The Tale of Zatoichi established the simple premise: Ichi (Zato is a title) is a former masseur who, tired of being treated without respect, became a master swordsman. He describes himself as a "lowly gangster" and makes a living by gambling--and with his sword. His opponents often underestimate him, not accounting for his remarkable heightened senses.
While fishing one day, Ichi meets Hirate, an introspective soul whom Ichi senses is seriously ill. The two men become friends almost immediately, even though it's soon clear that Hirate is the samurai working for Shigezo.
|Hirate and Ichi meet while fishing.|
It's easy to see why the Ichi character appealed to audiences. Here was a man who became a master swordman to gain respect--but still lacks self-respect. Yet, he always acts with honor: rescuing a young woman, showing kindness to a man he admires, treating the elderly with respect, etc.
|Ichi sheaths his sword after a slicing a|
burning candle in mid-air.
Although you may not have experienced a Zatoichi picture, you may have seen Blind Fury (1989) with Rutger Hauer. It was a remake of Zatoichi Challenged, the 17th film in the original series.