I don't think this film got the attention it deserved. And strangely, I think it might be for the things it did right. I'll explain below.
Ichi is a twist on the Zatoichi movies, where instead of being a man, the blind protagonist is a woman. If you're familiar with the Zatoichi series, you'll know what to expect. You'll see people wronged, and deadly, bloody vengeance. It's not high art, but it fills a niche, and does so nicely. There's pathos, poignancy, and a certain serene beauty. There's humor, too, but the movie manages to stay this side of campy.
Here's what I think Ichi did right, that it could so easily have screwed up.
The beautiful Haruka Ayase was cast as Ichi. The movie usually relies on long shots that take in the surroundings and the peasants dressed in their rags, but it'll occasionally linger on a close shot of Haruka's face, as the blind swordswoman senses her surroundings. When I looked up Haruka Ayase online, I was surprised to learn that she was a shapely actress, model and singer. They could easily have made her character flash a little skin and bare a little cleavage to draw in the boys. She's got it. But there was really none of that in the movie. Ichi remained a tragic and sympathetic character throughout, never a sex object for the audience.
Then there was the blood. In this era of Sin City, 300 and Spartacus: Blood and Sand, we've grown to expect buckets of digital blood flying off of every sword stroke. Oh, and plenty of sword strokes. And there was digital blood in Ichi, too. But it was, dare I say it, almost subtle! Quite a few fights ended in just one decisive deadly stroke. And maybe there'd be some blood splatter, but not geysers.
It turns out that the movie would have been so easy to screw up for ratings. They could have sexed up the actress and slathered on more digital blood and further removed it from its Zatoichi heritage. But they didn't. And the movie's better for it.
Wanna see some screen captures? Go see why Lynaeina calls it her favorite date movie.