So one day, a few people in the anime industry meet up and have a meeting to come up with a new original anime (and who knows, even a franchise). I have no idea what they were drinking or smoking at the time, but somehow they ended up with a mix of Gundam Wing, the Sopranos and basically every mafia movie ever made.
If you think that's a weird mix, the end result kind of reflects that as well. So let's dig a little deeper into the anime original named "91 Days".
V Reviews - 91 Days
First up, backstory
So how did this get made? Well, to look at the source of 91 Days means looking at the history of studio Shuka.
Studio Shuka is a studio that was founded in 2013 and is made up mostly from former staff of Studio Brain's Base.
Up until now, their primary focus has been providing "tweener" animation for other studio's and making sequels to some of Brain's Base former franchises (Durarara and Natsume's Book of Friends).
But since every anime studio wants to grow and make a name for itself, it's only obvious that they wanted to try something new and original as well. And since they didn't have an anime planned between the last sequel of Durarara and their (first) sequel of Natsume's book of friends, Summer 2016 was a perfect time to do this "new project".
For this project, they contacted director Hiro Kaburagin and screenwriter Taku Kishimoto.
Taku Kishimoto is apparently thé hype screenwriter of the moment. He is known for creating screenplays for series like Usagi Drop, Silver Spoon, Haikyuu, Erased, Joker Game, most of Gintama° and more. Jeezes, this guy's agenda of 2015 and 2016 must've been LOADED!
Director Hiro Kaburagin on the other end who is mostly known from Kimi no Todoke, but has lots of smaller directing and screenwriting roles as well (Welcome to the NHK, Hungry Heart Wild Striker, Fantastic Children and others).
Together they created a revenge story with many influences from various classic mafia movies, like Road to Perdition, Miller's Crossing, Lawless, Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, and Good Fellas.
The story of 91 Days takes place in the fictional city of Lawless (wow, such reference), Illinois. The place is a fictional variant of Chicago during the Prohibition era and is corrupted to the brim by various mafia families.
On one cold night, the family of Angelo Lagusa is brutally murdered by the Vanetti's, who are trying to gain a name of their own. Angelo is somehow able to escape (due to one of them holding back from shooting a kid), but he is left as a complete mess as a result of this murder.
Angelo grows up in anonymity (as Avillio Bruno) to become an avenger. He's brooding for his moment to kill the people who took out his family (and somehow looking and acting a lot like Heero Yuy from Gundam Wing). Seven years after that fateful night, Angelo receives an anonymous letter from a "friend of his father". The letter contains the names of the people involved in the murder of his family: the Vanetti clan. Angelo cooks up a revenge plan and returns to Lawless to seek out the help of his friend Corteo.
Corteo himself is trying to make a living by brewing moonshine (home-brew liquor) and selling it to "shady" people. Angelo saves Corteo when the Corto family tries to steal the liquor formula from Corteo. Corteo is obviously glad to see his gloomy friend return until Angelo asks Corteo for his assistance in his revenge plan.
During an attempt to sell Corteo's Moonshine in a bar, he runs into both two people from the Vanetti family, as well as a new and upcoming rookie from the Orco family, Fango. And while Angelo and Corteo try to make good business, Fango is just bat-shit crazy in his search for Nero Vanetti and starts shooting everyone in the bar they're in.
Our two heroes help the Vanetti guys escape while holding off Fango. In return, the Vanetti guys (which includes a disguised Nero Vanetti) want to do business with the two. Angelo and Corteo are invited on the wedding of Nero's sister with the nephew of the "don" of the Galassia family (thus forming a bond between the two mafia families). Here they show Nero's right-hand man Barbero what the moonshine is about and a deal is struck.
What follows is Angelo's journey of rising in the ranks of the Vanetti family, while trying to kill off the people responsible for his father's murder, figuring out who sent him the letter and figuring out who the mysterious fourth person was who was part of the assassination of his father. And this while trying to keep his friend Corteo alive (somewhat), trying to stay away from crazy Fango (somewhat), bromancing Nero (somewhat), brewing lots of moonshine (a LOT) and trying to stay alive himself (somewhat).
