Early Reins

March 11, 2011

Have you ever seen an anime’s setting fully on the Wild West? Well, Trigun may have them but it has futuristic elements. Has anybody heard or watch Early Reins? Don’t blame you if you haven’t because this rare single OVA is quite a year 2004 production and it has all the gunslinging action of the Wild West. Only difference is that this is a Japanese anime production so it’s like a mix between both sets of worlds but without all those fantasy or imaginative elements added in.

Welcome To The Wild, Wild West
The beginning starts off with a spoof background music from the famous cowboy flick, Magnificent Seven. We see Sheriff Candidate, Margaret running late to board a train but eventually manages to get on. Heck, trains aren’t that fast that time so if you hop on while it is moving, you’ll still be fine. A big chunk of the 43 minutes of this OVA is set on this particular train as the drama unfolds. What is a western cowboy flick without a train hijack? There are no airplanes at that time lah. A group called the Heaven’s Hill Gang suddenly takes control of the train and the passengers hostage under the pretence that its leader, Jack, wants to meet the respected war hero Colonel Spencer on board. I guess that’s when they let their guard down and the train fall into the hands of the baddies.

The gang has all the men and soldiers moved to the last cargo with the other passengers but remained Spencer and 6 other women with them. Other than Margaret, the rest include a mysterious eye-patch gunslinger Laura, ranch worker Caroline, good doctor Janet, saloon singer Helen and feisty rich kid Alice. While trying to detach the last coach, a soldier takes the opportunity to wrestle and snatch the gun from a member. Then both sides start firing. Though the baddies manage to detach the train, they lost 3 men in the process. Returning back to the main coach, the men starts to have their ‘body search’ on the women. Alice wouldn’t allow such heinous thing and slaps them only to be retaliated with a punch. How ungentlemen-like. Well, these guys are bandits after all. Laura signals to Margaret when to move into action. Laura distracts a man by asking him to strip her. During that, she whips out her gun and starts shooting. Jack follows suit but his shot ricochet and hit Spencer’s arm, leaving Margaret pretty much shocked. Laura realizes she has never killed anyone before and guns down Jack right in the forehead before anything else could happen.

As Janet treats Spencer, Laura decides to handle the last baddie at the train engine. Margaret insists on following so Laura decides to be the decoy while Margaret takes him out. However Margaret instead of killing him, orders him to throw away his weapon. Like he’ll listen. Only after the train engineer intervenes to throw him off guard, did Margaret fire at him. First kill. When they rendezvous with the rest, Laura mentions about Jack planning to meet up their comrades. Taking out a map, they see the next stop with another interchange to an abandoned mine whereby the rail was discontinued. They can’t stop the train and run on foot because they’ll be like sitting ducks. Upon reaching the point, the bandits realize the train isn’t slowing down and thinks Spencer has screwed up. They start attacking the train on their horses while Laura shoots some of them down. The train reaches the intersection point and heads towards the canyon, providing them a brief reprieve.

Spencer suggests to hand over to them the military weapons on board as this is what the bandits are after and he will take the blame that he killed their comrades to let the ladies go. However they refuse to give in. As everyone heads to the cargo section, they see the several weapons being transported. However as Spencer mentions, it is the weapons only that is being transported and most of them do not have the ammunition to go with it. After making several adjustments to the coach and little ammunition they have to fight back, they notice several sacks of gold worth $100,000 (that’s lot of money at that time). Seems it was found at the Confederate’s armoury and the Confederate army deserters are planning to take them back. The reason it is travelling on a passenger train was because the supposed secured one was just a decoy. However their info got leaked.

As the train comes out of the canyon, the bandits charge in for another onslaught but this time the ladies are well prepared. Let’s just say that they put those men to shame. Even a rich girl can learn and fire a Gatling gun and chalk up some kills. However their numbers are overwhelming so some of them manage to board the train. There was a pretty funny scene whereby a couple of baddies thought they can barge in through the roof. But they were surprised when the girls below were waiting for them and wasted so many shoots on them like it was overkill! Some bandits begin using dynamites but our gunslinging heroines put a stop to them and make the dynamites explode with them. The engineer needs to stop the train, seeing that it is reaching the end of the line but a dynamite has damaged the braking leverage. The only way is to use a brake at the end of the passenger car. Laura and Margaret head back on their way, planting some bullets into the baddies as they make haste. With Caroline’s help, they manage to stop the train. I won’t say it’s perfect because it toppled on its side. But it’s better than crashing head on and killing everybody and to escape with a little injury.

