Review/discussion about: 91 Days
My mother’s favorite film is Overboard starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Her second favorite film (which needs no introduction) is The Godfather.
She always sits down to watch it whenever it pops up on the television, and she owns a special, autographed print of the movie that hangs in the basement of her home for every guest to admire. She tends to enjoy every film she watches, but she really likes this one.
The Godfather is often lauded as a cinematic masterpiece due to its superb acting, great direction, crisp score, memorable scenes, and mature plot. 91 Days is an anime that clearly got its inspiration from this juggernaut of a film. While the show does not reach the same historic status, it is by no means worth passing up.
In 91 Days, Angelo Lagusa, then a young boy, witnessed the deaths of his parents and his little brother at the hands of a handful of evil men. Seven years later, Angelo receives a letter from a mysterious confidant, informing him of the names of the people who ruined his life. With his newfound information, Angelo becomes Avilio Bruno and begins the long, violent path towards exacting his revenge.
Arguably speaking, 91 Days is nothing groundbreaking on a narrative level. However (and that’s a big “however”), it no doubt displays a rewarding plot that carries its audience along without any hardship.
A lot of its moxie comes from how mafia movies influenced the direction of the story. The stylized, black-and-white logo make this assertion obvious. But when one considers the setting (Prohibition Era America), the large families (Vannetti, Orco, Galassias), and the content therein (alcohol, guns), it starts to make sense why some people refer to this show as Godfather: The Anime.
Unlike its inspirer, though, 91 Days kicks it all off with gusto. The first half of the first episode gets right into it with the death of Angelo’s family, showcasing an intense scene that sticks with the audience due to its severity and its importance. When one combines this opener with the opening-credits scrawl that shortly follows, the anime perfectly sets the tone for what’s about to unfold.
Said unfolding unveils a tale of hurt and pain and vengeance. Angelo cares only about killing the men who wronged him and his family, dragging his best friend into the forefront and putting himself in immense danger by associating with these people. In doing so, the anime provides even more intense, high-profile scenes (like that of the beginning) which capture the mafia-movie spirit. Vanno Clemente’s death. Fango feeding Don Orco to his executives. Nero taking out his own brother. Angelo forced to kill Corteo. The chaotic theater shootout.
That’s a lot of distinct scenes which exist across the whole season, but chief among them is the one with the best directorial care: Corteo murdering Fango.
Corteo’s brutal attack method – first smashing and stabbing with a beer bottle (containing his own “Lawless Heaven” drink) then bludgeoning with an old-style telephone – make the event a crazy one. But when the broken record acts as a metaphor for Corteo’s own actions, and the audience simply sees his shadow striking in the light as the music continues to skip, 91 Days elevates this scene to high heights. (Fango dying is cheese on the lasagna.)
Looking at the whole season, episode four is arguably the weakest part of 91 Days due to the one-off “Goliath” assassin who pursues Angelo and Nero and who serves no lasting plot purposes. Still, when the audience gets to learn more about these two men (Nero can juggle, Angelo can pickpocket), and the anime unveils a semi-plot twist (that a fourth member was there the night of the murder), it’s not a total loss.
The anime also touches on revenge. It ultimately goes the usual “revenge is pointless” route, but it makes sense within the context of the narrative. All revenge did for Angelo was get his “brother” killed, ruin the lives of numerous others, and leave him without the reason to live he so desperately wanted. Essentially, everything he did throughout 91 Days meant nothing because, in the end, he has nothing.
Which leads to that end. Arguably, the ending itself is overly ambiguous in that it tries too hard to be artsy rather than definitive. An odd choice given how direct the anime had been up to this point. The peaceful ocean, the movement of the characters, and the refusal to show tangible evidence of the outcome make it more of a guessing game than a ribbon to tie off this package.
It’s not without merit, though. Especially on a character level. Angelo seems to no longer want to live, and Nero gets a second (fair) chance at following through on the “mistake” he made those many years ago. Nero’s conviction as he stares ahead, gun upraised, should be the biggest indicator of what went down – or maybe not.
91 Days does have smaller problems like the anticlimactic reveal of Angelo’s identity to Nero and the inability to properly incorporate the Galassias family into the mix outside of hearsay. Even so, this classic revenge story does a lot right and deserves the praise it has gotten.
Easily, 91 Days falters hardest with its art and animation.
To be positive first, the setting and backgrounds are appealing. The anime captures the spirit of the ‘20s with brick buildings, old-timey cars, suits galore, rundown bars, and a decrepit living quarters. The show both looks and feels like a mafia movie – a boon indeed.
