Beginning with a bang is Coyote Ragtime Show’s philosophy, and indeed, although the series maintains a fairly dizzying pace (owing to the thirteen episode format, as a twenty six episode series would have a heart attack maintaining this pace), the first episode is shown to be an act that couldn’t be followed.
The story is essentially that of Mister, an infamous criminal and ‘coyote’ seeking the legendary pirate king Bruce’s treasure, hidden on the soon to be destroyed planet Graceland. In the first episode we are introduced to the majority of the story’s central characters: inspector Angelica Burns, the police officer Chelsea, and the iconic Marciano’s 12 sisters, a band of assassins clad in the gothic Lolita fashion of Japan. The second episode is more middling, despite the introduction of a stronger comedy element, but manages to hold interest with the development of the story, characterised by the introduction of mainstay Franca, the supposed key to unlocking the treasure at Graceland. Mister and his crew, accompanied by Franca, then try to evade Marciano‘s 12 sisters and acquire the firepower, in a local priest, to reach Graceland. The final episode of the volume is standard Mission Impossible fare, with even the trademark music imitated for effect, but it is a good rendition and manages to adequately contextualise some of the reasons behind the rush to Graceland. What we have is then a fairly robust and intricate story, told from a number of perspectives for narrative technique and dramatic effect, but, as far as I can tell, there are some fairly glaring plot holes.
The later episodes are also laced with a tint of disappointment as the series manages to hold its ground and progress the story (plot twists galore as standard), but the first episode is the real thing. Loud, annoying sidekicks make all too significant a proportion of the character repertoire, and the rest either lack characterisation, or character! Later volumes will reveal which. But a tendency toward cheesy dialogue and unnecessary posturing, alongside the other flaws, aren’t quite capable of inundating the series. A fairly well-told story, good pacing and the audio-visual spectacle (most evident in the great action sequences) keep the series’ head above water.
In the end, watching Coyote Ragtime Show is a little like watching Kill Bill, insofar as your praise or criticism will largely be formed around its style, which is an amalgamation of the old and the new, and an attempt to find some cool in between the two. Part detective story, part Western and part science fiction, Coyote Ragtime Show draws on elements of various genres to weave its story. The most immediate comparison would have to be Cowboy Bebop, which is at times remarkably similar to Coyote. This parallel is a disservice to the show in more ways than one however, as Coyote Ragtime Show has yet to match Bebop at its sharpest, but more importantly for this series, it is not just Bebop repackaged in a Wild West motif.
Although the first volume was a good springboard for the series, I can’t hide my suspicion that its hand has been revealed too early, and that there’s little room for digression now that the central movement (in the road to Graceland) is firmly established. There’s still some leeway for story development, but the series needs to diversify if it is to remain fresh enough to offset repetition.