Coyote Ragtime Show Vol. 3
Sometimes, a show is good enough overall that the bad parts are forgiven. Is every episode of Haibane Renmei, Fullmetal Alchemist, Paranoia Agent, or Kimagure Orange Road worth the A+ I gave to those series as a whole? No, certainly not. Each one has episodes that aren't perfect. Yet each one can be seen holistically as an excellent anime. Now Coyote Ragtime Show isn't nearly at that same level. It meandered in the second volume, and it can be rightly accused of being unoriginal and occasionally predictable. But CRS is also a homage to B-grade adventure romps that captures the fun and excitement of a summer flick really, really well. The third disc eliminates both the dorky mistakes of the first few episodes and the overlong stretches in the middle ones. For two hours, Coyote Ragtime Show Vol. 3 simply delivers the goods...moreso than the vast majority of the B-pictures to which it owes its lineage. [Please note that this review may contain minor spoilers for the first two thirds of the series, seeing as it discusses plot points begun during volumes one and two. You might want to skip the next paragraph or two if you haven't watched the opening episodes.]
As the third volume begins, sides are negotiating to see if there's any way to stop the Federation from annihilating the planet of Graceland. As things turn out, our heroes are the only ones who know that the planet's destruction hinges on a explosive device the rebel forces believe doesn't exist. While a hidden treasure awaits, millions of lives are also at stake. Mister and his companions have to deal not only with the Twelve Sisters who want to grab the billions lying in a Gigabanks vault, but also with the local militias who are everywhere they want to be. And whether or not they can get hold of Bruce's loot, if they can't stop the bomb...well, all the cash in the universe is meaningless if you're too dead to use it.
Coyote Ragtime Show continues in its concluding four episodes to look and sound just as good as its predecessors. While a few minor shots here and there look a little unpolished, the vast majority of the series looks incredible. And for those of us who enjoy listening to series in the original language, the 5.1 Japanese track is a real treat. The quality level resembles a strongly-animated OVA series rather than a typical television show.
And if there's a problem with the whole of Coyote Ragtime Show, it's that it probably could have been a great OVA series with a slightly shorter running time. While these four episodes are pretty breakneak, parts of the show would have been even better edited down. There are times at which the show compresses and expands as if the scriptwriters weren't sure how to deal with the timeframe they'd been alloted. It's a minor point, but important because some viewers are going to find themselves bored in the middle.
That said, volume 3 never slows down and works as a perfect wrap-up to the series. All the plot strands come together nicely, and there's enough action to impress all but the most jaded. Will the viewer have to suspend disbelief from time to time? Of course. If you can believe (or at least enjoy) the stunts in a Die Hard or Mission Impossible movie, it shouldn't be hard. And surprisingly enough, I've come to enjoy these characters. Mister may be a cigar-chewing stereotype of the bandit with heart of gold, but I really don't care. This show is simply too much fun to quibble with whether or not it should pretend to be more than it is -- a great, if slight, sci-fi shoot-'em-up.
While Coyote Ragtime Show doesn't have near the cheese factor of the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon, they belong in the same league. Both know that they owe a debt to the action serials of the 1930s and 1940s. Both know that their plot devices and characterizations are out of Screenwriting 101. And both realize that sometimes, an audience is simply out to have a great time. If you've only got money for one DVD purchase right now and you've never watched Cowboy Bebop, then make sure you see that first -- it's a more subtle and more creative science fiction romp with similar themes. But if you have the opportunity, come back and take a look at Coyote Ragtime Show. Because if you're ready to pop some popcorn, crank up the surround sound, and just have a night or two of anime fun without too much brain strain, Coyote Ragtime Show is a smart pick.
Coyote Ragtime Show (series) -- A-