This looked like about as blatant a ripoff of Cowboy Bebop as you could possibly make. Retro-future, outlaws, musical genre in the title, if they’d been trying any harder they’d have just called it Kowboy Hiphop.
Surprisingly enough, it’s not actually a shameless ripoff at all. In fact, other than the retro-future setting (which isn’t even particularly close to Cowboy Bebop’s), it’s a lot more like a short string of caper flicks with a decent sci-fi polish and some over-the-top action (not, however, John Woo overload—more just the modern bulletproof hero leaping off things overkill sort of stuff).
The music is acceptable, but isn’t a big deal and doesn’t try to be; I wonder if they didn’t toss the Ragtime into the title to capitalize on the Bebop phenomenon. In fact, I don’t think that word is ever mentioned during the series. (They’re called Coyotes, hence the other half of the title. Well, and it’s a show, but that goes without saying.)
Geeky note: I got a new sound rig about halfway through watching this series so I ended up using it to tune the thing so the dialogue sounded ok. I learned: the 5.1 channel sound is decent, but center channel is rather quiet even with a properly adjusted system, meaning either it’s hard to hear or the music and a few of the sound effects are really loud from the surrounds.
Where was I. The capers are fun even if a few really don’t make a whole lot of sense if you think about it, and the action is also fun so long as you don’t get too excited about the good guys speechifying while surrounded by a dozen bad guys with machine guns blaring away.
Its biggest draw, though, is that the characters are adults. Like, real, live, don’t-even-remember-puberty adults with grey hair and everything. Yes, there’s a cute little girl in it, but not only is she not particularly competent, but the main character, Mister (I have no idea what they were thinking with that one), probably in his 50s but he’s not, I repeat, not fading away as the next generation steps up. Quite the opposite, in fact—he’s the one stepping up to fill the recently-deceased outlaw-of-outlaws’ shoes. Given the youth-fetish of most anime (and Japanese culture in general in a lot of ways), this alone was practically worth the price of admission.
There are also a dozen goth/goth-loli (depending on age) cyborg (I think—if they ever made it clear they were or weren’t robots, I missed it) sisters who serve as the scary bad guys. As usual with this sort of thing they’re annoyingly overpowered and can kill anyone who’s not a main character with whatever is at hand in a second and a half flat, but that’s more or less stock for the overkill type of story this is, so love it or leave it. On the plus side, a couple of them got at least a little personality
Other than the cool-overload, the thing that bugged me the most was that when it gets to the end there were two or three relatively major sub-plots that were pretty much jettisoned. At least it didn’t ham-handedly wrap them up—just dropped them entirely (the backstory of the main villain and her relationship with Mister is the big one, but there’s some other stuff with Mister, the betrayal that cost the previous ultimate outlaw his life, and a bunch of background with the Sisters and their repairman that never went anywhere). Wide open for a sequel, though it doesn’t look like the sort of series that will ever have one made (and it’d be hard to top this one).
Other distinctive feature is the politicking that’s going on behind the scenes, which the main characters are aware of but mostly uninterested in. Made the world feel more realistic, although that in turn exposed some of the more extreme “we’re so badass nobody can stop us!” stuff.
Oh, and I must note poor Swamp. He’s got one of the craziest intros ever—he’s an only-partially-reformed outlaw currently operating as a Gospel preacher, so he’s introduced via a nice lively church service complete with gospel choir. Again, he’s a main character well into middle age (though he, unlike Mister, has some “I’m gettin’ too old for this.” in him), and he’s black without being a total caricature (no more than anybody else, anyway), which is rather uncommon. What’s sad, though, is that despite being in the series as one of the main cast from beginning to end, and doing plenty of stuff important enough to qualify him as one of the central cast, he is completely left out of the intro animation.
One of my friends was absolutely convinced he wasn’t going to survive more than a couple of episodes because, well, he’s not in the intro! Obviously not a main character, right? Given who else did show up in the intro, leaving him out felt like some kind of weird slight for no apparent reason.
Oh, the end animation is sort of stiff claymation. Yes, claymation. That was just sort of bizarre.
Last note, the animation is of wildly varying quality. Sometimes it looks very slick, other times noticeably crude, both in terms of frame rate and quality of character animation. The art is more consistent, but odd that the budget wasn’t spread out more evenly. Maybe one of the studios doing work on it just wasn’t up to snuff or something.
Overall enjoyable. Not particularly original, not quite my thing, but fun and there’s enough going on and enough ornery banter to keep my attention.