"Even with my eyes wide open, I can't see a thing."
The Zatoichi series is one of Japan's longest running media franchises, with a total of 27 films and a 100 episode television series. The series centers around Ichi, a blind masseur and itinerant warrior who happens to be one of the most fearsome and dangerous swordsmen around, amassing a mind bogglingly high body count mostly consisting of yakuza, corrupt government flunkies and mountains of Mooks. In between bouts of derring-do, the blind anma can be found gambling, meeting quirky sidekicks, or unearthing vast tracts of mysterious past.
The first 26 films (and the television series) all starred the same actor, Shintaro Katsu, whose portrayal endeared the character to many fans until the actor's death in 1997. Thus, the 2003 film instead stars Takeshi Kitano as the eponymous character. Kitano also directs.
The influence of this series is hard to overestimate, at least, in terms of blind badassery, which, while certainly not the first example of a Handicapped Badass, is certainly one of the Trope Codifiers.
- Badass: Just about all the heroes. Ichi specifically is of the Handicapped Badass variety.
- Blind Weaponmaster: Ichi.
- Catch Phrase: Darkness is my advantage (Kurayami nara kocchi no mon da). Usually uttered after he cuts down the nearest lanterns and candles to put opponents on an equal footing.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu
- Cultured Badass: Ichi can not only swordfight, he's a successful masseur. Sometimes he also shows off his musical ability and knowledge of acupuncture.
- Distaff Counterpart: She even has the same name.
- It's because she's his daughter.
- Handicapped Badass: One of the most famous.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi isn't actually blind, but chooses to close his eyes as a Self-Imposed Challenge.
- Or is he? The final line of the film is that he can't even see with his eyes open, having tripped over an small stone. This appears to be some sort of double bluff, and makes sense since he looks like he has cataracts.
- Implausible Swordfighting Powers
- Jidai Geki
- Katanas Are Just Better: Averted, Ichi instead carries a shikomi-zue, or Sword Cane. Justified since blades are supposed to be outlawed in the Edo period.
- Knight Errant
- Love Triangle: Ichi becomes involved in one in Zatoichi The Fugitive (1963)
- Meaningful Name: Ichi
- Mysterious Past: Ichi
- Obfuscating Disability: The Kitano version
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Ichi, sometimes.
- Reverse Grip: How Ichi holds his sword. Since he uses his sword as a cane as well, this is justified so Ichi does not need to change his grip.
- Samurai and Ronin (Ichi himself technically does not qualify as either of them, as he's in the blind men's guild)
- Super Senses: Ichi's hearing.
- Sword Cane: Ichi
- Underestimating Badassery: Most of the villains in the series do this in regards to Ichi.
- Victorian Novel Disease: Hirate (from the first film) is dying of consumption.
- Walking the Earth
- Worthy Opponent: The Ronin Hirate in the first film. He and Ichi held great respect for each other.
- Wholesome Crossdresser:In the Kitano film, one of the geisha is a little... different under the kimono.
- Yakuza: Ichi's enemies are often gangsters.