Desert Punk Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, August 10, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2006
What They Say
Is Desert Punk dead? Fearing the worst, Kosuna adopts his name and carries on with the help of a pint-sized apprentice equipped with a full-sized attitude! Double-crosses and unexpected events lead to an explosive final battle... but has Desert Punk's legacy reached its end?
Contains episodes 21-24:
Successor of the Desert
Voices in the Wind
The Demon Revealed
Desert Punk comes to a close in a way that's completely unexpected, turning a mediocre series into one that delights at its end.
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.
With a red tinged cover, a first I think, the foreboding skies make up the background and highlight the character artwork nicely as it features several of the characters that play key roles in this volume. 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.
.The extras for the final volume carry through on much of what we've seen before. There's a new round of amusing parody covers, some of the better ones in fact, and a couple of new character profiles. A dub outtake section is included which is a plus, right from the start when the voices go to different characters by accident. The textless songs are brought in for another round and another amusing entry from the dub is a series of "Punkisms" with some of the comical and downright dirty things that Kanta has to say. The last episode on the disc has an extra commentary track available from the extras section as it has the director talking about the show. And from the original Japanese extras, we get the second part of the survival course game footage as well as a "video treasure vault" which covers various ads and promos used for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the previous volume of Desert Punk, I rather enjoy how the show started to reveal some of the bigger picture of what's going on in the Great Kanto Desert with what the government wants, the renegade groups and the way the citizenry has to deal with everything. Some of it was cruel, some of it makes sense and overall it really highlighted the harsh reality of the world these characters inhabit. Seeing the really dark nature of what's going on was appealing and it's something that I could see Kanta really getting into.
Having that particular storyline end with Kanta's death wasn't exactly surprising but you also know that they don't really kill off the lead character at this point in a show. At the end, maybe, or in a flashback done at the beginning of the series. But not in episode twenty. So shifting the storyline forward six months and focusing on Kosuna as she's taking on the role of Sunabozu the second, I expected him to reappear rather quickly and proceed to some big flashy ending. Having it instead provide Kosuna with three episodes of dealing with her loss of her master and handling new jobs along with her assistant Mitsuru, well, it became a far more interesting series. As I've said in earlier reviews, Kosuna's a real gem in the show and seeing her take over the lead role here and actually handle it was beautiful to see. We get to watch her not only take on a few random jobs and manage Mitsuru's smaller jobs that earn them money, but we also see her maturing as she handles some of her master's odds and ends. She even takes on the responsibility of cleaning his tombstone of the graffiti that seems to be added frequently to it.
Kosuna's growth is nicely played out here both personally and professionally. Seeing her befriend those who had worked with her master in the past is warming, such as the Mitsunami gentleman who made the custom rocket winch that he used, in that she's able to get him to make a slight variant of one for her to use. Add in her taking on Handyman roles and the role of being a master to young Mitsuru, she shifts very well into the lead role and doesn't have any issue in keeping control of the screen when she's on. A fair number of other characters that have populated the series prior to this, such as Natsuko and her three brothers, treat her as an equal when they get into job situations since everyone is responsible for themselves but she also earns the respect of her enemies as Junko becomes a player once more and the enmity between the two of them really surfaces beyond their chest sizes.
Of course, Kanta isn't kept out of the picture entirely but when you get the show to shift gears in such a dramatic way that he almost becomes the villain of the show and Kosuna takes on the lead, the dynamic is surprisingly different but it retains a lot of what made the show fun. Kosuna has been able to become a strong enough character during her tenure as Kanta's pupil that now she's able to really think that with time she can surpass him and in some ways restore honor to the name she's taken for it. Kanta manages to have a strong enough reason in his own devious and selfish ways that him making the shift to the other side makes sense. Where it becomes a problem is in realizing that his talk earlier in the series about survival of the fittest and doing what's necessary wasn't just talk, it's something that he puts to the test with results that aren't pleasing and can leave a foul taste. But it's true to the character and that's what's important.
The series does manage to end on a fairly strong note in its own way and we know there's much more to come in the storyline based on the number of episodes that referenced upwards of fifteen or so years in the future. The series didn't exactly thrill me outright from the start and I liked certain parts of it throughout, but it was the start of the bigger picture in the fifth volume that really keyed me in. It won me over quite well with this last volume you though as it radically changed the positions of characters and the dynamic and even the premise to some degree. It's a risky thing and it probably alienated some viewers but the shake-up was very welcome for me since it's not an ending that plays out by the book and leaves you with nothing really interesting afterwards. Desert Punk is a fairly average series overall but it has some beautiful bursts of creativity throughout and takes some strong risks at the end.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Desert Parody,
Character Profiles,Outtakes,Punkisms,Survival Game Part 2,Video Treasure Vault
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