Released on DVD back in 2006 Desert Punk did well for FUNimation. The show garnered a cult audience and though it didn't appeal to everyone many checked it out. This is another GONZO show and if you have seen one such endeavor you have undoubtedly fallen in love. If you held off though, you're in luck. FUNimation has just released a complete collection packed within a fine looking tin.
Directed by Takayuki Inagaki Desert Punk tells a twisted little tale about the future where mankind has taken to living in a place called the Great Kanto Desert. This inhospitable land is home to all sorts of villainous behavior, outlaws, and poor masses hoping to strike it rich with a water well. The clear liquid is quite the commodity and wherever it is in Kanto you can bet that people are going to gather around it.
With such a valuable resource in a wide open environment the amount of crime that plagues these bastions people need a hero to root for. In many places around Kanto it is the Handymen who come to the rescue in most circumstances. These folk are essentially hired guns who perform whatever job that you'll pay them for. They are proficient in almost all trades and the better Handymen are renowned for their skill and their name precedes them. Take Sunabozu (Kanta) for instance.
Armed with a specialized shotgun, a Handyman hat, cloak, and fishbowl-like helmet, Kanta isn't your normal hero. He's small in stature for one thing and uses that to lull would be opponents into thinking he's inept. However thanks to some handy equipment like balloons that look like him and a hydraulic grappling hook attached to his back he pulls off some nifty stunts. At the very beginning of the show he's someone to cheer for and seems like an all-around cool fighter; then we get to know him.
You see, Kanta is actually a kid in mercenary's clothing. He gloats incessantly, takes boyish pride in nearly everything he does, and is infatuated with exceedingly larges breasts. Whenever he sees an impressive rack on a beautiful girl he goes into a wild tizzy and attempts to handle them like melons at a supermarket or shove his face in between them like they were pillows. Both cases are still and example of disturbing and lecherous behavior that is unbecoming of a hero. In other words he's an interesting guy and this isn't your normal action anime affair.
Joining Kanta is an eclectic cast of characters that reads like a who's who in a rogue's gallery. Junko Asagiri is the most prominent busty babe in the show and is quite devious in her manipulation of Kanta's desires. She knows he hungers for her boobs and doesn't think twice to flaunt them in his face to get her way.
The flat-chested Taiko Koizumi may be young but she promises Kanta that she's grow up to be big and well-endowed like her mother, as referenced by a picture she carries on her person. Through events that occur early in the show Taiko becomes Kanta's apprentice, or sidekick if you will. He convinces himself that if he trains Taiko properly she'll grow up to be obedient, loyal, and abundantly endowed with large boobs. Like I said, Kanta is not your typical hero.
In total Desert Punk contains 24 episodes and remains relatively fluid throughout its run. There are quite a few episodic adventures but there are plenty of multi-part stories and references to earlier episodes so the show feels very connected with itself. There is no real pattern for the episodes per say and most of them offer generally entertaining stories depending on your appreciation of Kanta's hijinx.
The show begins unsuspectingly enough with Kanta going through the motions of being the Great Kanto's best Handyman. He saves weary travelers from bandits for a fee and winds up ensnared in Junko's trap, entirely distracted by her womanhood. He then goes on to be hired by the buxom babe for a mission to take down a massive tank that trolls the desert. This earns him a higher level of notoriety and brings people out of the woodwork to test his mettle.
One such want-to-be is a sniper who nearly takes Kanta down. He plays a game with the short stature hero and winds up losing in the end. The best part about this episode was Taiko's incessant bugging of Kanta to take her under his wing when he defeats the sniper (her former master).
From here Kanta takes a job to protect a burgeoning village that is hopeful for a soon to erupt well of water. The only problem is he winds up pillaging the village from within by eating their food, drinking their water, and harassing their women. He continues this trend even when one of the town babes agrees to do it with him should he win. Through a series of misfortunes he does indeed pull out a victory but the town's elder has him banished the desert. The girl that promised to do him sent a trio of Handymen out to rescue him which earned Kanta much disgrace. The series goes on to follow the exploits of Kanta and Taiko as they take on a possessed rock, team up with Junko to fulfill an old man's wishes, and investigate powerful rumored weapons. Around the halfway point the show takes on a slightly more serious tone but it's not enough to change the sexually charged mentality; it's just the story gets a little more refined.
