Sometimes, all you need for a good sci fi story to work, is to steal ten million space dollars.
Which begs the question, just what the hell are space dollars?
This weeks offering doesn’t bother to answer that question. It’s too busy having fun to be bothered with all those silly things like common sense, reason, logic, and answers. Cause ten million space dollars, dammit!
Coyote Ragtime Show is a twelve episode, 2006 series from studio Ufotable, makers of Fate/Zero, that immediately jettisons anything remotely like applicable laws of physics out the airlock in favor of having a good old fashioned heist story.
Populated with a bunch of lovable rogues, Coyote follows the story of the most notorious space pirate around, a man with so many aliases, nobody knows his real name, and just calls him Mister, as he breaks out of jail to go track down those missing ten million space bucks. As it happens, the money was stolen by his best friend, the king of the space pirates, a dude named Bruce, who was soon after killed by a powerful member of the Criminal Guild, Madam Marciano.
Bruce made Mister promise to look after his treasure, by which he didn’t mean the money, but rather, his young daughter Franca, the only person who knows exactly where Bruce hid the money. While Mister knows it’s on the planet Graceland, he doesn’t know exactly where, so after his rather thrilling, and bug infested, prison break, he and his two loyal crew members, Bishop and Katana, hook up with Franca to go find Bruce’s legacy.
There’s a few problems with this plan, however. First is that Graceland is currently in the middle of a massive civil war, and the President of the Federation has decided to blow up the whole planet rather than give in to the liberation army’s demands. Second, Mister has no idea how to actually get in the vault Bruce built to store the money, which means he has to ask the guy who helped Bruce pull off the theft, an old preacher named Swamp, who happens to hate Mister. Even worse, Madam Marciano and her twelve android assassins want both the money, and Mister’s head on a stick, no matter how many people they have to slaughter to get it. Finally, there’s the dedicated Federation Investigator, Angelica Burns, who has made a career of tracking down Mister and continues to hound him every step of the way, determined to arrest him or die trying.
Even among space pirates, Mister has a reputation for being a coyote, the kind of guy who never repays his debts, never returns anything borrowed, and looks out for those he sees as family, with no regard for anyone else. This makes it even harder for him to get anywhere, as even other pirates don’t trust him, and with the clock ticking on planet Graceland, he’s gotta pull out every trick in the book to reach Bruce’s legacy, and keep the promise he made to Bruce that Franca would get everything she deserves.
As a science fiction series, Coyote Ragtime Show pretty much isn’t going to be anything you expect. There’s very little science involved, but a whole lotta fiction. More importantly, the show has a hell of a lot of fun with itself, and is more interested in telling a good story than it is with anything else, including realism.
Which is probably why the main focus of the story is on the characters, with pretty much everything else taking a massive back seat. This works for me, personally, since I’d rather have good characters over anything, and tend to be pretty permissive of hard science being shown the door when it gets in the way of that.
As a main character, Mister is every bit as enigmatic as the show builds him up to be. Even his reasons for breaking into Bruce’s impenetrable vault, built as an exact replica of the impenetrable vault he himself broke into in order to steal all that money, are not even remotely what he makes them out to be. No matter how dire the situation, Mister is always grinning like an idiot, and having the time of his life, making everyone who goes against him wary, since he always seems to have a trick up his sleeve. Which he does. Usually several.
As for his sidekicks, Bishop and Katana are fun characters completely dedicated to Mister, even when they have no idea what he’s up to, or why. Where Bishop is a tactical genius, always one step ahead of every one else, Katana is a brilliant engineer and pilot with an ego to match, frequently referring to himself in the third person as Master Katana. Between the two of them, they often pull off the impossible, all while bickering like an old married couple.
Franca, on the other hand, doesn’t really want anything to do with all this mess. She’s perfectly content to run her bar, Pirate, a known hangout for pirates. At least, until it gets torn apart by Madam Marciano’s hit squad. While she doesn’t really trust Mister, she ends up deciding to go hunting for her father’s legacy, more out of obligation than anything. As the story goes forward, she comes to trust Mister and his crew, and become genuinely invested in what they are after, thinking it to only be the money.
What she discovers hidden in the vault is far more valuable. Enough so the money is worthless next to it.
On the other side of the story, madam Marciano and her android assassins make for a compelling story of their own. Driven by the need for revenge, Marciano has little problem sacrificing her androids, something they slowly come to have issues with. While some remain loyal to their “Mother”, others struggle with it, and a couple openly rebel as Marciano becomes increasingly more unstable due to the failures of her subordinates to stop Mister.
