Archive for publications, October 2021

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[Commlist] New book: The Paths of Zatoichi

Thu Oct 14 10:02:16 GMT 2021

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Jonathan Wroot wishes to announce that a new book, The Paths of Zatoichi, is now available from Lexington Books: <>

The blind swordsman is one of the most iconic and significant tropes in global popular cinema, and this new volume is the most comprehensive account to date of the transnational influence of Zatoichi on these representations. Jonathan Wroot’s book expertly charts the impact of the character within US genre films like Blind Fury (1989), across the exploitation cycles of blind swordsman films produced in Taiwan and Indonesia, and even demonstrates the continued memetic influence of the character in blockbuster franchises like Daredevil (2015-) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Highly recommended.

— Iain Smith, King’s College London

Jonathan Wroot offers a rich and compelling history of the Zatoichi phenomenon from the early 1960s to the twenty-first century—a phenomenon that includes not only hundreds of films, TV episodes, spin-offs, and remakes in Japan, but also a host of imitations, appropriations, and crossovers from Taiwan, Indonesia, and even Hollywood studios. Painstakingly researched and written in plain, lucid language, this excellent study is an important contribution to scholarship on the action genre as well as on transnational flows of popular film and culture.

— Man-Fung Yip, University of Oklahoma

This important and expansive work shows how a film franchise like the immensely popular Zatoichi series of films and TV programs should not be understood as simply structurally contained in itself, representing a single culture or ideology, but like the wandering and sightless Zatoichi himself, as taking a myriad of paths in both time and space, changing as Japan transforms, while also flowing beyond borders to affect filmmaking from East and Southeast Asia to Hollywood. Here is where the significance of Zatoichi—and any franchise–lies.

— Aaron Gerow, Yale University

Meticulously scholarly yet completely readable, Jonathan Wroot’s analysis of the many incarnations of Zatochi is an important addition to the literature on Japanese film and its transcultural influence.

— Dolores Martinez, SOAS University of London

Jonathan Wroot's exploration of the sprawling Zatoichi franchise invites the reader to travel a path less-trodden, revealing hidden intertextual landscapes of local and international exchange, while providing insightful revelations about the production of Japan's famed blind-swordsman series of films. Wroot's focus on the lesser-known avenues traveled by Zatoichi is just as revealing as traveling with him down the famed mainstreet of Hollywood's appropriations of the blind swordsman character. This book will appeal to those who want to understand how Japan makes franchises as much as it will appeal to martial arts and sci fi fans keen to seek out the origins of the favorite genre characters. Wroot's much-needed book maps the interlinking worlds created around Zatoichi and in doing so demonstrates how rich and far-reaching the character has become.

— Rayna Denison, University of East Anglia

We often look at the character of Zatoichi as one of the stalwarts of Japanese period action cinema, forever wandering the insular world of Edo-era Japan with his trusted cane sword. Jonathan Wroot deftly demonstrates the blind swordsman's transnational sojourns, across screens large and small, stopping at waystations on a path that leads across the Asian and American continents. In doing so, he underlines that the Japanese cinema was never quite as self-contained or inward-looking as many have presented it to be, but rather a significant, vital, and perennially popular—in all senses of the word—node in both the Japanese media landscape and global film history.

— Tom Mes, co-author of The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film

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