Desert Punk Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2006
What They Say
When Desert Punk's life is saved by an honest man, he is taught a valuable lesson in decency; a lesson he quickly forgets. But decency has no part in his next job, which is easily his crappiest task yet... literally.
Contains episodes 13-16:
Kosuna: Fully Automatic
The Girl Next Door
A Load of...
Buildup up things with some standalone episodes before delving into a disgusting scatological piece, Desert Punk keeps up its pace and quirkiness with yet another volume.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for the series is nicely expansive as it makes good use of directionality throughout the program both for action and dialogue effects. The mix is rather active in general since the characters tend to be moving all over a lot or there are several on the screen at the same time talking so the directionality aspect is well used. The music in particular works well with the opening song and incidental effects are well done also. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.
Originally airing back in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With the show having very distinct colors due to it taking place almost entirely in the desert and within aged decaying buildings, the animation doesn't exactly have many really bright or vibrant moments as we're used to seeing but the colors here are very solid and the look overall very good. With so many standard colors in large areas there's a chance for more break-up but even the numerous gray and sandy backgrounds and uniforms maintain a good looking solid feel to them. Even better, there's really no noticeable aliasing or cross coloration going on which leaves us with a very smooth and clean looking presentation.
I keep finding that the covers with these deep blues to them tend to look the most appealing and this cover is no different as it provides a skyline backdrop of a ruined city while Kanta is in the foreground with his full gear on which lets us see a pair of lovelies in the reflection of his mask. The back cover conveys the dark nature as well and only hints at some of the comedy in a couple of the minor screenshots that are here. A lot of space is given over to the summary of the premise and a listing of the discs episode numbers and titles. The features and technical information is all clearly listed and easy to locate. As is common now, no insert is included with this release.
The menu layout is rather simple with a static image that has a head shot of Kanta on the right with nothing appealing about it while the left side has the series logo followed by the basic navigation pieces below it set to a brief loop of mildly creepy instrumental music. The layout is decent but the image leaves a bit to be desired overall. The menu is easy to navigate though and language selection is easy. Due to the way they author the discs, even though they no longer seem to provide close captioned/dubtitled scripts as a subtitle track, the tracks themselves are unlabeled so players' who have their presets used still don't get to work right when it comes to the subtitles. The language track is picked up fine however.
The extras continue to roll on and there are again some rather good ones to be had here. The desert parody pieces are amusing again, especially the Kill Bill riff piece, and the latest Japanese extra is also included, an extended piece at an animation university in Japan. The series director is a former student and returns there to give a small lecture and talk with students while also going on about the show. It's a fun little piece and interesting to see an actual class setting for this field. The Life in the Desert section covers profiles for Natsuko and what they affectionately call "sub characters" for a multi-part piece and we also of course get the clean opening and ending sequences in "textless song" format. Similar to before, we get another As Seen On TV segment that shows the original broadcast episode for one of the episodes on this volume. For those that live to see what the changes are, this is one way to do it, though my eyes aren't trained well enough to find minute flashes of differences from memory.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Desert Punk hits up another four episodes in quick succession from the previous volume which certainly helps as this is a series that in a way, the faster you see it the more you enjoy it. This set of episodes has a pair of decent standalone episodes that do a bit of character building and exploration and then launches into a decent two part storyline that lays the foundation for the future apparently, which isn't all that interesting since it's not something we'll see in this show.
The opening episodes is an amusing look at the realm of ethics in this desert world as Kanta and Kosuna find themselves "owning" a guy and two children after they rescue them in the desert. Kanta takes advantage of the situation and gets the adult to sign an IOU that basically puts them into service for him, something that Kanta hopes to in turn make a lot of money with by selling them off in town quickly. It doesn't happen like he wants and it turns into a situation where Kanta has to deal with the people he now has and their seemingly naïve ways. The adult, Stryker, was already a do-gooder in general since the kids original guardian had died and he stepped in to help them out. His nature only seems to infuriate Kanta since he's of the school of doing what you have to do to survive first and then kindness comes several rungs lower. It's not too often that you have a lead character that's unappealing in this nature and the supposed "bad guy" of sorts ends up being the one with more values. There is a fair bit of action mixed into it but it's the ethical play moments that are the most fun to watch.
The best episode on the disc though is the second one which focuses on Kosuna. Ever since her introduction to the show she's made it a better place and her influence on Kanta is pretty much nil but she brings something more to all of it than just his constant pervertedness. With their paying gigs getting more and more dangerous, Kosuna's angling up for something a bit more useful for a weapon so Kanta takes her to an excellent dealer where she finds herself getting involved in some amusing but well done training methods in order to handle some powerful weapons. There is also a fun little section to the story that focuses on a recurring "villain" of sorts who has changed jobs since we last saw him. Through him, we get to hear of some more interesting side tales about ancient technology that titillates Kanta. The real focus is always on Kosuna though and through the old man who equips her, we again get the reinforced view that she's going to be a powerhouse some day, regardless of how Kanta tries to influence her ways to his needs.
When Desert Punk enters the multi-episode storylines, they've been a mixed bag so far in terms of whether they're interesting or not. This volume has another two part tale that plays out like a weird version of the Road Warrior for a good part of it. Kanta and Kosuna are brought into a government sponsored job by Natsuko and her brothers where they'll be guarding a truck that needs to go from village to village. The transport needs to be well protected and since Kanta is one of the best they decide to use him at this critical time. The material being transported? Human fecal matter that's used to fertilize the various fields found around the West Oasis. It's amusing to see people treated kindly because they can produce poop but the gig turns into something bigger when there's a belief that what's really being transported is huge piles of old technology biological weapons. The story is actually fairly multi-layered in terms of who is doing what to whom and there's some innuendo about this having some severe long term effects, but since it doesn't seem like it's going to play out within the show it's sort of pointless.
What it does let happen though is a bunch of scatological jokes to occur and a lot of poop flying around that outdoes what a lot of disturbing hentai shows deal in. What's particularly amusing is that I saw this just after seeing a repeat of a review of the Hollywood film RV which is castigated by critics for the amount of fecal jokes and matter that are strewn throughout it. The observation is made in that review that if there's a pile of mud or a pool of poop and piss laying about, someone will inevitably fall into it. This is apparently a truism that reaches beyond our borders and to Japan as well. Unfortunately.
Desert Punk is a show that I'm still really waffling on whether I enjoy it in total or not. There are a lot of areas to it that are fun to watch and I laugh out loud at but there's also enough of it that I wince at. This volume in particular is one that goes from a high to a low of sorts as we get a really great Kosuna piece only then to dip into a huge scatalogically obsessed storyline. It's a well done episode overall and the riffs on Road Warrior are fun to watch but when it gets into the big piles of poop, well, I spend more time cringing than enjoying so that's a detriment to me. Your mileage or level of poop enjoyment may vary.
Japanese 2.0 Language
English 2.0 Language
English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Desert Parody,Character Profiles,Animator College Interview,As Seen On TV
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Desert Punk