My favorite television show of all time is Kaiketsu Zubat. I love the atmosphere, the setting, and the style, but what’s most impressive to me is how it can be so many things at once. It’s funny, but also dead serious. The hero, Ken Hayakawa, is kind of an egomaniac, but he has a heart of gold. The villains were always garishly dressed and over the top, but many of the evil acts they did could feasibly be done by actual sociopaths. which made them genuinely horrifying. It was a show that could channel Adam West’s Batman and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, often at the same time. Overall, it’s an unforgettable experience that stays with most people who have seen it, which unfortunately is not as many as it should be.
One of the hallmarks of the show was that in every episode, at some point a group of foot soldiers from the Consortium of Evil, Dakkar, would be harassing some innocent bystander(s) (who were women or children disturbingly often), only to be interrupted by Hayakawa strumming his guitar and making his entrance by way of the coolest looking shot possible given the setting. He would then proceed to beat everyone up before meeting up with the current evil organization’s hired goon, an assassin renowned for a particular skill. Hayakawa would then claim that this person is only the second best in Japan at his specialty, and point at himself when inquired who was the best. What followed was usually the highlight of any given episode, the Hayakawa showdown: the challenger would attempt to show Hayakawa that he was indeed the best in Japan at his skill, only for Hayakawa to prove him dead wrong.
These were the scenes that showcased the great Hiroshi Miyauchi’s talents the most. If it were anyone else playing Ken Hayakawa, he would have come off as smug and condescending. But with Miyauchi in the role, Hayakawa was given a roguish charm that lent a massive heroic quality to Hayakawa’s bragging. When he claimed he was best in Japan, you knew you were in safe hands, and that he would never allow an innocent to be hurt under his watch. Hell, Ken Hayakawa made my list of fictional heroes way back when, a list that is in sore need of an update.
In total there were 32 episodes of Zubat, and with the exception of the last 2, every one featured a Hayakawa showdown. And to honor this wonderful show, I am counting down my personal ranking of all of them. Be warned, though. The descriptions alone will blow your mind with awesomeness. The only way to top the rush you feel will be to watch the show itself, which you can do by visiting the wonderful folks at Millionfold Curiosity. Thank you guys for all your hard work!
30. Hayakawa vs. Tommy (Trumpet)
Although none of the Hayakawa showdowns are bad, this one makes the bottom of the ranking for me because it doesn’t really demonstrate Hayakawa’s skill much at all. What I mean is, to show off his skill with the trumpet, Tommy presses a switch on his instrument, which shoots out blow darts that are caught by Hayakawa. Our hero then proceeds to do the same, only aiming in the opposite direction so that the darts ricochet off a nearby pole to knock off Tommy’s hat and decorative flower. Hayakawa does get to play the trumpet, and indeed plays it well, but this was more a regular case of Hayakawa humiliating his opponent without getting to the extreme one-upmanship he normally displays.
29. Hayakawa vs. Red Boar (Tomahawk)
While Miyauchi is always awesome on screen, I have to admit that by the show’s high standards, this showdown is kinda lame. Basically, Red Boar throws a tomahawk through three wooden poles and lodges it in a fourth one. All Hayakawa does is throw a tomahawk through all four poles and have it arc back into his hand. While splitting four reasonably thick pieces of wood with one tomahawk throw is certainly impressive, it’s not exactly the over the top, physically impossible feats that defined these showdowns.
28. Hayakawa vs. Great Kong (Grappling)
This is a showdown that basically just amounts to a brief fight scene. And this one’s not even that terrific. As implied by Kong’s chosen skill, he locks Hayakawa in a grapple, and our hero just kinda gets out of it by hitting him. Surely a sign of tremendous strength, but not a full display of Hayakawa’s superhuman capabilities.
27. Hayakawa vs. Dandy Harry (Magic)
This is another one that falls kinda flat by this show’s standards. Dandy Harry the magician attempts to finish off Hayakawa by materializing flaming daggers to throw at him. Our hero, with his incredible reflexes, catches them, and proceeds to do the same trick. Yeah, just the same trick, with no other twists. And besides, we all know how they did it. By using jump cuts.
