Desert Punk Box Set (w/Artbook) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Mark Thomas
Review Date: Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 10, 2007



What They Say
Meet Kanta, the... err... "hero" of our story. Well, the good guy. No, not quite. Hmm... Anyway, styling himself the "Desert Punk," he's out to make a name for himself as the best handyman for hire. No job is too tough, and no opponent too nefarious. That is, until he runs into Junko, the siren of the sands. Double-crossed by these double-D's, Desert Punk finds himself with a job he couldn't complete and a debt he can't repay.

Contains all 6 volumes (24 episodes), plus an art book featuring all of the original Japanese parody DVD covers packaged in a collector's tin!.

The Review!
A show that had a chance to be good but ultimately ends up flat.

Audio:
For this viewing, I listened to the English 5.1 audio track. There are also options for English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0. The 5.1 technology is used really well in this release, as everything gets spread out along all the channels. While it is increasingly becoming normal for sound effects to have nice directionality, and even the dialogue in this release gets the direction treatment for battle scenes and other times of rapid movement among character. During the slower times, the dialogue stays centered, though the characters themselves are typically central at those times as well. Technically, there are no negatives here, as there were no instances of distortion or dropout.

A nice touch to this show is that on the English tracks, the main theme songs have also been dubbed into English, while the original Japanese versions are still available on the Japanese tracks. Really good effort all around.

Video:
The video is also well done on this release. Originally airing in 2004, Desert Punk is given in 4:3 aspect ratio and transferred to DVD very well. For a show such as this that relies on muted and dull colors, it is not uncommon to see those colors become even more muted and dull during transfer, but the colors hold up well here, with no other technical issues affecting the presentation either. Despite the lack of vibrancy, there is some really beautiful artwork on display, especially with the scenery and other backgrounds, as it does a great job of depicting the desolation and harshness of the land Desert Punk lives in. Artistically, it is a well put together show.

Packaging:
Funimation did a great job with the packaging for this set. The entire set is preserved in a metal tin with an image of Desert Punk on the front. I love the reflection of Junko and Kosuna in his helmet.



The back also has a picture of Desert Punk, this time relaxing in a beach chair and holding a glass of water.

Inside the tin is a sturdy, card folder containing the six discs and a booklet.

  


When fully opened, there are four sections, with the pocket for the booklet on the left and the discs going into he three right sections. The folder is completely covered in images of various characters, with some images only coming to light when the discs are removed. I love the back image of Junko with little, chibi-like drawings of Desert Punk crawling all over her. The DVD portion of the folder has my one minor gripe of the packaging: each section takes two discs, with one being placed over the other; meaning to get at the back disc, the front disc needs to be taken out too. This is a minor inconvenience, especially since the discs are easily removable, but it is an inconvenience all the same.

The booklet itself contains images of parody movie posters that were used as the DVD covers on the Japanese releases. These parodies use the Desert Punk characters and each have the title Sunabo, the Japanese title for Desert Punk. I particularly liked the Indiana Jones poster with Rain Spider and the Kill Bill one with Kosuna.

Overall, the packaging for this set is beautiful. Top notch job by Funimation.



Menu:
The menus on this release are fairly functional, but honestly not that nice to look at. The selections are given down the left side of the screen, with the show title at the top and a harsh, almost black and white picture of one of the characters to the right. In an attempt to match the show, the menus have dull and muted colors, but unlike the show, the end result is not aesthetically pleasing. Instead, it is boring at best and somewhat unpleasant at worst. On the positive side, the menu are easy to follow, as the selections stand out from the rest of the screen, and the yellow Desert Punk helmet indicating the current selection is always easy to spot. Functional menus but not exactly the nicest looking.

Extras:
Another area of this release that really excels. All of the extras from the original releases are left intact on these discs. Each disc comes with a section of the parody movie posters provided in the booklet, profiles of some of the characters, some extras from the Japanese releases (which include interviews and side projects of the staff and cast), textless songs, and trailers. Some of the more interesting Japanese extras are the making of the Live Action opening to the show on disc 1 and a video comic of a Desert Punk side story from Ultimate 2004 Air Gun Catalog that was never in the manga on disc 3.

Aside from some commentaries for episodes 9 with Eric Vale (Desert Punk), Callie Young (Junko), and Luci Christian (Kosuna) and episode 24 with Jeremy Inman and Zachary Bolton (directors), there are a couple of other fun extras. On discs 1 and 4, there are sections called “As seen on TV,” which show episodes 1 and 15 the way they originally aired on Japanese TV, with all the edits intact. Since the DVDs are unedited, it can be interesting to see what exactly did not make it past the Japanese censors. Finally on disc 6, there is a blooper reel from the English dubbing that is a lot of fun to listen to, and an audio collection of Punkisms, some of the more ridiculous and hilarious things that Desert Punk said throughout the show. All in all, while there is nothing here that will blow anybody away, each disc is packed pretty full of fun extras that will take a long time to sift through.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Desert Punk is a show that I was anticipating, as from blurbs and summaries, it sounded something akin to Trigun with more perverted humor. For me, that had ‘can’t miss’ written all over it. Unfortunately, while the show started out promisingly enough, one aspect killed my interest and never gained it back.