If you're looking for an action series with a lot of humor and a unique sense of style Desert Punk certainly fits that bill. The storytelling is sometimes at odds with the comedic routine and Kanta's obsession with breasts gets annoying after a while. There are many who will not appreciate this show's sense of humor and if you're one of them you'd best steer clear. If you don't mind a bit of raunchiness in your anime and giggle whenever someone yells "boobies" you'll undoubtedly like this series.
Presented with a full frame aspect ratio Desert Punk looks very good despite the lack of anamorphic widescreen. From beginning to end this is a very bright show with surprisingly effective contrast. The pounding sun is felt through the use of colors and the washed out environment and a slight haze effect seems to blanket everything. Apart from the ridiculously large breasts everything in this show is presented with great style.
Technically speaking there are only minor things to gripe about. With the amount of dust that appears thanks to the Kanto Desert there is a slight amount of grain but it's used purposefully in most scenes. There is little blocking that occurs when the sandstorms kick up though this is only really noticeable if you're looking for it. Otherwise the only flaw to point out is a tad amount of line blurring when the camera zooms in.
Desert Punk presents three audio selections that each offer a decent experience depending on what you're looking for. The English language brings 2.0 and 5.1 to the table and a dubbing that is overall fine. The stereo track is noticeably lighter than the surround one but even then there is little presence on the soundstage. There is some directionality with sound effects and dialogue but it's not the most impressive use of rear channels I have seen. The Japanese is presented with only a 2.0 stereo offering which, like the English, sounds like you'd expect it to.
Each of the six discs included in this boxed set are reproductions of the original DVDs. That means you can expect to find the same bonus features which is definitely a plus considering other anime publishers cheap out on this option.
The first disc offers a small gallery with some "Desert Parodies" which are movie parody movie posters inspired by the show. Two of the original Japanese extras are included here which are an eight minute look at the making of the live action opening and an interview with Takatori Hideaki. A collection of voice casting auditions makes the cut here as well as some character bios, an edited version of the first episode, textless animations, and a Mr. Stain on Junk Alley episode.
The second disc brings less to the table with some character bios, textless animation, and a couple more parody posters. Two more Japanese extra features are tossed in here for good measure and include a live action promotional shooting and some video of the original Japanese voice sessions. The same can be said on the third disc where more of the same is present though the Japanese extras this time around feature more promotional video which takes place in a gun supply store and some manga related side story (good if you can read kanji). This time around there is an audio commentary with some English voice actors. They laugh, they have fun, they talk about what's on screen, but for the most part they don't provide much more than a few melon jokes.
The fourth disc presents the same trio of features (bios, clean animations, parodies) and another Japanese feature which is a video shot at a Tokyo Animator's College. Once again the fifth disc offers the same with two Japanese extras this time around. A video interview with Yuka, the singer for the second half's theme song, and a Desert Punk Radio Show taping are included.
In good form the final disc in the collection houses some of the meatiest material you'll find in Desert Punk. Parodies, bios, and clean animations are here of course, but a montage of Kanto talk about boobs, a blooper reel, and Director's Commentary (for the final episode) are included as well. Two more Japanese features are here for the last time with a second part of the gun store video and promotional clip montage.
All things considered Desert Punk was not a bad show. There was a lot of charm, some decent storytelling, and plenty of action. The pacing was also handled well and the producers really new how to keep the plot moving forward while taking time to crack a few jokes. It's really the off-kilter humor that makes and breaks Desert Punk.
A barrage of lecherous behavior from the main character and a seemingly endless supply of boob jokes will alienate many. I found myself growing tired of the mammary infatuation and wanted the focus to shift back to the interesting characters and fascinating background. In the end this series is recommended but thanks to the sometimes out of place perverse humor it is not highly so.
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