Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Jan 2nd 2007
Coyote Ragtime Show
DVD 1 - Fox Trot
For the record, the "Coyote" in the title is a reference, not to the wily animal, but to a breed of space pirate who lives fierce and free by their own code of conduct. Kind of like Outlaws and Cowboys... And the uncrowned king of them all is Mister. Hot on his tail are the beautiful police inspector Angelica and twelve android assassins with their nasty "Mother." Ahead of him are the untold riches left by the deceased Pirate King Bruce. He and Bruce's daughter Franca just need to get to it before it's accidentally atomized by the government...
Ah, the power of production values. It's easy to forgive a lot of shortcomings when something is fun to look at. And Coyote Ragtime Show is very fun to look at. Quality bleeds from every pore. From the ostentatiously pointless displays of technical prowess that pepper the show (gratuitous jiggling, cameras that crank around characters for no apparent reason, the flowing of intricate loli-goth clothing as characters move) to smaller, less noticeable improvements (specifically the unusually complex ways that people's lips move to form words). However, the true gems are the balletic, bloody action set pieces. While the action is chewing up the screen, blasting every thought from your breathless mind, the show is an undiluted visceral treat.
And then the action stops. The gut settles down, the brain takes over, and the enjoyment factor dips precipitously. The first episode is a muscular, exciting prison-break-turned-massacre whose preposterousness only hits home after it's over. It's all downhill from there. The plot immediately devolves into criminals-on-the-run claptrap fueled by a girl-with-pendant-that-leads-to-mysterious-treasure maguffin. The volume ends on a miserable note with a limp run-through of a heist that has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese at the wrong end of a shooting range. Of course, each episode spends some time flinging bullets, cutting throats and blowing stuff up, all with admirable polish and to solid effect. But the action inevitably ends, leaving one to contemplate the deja-vu cast of stock characters, cheesy dialogue and cruise-control plotting. It begins, after a while, to creep into the action as well, when, during gaps in the violence, one begins to realize that the enemy is a troop of android girls, each with their own fetish-induced personality and trademark weapon, all wrapped up in gothic-lolita pseudo-maid attire. The smiling little girl in the top-hat who chucks stick grenades decorated with hearts. The butch girl with the throwing knives. The motherly girl with the katana. The punky girl with a big attitude, bigger shotgun, and a suspiciously close relationship with the apparent leader of the troop. It's like Strawberry Panic! with guns.
The rest of the cast isn't much better. Far and away, the most interesting character is Angelica, a whip-smart, gluttonous, voluptuous policewoman who plays Zenigata to Mister's Lupin. It's no coincidence that the strongest episode is also the one in which she plays the lead. Mister, on the other hand, is an "honorable outlaw" stereotype of the first order who has yet to display any of the qualities with which Angelica initially ascribes him. Does having a generic name mean that you have to have a generic personality? Franca, the girl with the pendant, is the token spunky girl, introduced in a scene—she clocks an unruly "Coyote" with a frying pan for roughhousing in her bar—that is designed to make you say "that girl's got spunk" but instead leaves you reaching for the Maalox.
But, for all its silliness, blandness, and even its occasionally hideously derivative script, the production values still manage to wrestle the show over to the enjoyable side of "totally disposable." A circle of sky-diving android assassins in frilly dresses may be laughable conceptually, but it still looks damn cool. Other technical merits, such as the meticulously detailed settings, sleek female designs, as well as the OVA-quality animation help to distract from the show's less admirable attributes.
The oft-insistent soundtrack is less of a boon. It makes for good listening, but provides such obvious cues (dark organ music... perhaps the person being introduced is a bad guy? Bouncy silly music... perhaps this scene is supposed to be funny?) that its lack of subtlety approaches unintentional parody. That said, the heavy guitar used for the action scenes, while far from subtle, works quite well (and sounds good besides).
The dub takes a few more liberties with the original script than some of ADV other recent efforts, and it pays dividends with a smooth, strong overall dub. It has its weak links (Franca comes to mind) but also moments in which it equals, and occasionally exceeds, the original (Angelica and especially Swamp). Performances cleave closely to those of the original cast with satisfying results. Special mention goes to the English script for matching dialogue with lip movements. Since the characters' mouths move in ways more complicated than the usual "blah blah blah" of standardly animated shows, keeping the dialogue from noticeably deviating from the lip flaps is no mean feat.
Boring extras: Clean opening and closing, previews and a squint 'til you go blind slideshow of production art. Interesting extras: None, sorry.
Rife as it is with cringe-inducing clichés, hobbled as it is with a lazy script, hampered as it is by its who-cares cast, Coyote Ragtime Show is enough fun simply to look at that it manages to escape being conscripted to the anime junk heap. It may leave your brain starving, but it will feed your eyes enough candy to make them very happy.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C-
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : C+
+ Rock solid first episode; excellent production values; great action.
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