In a harsh, post-apocalyptic future, Kanta Mizuno grew up a nobody, in a no name town, in a world where only the strongest survive. On first glance, Kanta has no outstanding characteristics: he’s short, self-centered, perverted, a bit cowardly, and not above screwing anybody over for his own personal gain. However, when out on the job, Kanta is The Desert Punk, the most feared mercenary in the Great Kanto Desert; a man so feared he is known as the Demon of the Desert. When he takes a job, nothing can stop Kanta from accomplishing his goal. Well, nothing except a pair of large breasts, of course.

This is where Junko Asagiri comes in. Junko is also a mercenary, one that bounces in all the right places. Kanta meets Junko on assignment during the first episode, appropriately titled ‘The Demon and the Double D’s.’ At first, she comes across as meek and helpless, convincing Kanta to help her with sweet words and suggestive glances. When she double crosses Kanta for the goods at the end of the assignment, he then sees her for the manipulative person that she is. Yet, while he refuses to ever work with her again, all it ever takes is a flash of cleavage to bring Kanta to her side once more.

Kanta is also quickly joined by Kosuna. This fourteen-year-old girl first appears as the apprentice to a sniper determined to make a name for himself by killing Desert Punk. However, much to Kanta’s chagrin, when Kanta defeats the sniper, she joins Kanta as his apprentice. At first, Kosuna is clumsy and can never do anything right. Yet, despite Kanta’s misguided direction, she slowly develops the same skills and instincts that have made Desert Punk so famous over the years, eventually causing him to admit that she’s not quite so worthless after all.

Kanta and Kosuna, with frequent appearances from Junko, spend their days taking on whatever job comes along that pays them good money, with no real thought as to the consequences. At times, Kanta takes on gangs, ancient cursed monuments, and even the government, but he has no real feelings towards the outcomes other than he gets paid. Most of the episodes are stand alone stories with no real furtherance to the ultimate outcome other than to introduce the various characters that become important later on.

Eventually, though, Kanta get tricked into joining with a rebel faction intending to bring down the Oasis Governments, whose indifferent attitude towards the common people has led to the squalid and harsh environment that everybody lives in. Kanta is livid that he has been used in this way, but he is soon convinced that he was brought in because the people involved feel that the skills of The Desert Punk will tip the balance. Kanta knows that his decisions and actions will determine whether the rebel faction will succeed or fail.

Where this show really succeeds is with the action scenes and the humor. As with any show centering on action, every single battle starts off with Kanta getting the raw end of the deal, setting up his big comeback. However, there is some real ingenuity with his strategy planning, and he never gets out of a jam the same way twice. Add in Kanta’s foul mouth and flippant attitude, and the action scenes are always a blast from start to finish.

Much of the humor in this show is sexual based, as Kanta has a breast fetish. In fact, he spends part of one episode planning to seduce Junko and keep her around until Kosuna grows up and develops into a woman. That way, he can always have ‘fresh funbags’ around to keep him entertained. Humor such as that can easily get old and/or go too far into the bounds of tastelessness. However, much of what makes Desert Punk so funny is how far it is willing to push those boundaries. It is silly humor that works because it knows it is silly, and it revels in it.

Where Desert Punk loses me, though, is with the characters themselves, and unfortunately it kills the entire show for me. Throughout the entire show, just about everybody that becomes a regular player is a scumbag in someway. In most stories of this type, a person like Kanta might be a self-centered, perverted mercenary, but they’d be tempered with a heart of gold. In Desert Punk, Kanta is just cold hearted. There is nothing all that redeeming about his character, and that goes for everybody involved. If there is any good in them, it is more than outweighed by the bad. In fact, Stryker is the only person that has admirable qualities, and he is just a bit part who is constantly ridiculed for his naivety.

For me, the only part of the characterization that works was the relationship between Kanta and Kosuna. Despite their constant arguments, it is obvious that there is a friendly camaraderie between the two, and even a decent amount of professional respect, especially as Kosuna grows and becomes more confident in her abilities. Yet, even while he accepts her, Kanta is really only using her to make his own life easier, ultimately molding her into an almost carbon copy of himself.

While I certainly do not expect all characters to be saints, for me it was hard to watch a show where there were no real likable characters. When Kanta would inevitably get screwed over by Junko or somebody else, most times I found myself wondering why I should care that he got screwed over. It is supposed to be humorous, yet that sort of humor is dependant on a certain level of sympathy, and Kanta was too much of a jerk for me to feel any sympathy. The same really goes for virtually everybody else on the show. I had no emotional connection to the characters, and that indifference ruined the show for me.

In Summary:
There is a lot of good in this show. The story is good and fairly well-developed, the action scenes are great, and the humor is wonderfully over-the-top. Yet, the personalities of the characters made me just as coldly indifferent to them, and therefore their struggles, as they were to everything else. It is a shame, because the rest of the show is fairly well done. If a completely negative cast of characters does not bother you, then Desert Punk would probably be a fun show to watch. However, if you are like me and like to see at least some positive traits in the actions and attitude of people, then I would recommend staying away from this one.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Life in the Desert, Desert Parody, Textless Songs, As Seen On TV, Main Character Cast Auditions, Original Japanese Extras

Review Equipment
Phillips Magnavox TP3285 C129 32” TV, Samsung DVD-V5650 Progressive Scan DVD w/ DD/DTS, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: A+
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 89.99
Running time: 650
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Desert Punk