Our hero fights to save the next generation in episode 13: The Ballad of the Young Killer.
If I were in charge, I would have called the episode Zubat Jr. vs the Almost Dangerously Competent Scorpion Gang, but that’s just me. This episode features an interesting supporting cast and a villainous scheme that almost makes sense. It’s a huge step up for the show, and I have to say it’s the first episode I enjoyed without reservation.
The first high point of the episode comes when we meet Zubat Jr., Yamaura Kyosuke. I call him Zubat Jr. because the first time he shows up on screen, Kyosuke is strumming a tune on his ukelele as he’s about to throw down with some bullies– not unlike our hero Hayakawa. He spends much of the episode pretending to be a horrible person, but that quick glimpse at the beginning of the episode is a good look into the heart of justice lurking inside.
Kyosuke’s friend Mieko is the closest we have to a victim-of-the-week in this episode. She’s the only one who believes that Kyosuke didn’t murder his father, so she gets slapped around quite a bit for her troubles, both by Kyosuke and by the actual murderers, the Scorpion Gang. The Gang’s plan to make Kyosuke so ostracized by the community that he’ll have no choice but to put his exceptional abilities in their employ actually makes some comic-booky sense. It’s a really stupid and complicated recruitment plan, but at least it looks like it could actually work.
The mercenary, Zen Priest Saburota, is definitely my favorite in the series up to this point. He actually seems skilled with his bamboo bowgun. Instead of standing by dumbfounded during the requisite Hayakawa Skills Contest, Saburota takes matters in his own hands by setting the victory conditions himself. Hayakawa still manages to put his own flair on it, but Saburota keeps his composure. The Zen Priest doesn’t play around. Their final battle is actually compelling, too.
I really enjoyed this episode. The action is good, the villain’s plan and Hayakawa’s counter-plan actually make sense and play out logically, and the supporting cast carries the episode. Midori and Osamu are absent the entire time, so that may have something to do with it too. Zubat’s been on a streak of episodes that, if they aren’t at least good, they definitely look like they’re trying to be. I think episode 13 is the first to fully live up to its premise. Let’s hope the streak continues.
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