It isn’t over yet as the bandit boss and his henchmen have got Laura in a pinch. Before he could shoot her, Margaret tells him to remove his filthy boots from Laura’s arms. The boss gets cocky seeing Margaret hasn’t drawn her gun. He plays along by throwing away his gun but it was just a bluff. However I guess he underestimated her because Margaret swiftly took them all out. She’s got a real talent to be a gunslinger and as she said, it was all thanks to Laura. Like she has awakened the beast in her, eh? At the end of the day as everyone sits and await rescue, Margaret learns that Laura is a thief and thus the reason she knew about the Heaven’s Hill Gang was that she too planned to do the same. And she would have done it smoothly without those intervening blokes. Laura is to leave in her hidden wagon with a sack of gold but Margaret won’t allow the ‘baddie’ to leave and fires a warning shot. Both ladies face off in a Mexican showdown as the rest could only watch on. Margaret hears the click of the gun but it isn’t from Laura. Turns out to be Spencer as he takes Janet hostage. Seems he told the Heaven’s Hill Gang about the gold and joined forces with them so they would take the blame and deflect any suspicions by putting on an act. Spencer is unhappy that politicians are acting like as though they own the world and telling what to do because being a war hero isn’t enough to put food on the table.

Ordering them to throw away their weapons, Margaret obliges with his orders but tells Laura to throw her guns away. She did just that and it was expected of that low guy to fire back on them. But before he could pull the trigger, Margaret snatches Laura’s gun in mid-air and fires a shot to shoot the gun off his hand. She unofficially arrests him. He sure met the wrong group of ladies to mess with. As rescue is seen coming in the distance, Margaret returns Laura’s gun and the latter says that the next time they meet, they’ll be enemies. Laura dashes off with her gold leaving Margaret and the rest behind in her dusty trail. Hey, she’s riding off into the sunset.

I have to admit that it was fun watching this one off OVA seeing how Margaret and Laura team up to pull off their gunslinging stunts and rolling acrobats to make the baddies eat the bullets. The action was rather okay but I guess it is better than having to pull off exaggerated moves. At least this is more down to earth. However I don’t find the other girls having an impact on this short series. It felt like they were just minor characters. Sure, they have their little share of screen time using the weapons and taking out the baddies, but that is just about it. And I thought I would see them all using their own expertise into doing some team work to defeat the bad guys. Who am I kidding? This OVA was too short for any character development so what was I thinking hoping that the ladies would turn out into some Magnificent Six group thingy.

So it goes to show that quantity doesn’t necessary mean quality because no matter how many bad guys there are, they can’t even seem to take out half a dozen of women on board a train. It is either they are just useless idiots or they really underestimated women too much. Even the final boss was taken out pretty easy in my opinion. The way the series ends seem to feel like if the producers ever wanted to make a series out of this, they could do so but so far I don’t think I have heard of anything about it. There seems to be promising developments of it. The ladies with their own personalities and past like Margaret’s late dad was once an ex-Sheriff so perhaps it could be interesting to see more about that. Also, I’m sure that Margaret and Laura would cross paths again in the future. But alas, that’s just where it all ends.

Seeing Margaret to become a Sheriff is like trying to find a black cowboy. There are, but very rare. If she keeps this up and not lose her path, I’m sure the west would be more in order. But I guess that didn’t happen because you’ve got notorious robbers like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids and dark western flicks like Unforgiven. It sure brings back memories when I was watching some of those cowboy movies when I was young. I’m not into that now because I still prefer my animes that have high school comedy and romance to classic western cowboy movies. Definitely would go for a maid than a cowgirl anytime. They don’t have to be sharp shooting gunslingers to take a direct shot at my heart. <3

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