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- Episodes : 12
- Genre : Action, Drama, Historical
- Airing Date : Jul 9 to Oct 1, 2016
- Studios : Shuka
91 days Introduction and Story
Welcome to America in the twenties and thirties! The Prohibition, which means that alcohol is illegal, prompts the proliferation of mafias reigning over the city. In the middle of this decaying society, a young boy named Angelo is witness to the murder of his family and barely escapes alive. Angelo (renamed Avilio) will return to the city years later with the sole purpose of avenging them.
With the help of his childhood friend Corteo, and his wonderful liqueur recipe, Avilio will target the three men who were directly responsible for his family’s demise: Vincent Vanetti, Nero Vanetti and Vanno Clemente. Now Vincent Vanetti is the Don of the Vanetti family and his son Nero is the heir. During 91 days (and it's 12 episodes), we will see how Avilio mingles with the Vanetti family, their rivals (the Orco family) and their “friendly” rivals (the Galassia family). In a dangerous game of cat and mice, Avilio will execute his vengeance at a high personal cost.
What I liked about 91 days
The first thing that attracted my attention in 91 days was its similarities with Baccano! Being a great admirer of the crime and historical genres in anime, I definitely had to watch 91 days. What I found funny was the deep influence of “El padrino” on the story. This is not only about the slow building tension scenes or the influence of the family and religion. We also have a relevant wedding and even a caricature of the padrino himself in Don Orco.
Talking more about the background of “El padrino”, Italy is one of the main protagonists of the anime. There were times that I frankly forgot that the action was settled in America. We can see this in the importance of food for the characters. Even when they were deeply troubled or in a tense situation, there was some food or wine involved. Of course that the animators took care of such details. The food looked so delicious!
Italy is also about art and design, my dear otakus. Plus, one of the things anime has is a great care for visual quality. Combine the two and you get some really beautiful scenes in 91 days. For example, we have Vanno Clemente killing someone in this awesome scene full of nature and sunlight from the second episode:
This does not mean that 91 days pales on the realm of interior scenes. The contrast between artificial light and shadows was masterfully done several times in order to focus on certain aspects of the plot. We note this scene where one of the protagonists (Nero) is on a tense discussion with his young brother Frate on episode 7. This is just before they are going to draw out their pistols:
Talking about building tension, music was used wisely on 91 days. When things get dodgy or even horrific, there is minimal use of piano and/or chords. We get mostly classical style compositions but also italian opera. The twist here is that we often listen to the music as if it was played through the radio or old records. One of such memorable scenes was on episode 9 when Fango reveals to Corteo that he does not need him anymore and threatens to kill him. The music suddenly finishes, but the record still runs in the record player, adding even more tension to the horrific scene.
And now that we are in the topic of music, I found 91 days’ opening fitting. It might sound a little bit out of place because the song is obviously made with modern instruments and sung in japanese. Nevertheless, it has a classical touch that combines well with the collage of animated images. This collage jumps from the “past” to the “present”, alluding to the haunting killings that fuel Avilio’s vengeance.
On the topic of characters, one of the most memorables is Corteo, Avilio’s childhood friend. He remains calm, composed and as an overall positive force throughout almost all the ordeals shown in 91 days. We have to recognize this is a feature of strength, as it is not easy to deal with the mafia. Plus, he remains by Avilio’s side. That is one hell of a friend!
Still, the “couple” who steals 91 days is definitely Avilio and Nero. At first, Avilio gets close to Nero because of his vengeance, but as the story progresses, things get complicated. Nero turns out to be charismatic and not as bad as he seemed. Avilio and he truly bond to the point where Avilio does not kill him when he has the opportunity. Avilio and Nero share several great scenes, but one of the best is on episode 12. Avilio says he feels his vengeance was for nothing and an enraged Nero asks him why he didn’t kill him. Then, Avilio screams to Nero that he should have killed him when he was a little boy. Nero is left deep in contradicting thoughts after that. To kill or not to kill? That is the great question.
Discussion time: Should you watch 91 days?
So 91 days is a good anime, but should you watch it? Let’s take a closer look at it. Once I got used to the physical violence present in every episode, the first thing that I found unsettling is the lack of relevant female roles in 91 days. We have Avilio’s mother, Fio and Lacrima only. Avilio’s mother dies trying to protect her daughter. Lacrima is Fango Orco’s lover, and is used as human shield by him. The one lady with the most screen time is Fio Vanetti, who is the typical sister who tries to keep the family together. Fio has a few great moments like when she slaps Frate or when she kills her husband Rolando Galassia. But all in all, women are portrayed as abnegated and subordinate to men.
Another unsetting aspect was Fango Orco, who is the typical grown up bully and one of the main antagonists of 91 days. Even the mafia families have a hard time dealing with Fango. He has more lives than a cat, narrowly escaping any attempts to kill him and enjoying the suffering of others. And well, the guy even poisons a delicious lasagna to get rid of his enemies (I told you food was big in 91 days). But sometimes Fango is so cruel that he looks overreacted.
