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Manga / Desert Punk

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Get the job done. Collect the money. Repeat.
Tagline, Desert Punk DVD Box set #1

Suna-bōzu (literally "Sand Brat/Squirt"), known in English as Desert Punk, is a post-apocalyptic Seinen manga series written and illustrated by Masatoshi Usune. It was serialized in Enterbrain's Comic Beam magazine from August 5, 1997 to October 12, 2020, with all 139 chapters collected in 22 volumes.

The story takes place after a nuclear holocaust. Japan, like many other countries, has been reduced to a desert, and the surviving humans seek out a meager living in the hot sands. The diminutive 17-year-old Kanta Mizuno, nicknamed Suna-bōzu due to his seemingly incredible feats of skill and daring while on the job, scratches out his own living in the desert as a mercenary for the Handyman Guild between his occasional obsession with big boobs and sex, and, later, his training of an apprentice named Kosuna. Despite his flaws, he is highly professional, accomplishing his task no matter the cost.

Desert Punk was adapted into a 24-episode anime television series produced by GONZO and directed by Takayuki Inagaki with character designs by Takahiro Yoshimatsu and music by Kohei Tanaka. Funimation has licensed the series for distribution in the United States.

Desert Punk contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Kosuna convinces Kanta that she'll look good when she's older by showing her a picture of an attractive woman she (falsely) claims is her mother.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Due to the dry and somewhat realistic artstyle of the manga some characters tend to look rather plain, scary or downright Gonk looking. Because of the different artstyle in the anime, characters like Kosuna and Junko fall into this trope largely as a result of Generic Cuteness.
  • Anime Theme Song: It's used for the ED rather than the OP, but it's still there.
  • After the End: A post-apocalyptic Japan that has been reduced into a desert.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Beginning with volume 13, the titular Desert Punk becomes an antagonist instead and the story follows the adventures of Kosuna who's fighting for the west oasis' anti-government faction.
  • Artistic Age: In the anime Kosuna looks about 8-10, but is actually 14. In the manga she looks a bit older (or at least less specific in age), but she is still nearly a foot shorter than Junko.
  • Berserk Button: While unfazed by a large number of other insults, the gang leader from the first episode starts Hulking Out when he's told his mother... has a fat bellybutton. In the dub, they changed the taunt to "your mother's a dirty whore." The result is far more understandable to someone who speaks English.
  • Big Ol Eye Brows: A lot of characters have fairly pronounced eyebrows.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Given the setting of the series the idea of using innocence to deceive is very commonplace. Women, children, starving villagers? All of them more often than not end up being either totally ruthless or manipulative assholes. Even Kanta, our “hero” in the loosest sense of the term makes it clear he is a self-serving, perverted and borderline PSYCHOTIC asshole using the guise of a local legend to his advantage. By the end of the series Kanta’s facade is completely broken; he becomes a full fledged villain, betraying his own apprentice.
  • Black Comedy Rape: The whole of episode 11 is about Kanta trying to coerce Junko to have sex with him, as her having tried to kill him meant he had her dead to rights. It doesn't work, and she's able to con him into giving her amnesty without doing anything.
  • Blatant Lies: The way Taiko (Kosuna) manages to trick Kanta into thinking she will grow up into a nice big breasted woman from his dreams, she says the woman in the picture is her mother, so by proxy she will eventually grow the exact same bust line as her "mother's". Aside from genetics not working this way and Kanta falling easily for it, Kosuna is always erratic about her promise, forgetting to pretend the woman in the picture is her mother. In the anime it's even worse, the woman pictured doesn't even resemble Kosuna that much, while in the manga the woman in the picture does look like a grown up Kosuna with long hair and big breasts.
    • As if the pictured woman not being Kosuna's mother wasn't obvious enough, she also lied about growing a voluptuous bust size; adult Kosuna post Time Skip has one of the smallest busts in the whole series.
  • Bottled Heroic Resolve: Soldiers in the war extensively use combat stimulants, which make them able to go sleepless for whole days at times, but it's hinted that those are also terrible drugs whom the soldiers get hooked on.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The entire cast at least once or twice in the English dub every couple of episodes.
  • Building Swing: Frequently done by Punk and other mercenaries/anyone that has a similar suit, using those special backpacks they all have.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Once Kanta has his first run-in with La Résistance, the plot of the anime gets noticeably more serious.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: After he joins La Résistance, Rainspider has a habit of consistently abandoning them when things get tough, shouting "So long suckers!" or the like before high-tailing it out of there. However, he invariably returns and saves them from an otherwise insurmountable danger.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Many elements and characters from the earlier disjointed chapters are reintroduced later as more significant plot points in the later more coherent plotline. For instance, the "Hulk Syndrome" is reintroduced later as a rare but genuine superpower whose recipients are formally known as "Hurons" that several factions are studying and taking advantage of.
