Zatoichi Steelbook Blu-ray Review

Zavvi’s steelbook collection continues to grow, with a great mix of exclusive releases, covering new and catalogue titles.

One recent release that I was excited about was Zatoichi, Takeshi Kitano’s barn storming update of the popular Japanese hero.

The Movie
The character of Zatoichi has graced Japanese movie and TV screens since the 1960s.

In 2003, 14 years after the last big-screen instalment, writer/actor/director Takeshi Kitano brought back the blind swordsman in blistering style. The movie is typical of what we’d expect from Kitano – gorgeous cinematography with striking visuals, eruptions of violence, and comedy. Oh, and tap dancing.

In the finest tradition of lone warrior movies, Zatoichi arrives in a new town, and is thrust in to the middle of a gang war. It goes without saying that he soon agrees to help the beleaguered townspeople, paving the way for an impressive series of showdowns with various disposable henchmen. And some top quality tap dancing.

Zatoichi is great, if slightly bonkers, fun, and watching the movie again after many years I enjoyed it all over again.

Video Presentation
Artificial Eye have done a great job with this Blu-ray release.

While the image isn’t as pin-sharp as you might get with the latest blockbusters, it’s certainly the best the movie is likely to look. There’s a little softness to the image, but it has a very filmic quality, with a pleasing amount of grain.

Black levels are good, with plenty of detail even during darker scenes. Takeshi’s colour palette on this movie ranges from the pastoral to the punchy, but they all come across accurately.

A definite improvement over the old DVD release.

Audio Presentation
On this disc we get the choice of Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio or Dolby Digital tracks, both in 5.1. To be honest, if you have the choice then don’t bother with the Dolby option – the DTS track is outstanding.

It’s a highly detailed, immersive track, equally impressive at both picking out the subtlest aural details, as well as filling the room with atmospheric and directional effects.

The bass channel is kept active but never intrusive, while dialogue is clear no matter what on-screen mayhem is occurring.

Extra features
Artificial Eye has ported over their selection of extra features from the old DVD, and while they don’t benefit from an HD upgrade, they’re still well worth a watch.

First we get nearly 2 hours of documentaries and interviews, starting with a 40 minute ‘Making-Of’ documentary, which starts right at the beginning of production, as Kitano holds a press conference to announce the project.

Next we get an almost 30 minute interview with Kitano, followed by chats with the movie’s fight choreographers, costume designer, production designer, cinematographer, composer, dance choreographer and sound designer. All good stuff there.

The extras are rounded out by a biography and filmography of Kitano and theatrical trailer.

Of course, with this site it’s all about the packaging. So how does this Zavvi exclusive steelbook edition look? In a word – fantastic. You want more words? Oh, ok…

Whoever put together this artwork really does deserve a medal. It’s definitely one of the best that Zavvi have released. It has a lovely hand painted effect, with the highlights picked out by the bare steel of the case, and a few blood red splashes for good measure. Great stuff.




As a Blu-ray, Artificial Eye have given us a great release, definitely worthy of an upgrade from the old DVD. The presentation is solid, especially the outstanding audio, while the extras add some nice background to the movie.

Best of all for overseas fans, this release is region free.

As a steelbook, it’s one of Zavvi’s best, with gorgeous artwork that will look great in any collection.

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