Westerns are a rare and funny thing in anime. Usually we see them in a futuristic setting (Cowboy Bebop, Trigun) or simply as a fascinating foreign cultural element; the cowboy as the equivalent of the ninja in the West. Early Reins falls within a different category. Some liberties are taken in details, but all in all, this is purely an animated western.
Early Reins is based on the dating simulation game of the same name, so needless to say, the action revolves around a group of six women. Our two central characters are Margaret, a blonde wide-eyed candidate for sheriff of Sunshine Hill, and Laura, a red-haired, one-eyed veteran gunslinger. Supporting is Caroline, a freckled farm girl; Alice, the blonde rich girl; Janet, the quiet brunette doctor; and Helen, our mandatory saloon girl with the large breasts. All of the women just happen to be on the same train when it is hijacked by a gang of Confederate Army deserters (the Heaven's Hill Gang; you've got to love these faux Wild West names!) after the Union Army's weapons and gold that is secretly aboard the train.
The plot comes out of your standard old western. The women must defeat the would-be thieves and stop the out-of-control train before the end of the track. There's a twist at the end where General Spencer, the sole Union Army survivor, ends up not being as innocent as he seems to be, and Laura and Margaret almost have a gunfight of their own. Early Reins follows in the tradition of The Kid coming to age and becoming a man, or in this case, a woman, as Margaret evolves from a rookie into a pretty mean sharp-shooter, ready to be the Sheriff.
This was a good mediocre anime. If it weren't for the fact that within the first five minutes the train guards have their throats slit in a graphic manner, I'd recommend it for children. I liked how the guns did not have unlimited bullets. However, I did not like the animation quality. Included is a "Making of" featurette on CG animation techniques in Early Reins, which would have been more useful if the subtitles were legible (white on white never works well). Effects like the smoke trail from the train are too symmetrical and unrealistic, and motion against the background looked very rough in some scenes. If you've read a lot of my reviews, you know that I have little tolerance for sloppy animation.
My theory regarding dubs and low-grade anime was once against proven: the dub is much better than the sub. Perhaps it's due to the natural abundance of Southern accents in the US. Perhaps it's because this is the home of the western. Regardless, turn off the subtitles for this one, and enjoy good English voice acting. Early Reins is a good short one-shot for the older high school crowd to enjoy (and for anime clubs to show), but older viewers may desire something more in plot and style.