Movie: Some shows get better as time goes on and others fall into the dreaded sophomore slump; there are examples of both easily had by quickly scanning the review database at DVD Talk. One show that thankfully maintained the same level of quality started with Desert Punk V1 and now picks up with Desert Punk V2: The Desert Duo. The protagonist for the show is a young guy named Kanta Mizuno. He wears protective gear that allows him to survive, even flourish, in the future desert. His handle to most people is Desert Punk, the most notorious mercenary of the times who takes on whatever jobs he can to scratch out a living, belying the fact that he is about half the size of most people of the time. Here's what FUNimation had to say about the show:
"The Great Kanto Desert is a place of extremes, where remnants of an ancient civilization destroyed by their own evil deeds, still lie intact. Kanta Mizuno is not your typical hero. His methods are not always honorable, but he's the closest thing to a good guy this desert's got. Self proclaimed as Desert Punk, he's out to make a name for himself as the best handyman for hire. No job is too tough, no opponent too nefarious - Once Desert Punk's on the job, it's as good as done! That is, until he runs into Junko. Ever since he set eyes on this chic he can't seem to get anything right, his lust getting the better of him every time. This beautiful, devious, full-chested, whole-lotta woman is not afraid to let others do her dirty work. Desert Punk not only finds himself with a job he couldn't complete, but debt he can't find his way out of."
The first volume of the show established that Kanta was not exactly a heroic type of guy. In fact, he was a jerk with only two things on his mind, sex and money. He uses his survival skills to get what he wants and doesn't care about anyone else in the desolate future where the world has taken a significant turn for the worse. The world is an unforgiving place though few have raised the art of selfishness to an art form as much as Kanta has done, though he pays for it routinely as the fates conspire against him.
Okay, the episodes this time were 5) The Price of Water, 6) Wandering Lust, 7) Age Before Beauty, and 8) A Dog in Heat. The first couple of episodes made up a single arc as Kanta signed on to protect a possible well a town was collectively digging. The price of water in this arid climate is outlandish but no less important to survival so as the town starts to get results, a gang threatens to take it away from them. In response, they hire the best mercenary money can buy, Desert Punk. Being who he is, he takes complete advantage of the situation, much like the Clint Eastwood character from High Plains Drifter, always staying one step ahead of the people in terms of what he plans out and how he thinks. When the gang comes into town, things don't go as planned and a bit of treachery on the part of all involved make the two episodes rather classic, especially the manner in which Kanta plans to fend off the bad guys.
This leads to the following two episodes where the return of Kanta's apprentice, Kosuna, causes some additional headaches. Kanta, being a jerk, decides to use her willingness to learn from him as a means to fill his pocketbook so she shows him that she's no dummy and plays him right back. He keeps her around on the hope that she'll turn out a hotty like her reported mother was but the type of job they end up with is not suited for his unique skills and he soon finds that he gets what's coming to him, even if it nearly kills him to restore his damaged reputation. The level of humor and fan service aside, the four episodes were strange but also appealing in a cynical way, making me want to pick up a copy of the next volume as soon as possible. I'm going to rate this one as Recommended for how much fun it was though I'm thinking a season box set might make them series even more interesting (and better rated).
Picture: Desert Punk V2: The Desert Duo was presented in the same 1.33:1 full frame ratio color format that it was shot in by Gonzo for airing on Japanese television. The colors were a bit muted but that should be expected given the kind of wasteland that the series takes place in. Far too often, an anime series will come across as cheerful, bright and otherwise inappropriate looking so that helped lend an air of authenticity to the show. I wish the budget had been larger for the show but in large part, it came across as it should and got points for that.
Sound: The audio offered three choices for fans to pick from; a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround English language dub written by Eric Vale, the 2.0 Dolby Digital original Japanese track, or a 2.0 Dolby Digital English dub. In terms of the voice acting, I liked the dub a lot but the original was superior by a wide margin this time. Maybe it was the inflections and tones they used but the subtle differences were noticeable right off the bat here and I'm not above saying so. On the surround track, the music and special effects came across as more defined and enhanced but this is typically the case when a company punches up the audio from Japan's broadcast standard. As a side note, the score was substantially different in each of the two tracks, something I really didn't mind but the dubbed version really didn't seem as creative or interesting.
Extras: The extras this time weren't bad with some more of the textless songs, movie poster parodies, trailers, and some silly material for the Japanese release with the cloaked live version of Kanta brandishing a rifle around a bunch of office geeks (although a few of the geeks were attractive geeks). The internet radio station material and campaign caravan lasted longer than most extras I'm used to on an anime release, adding to the value of the show more than a little bit.
Final Thoughts: Desert Punk V2: The Desert Duo showed the further exploits of the anti-hero we all love to hate (but secretly cheer for nonetheless). His cleverly written demeanor and situations combined elements of fan service and humor with a sense of a bleak future, making it a lot of fun to watch. If the following volumes are nearly as good, a lot of people are going to be upset that they missed this one when it first came out but the overall impression I got from the nuances of the series to this point lead me to believe that upcoming character development will be just as good, if not better. Check this one out of you have a dark sense of humor.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.