26. Hayakawa vs. Craius Dray (Boxing)
This is unfortunately another comparatively mundane one. Here, lightweight champion Cranius Dray attempts to show off his mad punching skills by having a goon shoot bullets at him, which he punches straight out of the air. To make things interesting, he has the same goon shoot at the victim of the week, and if Hayakawa fails to stop the bullets, said victim will be popped. Of course, Hayakwa does stop the bullets. By catching them. Yes, this is one of the more mundane ones. Catching bullets in his bare hands is child’s play for Hayakawa. If you’re not excited for what’s coming up, I don’t know what to say!
25. Hayakawa vs. Red Dragon (Ba Gua Zhang Kung Fu)
One of Hayakawa’s few female opponents, and her showdown with Hayakawa basically boils down to another brief fight scene. And actually, it’s arguably one that Hayakawa loses. As far as fight scenes go, this one is decent enough, and it ends with Red Dragon flinging Hayakawa into a nearby lake. But not before Hayakawa uncovers evidence that Red Dragon is actually Reika Kamura, who is working for the police undercover. So, I guess that’s kind of a victory? Funnily enough, out of the three women that Hayakawa has been up against, only one was truly evil, and she’s… well, you’ll see.
24. Hayakawa vs. Reaper Sammy (American Football)
This is another one that’s very dubious in its actual testing of ability in the chosen skill, but it’s pretty entertaining nonetheless. Reaper Sammy kicks a football hard enough that it splits a boulder in two. “Split a boulder in two” here meaning “causes the boulder to blow up, because explosions!”. Hayakawa responds in kind by performing his Mole Kick, a move which isn’t actually a kick so much as a volleyball spike, but either way the football BURROWS INTO THE GROUND LIKE A MOLE AND EMERGES OUT AGAIN. The only disappointing thing is that the football kinda just smacks into Sammy, knocking him down, which is much less carnage than an exploding boulder.
23. Hayakawa vs. Garaba (Spears)
The only irredeemably evil female to challenge Hayakawa, and of course she’s a cantankerous old lady with a scar covering one third of her face. The spears used for this contest are shot out of a stick thing as projectiles. Garaba’s turn has her shoot the projectile spears at the victim of the week pinned to a wall, making it so that the spears barely graze her shoulders and head. Hayakawa also invokes one of his other catchphrases, “I only need one,” said when he is about to do something incredible with only one of whatever tool is being used. Hayakawa throws his one spear clean through a nearby oil drum, and the spear somehow arcs back to lightly scratch Garaba’s head in the same manner. That in itself would probably rank this one a little lower, but Hayakawa happens to have a lighter on him, which combined with a leaky oil drum makes for one hell of an escape.
22. Hayakawa vs. Sakyoji (Forks and Knives)
The only opponent who was unfortunate enough to challenge Hayakawa twice, this contest takes place in the second part of a two-parter. This one is quite similar to Garaba’s competition, in that Sakyoji starts off by throwing his forks and knives so that they surround the victim of the week, circus style. Hayakawa also mostly uses this contest again as a distraction so he can escape, using Sakyoji’s forks and knives to pin to a wall in similar fashion, and then using them to snag his cape, which comes off as Sakyoji ducks for cover. And by the time he looks up, Hayakawa’s gone.
21. Hayakawa vs. Uri Keller (Yarrow Sticks)
Another one in which projectiles are used to barely scrape someone, this time Uri Keller uses his yarrow sticks to surround Hayakawa’s feet. He even follows with a remark that he could have pierced Hayakawa’s heart if he had wanted. Hayakawa, not daunted by this, smacks the yarrow sticks on his guitar, and they proceed to land squarely on Keller’s hat, arranged in a neat tower-like formation. And to top it off, Hayakawa responds that he could have pierced Keller’s brain if he wanted.
