Ichi is staying at an inn when a woman dies. Her dying wish is that Ichi take her son to his father, an artist living in a nearby town. After arriving in the town, Ichi finds out that the father has been forced by a local boss to create illegal pornography to pay off his gambling debts. Ichi makes it his mission to save tha man and reunite the family, even though it brings him into conflict with a samurai he sort of befriended on his way to the town.
This is the third Zatoichi film in a row that feels different from the norm; the score is a little more westernized and a lot of time is spent with secondary characters. I did not like this one as much as 'Cane Sword' or 'Outlaw' but, having said that, 'Challenged' DOES contain one of the three best Zatoichi duels so far (the other two found in '4: Fugitive' and '6: Chest of Gold'). This element alone makes 'Challenged' worth viewing.
My first of the Zatoichi films starring Shintaro Katsu was indeed a nice experience.
In the story Ichi has to take care of a six year old boy and bring him and his father together. It probably goes without saying that in order to do so Ichi has to take down more or less a whole clan on his own. Films with small kids can sometimes be a challenge depending on how annoying the snotty brat actually is. That one turns out purdy well here, the kid is quite charming. It is also nice to see that he has the same effect on the blind masseur himself.
Quite a few nicely played out fight scenes takes place, I particularly liked the last one with the honorable samurai. It shows that a bit of luck sometimes is necessary when you're in the dark.