In the future, Japan is a wasteland. In the Great Kantou Desert, scattered humans eke out a living in the hot sand. Among them, a short-statured man they call "Sunabouzu" makes a living as a bounty hunter. Like a demon of the sand, he seems unbeatable. Yet, like all men, he has a particular weakness for the opposite sex...
I first approached Desert Punk watching its animated version, but it didn't take long before I passed to the original work the latter was inspired by. There are some traits this story possess that won me over without me realizing it, starting off with the plot itself. I think the aspect that stands out the most and which lays at the core of the opera is the inherent greed and selfishness of human beings, as well as their stupidity. In Desert Punk's universe, mankind reached such a knowledge, wilfully exploited to fulfil its egotistical desires, that it brought about its own demise. The Kanto region,
where the story is set, turned into a desert, wherein inhabitants have to struggle to live on in spite of the harsh weather conditions: during the day, the scorching sun bakes them for good, whereas during the night the temperature is so low that the risk of freezing is real. An example of how to survive in this unforgiving place is provided by the adventures the protagonist, Mizuno Kanta, experiences at first hand while working: he's a well-known handyman throughout the entire Kanto Desert, who goes under the nickname “the Desert Punk”. His assignments range from simple delivery to more dicey tasks, for instance involving shoot-outs.
The author underlines multiple times humans' powerlessness before such extreme conditions and takes the advantage of it to rise some serious ethical-related questions and to make, out of the blue, important reflections which might very well catch the reader off guard. All of this because of the variety of characters encountered during the chapters that happen to run into each other: their interactions represent a mean to put in contrast various attitudes to face life with Kanta's, who solely cares for himself to such an extent he wouldn't even be afraid of leaving behind a comrade nor of using him as bait, if the situation required it. I say it could come unexpected as the story has not the pretence to stop to give birth to extremely long and in-depth thoughts concerning the human status whenever there is a chance, but rather it is rich of action, alternated with slow-paced but not necessarily boring segments during which strategy has the upper hand. The story also presents a certain content of dirty jokes (luckily, nothing overwhelming at all), not as frequent as in the anime and overall not disturbing. In other words, although the carefree atmosphere it seems to give off in the beginning, I think there's something more concealed behind the appearance, and proceeding with the reading more mature themes are brought up.
As for the art style, I'm cool with it: I don't love it, but I don't despise it either. I gradually started to appreciate it with time because it demonstrates attention to details, especially when it comes to equipments and weapons, whereas at the beginning, judging by the characters' look, I thought it was kind of plain. For example, woman are practically drawn the same way every time, except for, at most, some minor particulars.
I like Desert Punk because, besides the interesting initial idea from which the story has been developed, at least up until now the author didn't let its potential go to waste. Instead, he created a manga worthy of being read. It's hard to sum this all up through a number considered it hasn't been concluded yet, but I guess that if I had to pick one, an 8 should do the trick.
I'm sorry if my english is not top-notch, but it is not my first language. Anyway, I hope this will be helpful to someone!