Desert Punk Vol. #1 (Viridian Collection) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Desert Punk

Desert Punk Vol. #1 (Viridian Collection)

By Chris Beveridge     September 06, 2007
Release Date: September 25, 2007



What They Say
Enter a decimated world deep within the desert, where a less-than-noble hero fights for less-than-noble causes and chases a voluptuous love interest for less-than-decent reasons. A world where war is a way of life, sarcasm is mode of communication and the unexpected is always on the menu.

The Review!
Following the adventures of a man who does almost any kind of job in a post apocalyptic world, Desert Punk gives us a futuristic Japan as a desert and applies a mix of humor and action to it.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
While the cover artwork here doesn't really get across the humorous side of the show I have to say I really love the look of it with Kanta in his full gear under an umbrella with a glass of water in his hand. It's got a really good feel to it with the design of his outfit and the reflected sky and sun on his visor. The logo is also something that I've liked more and more as I see 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 series had a "starter set" release as well as the individual DVD release. The starter set is similar to past ones as it's a good solid hard chipboard box with a very dark looking set of images to it. One of the main panels has a great shot of Kanta in his gear with the ruins behind him but reflections of some of the other characters in his visor. The whole box has a very earthy and sandy tone to it that does keep it far more in the serious vein than the show really is but it's just so well done and looks great that it's hard to complain. Included in the box is an official Desert Punk cap which has been made to look and feel like it's survived some time in the desert as it's a bit frayed and sun stained. The cap is great, something that FUNimation has managed to do well in several releases now with the caps being big enough to cover even my head comfortably.

Menu:
The menu layout is rather simple with a static image that has a crazed image of Kanta on the right in an almost black and white style 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, they 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.

Extras:
The opening volumes has a lot of extras available to it including an entire extra episode of sorts. The first thing we get is a quick bit of parody information as we see the first two Japanese DVD covers and the relatively famous images they satirize. Some of the Japanese extras that made it over are in a separate section that involve showing how the live action opening was made which runs almost nine minutes as well as an interview with singer for the opening theme which also runs about nine minutes. Both pieces are interesting since the opening is definitely not what you'd call standard. On the English side of the extras, there's a piece for the main character auditions which is unfortunately not quite as well done as it could be. It's basically a commentary track with the directors talking about the job of casting and then playing the audio auditions set to a screen that has the series logo on it and that's it. I would have preferred to see footage of the actors or even of the clips they were doing the audition for. Even worse, the entire segment is strangely key-locked meaning you can't skip to the end, fast forward and there's no chapter breakdown to get to a specific actor. So if you want to sample a piece, you have to listen to the whole thing. Only the menu key works so you can get out of the extra.

When the show originally aired, it was for whatever reason edited in a number of places. FUNimation thankfully got the uncut version for release here so it's not an issue but they have included the first episode so you can see what was cut. Or rather, hope you can see what was cut since my memory isn't the best for these kinds of details after watching all four episodes and in the time I watched I didn't notice much. In addition, the episode is done only in English language with no subtitles. I'd much rather have had a couple of comparison screens or even comparison clips for something like this. The release is rounded out with the textless songs which are always a welcome addition.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Desert Punk provides something very welcome that I've missed in many of their recent releases; dubbed songs. When Pioneer first did it and then Media Blasters did several themselves, they were always things I loved to hear. I was quite happy to hear this here and hope they can convince more of the licensors to allow this with future releases, though it's easy to understand why it doesn't happen. Music rights are just plain evil on so many levels.

Desert Punk, originally known as Sunabouzu and used as that during the majority of the subtitles, is a series from Gonzo that actually flew below a lot of peoples radars when it initially aired. When the show was announced as licensed at Anime Boston back in 2005 there were a lot of people I knew who, typically very up on titles, couldn't quite place it at the time. It's certainly not generated as much buzz as many of their titles in the last couple of years but the first four episodes here show a rather amusing and quirky show that as much as it seems to be doing more mainstream kind of action comedy is definitely just off enough from the norm to really appeal to a certain audience. How else do you explain a scene where the lead is set for a showdown with another character and one of the ragtag members of the town that's watching out suddenly breaks out into original songs about each of the men as the lyrics scroll across the screen?

The show is based around the concept of the world several hundred years from now after the folly of man has left the majority of the place a desert wasteland. The Great Kanto desert is the home of the stories told here where we follow the adventures of a handyman named Kanta Mizuno. He's not quite a bounty hunter or other similar type but rather someone who will take on most any job and always finish it. Over the last couple of years he's earned himself a good reputation as he's taken down many of the gangs in the area that he's been paid to handle, he does collection jobs and always gets his man or money or simple item retrieval operations. He's got a great little outfit that fits his diminutive stature that feels like the samurai of old when they'd travel but done in a desert garb fashion. In fact, you really don't even see his face at all during the first couple of episodes which gives the show a rather surprising feel.

Kanta's been doing fine with various jobs up until now but he's finding that things are starting to go in strange directions when he gets caught up in the jobs that a woman named Junko seems to be running in parallel to him. At first he thinks she's just a local hottie with massive breasts that he can take advantage of but it turns out she's in the same kind of trade as him and she's been using his jobs to get her own down as well. She even goes so far later on to hire Kanta to guard her and the item she managed to swipe that he was originally after at one point. She's a crafty woman who has no problem using her sex appeal to get what she wants but she doesn't have to use much on Kanta since he's such a horny little pervert.

Over the course of the first four episodes we get to know Kanta's methods a bit, the layout of the world which has a fair bit of civilization mixed into the really amusing design of the buildings that feel like they came out of the Fist of the North Star series, as well as putting down some groundwork for something of a larger plot if the key that comes into play early on is any indication. There are a lot of interesting hooks into the show and it plays up some fun angles such as the perverted nature of Kanta but overall it's a straightforward action comedy kind of series that's really well animated and with a cast who has a lot of fun in both languages with the parts given.

In Summary:
Desert Punk isn't the kind of show that hits a home run right from the start but it certainly entices you to come back for more with the way it tells its story. There's a good mix of stories throughout here that show what life is like in this decayed world and it shows a number of sides to the lead character. The showdown in the second episode is a good bit of comedy as the two throw everything but the kitchen sink at each other but the fourth episode showcases an interesting sniper battle as Kanta becomes the target of those wanting to make names for themselves. Stories that work well in a comic nature are well told in a more serious vein here as well. The production values for it are all around very solid and this release really pleases on a number of levels. Fans of the show will be very happy with what they're getting here and those coming in for the first time will find a quirky futuristic post apocalyptic adventure focused around guns and boobies. Just like Kanta would like.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Making of the Live Action Opening,Interview with Takatori Hideaki (Singer),Original Japanese DVD Artwork
TV Edit of Episode One,Main Character Cast Auditions,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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