Desert Punk Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 18, 2006
What They Say
On an underground mission, the Punk and his apprentice confront faces from their past. Shockingly, everyone has been in on a deceptive scheme that completely blindsides Desert Punk. Will he now finally fight the good fight?
Contains episodes 17-20:
Prey in Pursuit
Too Close for Comfort
Scratching the Surface
A Raw Deal
Mixing up the usual elements of comedy and action, this volume has a bit of fun before getting surprisingly serious.
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.
Though there's little blue in sight, this cove looks quite good as it's got the serious shot of Kanta in his full gear and mask on with a sandstorm blowing behind him that really pushes the idea of this being something more serious than it usually is. It's not exactly a standout cover in some ways but it's well illustrated and it has a great feel to it. 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 Kosuna in her Handyman gear on the right 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.
Similar to past volumes, there's a good round of extras to be had here. The desert parody pieces are amusing again with the Right Stuff parody being my favorite. The latest Japanese extras are also included, one of which is a special video interview with Yuka, the woman who sings the opening and ending songs to the show. The other extra from the Japanese release that was really fun to watch was the public taping of some of the dialogue from the show. It's always interesting to see the actors in the studio as they perform together but doing a live performance/taping like this takes it a step further. The Life in the Desert section covers profiles for Stryker and the second round of sub characters. We also of course get the clean opening and ending sequences in "textless song" format.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having messed up my ordering of the series and ending up with volume four and five one right after the other, I got to double up on the experience and it did confirm that there's only so much Desert Punk I can take at a time. While the show was a bit of fun as it started with this volume, it started to wear thin the further we got into it, which was unfortunate since it starts to set things up for the last volume and final storyline.
The opening two episode storyline here, a surprise in itself after finishing up a two parter in the last volume, brings Junko back to play once more. She's someone that Kanta can't help but to deal with even as much as she's screwed him over in the past, so when she comes to him on the run from a sniper who is intending to force her to marry him, Kanta cannot help himself. He has to stop the sniper from getting his girl since if he can't have her, no one can. Kosuna of course is relegated to rolling her eyes and being quite sharp with Junko since she just hates her with a passion; their little spats are positively hilarious. Kanta does however find himself in deeper than he expected since it turns out that the guy Junko is running from is someone she was trying to con some information out of. He apparently swiped one of the new high tech desert survival suits from the company which is more powerful than anything else out there, including its ability to snipe at night from incredible distances.
While the storyline is essentially a chase episode with Kanta and Kosuna being stuck in not having all the materials they usually have, it does expand a fair bit into talking more about some of the make-up of the Kanto region and the companies involved along with the government. Some of the different philosophies start to creep into the show again, particularly about the importance of being responsible for ones own survival. What gets to be fun in the action department is that we learn that the suit that's hunting them is part of a group of prototypes and those other three are now hunting him since they want the suit back. It's almost a comedy of errors at times as the chase goes on but it's fun, at least up until they dip back into that awful scatological area again.
The rest of the volume starts off an interesting new story that in a way really changes everything, depending on whether you really believe Kanta is doing as he says. Kanta and Kosuna end up taking on a new job that has them delving into an underground area and it spends a lot of time showcasing one of the lost Dark Age cities. There's so much to be seen just from the first moment that they step into it that Kanta talks about being able to retire ten times over on just that without even looking under any kind of rock. It brings back some memories to his own past when they came to a really fascinating city of the West Oasis government and how contained it is. Seeing a lot of the Dark Age city underground and some of its secrets is really fascinating though since it has plenty of little hooks for people like me that love this kind of tale.
As fascinating as it all is, the show takes a more interesting turn as we find out that taking Kanta down there was basically a ruse to try and introduce him to something far bigger, the anti-government forces. There are some amusing revelations that twist various people into different roles than we believed them to be. We've had various bits about these kinds of forces in the past but through this storyline and his blatant "exposure" to them, we're able to understand more of what's really going on with this side and how the government works when it comes to viewing the citizens of its domain. This builds nicely on what we had before about Kanta expressing his belief about the government not being involved in peoples lives beyond providing for the very basic necessities. It's up to the individual people to make their lives what they want them to be if they can, and not the governments' responsibility. It's a fascinating subject in itself when you place it in the context of how this world is after the Dark Ages.
Content wise, this is a solid volume and one that changes the course of things as it sets up for the series finale in the next volume. Seeing it so close after the fourth volume had me feeling a little less than enthused, especially since it played in the scatological area once more, but there is just a lot of really neat bits throughout here. And it doesn't hurt to have not only Junko and her massive breasts running around again in skintight outfits but Natsuke also makes a return in her always enjoy military outfit. The world of Desert Punk has always had plenty of room for expansion into how it really works on a bigger level than the individual and we're now starting to see that. It's a good evolution for the series and sets up what looks to be an interesting finale.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Desert Parody,Character Profiles,Yuka Special Interview,Radio Broadcast Public Taping
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: TV MA
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