As for worthy characters and their relationships, we see tragedy pretty much everywhere in 91 days. For beginners, Avilio and Corteo’s story captures you from the first episode. They were very close in their childhood and they remain that way until episode 9, when Avilio calls Nero brother. Avilio and Corteo’s relationship gets more and more restrained while the first looses focus on his vengeance and is living the mafia life. Avilio even throws money to Corteo when he leaves the apartment they share and tells him to get out of his life. They eventually reconcile, but by then, Corteo has betrayed the Vanettis to the Orco family. So, Avilio has to kill his childhood friend under the orders of Nero in a tearful scene in episode 11. Another tragic rivalry goes between Nero and Frate Vanetti. Their personalities have a stark contrast, as the youngest one always obeyed but remained in the shadow of Nero, the rebellious older sibling. Frate was childish, immature and easily manipulated, which prompted his sad demise. For an anime that abuses the word “family”, the word has deeply dark undertones.
91 days is an anime that is brutal in many ways, so it caters towards disconnection. This feature is shown in Avilio, our main protagonist. Avilio has cold eyes and does not show emotion most of the time. But this disconnection is also shown in the mafia members, or in casual shots like a scene with Fio and Ronaldo from episode 7. They are casually conversing before going to bed, but they are not facing each other. Fio and Ronaldo simply sit on opposite sides of their luxurious bed, back to back.
For all the misery shown, there is this thirst among the mafia members for something big, a legacy beyond what normal people can do. Don Vanetti states that his dream was to build a theatre, and he did just that on a big scale. Sadly, the Vanetti family met their demise on that same theatre, when Avilio betrayed them and kills the Don himself. Plus, the mafia empires were condemned with or without Avilio anyway, as the Prohibition laws were going to change soon. Such great powers don’t last forever.
The ending of this anime is, well… depressing. Don’t tell me that an anime where the main character is killed is not depressing. But it also somehow resembles Yukio Mishima’s The decay of the Angel novel. The protagonist of the novel is an angelic boy who becomes indifferent to bad and good. He is also connected to the sea, which is somehow suggested by Avilio dying close to the waves. Plus, Avilio’s name used to be Angelo. Thus, his character might be a wink to one of the greatest and most tragic Japanese novelists of all time.
In short words, these are the main reasons why you should give a shot to 91 days:
1. Great production
Studio Shuka has specialized in action anime, but it also has bad-ass titles with emotional characters such as Natsume’s book of friends. Thus, 91 days was the right anime choice for them to develop. The research Studio Shuka did to recreate the Prohibition era was reflected on the high quality of the artwork and music. Also, although there is a marked influence of “El padrino” in 91 Days, the action does not leave the screen to the point of making the anime boring.
2. Great characters
91 Days tells us the story of Avilio, who is neither good, nor bad. He has a great and emotional story with both his childhood friend (Corteo) and with the guy who he desires to kill (Nero). The triangles in this story go beyond what we are used to in an anime (love and jealousy between teenagers at school). 91 Days introduces us to a perilous adult world through teenager characters instead.
3. Interesting interpretation of the Prohibition from a Japanese point of view
Anime is essentially Japanese for a reason. In the case of 91 Days, we have attention to detail, great outdoor scenes where nature is an integral part, and a certain feeling of inevitability. Plus, Avilio might embody the conflicts of the postmodern Japanese identity. This is a great anime with several points open to discussion.
This anime also has its cons, which will be summarized as follows:
1. Too graphic
It is true that there have been other anime with more brutal or gory depictions fully exposed during the action scenes. Nevertheless, for some sensitive viewers, the depiction of distorted bodies and blood might be more that can be born. The frequency of such depictions is also a point to be taken account of. 91 Days might be your cup of tea (or wine) if you are accompanied by someone else on that case.
2. Not female friendly
We have to bring comparisons here, as Baccano! had a more diverse set of female characters. 91 Days also lacks depth on the female roles with the exception of Fio. Finally, the few girls we see are not treated nicely. If you feel uncomfortable with constant scenes full with men, 91 Days might not be the anime of choice for you.
3. Not female friendly
So much tragedy: there is a point when you wonder why all the characters you care about are shot and killed. 91 Days is not an anime for the faint of heart. I must advise you again, it might be a good idea to watch it with someone else. You can always skip it entirely if you tend to cry a lot with emotional anime.
Honey’s Final Thoughts
All in all, 91 Days is a vertiginous ride into the dark and violent side of human nature. Made with quality and care, 91 Days will sometimes have you in the edge of your seat, while at others, it will pull you into a beautiful world where sometimes even death is portrayed in an aesthetic way. So, we would like to know whether you will give 91 Days a chance? Or would you skip it? Don’t forget we are open to all your comments. See you soon!