  • Combat Breakdown: Kanta vs. Amagumo. It lasts so long that the watching townsfolk get bored and go home.
  • Crapsack World: The Great Kanto Desert. It's an endless sand desert bathed in scorching heat all the time. Water is so scarce any one who finds a source will be rich (provided the water isn't polluted or poisoned already). Decent people are bullied by numerous bandit gangs, and all the powerful factions still make war against each other for the last scraps of the previous civilization or resources. In addition the setting is run by an incredibly corrupt government made of former scavengers who decided to monopolize weapons and resources they found first and keep other survivors barely alive to rake in profits and treasures.
  • Cruel Mercy: The reason that Punk and Rainspider don't kill their opponents is mostly because they'd rather humiliate them and leave them for dead.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    Kanta: Akio, you dumb f—” (gets hit over the head by Fuyuo)
    • Also, an instance where Kosuna describes what Kanta is doing while she's busy working
    Kosuna: ...and Master's busy masturba— (cut short because the Machine Gun Brothers show up and start a conversation)
  • Desert Bandits: After a nuclear war turns the entire globe into a desert planet, many are forced to make their living as mercenaries with a few operating as bandits in order to prey on travelers.
  • Desert Punk: Naturally. Desert Punk takes place in the arid Kanto Desert with a few isolated settlements scraping a living in the middle of a sea of sand and rock, fighting for the few sources of water there are in the area. Everybody is wearing clothing and armor adapted for the desert and every plot point is based on the fact that humanity is living in a desert and how they're dealing with it.
  • Desert Warfare: Beginning with volume 13, the govermentst of the South and West oases begin to wage a terrible war against each other. The conflict lays waste to the land and notably the few desert settlements there are.
  • Destructive Savior: Subverted; some townsfolk thought the battle between Desert Punk and Rain Spider could destroy their entire village, but due to the abovementioned Combat Breakdown they barely do anything.
  • Disaster Scavengers: The occasional "skeleton cities" are the main reason people started living in the desert; most of which have been picked dry without more been discovered decades ago.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When Kanta and the Kawaguchi siblings (the Machine Guns Brothers + Natsuko) were little, Natsuko let Kanta touch her breasts in exchange for not getting her brothers in trouble anymore. When they found out, they beat Kanta up. Kanta responded by planting an IED in their outhouse.
  • Dub Name Change: In something of an oddity for the era it was made, the English dub changed several character's names (besides just translating nicknames).
    • In the Japanese version, Kanta's apprentice is named Taiko Koizumi, and goes by the alias "Kosuna" (derived from his alias "Sunabozu"). In the English dub, Kosuna is her actual name.
    • For whatever reason, the characters called Kaido and Tachibana in the Japanese version are called Stryker and Tech in the English dub.
    • Fuyuo, Haruo, Koimizu, and Mitsuru had their names shortened to Fuyo, Haru, Koi, Mitz.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: the "Great Kanto Desert" would seem to be the future of the Kanto region in Japan, which is currently not only fertile, but heavily industrialized. It's also not clear what if anything of the rest of the world is left.
  • Eat the Dog: Kosuna cooks and eats a dog she was walking in revenge for Kanta giving her crappy jobs. In the anime the dog is replaced by a rare giant bug.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Kanta and Junko both end up joining the corrupt Oasis Army to brutally suppress anyone who threatens their authority.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: Played straight and averted. Everyone wears gas masks in the deserts—besides working as actual gas masks against frequent poison attacks they have built in binoculars and personal air-conditioning units.
  • Gonk: Quite a few. If a character is unnamed or over 40, chances are that they are a gonk.
  • Grappling Hook Backpack: Desert Punk, Kosuna and later Mitsuru use a grappling hook launcher coupled with a winch attached to their back. This gear allows them all kinds of acrobatics, since they're all lightweight, and to reach high places with ease. The powered grappling hook is usually used by cliffside miners and searchers but Desert Punk uses it to become a full-fledged Fragile Speedster in a shootout.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Damn near everyone in this series, considering most of them are Jerkasses.
  • Hover Tank: The infamous "Kong" armoured hovercraft is a legendary vehicle which even the most hardened handymen fear. Its armour can resist all but the highest caliber ammunition, it also has its own devastating weaponry and also has a sophisticated detection system.
