With its extreme close-ups, lightning fast cuts, and gloriously dressed characters, it feels as if this show practically prides itself in its intensity and seriousness. So, for someone unfamiliar with or simply haven’t gotten around to watching a henshin hero tokusatsu show from the 70s, watching Kaiketsu Zubat may come as a bit of a culture shock.
As mentioned in our first episode review and introduction, Zubat is one of those rare tokusatsu shows that does not deal with supernatural villains. Our protagonist, Ken Hayakawa, fights against real, morally bankrupt people who do not hesitate to torture and murder their victims. In addition, Hayakawa himself is also just a person, albeit one with very specific skill sets. By having basic human characters, this series sets a serious and grounded tone to an otherwise over-the-top concept.
Since Zubat has such a short run time per episode with such a serious tone, I feel it accounts for the very fast-paced, escalated kind of storytelling.
It’s as if the writers were checking points off a list: Hayakawa is seen doing A, so B can happen. For example, when Hayakawa reveals he is now working for the Burning Heart gang, the immediate scene following reveals the organization knowing Hayakawa was a traitor all along, which then explains the immediate scene after of Hayakawa’s sudden face-off with the hired gun (or, in this case, the hired sword). It really didn’t leave much time for elongated conversation between characters and plot exposition and it’s cut in such a hurried tempo that I often found myself muttering, “well, that escalated quickly.”
But, because of its fast paced and intense storytelling, I feel any line delivered or action made by a character, especially Hayakawa himself, has to be taken completely at face value.
This means there is absolutely no second guessing that Hayakawa is as arrogant as makes himself out to be, namely when he declares himself to be Number 1. He does have the chops to back it up, as seen by cutting out a perfect miniature heart with seemingly just one swing of a sword.
In the same breath, this also means Hayakawa is just as sincere, empathetic, and devoted to protecting the people he comes across. Just listen to him sing his ballad after the respective deaths of his best friend and the older man he rescued in the beginning of the episode. The sincere depth and sorrow in his voice is unmistakable.
By the second episode, it’s also clear that Zubat has a format, as the second episode completely parallels the first– someone dear dies in Hayakawa’s arms; there are siblings Hayakawa befriends and eventually rescues; Hayakawa is forced to watch said siblings be tortured before he confronts and interrogates the gangster of the week, and so forth.
I am concerned that, should it continue, this format may become a bit repetitive, bordering on redundant. However, if we do take Hayakawa’s action at face value, his acknowledgment of the parallels with older man’s death and that of his best friend, points that Hayakawa is beginning to notice a pattern to his travels that, I hope, will lead him to the true people responsible.
Every Wednesday The Tokusatsu Network staff members review every episode of a tokusatsu series. To see previous episode reviews, visit our Reviews page.