Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Desert Punk

1997 was a strange year. It saw the start of a new manga, called Desert Punk, in the magazine Comic Beam. DP later came out as a 24-episode TV anime series (licensed in the U.S. by Funimation). Manga Fox has the first 5 of the 14 volumes scanilated, and I've just started learning about this title.

Desert Punk, by Usune Masatoshi, Grade: A-.
DP is the name of the main character, a sneaky, underhanded "handyman" working in the Great Kanto Desert (what's left of central Japan after the End of the World As We Know It). The Desert is occupied by various bands of bandits, and the villages have a kind of bounty hunter system set up to protect them. Handymen serve as jacks-of-all trade, accepting jobs that can range from delivering a package, to defending a water well from thugs. Desert Punk has established a name for himself as "the demon of the desert", primarily because he fights dirty. While he claims to have never failed a mission, every few chapters sees him being bested by a rival. His biggest weakness is women with large breasts, and this generally leads to his downfall. Offers of large sums of money, or the possibility of seeing a naked woman are his two main motivators.

DP the manga is filled with black humor and silliness, in the vein of Appleseed and Dominion. Some of the situations that he gets himself into are pretty funny, and the interaction between himself and his new apprentice, Kosuna, sometimes turns into as much of a brawl as when Punk fights the enemy. Along with Masamune Shirow's earlier works, DP shares the same sense of humor as early Akira and possibly Dorohedoro. The artwork is really good, with emphasis on the different kinds of weapons in use. In the first few volumes, there's not much of a storyline. Punk takes on various jobs that bring him to different parts of the desert, and into conflict with just about everyone he meets. He does (unwillingly) adopt an apprentice, and is occasionally saved by a trio of former childhood frenemies. His reputation grows, and eventually other thugs start tracking him down to make names for themselves. Otherwise, though, there's no interwoven story arc yet (that comes later).

Summary: A rather unattractive "handyman" for hire, known as Desert Punk, lives a Clint Eastwood-like "man with no name" existence in the desert that used to be central Japan. Lots of silly jokes, and tongue-in-cheek fights. Recommended if you are over 18 and not easily offended.

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