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.
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.
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.