“Desert Punk” takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Mankind destroyed the modern world in a cataclysm that turned Japan into the Great Kanto Desert. Life in the desert is rough and mercenaries roam wild, taking on and completing any job as long as it pays enough. The show focuses on the adventures of the Kanta Mizuno, AKA the Desert Punk, his rival Junko Asagiri, and eventual apprentice, Kosuna. The show initially focuses on the show’s aesthetic and setting while the latter half concentrates on Kanta and his place in the desert’s politics. The audience learns about the harsh living conditions and are given hints about how the Kanto Desert came to be.
The series employs a lot of adult humor in its comedy. Kanta is obsessed with large breasts, sex, and deviant sexual acts. This isolates the series from those that don’t enjoy that particular brand of humor. Kanta’s sexualized obsessions and general attitude make sure that he lives up to his Punk name, but make him unlikable. Several episodes concentrate solely on his obsessions and do little to drive forward the show’s overarching goal of political intrigue around the lost technologies of the bygone ages. This is frustrating because the show starts off on a high note when it establishes Kanta as a mysterious and skilled mercenary before wandering around into a rushed ending that does not feel satisfying. Thankfully the series saw fit to introduce some characters that help the audience through the low points.
Kosuna first appears in the third episode of the series as the apprentice of a sniper mercenary, but doesn’t become an established character until the seventh episode. While clumsy, the young Kosuna proves to have potential as a mercenary. Many of the episodes surrounding her education and introduction to the world of mercenaries help to educate the audience about the history of the desert and shed light on how the world works. “Fine Sand and Full Auto (Kosuna – Fully Automatic” is the most memorable Kosuna centered episode. She feels that the pistol Kanta gave her isn’t powerful enough to deal with their enemies. She demands a larger, more powerful weapon like those the other mercenaries carry, so Kanta takes her to his favorite gunsmith. Kosuna agrees to engage in pointless tasks of menial labor to prove that she can handle a big gun before realizing that it’s not the size of the weapon that matters, but how you use it. The episode draws on some of Kanta’s back story to show that being successful is about knowing your strengths and weaknesses and not having the fanciest toys.
Junko was an interesting character if only because of the way she was employed in the series. She serves as the main interest for Kanta and features large breasts and a tight outfit to show off the figure. Throughout the series, she uses her sexual body meet her goal, whether it be to steal the fruits of Kanta’s labors or to double cross the mercenary and his friends to avoid trouble. While she appears stuck into the standard realm of being the sexual object of men, she uses the objectification to get what she wants while refusing to submit to their will. There is one instance where she submits to Kanta’s sexual desires, but she first sets conditions that eventually pay off by putting her out of his reach. While she doesn’t particularly shine in any episode, Junko continually proves that she is one step ahead of everyone else in the show, especially the men.
Kanta is a character with great potential that felt misused throughout the entire series. The first two episodes show him as a skilled mercenary that always completes his task. These episodes also generate a lot of mystery about the character through his use of misdirection and trickery to gain a tactical advantage and by keeping his appearance a mystery through his mirrored helmet and full coverage desert clothing. This initial presentation creates high expectations for the character. Unfortunately, this momentum is used to get through the sexual humor and generally unsavory attitude presented by Kanta, he is the Desert Punk after all. While Kanta isn’t used well in the series, the character does shine in the first few episodes as well as the last few episodes. It’s far more interesting to hear his thoughts on life as a mercenary, what drives him, and his opinions on the world than it is to see him drooling over women and his attempts to bed them.
Overall the series is a mixed bag. The beginning and end of the series provide strong bookends and show that there’s more going on in this desert than a harsh existence, but a large part gets caught in Kanta’s sexualization of women. Those uninterested in Kosuna and uninterested in the unrefined sexual obsessions of Kanta may find it difficult to watch past the first few episodes. Those with an aversion to such humor and expecting a grittier version of “Trigun” should definitely avoid or at least shelve your expectations for something a little less refined.