Stephen reviews: Early Reins (2003)

earlyreins_1Early Reins [アーリーレインズ] (2003)

Starring Tomoko Kawakami, Aiko Mitsumori, Chiaki Osawa, Junko Takeuchi, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Yoko Sasaki, Youko Mizutani

Directed by Yuji Asada

YEEE-HAAAW! It’s time for a film about train robberies, and shootouts, and cute anime girls with guns. Early Reins compiles a bunch of clichés from westerns and anime into an adventure so exciting that it… well, it’ll kill the better part of an hour, I suppose. It really isn’t all that impressive. But it does have one huge thing going for it. Unlike the vast majority of anime westerns, Early Reins actually exists.

I wish I had something more to say about it, but “it exists” really is the most interesting fact about Early Reins. If you’re looking for an anime western the only other options I’ve even heard of are Gun Frontier (which is pretty hard to track down at this point) or the never released in English Isamu the Wilderness Boy (which is pretty much impossible to track down). If you expand the field, there are a few space westerns out there, and sometimes longer series will decide to throw in a western-themed episode here and there. But if you’re looking for an actual western, this is just about all you’ve got.

earlyreins_2aThe plot involves a girl named Margaret who wants to be a sheriff of some random town that never gets mentioned. On her train ride to wherever, bandits attack and rob everyone. Bastards. They also try to rape the girls on board, but one of the young ladies is a total badass and kills the lot of them. Once they start investigating, it turns out the army is using the train to transport a bunch of guns and a heaping pile of gold, and every outlaw around wants a piece of it. So the gals arm up and try to keep the train safe as a huge gang of bandits unleashes a coordinated attack on the train.

That’s about it. It tries to be a bit clever at the end and throw a few curveballs at you, but there’s nothing all that inspired or original about it. The whole film is one big battle aboard a train. There’s nothing wrong with that, really. There’s just nothing all that interesting about it either. The action isn’t particularly exciting or engaging, but it didn’t put me to sleep. If it had gone on much longer it probably would have, though.

earlyreins_3The film does lose track of a few things here and there. Margaret has a small subplot about never having killed before and the psychological toll it takes to do so, but after she takes out her first asshole the film pretty much forgets all about that. It’s not like most of the other girls have killed either, but they don’t even bat an eye at mowing down a mob of bandits. The film also makes it clear that the army was transporting guns, but not ammo. After they mention it, though, it’s pretty much forgotten. They only brought one clip of ammo for the gatling gun? No problem. It’ll last the whole movie.

I don’t really want to bag on Early Reins for its animation. It’s a low-budget title, and it has animation to match. I can’t really fault it for that. The CG is ugly as sin, too. Again, low budget. And it was made in 2003. There’s no way the CG was going to be any good even if they had money to throw around. I feel like the filmmakers knew they had nothing to work with and needed to do something to make the movie interesting, so they decided to at least gave it a unique setting if nothing else.

It’s at the bottom end of average, but it doesn’t do anything horrible enough to be called bad. So I’ve got practically nothing to talk about. It’s not really worth tracking down, but if you like anime and you like westerns, well… Early Reins does indeed exist.

7 comments to Stephen reviews: Early Reins (2003)

  • HAHAHAHA! I love that you opened with a big ol’ YEEE-HAAAWW! I had no idea that there was an anime western, so thanks for letting me know that this does indeed exist. I feel like I might be the target audience for this, even if it isn’t that great. Only an hour sounds doable, too. Enjoyed your review, nonetheless!

    • Stephen

      I live to amuse. Glad you enjoyed it.

      This movie has such a bad rap I was expecting it to be a lot worse. I think most people are just offended by it’s low budget production. But if there’s anyone willing to look past that, it would be you, and since you’re a bigger western fan than me, you might get more out of it than I did.

  • The other anime Westerns I’ve seen are Trigun (of which you are most likely aware) and Wild Arms TV AKA Wild Arms Twilight Venom. The former is a classic series, a definite must watch. The latter is pretty weak, but has a couple of cool beginning and ending episodes. They both have some sci-fi elements which might preclude them from being a true Western. But they’re about as close as anime gets. I hadn’t heard of Early Reigns, and after your review I’m not sure I want to check it out. We’ll see, I suppose.

    • Yeah, I was stuffing them into the space western category. Captain Harlock often drifts into this field as well. Gun Frontier is actually a spin-off of the Harlock series set in the 1800s, which makes me keen to track it down.

      I was never impressed with the Wild Arms video games, so I don’t imagine the anime would do a better job. Trigun never impressed me, either. If that means I have to turn in my otaku card, then so be it. Granted, I only saw the first episode, and that’s usually the worst episode to go by, but suffice it to say that after that I had zero desire to keep going. Some day I’ll check out the film and see if that changes my mind.

  • Well, I definitely liked it more than you. But holy shit you weren’t kidding when you said it compiles a bunch of western cliches! That’s like all it is! There’s no story at all, just plot points that are ALL western cliches! That’s bold!

    I found the CG to be somewhat endearing and not as ugly as you thought it was. Because it was so low budget, sometimes the CG background and the CG train didn’t even match, so it looked a lot like old model work to me. Where I can clearly tell it’s a model, but because I like models I smile. It definitely doesn’t mix well with the traditional animation, though, I’ll give you that.

    I like how you mention the contrast of the “never having killed” sub-plot with the fact that the other girls, especially that one at the gatling gun, are excited to blast the bad guys. It’s so true! Perhaps this was meant to represent the repressed rage of the everyman, who hasn’t considered killing before but is only a hair’s breadth away from it when given the chance, while the one who wants to be a sheriff has actually thought A LOT about it which makes it a huge moment for her. That, or they just wanted a big-breasted anime girl to fire off a gatling gun and they didn’t have time for story. 🙂

    Anyway, I liked it, warts and all. Definitely one that takes the right person to enjoy, though.

    • Stephen

      Hahaha! I think you gave her motivation more thought than the writers did! Still, I like it, so let’s run with that. I also like that you call it bold rather than dumb for using all those cliches. I guess it found the western B-movie lover in you. Glad I could point it out to you.

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