Just watched it for the first time.
I'd been meaning to check out Akira Kurosawa's movies for several years. I'm just now getting around to it.
What impressed me early on was the use of music to create the mood. I thought it did an excellent job. The juxtaposition of the present-day downpour and the sunnier skies of the recollections was a nice touch, too. The swordplay was amateurish. I expected such from the bandit, since he's a commoner and supposedly untrained and all, but I was hoping for something a little more polished from the samurai. Ah, well. Perhaps I'm spoiled by modern action movies and the works of the Shaw brothers.
Anyway, I enjoyed it.