Japanese major Shochiku will handle international sales of martial arts action film Ichi, directed by Fumihiko Sori and starring Haruka Ayase (Hero) as a female incarnation of the legendary blind swordsman Zatoichi.

Shochiku will begin sales of the film at the upcoming Berlin International Film Festival's European Film Market (EFM) from Feb 7-17.

The film also stars Takao Osawa (Midnight Eagle), Yosuke Kubozuka (Ping Pong) and Shido Nakamura (Letters From Iwo Jima). The swordplay action direction is handled by Hiroshi Kuze, who worked on Akira Kurosawa's Ran.

The character of Zatoichi was last seen on the big screen as played by Takeshi Kitano in Zatoichi (2003). Ayase's character does battle with bandits and the yakuza.

Ichi 's production consortium was led by Sedic International (Sukiyaki Western Django) and includes TBS, Dentsu and WarnerEntertainment Japan, which will handle domestic distribution.

Sori's big-budget CG animated film Vexille opened August 18 in Japan, following a high-profile opening slot at the Locarno International Film Festival. Vexille sold to 75 territories, including FUNimation in the US, but grossed less than $2m domestically.

Shochiku's box office revenues earnings for 2007 were $146.42m (Y15.67bn), an 11.5% increase over 2006 ($131.28m). Despite the poor to mediocre performance of some of its biggest releases, Shochiku's grosses were buoyed by mid-level hits.

Ichi is slated for an autumn release in Japan through Warner Brothers.