Why these films are not widely available is beyond logic.
This is the first Tora-San film I've seen, and it did not feel like this was the 17th film in a series of 48. The plot, character development, and story were complete on their own. The film centers on Tora-San, an affable lomanesque salesman who returns to the home of his loving sister and brother-in-law. Following a light-hearted family argument, he goes out, gets drunk, and befriends and brings home an elderly drinking friend. The old souse awakes believing he is in a hotel, and begins ordering the "help" around.
After putting up with his condescension for two days, Tora-San confronts the guest on behalf of his family. Now sober, the guest, Ikenouchi, is abashed at his behavior, and makes amends by doodling a sketch and instructing Tora-San where he can go cash-in the artwork for money. As it turns out, Tora-San's new friend is one of Japan's most famous artists and the doodle sells for 70,000 Yen. Ikenouchi returns to his cushy home, and when the two meet again on a trip to Tokyo, the tables are turned, with Ikenouchi playing host and Tora-San over-stepping his bounds as guest (which is again met with minimal protest in the apparently overly-hospitable Japanese culture).
While in Tokyo with Ikenouchi and the Mayor of Tokyo, Tora-San runs into Botan, a geisha and old friend. Upon returning to his family home, Tora-San is visited by her and learns that she has come in an attempt to recover 2 Million Yen that a Tokyo businessman swindled from her. Empathetic and eager to battle inequity, Tora-San sets out to rectify the situation.
The highlight of the film is the subsequent exchange where Tora-San asks Ikenouchi to paint a piece that he can sell to recover 2Million Yen for Botan. Ikenouchi struggles to make Tora-San understand his unwillingness to use his art as currency and Tora-San feels his friend is selfishly placing this unfamiliar and seemingly petty artistic dogma ahead of the more obvious ideals of friendship and justice. Rejected and angry, Tora-San vows to never speak to his friend again.
In the end, Tora-San reunites with Botan, who proudly shows Tora-San the "Ikenouchi Original" she received in the mail. Unsure why it was sent, Botan explains that she refuses to sell the piece for 2Million Yen, as the letter which accompanied the painting suggested, but instead, chooses to treasure it forever.
Great writing, characters, humor, and pacing that can easily keep the attention of modern audiences, this film was an absolute treat. If you have the opportunity to see it, don't pass it up.