20. Hayakawa vs. Killer Joe (Knife throwing)
This is one in which I find both displays to be equally impressive. Killer Joe starts off by tossing a deck of cards in the air, and then throwing a knife to spear the four aces. Hayakawa skips out on the cards, and grabs the gold badges off of the Dakkar foot soldiers, which he then proceeds to spear by throwing the knife behind his back. I guess the “superiority” here is that the throw was behind the back, the targets were smaller, and they were made of harder material, but still, sniffing out the four aces in a deck of cards is nothing to sneeze at.
19. Hayakawa vs. Waltz Lee (Kung Fu)
This mute kung fu “artist” opens with a swift chop to a nearby lantern statue, completely severing its middle section, and leaving the rest intact. How does Hayakawa top this? By using a swift move on the statue, making it so that the separate parts of the statue land on top of Lee’s fragment in reverse order. But the best part is when Hayakawa snaps his fingers, and his creation splits cleanly in half. Now that is true artistic genius.
18. Hayakawa vs. Dartanian (Fencing)
Easily the best of the contests that basically boil down to a fight scene. As expected, it’s a fencing match on the mountainside, in which Dartanian attempts to knock off Hayakawa’s hat. But, being an essential part of Hayakawa’s getup, the hat is not leaving his head for too long. Hayakwa manages to get it back on where it belongs without breaking a sweat, and he then manages to use his blade to tear off Dartanian’s cape and throw it in his face. The fight’s result is a foregone conclusion from here.
17. Hayakawa vs. Jubei (Fishing)
Jubei shows off his hook and line prowess by using his fishing pole to snag both an empty glass bottle lying around, and then a tiny fish, which throws into the glass bottle using his fishing line. Hayakawa, not willing to let the innocent die, even if it has gills, swings around the fishing line to snag an empty can, swings it into the nearby lake to collect water, and finally positions the line so that the can is hovering over the bottle on its side, pouring water into the bottle so that the poor aquatic creature can breathe. Ken Hayakawa is truly friend to all living things.
16. Hayakawa vs. Redford (Chain Sickle)
Redford uses his chain sickle to tie up the victim of the week, and jumps over a tree branch to hang her up by chain. Hayakawa decides to take this a step further. First, he uses the chain sickle to free the victim by cutting her chains, leaving her unharmed. Then, he does a similar trick in which he uses the chain to grab Redford by the feet, and hangs him up on a tree branch upside down. But to make sure what happens when you cross Ken Hayakawa known, our hero throws a second chain sickle up onto a higher branch, with just enough force so that the sickle in dangling just a few inches from Redford’s face. As Hayakawa helpfully points out, a branch moving even a tiny nudge would cut up Redford’s nice face.
15. Hayakawa vs. Imahei (Plate throwing)
This is probably the most famous of the Hayakawa showdowns, just because of the subject being so representative of how out there this show can be sometimes. I mean, you have to wonder when Hayakawa was building his skill set when he decided that one day he would need to best someone at throwing plates. But all that plate throwing sure pays off here in big fashion. Imahei first throws a plate that buries itself in a tree before throwing several other plates that stack onto the first one. Hayakawa uses one plate to perform something of a staple of his: his plate stacks UNDER the stack that has already been built and then the entire stack arcs back to knock Imahei back. While perhaps not the best variation of this trick, it’s quite hilarious in its base form.
14. Hayakawa vs. Lady Koma (Top Spinning)
Since Koma is a young woman, it is a forgone conclusion that she gets redeemed by the end of the episode. Before that, however, she is ruthless in showing off her top-spinning skills. First, she gets a top spinning on the sharp edge of a knife, which is pretty amazing. But her main trick is to stack four spinning tops on top of each other on a tower of cutlasses (that Hayakawa had formed earlier while he was kicking ass). Another staple of Hayakawa’s is his using these contests to further humiliate Dakkar’s henchmen, which he does by using one top to knock Koma’s four top off the sword pile, squarely into the chests of the four foot soldiers behind him. Again, good stuff, but we’re just getting started.
