Manages to do what so few sequels have: deliver an uncomplicated story with personal stakes. Perhaps this is because the conflict comes to the protagonist, rather than he seeking it out. Excellent choreography. This is 72 minutes of action-packed uncomplicated storytelling, with heart. It isn't profound, but it doesn't muck it up, and sometimes that's the best thing you can do: not muck it up.
This is pretty disappointing after the excellence of the first in the series. It is odd when a movie simultaneously does very little and tries to do too much. It is pretty much a mess of convoluted themes and feelings that don’t feel justified because the emotional payoff doesn’t work because of a lack of build up. It suffers from the audience simply not caring.
A quickly-made sequel (and it shows) that's very short but packs a wallop with more action that the first film. Seriously, there are 2 fights in the first 10 minutes. Even though Wakayama's performance was adequate, the climactic fight is surprisingly effective a contains a reveal that I didn't completely see coming. In terms of samurai-slashing goodness it beats the 1st film.
Ichi is somewhat more mature this time around; the Tane story arc is further developed, but Ichi's brother (and Shintaro Katsu's real-life sibling, Tomisaburo Wakayama) leaves just as we're getting to know him, and the overall plot and characters, like most of the Zatoichi films (excepting the brilliant outliers numbers 3 and 26) feel underdeveloped and a little shallow given the potential of the genre. ★★★