DVD Title
Zatoichi the Outlaw
International Title
Zatoichi the Outlaw
DVD Length
Original Length
95 Minutes
95 Minutes
Company
Year of Manufacture
AnimEigo
2003
Language
Subtitles
Japanese
English
Region
Aspect Ratio
1
2.35:1
Color
Sound
Color
Mono
Extras
- Menus (English)
- Chapters (9)
- Trailers: Zatoichi the Outlaw, Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance
- Liner Notes (English)
- Complete film and DVD Credits (English)
Captures
Comments

AnimEigo's second Zatoichi DVD is of the first film in the series to have fallen into Toho ownership. This relationship should be explained before going on, as this film was actually produced by Daiei, a great rival of Toho's at the time, and Katsu Productions (actor Katsu Shintaro's production company). However, Daiei later went bankrupt in 1971 and Toho, who would collaborate with Katsu Productions on 10 movies including three Zatoichi films and the Lone Wolf and Cub Series, landed the rights to all of the Zatoichi movies that were produced by Katsu Productions. It's a long story, but one wonders if Animeigo was aware of this as they subtitle the name "Toho Company" in during the Daiei logo. Ignoring this small oversight, though, AnimEigo releases another glorious DVD which excels in both video and audio presentation, and includes some interesting extras for the film as well.

Video:
After witnessing several of AnimEigo's releases, I feel confident in stating that no other company releases region 1 Toho DVDs that are as visually stunning as AnimEigo. Zatoichi the Outlaw's video quality is flawless in almost every field. The movie appears very sharp here, as artifacting is unnoticeable during the course of the film. As with other AnimEigo releases, the best aspect of Zatoichi the Outlaw is the vibrant array of colors, a feat which wouldn't have been possible using the VHS format. Like the impressive contrast in colors, the brightness here is set at just the right level, as no scene appears darker or lighter than it should. The print used for the transfer, while not flawless like the other aspects of the video presentation, is in excellent condition considering the age of the film. Minor scratches and grain are present through out, but never become bad enough to be a nuisance to the viewer. The film is also presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Audio:
Unlike Animeigo's Lone Wolf and Cub DVDs, Zatoichi the Outlaw is presented here in a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track. Unfortunately, this isn't the film's original audio format, which shows in the audio track here as it's clearly a mono track which was just doubled to the front left and right speakers, and contains no left and right speaker effects which are often associated with stereo audio tracks. Despite this, though, the actual audio presentation is excellent with no scratches or hisses in the track. The overall audio presentation is a little flat at times, but this has more to do with the source material as opposed to any faults from the encoding. The Japanese audio track here is complimented with two forms of, removable, English subtitles. The first subtitle set is standard, and will provide a simple translation of dialogue and Japanese text which appears through out the film, which, like other AnimEigo releases, is color coded to display when more than one person is talking on screen. The other set of subtitles will provide background information to some of the Japanese terms, such as "Yojimbo" for bodyguard, which appear throughout the course of the film.

Extras:
The extras found on this disc, while numerous, don't really stand out. The DVD contains the trailers for two Zatoichi movies (Zatoichi the Outlaw and Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival) along with the trailer to the first Lone Wolf and Cub movie: Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance. Also included on the disc are "Linear Notes," which show an impressive amount of research done on the background of the time period in which the Zatoichi series takes place; furthermore, this extra appears both in print format (found inside the DVD Amaray case where one would expect to find the disc's booklet) and on the DVD itself. The disc also includes a list of credits, for the both the film and DVD, in English, which makes for a good resource for those who can't read Japanese.

Overview:
Bottom line, if one has a interest in Zatoichi films, or is considering looking into the long running franchise (beyond the first two, the films are very loosely connected so one shouldn't let the fact that this is Zatoichi 16 sway them away from the film), Animeigo's Zatoichi the Outlaw is a must have if one can fit the bill for the more expensive retail prices associated with Animeigo titles.

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

-Anthony Romero