Partially, it was a good, old fashioned samurai movie with quick but deadly action sequences interspersed with story and character development. As Roger Ebert notes, the director, Takeshi Kitano has a very keen sense of timing, so this old format seems very lively. But it doesn't stop there, folks, no. There're also choreographed farmers, smacking dirt in a rhythm to correspond with the movie's soundtrack. And the musical number at the end is fiercely smile-inducing. Even the homophobe jackasses sitting behind me went quiet, evidently at a loss for words, or even guffaws.
I knew they were homophobes because of their reactions to one of the film's characters, a transvestite. When I could get past my irritation at the two chuckleheads, I found myself pleased at the all-to-rare example of a transvestite, or other gender altering characters, being portrayed respectfully in a period piece.
Gods, movie audiences are getting too fucking annoying. Behind the homophobes were another couple of noisemakers. One of them commented to his companion, "I don't understand anything that's happened so far." I wanted to turn around and scream, "Well then you must be AN IDIOT!"
Er, so . . . Zatoichi is excellent. Go see it. And don't murder anyone in the audience.