Then there’s Angelica Burns and her faithful sidekick, Chelsea. While Angelica is always presented as one of the smartest people in the room, always a step ahead of everyone but Mister, and perfectly willing to do whatever it takes to bring him to justice, she is also aware of just how corrupt the government she works for is. When push comes to shove, Angelica has no problem using all the dirty secrets of the politicians against them, blackmailing the government as it were, to get what she wants.
It’s actually kind fun thing they do with it, sowing how thin the line between police officer and pirate really is. The only real difference between Angelica and Mister is that she has a badge.
Chelsea is just kind of an idiot, though, who mostly exists to give exposition, ask obvious questions, and relay needed information. Though, she also frequently knows who to ask, and where to go to get what she and Angelica need. While she’s a bit of an airhead, she’s a pretty damn useful airhead.
There’s a good few other characters, like Super Soul, the pirate broadcaster, who often spills everybody’s dirty secrets to the galaxy, and Swamp, who joins up with the crew to help Franca, and tons of others. There are no aliens, however, as apparently only humans populate the galaxy.
Basically, all the characters are great, and a ton of fun to spend time with. That said, the show itself is so riddled with cliches it’s almost impossible not to roll your eyes here and there, as well as laugh at how silly the story often gets. While normally, I’d give a pass to a show like that, in this case, it all somehow works, since the whole point of Coyote Ragtime Show is to just have fun.
A show that takes itself seriously while being full of cliches is one thing, but a show that doesn’t take itself seriously being a bag of cliches is totally another. It isn’t even that the show pokes fun at the cliches. It just doesn’t give a damn.
Even when aspects of the plot make no sense, or the characters utter some really cringe inducing dialogue, there’s this whole sense to it that it just doesn’t matter, cause the whole thing is fun as hell, so why not? It’s kind of hard to explain, really, and it may well just be a personal thing for me, but when no matter how absurd it all gets at times, that feeling that the show itself is giving you a wink and a grin just makes it all something you kind of have to laugh off.
Sometimes, it really is okay for a show to be hokey as hell, as long as it has fun doing it.
In terms of animation, Coyote doesn’t do anything spectacular. In fact, the animation often dips in quality, and really doesn’t hold up all that well eleven years later. There’s a good bit of blurring at times, and movement is sometimes jerky. The whole thing just feels average, really, with two exceptions. The mechanical design is pretty awesome, and the characters designs are outstanding. Really, these are some genuinely wonderful character designs. Mister in particular is like no other anime character you’ll ever see.
The series was directed by Takuya Nonaka, who is primarily a key animator, and inbetweener. He has done a good bit of episode directing for a lot of shows, including various entries into the Fate/Stay Night franchise. However, he has little experience as a director, having only done this, an Armitage movie, and a couple of other things I’ve never heard of. Still, he does a decent job here, focusing on the characters and their relationship with each other, which is where the show shines the brightest. While the shows downsides are on him as well, overall, he does a decent enough job, but isn’t going to wow anyone with his work here.
The writing was done by three people, which probably explains a lot of why the show sometimes feels disjointed, bouncing between moments of brilliance and those cringe inducing moments. Ryunosuke Kingetsu, known mostly for stuff like Samurai Girls, Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, and Ninja Nonsense was one of the trio. Hikaru Kondo, who is primarily a producer for shows like Fate/Zero, God Eater, and Tales of Zestria the X was another. Kazuharu Sato, known for work like Papillion Rose, and Penguin Girl was the third.
Actually, it’s kind of a miracle Coyote Ragtime Show works as well as it does, when you look at that line up. While all three built some great characters, and kept them moving forward along clear character arcs, their ability to handle dialogue is questionable, and understanding of plot structure is just plain in need of a refresher course.
Still, they did turn out a pretty watchable show, so I guess when they bang their heads together, they do okay.
The music was from Koichiro Kameyama, who worked on shows like… uh…. that list of things I’ve never heard of. Well, I mean, I know about Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, but not by choice. Other than that, none of the work listed was anything I’ve ever seen, so I’ve no idea if the music for Coyote was typical of Kameyama’s work or not. That said, the music had no central theme, really, and while some of it is amazing, other pieces are just uninspired. There’s no follow through, no common thread, or anything else that ties the music together, or makes it an integral part of the show. It’s just there.
Kind of sad, really.
Coyote Ragtime Show is a series that shouldn’t work. When you look at all the individual parts, and even the OP, which I mentioned recently, there’s nothing here to make you want to watch this show. Yet, despite all that, it’s actually a lot of fun, and a fairly decent story. The characters are fun, and the overall plot of a heist in space is neat.
While I won’t say it’s a must see anime, or even a must science fiction series, it is different, fun, and kind of free wheeling in a weird, goofy way that makes it adorable in its own right.
Every now and then, that’s just what you need, too.