13. Hayakawa vs. Lankirk (Gunslinging)
This contest is from the very first episode, and thus introduces Hayakawa to the audience in the most awesome way possible. For this contest, two flowers are inserted into a white rabbit’s mouth on the left and right side. Both men have to shoot at one of the flowers. After firing a few bullets, the flowers are both intact. Lankirk believes that the contest was a draw, but Hayakawa just smiles and informs him that he lost; all his bullets split in two, proven by the rabbit’s young owner, who shows up with Lankirk’s split bullets. That’s right, Hayakawa literally shot Lankirk’s bullets in midair. And that was when everyone watching knew not to mess with Ken Hayakawa.
12. Hayakawa vs. Kaze Ryunosuke (Swordsmanship)
This one is pure classic Hayakawa. Ryunosuke starts by swiftly cutting up a heart shape out of a nearby bystander’s shirt. Hayakawa responds by taking that small heart-shaped piece of cloth, throwing it in the air and cutting an even smaller heart shape out of it. But the best part is before saying his goodbyes to Ryunosuke, he stealthily sticks the smaller heart piece that he cut to the hilt of Ryunosuke’s sword, to forever remind him of how his ass got thoroughly whooped.
11. Hayakawa vs. Ukon of the Wind (Archery)
Ukon channels William Tell for his feat, and shoots his arrow through an apple resting snugly on the victim of the week’s head. Then he shoots several more arrows into each other, splitting the previous one, much like Robin Hood. Hayakawa proceeds to perform one of his more surreal feats, which is saying something. He nocks an arrow onto his GUITAR STRING, and shoots the arrow high in the sky. The arrow proceeds to circle around in an arc, and HITS THE OTHER ARROWS FROM THE BACK OF THE APPLE, sending all of Ukon’s arrows flying right back at him. Of all the Hayakawa showdowns, this is probably the funniest.
10. Hayakawa vs. Akutenbo (Throwing Spikes)
This is one in which the villain’s first act isn’t all that impressive (by this show’s standards of course), so Hayakawa’s entry totally floors it. Basically, Akutenbo throws his spikes at the briefcase the victim of the week is holding, claiming to easily be able to have killed him. Hayakawa takes the three throwing spikes, and throws them back at Akutenbo. The goon laughs at Hayakawa, saying that he missed the mark badly. But Hayakawa simply smirks and tells him to lift his robe up, revealing that Hayakawa had thrown the spikes with enough precision to make a cross shape on Akutenbo’s chest. A prime example of misdirection making the reaction much sweeter.
9. Hayakawa vs. Jigokuichi (Cane Sword)
Jigokuichi is a blind swordsman, who incorporates the film strip that contains incriminating evidence against his employer for his display of mastery. He throws the film strip in the air and cuts out the frame that contains the moment of the explosion the big bad is a suspect of causing. To make things interesting, Jigokuichi licks the frame and sticks it onto the forehead of recurring character Midori Asuka, before tying a piece of cloth around her head. Hayakawa’s task is to retrieve the frame using only Jigokuichi’s cane sword. And to make things “fair”, Hayakawa has to do this blindfolded. He does. And it’s awesome.
8. Hayakawa vs. Hustler (Billiards)
This is a classic from possibly my favorite episode in the series. Hustler starts by shooting a cue ball so that it bounces up from the pool table edge and knocks off two other balls resting on a pair of beer bottles. Hayakawa takes it a step further; he not only knocks off the two balls off the bottles, but they smack two Dakkar henchmen behind him square in the face. And after that the two balls bounce right back on the bottles. Not bad for an episode that features a pretty heavy amount of child abuse.
7. Hayakawa vs. Boomerang Jack (Boomerangs)
Boomerang Jack shows off his skill with a boomerang using his signature move, the Boomerang Cutter, to split a metal sign in half. Hayakawa, not happy with seeing destruction of property, decides to return things to their proper state. He throws the boomerang so that it snags the two pieces of the sign and restores them to their proper place, stuck together again. And then the boomerang arcs around to strike the belts of the surrounding foot soldiers. And then after Hayakawa hisses, the foot soldiers’ pants fall off, revealing their brightly colored underwear. I’m almost surprised that this didn’t top the list!
