My head that is. Ichi, the recent Japanese samurai bit of fluff is a puzzling piece. Not to be confused with the brutal, mental but considerably better Ichi The Killer by Takeshi Miike, Ichi is a gender swap run around at Zatoichi (also recently made in a lot better form by another Takeshi – beat this time). Zatoichi as you may recall, is an itinerant blind musician who is more than a bit handy with a samurai sword, and wanders feudal Japan righting confounding many a baddie with his odd excellence at swordplay. You know, for a blind man. There are plenty of stories of the underestimated blind warriors, but Zatoichi is probably the most developed (perhaps with the exception of Marvel’s Daredevil who has unfortunately by secondarily crippled by the Ben Affleck film). Anyway, what does a female Zatoichi, or daughter of Zatoichi, offer us that the big Z himself doesn’t? A commentary of the role of women in feudal Japan? A commentary of blind females in feudal Japan. Sexy swordswoman shits and giggles? Er, none of the above. Ichi mainly offers a cartoonish plot, and the character development of a hugely lame comedy sidekick character.

As swordswoman daughters of heroes go, Ichi comes in considerably behind Maureen O’Hara playing D’Artagnan’s Daughter in Sons Of The Musketeers*. It is never really explained why Ichi is a tremendous swordswoman, except from her heritage, and since she only uses it initially for self defense she does not cut a particularly heroic figure (she lets another women get raped). Her fighting style is all slow motion and waiting for her opponents to make ridiculous errors, it is almost a relief when she is beaten halfway through the film. Except for the fact that the redemption of the dumb character steps to the fore and Ichi’s quest for her father is wrapped up in an unsatisfactory manner. Couple this with a remarkably cartoonish bad guy and the fact that this is all live action seems moot. Which would have been fine if it was visually exciting. But unfortunately Fumihiko Sori does not bring the bag of tricks he used on Ping-Pong, a considerably better film (like Godzilla is considerably better at fighting than a Gila Monster). In the lead Haruka Ayase plays Ichi as if she is not only blind but unable to emote or talk most of the time. SHe does at least do the time honoured equation that blindness equals just not looking at the camera and flailing a stick around. Zatoichi, her Dad, was often more catalyst that central character in a lot of his films, but that’s a bit moot in a film just about the title character. Ichi, a bit scratchy.

*Clearly Maureen does not play a son.