I’m a sucker for mafia stories. Movies like The Godfather and The Untouchables have stood the test of time as some of the greatest films ever created. When I saw 91 Days taking on this genre, I became highly interested and I wanted to see if they could capture the essence of what makes this genre so great. Did 91 Days capture that spirit? Let’s find out, shall we?
Seven years in the past, Angelo Lagusa is home with his family when unknown members of the mafia intrude and end up killing his entire family. Angelo escapes and runs for his life with his best friend Corteo. Seven years later, an anonymous letter is delivered to him which reveals the names of those who murdered his family. With this information in hand, Angelo (under the name of Avilio) returns to the town of Lawless to enact his revenge against the Vanetti mafia family; however, his revenge isn’t as simple and he gets dragged into the mafia world as a supplier of Lawless Heaven, a top-tier bootleg booze made by his friend Corteo.
I felt the story was extremely compelling. Set during the era of prohibition, you got that instant vibe of the 1920’s in America. Of course, the only thing missing was the Italian-accented English voice acting, but since this is a Japanese anime, it’s one thing you’ll have to overlook. That makes me really curious about the English dub if and when it ever comes out on home release. Angelo’s revenge was very complex, but a lot of it didn’t really seemed planned. Angelo kind of went with the flow and hatched his plan along the way. Sometimes that is the best way to go about things because more often than not, things will never go the way you plan them exactly.
The involvement of the other families also set the tone for the story and built upon this world. It didn’t limit the story just to the town of Lawless as they even got Chicago involved as well. It gave you a sense of a mafia-driven world that encompassed all areas. While the overall plotline of the anime is straight-forward… a man infiltrating the Vanetti family to plan his revenge… the characters themselves have their own deep and rich histories that are carefully laid out. They intertwine when they need to and each character has their own goals and objectives. They help push the main story forward while telling stories of their own, something that is rarely taken advantage of in anime.
Speaking of characters, there’s a lot of them so let’s jump into what is going to be a long section.
As the main character of 91 Days, it was a little hard to feel for Angelo because you just didn’t know how to take him. Angelo had near zero emotion throughout the entire show. Despite feeling moments of sadness or anger, Angelo’s personality remained the same. He came across as very dry and flat, but it was this kind of emotion that built his character nicely. He wanted nothing but revenge on the Vanetti family and he was laser focused on his task. Every move he made was for the sake of his vengeance and he cared little about anything else except for his best friend Corteo. Angelo would manipulate anyone and anything just to eliminate his targets one by one.
This made him a rather devious character and if the viewer had a hard time reading him, then you know the characters in the show couldn’t read him either. Most of the time, it is blatantly obvious to the home audience how the character is acting or thinking, but Angelo was written in such a way where the audience was, at times, just as clueless as the characters in the show. That is a very hard feat to pull off and 91 Days does that very well!
He is Angelo’s childhood friend and the creator of Lawless Heaven, the smash hit moonshine that everyone in the mafia wants for themselves. His persona is very timid and he doesn’t want to see Angelo get involved with the mafia, but at the same time, understands the reasons for his vengeance. Corteo plays a dual role as a background supporting character and later on as a main character in which has some pretty surprises and twists along the way.
I really liked Corteo as a character because you just didn’t expect him to do some of the things he did. While him playing the scared little forest elf worked perfectly for his role, it worked even better when he did things outside of what you expected his character to do. He was able to maintain that innocence from beginning to the bitter end and it made him a lovable and enjoyable character all around.
I actually loved Nero a lot. He is the son of Vincent Vanetti, the Don of the Vanetti family. Nero is young and he has those youthful tendencies, but at the same time, he also has a good head on his shoulders. His biggest desire is to protect the family and he will do anything that will result in its protection, like a good Don should. When Vincent appointed him as the new Don, you could tell that protecting the family was his number one priority. Unlike a lot of young successors, he didn’t become corrupted nor did he go on a power trip. He fully understood his position and respected it.
His relationship with Angelo was also a mixed bag because you, the viewer, knew that Nero was one of the people on the list that killed Angelo’s family. You knew sooner or later that Nero was going to get killed, but despite the fact that Angelo was only tricking Nero to get close to him, you could see the threads of a friendship starting to form. In the end, this complicated matters and it gave us an ending to the show that I didn’t really expect to see, but it made the most sense when you sit back and reflect on it. For these reasons, I’m going to state that Nero was my favorite character in this show.
