skilled blademaster who was created by Japanese novelist Kan Shimozawa in 1948.
A total of 26 films were made based on the Zatoichi character from 1962 to 1989. Spin-off number 17 is Blind Fury (1989) and made in the United States. The action flick stars Rutger Hauer. The most recent Zatoichi was released in 2003 and directed by Takeshi Kitano who also stars in the Japanese subtitled blood fest. Better than good, it was awarded the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion for Best Direction.
The character of Zatoichi has impressed audiences through the ages and Disney knows it. Chirrup (Donnie Yen) is one with the force and introduces more than a few storm troopers to death. In true blind swordsman style, the sightless warrior guy’s powerful hearing spatial-location-awareness and personal insights propel him to help save the galaxy (arigato).
Blind Fury and Zatoichi are available on Netflix and DVD.