I realized I was trying to summarize as much as possible. But since this is somewhat of a long-running mafia movie; I'll have to stop here to prevent spoilers.
|Angelo Lagusa: a.k.a. Avillio Bruno: Main character and typical avenger archetype. Goes high and low to get his revenge, even abandoning his friendship with his best friend in order to achieve what he wants. Nero Vanetti: The main target of Angelo. Heir of the Vanetti family and somebody who looks out for his family and friends. He's so likable, he makes it very hard to want to kill him.|
|Corteo: Childhood friend of Angelo and the one with an actual conscience of the two. He wants to help Angelo out, but he often has questions with the decisions Angelo makes in order to get his revenge.|
|Barbero: Right-hand man of Nero. Deals with all the numbers and often makes the most reasonable decisions of the entire Vanetti family. He soon has (rightful) doubts about this Avillio character and never really truts him nor Corteo.|
|Vincent Vanetti: Main target #1 of Angelo. The one person who actually killed his father. He bears the scar on his forehead and hand from the knife wound Angelo's father made with his final actions. Regrets what he has done to the Lagusa family, though it's too little too late.|
|Fratte Vanetti: Little brother of Nero. Has an superiority complex where he tries to prove that he is better than his brother and is sure that his decisions are the best for the family. Too bad he's being played by his brother-in-law Ronald Galassia.|
|Fango: Crazy S.O.B. from the rival from the Orco family. He's as crazy and unpredictable as the Joker and that makes him very fun to watch. One of the few highlights of this anime, and one of the better villains in anime of 2016 in my eyes!|
There are many more supporting character from the three big mafia families. Some which will live, many more who will die in the course of this series.
Animation & Sound
There's nothing much to say about the animation. It's of high quality throughout. Fluid animation, great battle sequences. Overall top points to the anime studio for delivering a great work.
On production design I can only give praise as well. There's so much focus on detail in this anime to give it a look and feel of a real mafia movie. And you have to admit it. After watching this anime, I really want to see it again... in the dub. This is an anime that (if done correctly) can become even more great when spoken in English (due to the characters being all American).
Oh, and the sound? It's good. The entire OST is so designed as if this was an actual mafia movie. The OP is nice as well, but the ED is forgettable.
Why isn't this thé anime of the year in any category?
There is so much in this anime that could've made it thé anime of the year. But on every aspect where it shines, there's another aspect where it doesn't and makes the overall experience "average" instead.
Nero is one of the best supporting characters in anime of 2016 and even deserves the "best bro" award of 2016 for me. And Fango is one of the craziest and amazing villains in all of anime of 2016. But their performances are neglected when you see Angelo and Corteo; both of which are either cringe-worthy or a copy-paste of other heroes. Each time Nero and Fango disappear off screen and are replaced with Angelo or Corteo you are sadly enough remembered by the fact that THESE two are the main characters (sigh). And a movie/anime without likable main characters just doesn't work, no matter how good the supporting cast is.
And while the soundtrack is great and the animation and production value are top notch, it's drenched in an average revenge story that you feel like you've seen a dozen times before.
And that's a sad thing. It's an adult story (which is VERY RARE in anime), the story is sometimes really unpredictable (especially when Fango is in the picture) and many people die (on all sides) without it being shock value. But then there's episodes where Angelo and Nero are on a "trip" away and you are either pushing the fast-forward button, or constantly looking at your watch because it's not that interesting.
Final conclusion and personal opinion
If you are looking for something different than the dozens of typical Shonen anime, fanservice anime and high schoool anime, this is a definite change of pace. It's different in all aspects. And while it's definitely no masterpiece, it will entertain you for a while.
On the other end, if you're looking for thé best anime of 2016, this sadly enough isn't one of them (though I wish it was).
Overall, I give this anime a 7/10. It's good, but lacks on several places to make it stand the test of time.
Until next time, V out.