This might be the strongest "oh crap I need to own that" reaction I've had to anything in 2013 so far. Criterion, the company that produces high-end Blu-ray/DVD collections of classic films, has recruited more than 25 artists to produce illustrations for an upcoming Zatoichi box set, collecting the 25 Zatoichi films produced between 1962 and 1973. The list of creators involved is somewhat staggering, with names like Bill Sienkiewicz, Ron Wimberly, Yuko Shimizu, Jim Rugg, Paul Pope, Samuel Hiti and more.


Ronald Wimberly


Wimberly provided the cover art for the box set, and individual art was created for each film by Hiti (whose art is featured above), Greg Ruth, Paul Pope, Scott Morse, Josh Cochran, Evan Bryce, Ricardo Venâncio, Robert Goodin, Yuko Shimizu, Jorge Coelho, Vera Brosgol, Matt Kindt, Connor Willumsen, Patrick Leger, Jim Rugg, Jhomar Soriano, Angie Wang, Ming Doyle, Caitlin Kuhwald, Benjamin Marra, Bill Sienkiewicz, Andrew MacLean, Polly Guo, Barnaby Ward and Victor Kerlow.

Again, it's an incredibly impressive list. Some of the choices seem obvious (Wimberly, Shimizu) while a few others I was pleasantly surprised to see included (Marra is an excellent selection).

Set in the late Edo period and based on a character created by novelist Kan Shimozawa, the films star Shintaro Katsu as the titular protagonist, a blind masseur and gambler who is also an incredibly gifted swordsman. With 25 films produced in an 11 year span, as well as a short lived television series and a few later editions to the film franchise, Zatoichi stands as the longest running action series in Japanese history, and has influenced everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Wu-Tang to Aaron McGruder. Speaking of, I'd have loved to see McGruder somehow contribute to this box set as well, though I imagine his interpretation isn't for everyone.

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman box set arrives in stores November 26th.


Patrick Leger
Benjamin Marra