From the creative minds that brought you Hozuki’s Coolheadedness, ERASED, Durarara!!, Baccano!, Haikyu!!, and many other beloved contemporary Anime series’ comes a Mafia story set during the Prohibition which will remind you that Anime is the literal conglomeration of various forms of art, making it more than just a half-interesting way to kill twenty-two minutes week to week. Licensed for distribution in the West by none other than Crunchyroll, this series was one that, until it’s release, flew stealthily under my radar. Unable to deny my cultural heritage, being an Italian, I felt that it was my duty to experience an Anime set, arguably, amid the peak of organised crime…and it was a good thing that I did.
No bleaker an opening, 91 Days introduces itself to the audience with a gang-related family murder that includes a man, his wife, and his young child, with another unrelated adolescent being the only one escaping from the massacre. Not the best way to celebrate your birthday, but I suppose he is somewhat to blame for not leaving with another friend earlier who, thanks to what I can only presume is “the devil’s luck“, made the decision to head home before the festivities had officially ended. The surviving boys learned two things that night: One; it is not the candles wick that burns hottest, and two; the life of a gangster is not an enviable one.
Seven years later, the boys once again meet; one has become quite the bootlegger, illegally distilling some of the purest alcohol in town, whereas the other has devoted himself to…lord knows what. Coming face-to-face with one another since that tragic night, Avilio (the mysterious one) convinces Colteo (the studious beverage-craftsman) that they should sell to the mafia, but for what reason? Well, that is yet to come to the surface, but common sense dictates that it is a way to get closer to the Vanetti family whose heir is the offspring of the man in charge of the bloodshed from seven years ago that has twisted his mind.
Heading to an infamous speakeasy, the two run into trouble after attempting to sell the proprietor their product. A man named Fango arrives looking for an individual named Nero Vanetti. A new recruit to the opposing Orco family, Fango has already built a reputation for himself as an insane man with a penchant for destruction. Brandishing a high-powered automatic machine gun, and accusing all in the room of being Nero, Fango causes one hell of a ruckus, the likes of which only a genius could have gotten out of…which is exactly what happened. Putting his studies to good use, Colteo concocts an interesting elixir that, on contact, produces hellish flames, allowing the duo and their two new friends to escape to safety.
While the four escape in a nearby getaway car, it is revealed that the two gentlemen whom they escaped with actually work for the Vanetti family, and wish to become the sole buyers of what is described as the best booze in Lawless (the town the series is set). Not only that; the episode ends with a cheeky cliffhanger as Avilio asks if this Nero Vanetti guy was actually at the bar. The bearded of the two gentlemen removes his false facial hair, turns to look at the young men in the back and exclaims; “Nero Vanetti…is me!“. What a twist!
91 Days has a layout that is, for lack of a better term; strange. For whatever reason, it felt as though both nothing and yet so much happened within the episode simultaneously. Unlike series’ like Baccano!, of which this series will be compared to indefinitely, 91 Days played out quite realistically. Nothing felt as though it was forced or excessive, nothing felt as though it was out of place, and nothing felt as though it did not suit the tone of the series. It was somber, it was gloomy, and yet it had an odd sense of high-class charm that, I suppose, comes along with a story about suited mafioso attempting to monopolise the distribution of illegal alcohol.
Every character, to me, felt as though they were instantly likable. Not in the way that you would see them as your favorite character, but more in the way that you would look at them with a sense of satisfaction knowing that, yeah, they really to fit like a puzzle piece in this series, despite the fact that, at this point in time, we have no idea who they really are. Character development was somewhat shallow for the most part, but it WAS the first episode of the series, and I feel as though it gave us exactly what we needed to become hooked to the story without giving us as the audience too much to digest in our first sitting.
Once again I must compare this series to Baccano! because of how thematically close they are to one another. Not in the way that 91 Days is about immortal gangsters but more in the way that they are both period-piece-type shows that happen to centre around organised crime. If you’ve seen Baccano! then, chances are, you’ll be quite a fan of the visual presence of 91 Days. Being lead by the same creative director as said series, 91 Days is incredibly accurate in it’s depiction of the time’s landscapes, but…maybe not so much the people. Don’t get me wrong, each and every character play host to some greatly subtle designs, but if we were comparing them to those actually living at the time (which we’re not), of course there’s going to be somewhat of a disconnect. Backing up those great visuals are some period-accurate tracks that worked well to energize the node in my brain that simply cannot get enough of smooth Jazz so, as you can imagine, I was quite a fan of 91 Days‘ visual and auditory experience.
Up until this point in time I had been talking a lot of crap about this Season’s thin lineup. Truth be told; I still very much believe that this is one of the weaker seasons of the past two years, but after watching the first episode of 91 Days I’ve actually come to appreciate the fact that I have no intention of following several shows. At least, this way, I will give myself enough room in my weekly life to sit, watch, experience, and appreciate everything that this series has to offer, not allowing a slew of other titles to slice my attention span in half. 91 Days feels as though it’s going to have quite a few slow episodes as it kicks off into the bulk of it’s story, and despite the fact that I usually don’t stick around for shows of this kind, I have an overwhelming likeness towards 91 Days, and a whisper in my heart that’s telling me it’s going to be great…so I’m going to follow that hunch and continue with it.
91 Days is now available to watch through Crunchyroll: Click Here.