Unavailable in the United States as of this writing, ZATOICHI'S PILGRIMAGE is not a missing link in the series or the key to understanding our beloved Blind Swordsman. It is just another Zatoichi film, which is good enough. A bit more introspective than most, perhaps, and a film that can be seen as the middle of soul-searching trilogy, between ZATOICHI'S VENGEANCE and ZATOICHI'S CANE SWORD. In this film, Ichi pledges to visit 88 temples in search of a divine answer to the question "Why do I kill?". But his soul-searching pilgrimage is interrupted by the usual intrusions - hired assassins, oppressed people, evil bosses. It all comes to a head in a HIGH NOON-style confrontation where Ichi must battles scores of bad guys while the cowardly townspeople hide inside their homes.
Novelties this time around include an intelligent horse that guides Ichi to the town he must eventually fight for, and a local boss who wields a crossbow. There is a distinct lack of humor and some of the usual Ichi elements, such as the by-now expected gambling scenes, are missing. Lighter moments are provided by Michiyo Yasuda, who plays a young girl who develops a thing for Ichi even though he killed her brother. Isn't that always the way? ½ - JB