6. Hayakawa vs. Saburota (Bamboo Flute Blowgun)
This one is interesting because Saburota’s move is one that Hayakawa himself would use later to outmatch Garaba. Although technically the skill being tested is the bamboo flute blowgun, the flute can be converted into a crossbow, essentially making this another archery contest. Saburota ricochets an arrow off a nearby tree, making the arrow turn back and spearing a kid on the swings by his shirt. For this contest, the victim of the week is trapped in a jungle gym with a balloon attached to her head. And the jungle gym is being spun at high velocity. And Hayakawa has to shoot the balloon aiming in the other direction, just like Saburota did. He does. And it’s awesome.
5. Hayakawa vs. Jintaro (Tennis)
I don’t know much about how tennis is played in Japan, but it seems more like lacrosse than the tennis I know. At the very least, Japanese tennis apparently involves a curved apparatus that is used to throw the ball. And in Jintaro’s hands, three tennis balls can be used to knock out the bottom parts of three beer bottles, making the tops stack onto each other. In Hayakawa’s hands, only one ball is needed, to knock the three bottle tops into the air, and then land on the ground in the exact same position. That is a play that bears little resemblance to tennis regardless of where it’s played. But it’s funny.
4. Hayakawa vs. Sadan (Golf)
Sadan tees off by ricocheting his shot off a tree and lodges his golf ball in the “D” on a Dakkar sign. Unlike James Bond, Hayakawa doesn’t need to cheat to top his opponent. First, he uses one Dakkar’s foot soldiers’ mouths as a tee, which is already badass. But then, he not only ricochets his shot off of two trees, but he also dislodges Sadan’s first golf ball. And not only that, the two golf balls then bounce back and land swuarely in Sadan’s pocket. Got a missing golf ball? Hayakawa can get it back for you, using another golf ball.
3. Hayakawa vs. Doc Woody (Scalpel)
This one pushes the bounds of absurdity as far as it can go. The unlicensed doctor first throws his scalpels at the nearby kid wearing a blue and white striped shirt. Not only does he spear the kid’s hat, BUT ALSO THE WHITE STRIPES ON HIS SHIRT. So the kid literally wearing a blue shirt with some rectangles cut out. In response, Hayakawa… well, I’m not even sure what it is he does. But he uses one scalpel to knock all of Woody’s scalpels back into his hand, and also manages to somehow return the kid’s white stripes and hat back to him. I actually saw him do it, and I still can’t figure it out.
2. Hayakawa vs. Jinjuro (Carpentry)
This one can’t even be described by words. It must be seen to be believed. Jinjuro puts Hayakawa in what he believes to be a trap by building in seconds a contraption in which a board filled with nails is hovering right above the victim of the week, and even a slight nudge off balance will make the board drop and skewer her. Naturally, Hayakawa’s challenge is to use Jinjuro’s tools to save the girl with her still in one piece. He does. And it’s awesome. And in addition to that, he then knocks Jinjuro into his own trap, so that now the nail-filled board is a hair’s weight away from crushing him now. Which is even more awesome.
1. Hayakawa vs. Sakyoji (Dice)
This is the one that I knew had to be number 1 from the moment I proposed to do this countdown. It has everything. An impressive villain showcase, and an even more impressive Hayakawa showcase. It has two stages. And it is beyond surreal, but because it’s Hiroshi Miyauchi behind it, you buy every second. This contest marks the first time Hayakawa crosses paths with Sakyoji. First, the villainous bartender puts six dice in a shaker, shakes them around and sets them on the table, revealing that he managed to stack the dice on top of each other, all with the same face (the one with one dot) facing the viewer. Hayakawa, not intimidated, also shakes around the dice, and then reveals them stacked BY THE EDGE, also with the ones facing the viewer.
But Sakyoji doesn’t just give up after this first round. Next he tosses the dice along with a bunch of wine glasses so that the glasses stack up, and the the dice stack on top of the wine glasses, once again with the ones facing the viewer. Sakyoji brags that he is the world’s finest. Once again, Hayakawa is not to be underestimated. He swipes at the glasses, so that they are thrown into the air, and they land back into a neat stack. The dice stack back on the glasses again, once again BY THE EDGE. There’s only one way to close out this incredible feat of dexterity, and that is with a one-liner.