DVD Title
Zatoichi: The Festival of Fire
International Title
Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival
DVD Length Original Length
96 Minutes 96 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
AnimEigo 2003
Language Subtitles
Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 1
Aspect Ratio Sound
2.35:1 (Anamorphic) 2.0 Mono
Menus (English)
Chapters (12)
Trailers: Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival, Zatoichi At Large, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell
Character Biographies (English, 8 in total)
Program Notes (English)
Complete film and DVD Credits (English)

One of AnimEigo's earlier releases, and a real gem in contrast to their portfolio of work to come. That's not to say this disc is a shining example of what the DVD format is capable of, but one can't argue with the well done video and audio presentations found on the disc, even if the extras are bare bones.

 Video: Star Rating

The video presentation on this disc works as a reminder for why I once used to look forward to AnimEigo's DVDs, before the effort they put into these releases took a steep decline. Zatoichi: The Festival of Fire is not their best work, but the video quality here is still done exceedingly well. The most noticeable positive aspect related to this release is the vibrant array of colors present, with reds, oranges and other shades standing out very well. There is no discoloring here either, everything looks spot on in this regard. The brightness level is also handled well here, with even the night scenes being very easy to make out. Another aspect of the disc which is well done here is the appearance of digital inconsistencies, or in this case the lack there of. There is some minor edge enhancement noticeable, though, but in general the film looks sharp, while no artifacting or shimmering can be seen.

Sadly, the shape of the print used in the transfer isn't so perfect, and is really the only mark against the video presentation here. For the most part, the print looks good with very few scratches to be seen. The one large exception is the film's introduction, through the title screen up to the end of the opening credits, which has some very apparent print damage, with lines cascading across the entire screen. These clear up and print damage generally isn't seen past this point, but it's still a rather large mark against the video quality here.

The Festival of Fire is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


Really no complaints to be had in regards to the audio here, when one takes into consideration the source material. The audio track present here is a 2.0 mono presentation, and the track itself is in great quality here with no pops or crackles to be heard for the duration of the film. Granted, some more tracks, like a stereo or surround presentation of the film, would have been nice but what is present here is still more than acceptable.

The audio track on this disc is accompanied by, removable, English subtitles. Like other AnimEigo DVDs, the subtitles are color coded here for when more than one character is talking. Furthermore, there is also a second set of subtitled that can be turned on that will display definitions for some phrases associated with the feudal era in which the Zatoichi series takes place. I suppose it should be noted that the Daiei logo at the start of the film is incorrectly subtitled as "Toho" here, as the film was actually produced under Daiei although Toho claims full ownership over the picture now.

 Extras: Star Rating

Like all of AnimEigo's releases, the weak aspect of the disc here is the extras. The collection of trailers found here is passable (Zatoichi At Large, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell and the film's own trailer), although the quality of the trailers themselves leaves some to be desired, with most of them having the brightness turned far too low.

The other supplements found on the disc are text related, which include the character biographies and the linear notes. The character biographies found here are very generic, often having one or two sentences for each of the characters. They do provide a quick reference point, but don't offer any insight on their own. The linear notes here, on the other hand, do provide a more thorough look at the subject matter, although in odd places, such as explaining the game of "Go" (which Zatoichi and Yamibuke play). The notes close with a look back at the life of Shintaro Katsu, and the roles he played. They appear both on the disc itself and can be found in print form inside the DVD case.


Bottom line, Zatoichi: The Festival of Fire is a solid release, minus the bare bones nature of the disc, which utilizes what the DVD format is capable of in terms of video quality. The DVD is a must for any Zatoichi fan, while new adopters to the long running series might find this disc as a good starting point.

This disc is also featured in the box set: Zatoichi The Blind Swordsman: DVD Collector's Edition Box.

- Anthony Romero  
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