The designs of the characters are not half bad either. Nero’s handsome face and facial hair, Angelo’s pale complexion and scathing eyes, and Corteo’s soft expression and square frames give them a look that fits the setting and their personalities. The general manliness of the designs, as well as the variance (Cerotto has more of a monkey vibe, Ronaldo has a big nose, Barbero has business written all over him), keep up with 91 Days and its focus on the mafia.
The further along the anime goes, though, the more trouble it encounters artistically. It becomes more and more apparent how off-model some of the designs get, and, when the characters’ walking cycles barely have them shuffling their feet, movement staggers, too.
Worst of all are the noticeable inconsistencies. A repeated frame or incorrect cut makes Don Orco’s food magically reappear out of thin air after he ate it. One scene starts with a wide shot of what is clearly day time (or at most early evening), but the next shot shows it is nighttime. And Don Vanetti seems to have misplaced the scar on the left side of his face since it vanishes quite frequently.
Many anime will have small artistic issues that one can simply ignore. But the ones found here were too obvious and too common, leading to a reduction in the anime’s overall execution.
91 Days is more plot driven than character driven, but that does not mean it ignores its cast.
Angelo is the main protagonist of this tale. His family is murdered, and he is the one that kills those related to the incident that destroyed all he knew. Before he receives the mysterious letter, he describes himself as someone without purpose. An empty husk devoid of meaning and life. But, after getting the letter, he found what he needed to do.
As he assimilates into the Vanetti family, more is learned about him. He is conniving in his dealings with others, is an adept pickpocket, and is capable of doing what must be done. His emotionless personality keeps him soulless, but, on occasion, flashes of wickedness spread across his face as he comes one step closer to his ultimate goal.
Along the way, Angelo finds himself attached to two key figures: Nero and Corteo.
With Nero, he becomes a lot friendlier towards the man he wants to kill than he would perhaps like. Originally, he refrained from killing Nero to get closer to Don Vanetti. Nero, an honest, trustworthy man, quickly came to like Angelo’s straightforwardness and his reliability – but never realizing he befriended the very man who was betraying him all along.
With Corteo, he grows increasingly distant from him. In the beginning, Corteo was someone he at least kept in mind, even if he used him (that is, his bootleg alcohol) to get started. Angelo confided in Corteo, letting him know of his plans and speaking with him in earnest. But the more that Angelo integrated into the mafia and his quest, the less Angelo kept Corteo around.
On both ends, it goes awry. When Angelo seems to have the perfect opportunity to kill Nero amid the chaos of the theater shootout, he chooses instead to not kill him. He later explains to Nero that he wanted him to experience “a pain worse than death” as his father lay dying in his arms. And while Angelo mends his friendship with Corteo through their small time away from the mafia, Nero forces Angelo to kill Corteo (Nero not knowing of their secret) so that Angelo could prove his loyalty. In doing so, Corteo dies and his image haunts Angelo, guiding him to the end.
Angelo believed that following this bloody path would lead him to a reason to keep him going, keep him living – yet “it was all for nothing.” Shortly following these words of his, he has his best character moment where he screams at Nero out of anguish, wishing that this man had shot and killed him back when he had the chance. That way, neither of them would have needed to go through such endless, soul-crushing pain.
As the finale rolls near, Nero tells Angelo that one does not need a reason to live. Instead, he should just do so. Unfortunately, Nero’s words do not have the most weight behind them since he never got as much time as he perhaps needed. He has moments with his dad Don Vanetti, he kills his brother, and he reveals his hesitation on that fateful night. But 91 Days does not give this deuteragonist his due.
In return, Angelo’s final words correct his earlier explanation. He tells Nero that he didn’t kill him simply because he didn’t want to, demonstrating a lot of Angelo’s change over the course of the season. He starts as an empty shell, he craves bloodlust, he slowly gains a sense of camaraderie, he loses himself again, and finally has no emotions left to give besides contentedness. Whether he lives or not after the end is not the point – rather he has achieved the satisfaction he has always wanted.
For all three of these characters – Angelo, Nero, and Corteo – a major theme persists: family.
Family drives these men to commit their heinous, violent actions. Angelo’s family is murdered, so he takes it on himself to seek revenge. Nero’s family wanted to survive, to keep their family prosperous, so they killed others regardless of who their victims were since for them family matters most. Corteo was Angelo’s self-proclaimed “brother,” so his hit on Nero was, at its core, the only logical way to save Angelo from what Corteo felt was inevitable death.
The different family feuds that spark each conflict. Angelo, like Corteo, becoming Nero’s “brother.” A meta connection to mafia movies and their focus on families. Family seeps into 91 Days, giving its cast more to work with on a thematic level.