  • HULK MASH!-Up: The "Hulk syndrome" is a strange disease that affects a few characters in the series and its cause is unknown. When someone loses their calm, be it anger and fear, their body suddenly becomes muscled out and they go berserk, attacking friends and foes alike. However, with time, one can learn to channel that power and only call upon a portion of it.
  • I Call Her "Vera": "Alice", the M40A1 sniper rifle, complete with a gushing description at the beginning of episode 4. There's also a minor character in episode 8 with "Kasumi-chan Mark II"—a gigantic armored tank.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: In volume 20, a troop of soldiers trapped and besieged in a village are reduced to eating the corpses of their comrades to survive.
  • Jerkass: Almost everybody
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Ties into the nature of the protagonists and is particularly true of Kanta and Junko. One good illustration is that episodes 15 and 16 open with a flashback that at first seems like Kanta was a childhood friend of the Machine Gun Brothers and Natsuko, but the end of episode 16 shows the reality: young Kanta was bullying the brothers into stealing for him and sexually harassing Natsuko.
  • La Résistance: The Underground Mercenaries fighting to overthrow the corrupt Oasis government and bring a peaceful regime to the Kanto Region.
  • Little Miss Con Artist: A pair of orphans encountered by Punk, Kosuna, and Kaido/Stryker turn out to be this, and their being this as well as Punk and Kosuna's apathy toward their poverty is emblematic of the Crapsack World setting. at the end of the show, Stryker is shown taking care of them anyway.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator's comments more or less amount to saying the Humans Are Idiots who really haven't even gotten the basic tenets of survival down.
  • Lost Technology: The population of the Great Kanto desert is founded on the search for valuable technology from the old world. The technology in question ranges from guns to killer robots to Neutron beams. Oddly, the most valuable thing anyone excavated was apparently a board game (LIFE by Milton Bradley).
  • Magical Girl: Some of the episodes parody the idea by showing Kosuna as one of these.
  • Medium Blending: Cosplay opening FTW.
  • No Ending: The anime's Gecko Ending has the whole cast apparently being obliterated by a reactive WMD, scenes of the wreckage being shown, then cut to the credits featuring them all doing everyday activities, with it unclear if this is a flashback or a flashforward.
  • No Mouth: Everyone wears gas masks that hide their mouths.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Due to how dangerous his career path is, Kanta Mizuno doesn't give his name away to outsiders looking for his services, Kanta presents himself as the Desert Punk, and that's how he famed himself with the title; Taiko Koizumi also follows suit when she becomes Kanta's aprentice, only going by Kosuna.
  • Passing the Torch: The 13th manga volume marks Kosuna, now as a grown up woman, debut as the new Desert Punk. Arguably it even happened in the anime as well when Kanta pulls a Face–Heel Turn and abandons Kosuna on their own.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Whenever a big mission for Kanta ends successfully the events of the next episode will end up negating his gains to both his finances and his reputation.
  • Post Apocalyptic Gasmask: Most characters wear gasmasks in the deserts created by the nuclear war. Not only do they serve as a defence against the frequent poison attacks they have built in binoculars and personal air-conditioning units.
  • Previously on…: Kosuna delivers one for episode 18, addressed directly to "you on the couch".
  • Psychic Powers: Kosuna begins to become a clairvoyant after a particularly tough missions leaves her unconscious for some time. From that point on, she's able to perceive when someone is targeting her (be it intending to attack her or pursuing her) and pinpoint their location. She's also able to see invisible hazard like toxic gas cloud, and perceive future threats.
  • Punny Name: Balls-A-Hurtin, the weapons manufacturer that created the prototype battlesuits in episodes 17-18.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Inverted. It is Kanta who betrays the group he and Kosuna were working with and Kosuna leaves him out of principles while Kanta disappears from the story and becomes a distant antagonist.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The Great Kanto Desert is littered with the ruins of an ancient civilization's giant, worn-down, mostly collapsed skyscrapers.
  • Razor Floss: One of Amagumo's many, many weapons. He even compares it to a spider's web
  • Really Dead Montage: Subverted In episode 20, it looks like Kanta is killed and the credits of that episode show a montage of Kosuna/Kanta moments, but Kanta comes back later
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: While Stryker and Natsuko are the nicest, most idealistic people in the series, they definitely fall into this trope.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: It's indicated that the robot guards have an ability to learn, and it's quite visible in the series, as within a couple of episodes, they go from merely loyal soldiers/killers to loyal soldiers/killers that complement Stryker as being a Worthy Opponent and start to engage in banter. If history repeats, they'll shed the loyal part at some point and bad things will happen.
