Kaiketsu Zubat is a tokusatsu superhero series that aired in 1977. Created by Shotaro Ishinomori, this 32-episode series (which aired on TV Tokyo from 2/2/1977 to 9/28/1977), harkens back to tokusatsu superhero shows of the 1950s, but with a late-1970s twist. The series was first released on DVD in 2008.
This series is popular with fans of creator Ishinomori, and unique as the title hero Zubat does not “henshin” (transform) like the other superheroes he created. Ken Hayakawa (played by veteran Hiroshi Miyauchi), a private detective dressed in black & red gringo cowboy attire, actually just puts on his red & black “Zubasuit” (hidden in his white guitar, which is opened with the push of a button), which looks no different from that of a Sentai hero:
- A helmet with “Z”-themed features and an open/close visor and mouthpiece
- A streamlined rubber jumpsuit with a white scarf (another Ishinomori trademark).
- Kaiketsu Zubat
Zubat drove a car called the Zubat Car. Zubat’s name is based on the sound effect “zubatto,” which is the sound of something being hit right on target.
The villains are also unusual, as there are no monsters, rather they originate from a large criminal organization named Dakker, which has a mysterious leader (who is revealed in the final episode as Fuhrer D), and outlandishly-dressed criminals. Many episodes of this series even had a bizarre Japanese “wild west” setting.
An episode would generally have a single head criminal, and a yojimbo, somehow terrorizing a group of people. Ken Hayakawa would happen upon this, and meet the yojimbo, which would lead to a demonstration of the latter’s preferred skill, only for Ken Hayakawa to show that he was much better.