And, as they say, “blood is thicker than water.” For this reason, the anime slightly missteps with Angelo’s character. In short, he needs more backstory. Outside of the first episode and the brief conversation he has with Corteo at the zoo about his little brother wanting to go there someday, the anime does not delve deep into Angelo’s background. His revenge is based on family, and the story overall is based on family, so not giving more on his family works against his character.
Not that anybody needs more of a reason than the murder of one’s family to get vengeance. However, on a character level, since the anime refused to show more of Angelo’s upbringing and the relationships he maintained with his little brother (let alone his mother and father who interact with him next to zero times total), it stands as a missed opportunity to flesh out his character and the narrative at large.
One character not touched on yet is Fango. Fango can be summed up with one word: outlier. He is basically a sociopath who runs around the town, picking fights with the Vanetti’s as the Orco’s hired muscle man.
As an outlier, he goes against almost everything in 91 Days. His personality is messed up, indicated by the masochistic play he enjoys. He disrupts the balance held between the three biggest families. And he doesn’t care about family at all; he only cares about himself.
Unfortunately, Fango is too much of an outlier. In this world of drama and realism, Fango does not mesh with the entire package whatsoever. His overall tone and psychotic behavior often derails the show’s seriousness, ruining what the anime has already accomplished. Again, yes, that’s the point, for that’s basically what an outlier does. But the anime still took him a bit too far.
Much of the music within 91 Days follows the mafia’s footsteps once more. Some pieces remind the audience of Italy with classical guitar, woodwind instruments, and oddly peaceful compositions. Tense, more dramatic moments get frantic and eerie when similar-sounding tracks start playing. And a slow, bleak piano arrangement keeps the somber atmosphere in check.
The show’s opening track arguably goes too lofty in its presentation. 91 Days is a realistic, mafia-based drama, so the whispering vocals and orchestral backing stand in stark contrast to the Italian OST. However, it’s not without style. The harrowing yet hopeful tone, the ending violin strings, and the haunting piano melody somewhere in the middle match the show’s own cool delivery.
The ending track is by no means flashier than the OP, but that’s precisely why it comes out on top. It’s a smooth ride, the vocalist’s constant “La’s” and the accompanying instrumental work – the acoustic guitar, piano, light taps on the drums, and what sounds like plucked cello strings – give the ED its mellow, bittersweet vibe. The slight changes in pitch only further cement this piece as the better of the two.
Voice acting contains nothing notable besides perhaps Kenjirou Tsuda as Fango. His bravado and insanity, as well as his masochistic tendencies, are more readily pronounced thanks to Mr. Tsuda’s fine work.
I have respect for this anime.
It was an original outing that did not focus on the usual cutesy, ecchi side of the medium. Instead, it went for entertaining drama, bringing with it obvious inspiration from other sources and a complete story (which is rare for us anime watchers).
Despite my affinity for moe and romance, and my distaste for gun-centric plots (since they usually devolve into the everyone-important-miraculously-does-not-seem-to-get-shot-until-required mentality), I cannot lie and say I disliked those more intense scenes. That first episode is gripping, Corteo murdering Fango was awesome, and the shootout at the theater brought character death after character death.
To be fair, I wish the cast was stronger and the themes were explored more since these are two of my other go-to qualities that I look for in many of my anime. These qualities were fine here in this one, but they were also nothing I was hugely attached to.
Strangely, while I am a big fan of avant-garde ideas and presentation, I’m of the opinion that the ending would have been better suited without so much ambiguity. In fact, I wanted it to go all the way and have Angelo kill Nero. Give me the full revenge, then go for “revenge is pointless.” It would have been much more satisfying since the entire plot is predicated by his revenge, and it would have made going with the route it did an easier one to follow.
91 Days stands as a solid anime. Intense plot points, a very fitting OST, and a look at how family influences one’s actions make for a thrilling experience. The weak animation in the second half of the season, the lack of deeper character exploration, and the unnecessarily ambiguous ending hold the show back at times. Still, these issues thankfully do not throw the whole show overboard.
Story: Great, while nothing groundbreaking, the intense moments, a thorough plot, and themes on revenge make Angelo’s tale both gripping and interesting
Animation: Fine, while the artistic direction sets up the setting well, and the designs of the characters are varied, worsening actual animation and way-too-obvious inconsistencies hamper the visuals
Characters: Fine, Angelo, Nero, and Corteo are motivated by family, with Angelo missing important background details, Nero needing more investigation, and Fango acting as too much of an outlier
Sound: Good, okay OP, good ED, great OST, and okay VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, much respect for what it set out to do
Final Score: 7/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3