  • Robot War: It's implied that along with the use of nuclear and biological weapons, humanity was nearly destroyed due to something roughly equivalent to what happened in the Terminator films (minus the time travel part).
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The final episode of the anime RESOLVES NOTHING OF THE ARC.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Kanta's weapon of choice is a 1897 Model Winchester, or at least a replica of one. One gunsmith even lampshades its utility since it's an easy weapon to use, doesn't jam even in the desert, and packs good firepower for its size.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The author puts in an effort to make the guns in the series accurately depicted. All volumes of Desert Punk feature a section at the end dedicated to showing the various guns used throughout the volume and giving pictures and their specs. The author focuses more on "functional" guns that will continue to work reliably in the desert, as opposed to "powerhouse" guns that may be less reliable in harsh conditions.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Most characters are veeeeery far to the cynical side, particularly Kanta (and by extension Kosuna) but Stryker is almost ridiculously idealistic... which got him and Kanta and Kosuna in a whole heap of trouble.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Lengthily subverted when Kosuna tries to convince Kanta to buy her a bigger gun.
  • Smoke Out: Parodied with Rainspider. He often does a "we will meet again" and throws down a smoke bomb, but then when the smoke clears, you see him running away quickly laughing maniacally.
  • The Song Remains the Same: Averted in the Funimation dub (as well as the French dub) by using all of the same songs but translating the lyrics into English.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: As noted above, parodied with Rainspider's Smoke Outs, although Punk plays it straight (aided by his balloon doubles)
  • The Strategist: Commander Tsutomu Mukai of the West Oasis army is defined as a meticulous strategist who manages to root out Kosuna's group of spies with a well thought plan, forcing her and her spy cell to flee. Only Kosuna's psychic abilities allow her to foil Mukai's attempt to catch her. In a flashback, we also see Mukai supervising a plan to trap a large force from the South Oasis government inside of a village, slowly killing them through attrition while destroying any supply run that tries to break his siege.
  • Technical Pacifist: Kanta and Rain Spider both seem to prefer taking everything their defeated opponents have on them (clothing included) to killing them. Still, Rain Spider's reasons for keeping some of them alive could be that he considers it a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Theme Naming: Most characters have surnames or nicknames that refer to water in some form (Mizuno, for instance, means 'water valley', Koizumi means 'little fountain', etc.), which makes for a cast full of Ironic Names in a series set in a post-apocalyptic desert.
  • Thirsty Desert: The Great Kanto desert is an arid land of sand and rock formations where there is little water and no arable land. To be stranded in the desert means certain day without the proper equipment and the heat can kill you as easily as dehydration.
  • Time Skip: The manga 13th Volume features in 3 years later after Kanta's betrayal.
  • Token Mini-Moe: Kosuna.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Kanta and Kosuna are hired to help clear the way of a cursed rock where a supposed vengeful dog deity resided. The rock was literally invulnerable to anything used on it. Hammers, guns, explosives... everything. When Kanta tries to remove the rock, he's visited by the dog deity herself. She just happens to be so damn sexy that all of her attempts to stick a knife in his back and kill him are thwarted by his sheer sexual lust. Eventually, she finds herself trying to run away from him just to survive. He goes to such great lengths to have sex with her that his own orgasm ends up destroying the rock. Kosuna was mortified when she saw this.
  • Uncanceled: After a four year indefinite hiatus, the manga returned to publication September 2009. It went on another hiatus a year later, then came back in 2013.
  • Underground City: Under the sand dunes lay the ruins of the previous great human civilisation. Some of those are huge underground complexes or some chasms were formerly the gap between two skyscrapers buried beneath the sand.
  • Unholy Matrimony: possibly between Kanta and Junko, although it's not clear that they became a couple post-Face–Heel Turn, although they definitely have a closer relationship
  • Unstoppable Rage: Anyone who suffers from "Hulkosis/Hulk Syndrome" will turn you into a super-strong giant.
  • Vapour Wear: One Funny Background Event is a scrawny old man with an improvised desert suit consisting of a speedo and a sheet of corrugated tin worn around his neck to provide shade.
  • Wife Husbandry: The entire reason Kanta agreed to let Kosuna be his apprentice. Notable in that it was Kosuna's idea.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: both Punk and Rain Spider have this as rumors about them.

Alternative Title(s): Sunabouzu, Sunabozu