Oh Fango, you lovable nutjob. Fango is that hot-headed, wild member of the mafia family that we usually see, except he’s been given the Japanese anime treatment. Fango is a deplorable human being who loves violence and is turned on by overweight women and rough sex…. And by rough sex, I mean having his skin lashed with a whip. Fango is part of the Orco mafia family, but later aligns himself with the Vanetti’s, reluctantly might I add He only used people for his own personal gain and when he didn’t need them anymore, he just tossed them aside. Despite the ugliness of his character, there were some pure moments of entertainment whenever he was on screen, though.
He was Vincent Vanetti’s right hand man and then later, Nero’s. He plays the role of advisor to both Vincent and Nero and is also the one broken cog in Angelo’s revenge machine. Berbero never really trusted Angelo from the start and that comes into play later on down the line as everything begins to unravel. Outside of this, there really isn’t much to Barbero. He just seemed like a background character, but as the series went on, they gave you in-your-face hints that he will play a bigger role. This really took away from any big surprising moments with him, but it still worked because he was used a looming danger. Sometimes it’s best to keep surprises out in the open and it worked well for Barbero.
Those are all of the major characters in 91 Days. There are many others like Ganzo, but talking about him would unveil huge spoilers. There are also smaller characters like Cerotto which had a bit of an impact on the show even though they were sporadically used. Because of the nature of gangster/mafia shows, a lot of the character I left out ended up dead just after you got to the known them so they didn’t really play all that big of a role with the exception of Vanno Clemente, who was one of the four men who killed Angelo’s family. Vanno was dead by the end of Episode 2 so you had next to know time to get to know him as a character outside of the fact that he was one of the four.
Art, Animation, and Sound
The art of 91 Days really captured the spirit of the 1920’s perfectly. Everything from the attire the characters wore to all of the Ford Model T cars running around, it really made the era of the 1920’s come alive. Every character wore either a business suit or a trench coat with some sort of hat, be it a fedora or a cap. City streets and bars were all drawn with the technology of the 20s in mind so you didn’t see anything out of place, such as someone on a laptop or cell phone. The characters were also designed with the 20’s in mind as all of their hairstyles and even the way their eyes and such were drawn, all conveyed a much more mature anime. Nothing really seemed out of the ordinary… except for Fango, but that’s just Japan being Japan with his character.
91 Days‘ animation was pretty solid, but there were parts where the CG stuck out like a sore thumb. CG was mainly used to show the cars being moved around from place to place and when you compared the animation to any other part of the show, it just looked different. I don’t understand why they went with CG animation for a car, but they still had no CG for large scale gun fights. You would have through the opposite seeing how there are many more moving parts on screen during shoot outs than there is when one or two cars are on the screen. Despite the odd choice, the animation was about standard to slightly above standard and Shuka did a good job with it. If the art and animation looked familiar to you, it should, but Shuka was the studio behind Durarara!! And its subsequent sequels.
The sound was also amazing for 91 Days. While no tracks really stood out, all of the background music just screamed mafia. Of course, the opening to the show, “Signal” by TK, is being heralded as one of the greatest opening songs of this year and rightfully so. Only a voice like TK can make a song like this work. While the opening’s artwork left a LOT to be desired, the song made up for in spades.
The ending theme, “Rain or Shine” by ELISA was just amazing for something with so little substance. It was a very slow jazz style song with ELISA “la la la-ing” different notes to the music. It gave this feeling of sitting in a lounge with a singer up on stage as you sat back and sipped some whiskey among cigar smoke with a slow rotating fan above your head. It’s very calm and relaxing and I could just sit there and listen to it for hours! Usually songs like this don’t really hold my attention, but this one is so good, I really want the full version of it.
As a fan of mafia-style shows, whether they are set in the older days like The Godfather and The Untouchables or during more modern times like The Sopranos, 91 Days has filled a void left by the absence of any good mafia show. While you’ll have to forgive some things such as the Japanese language and the “anime-ization” of some of the characters (COUGHFangoCOUGH), it was a very deep, intertwined and engaging story. I personally believe that 91 Days is among the best anime to have come out this year and if you were on the fence about this one, I think you should go out of your way to marathon it now that it has concluded. If you did happen to watch it as it aired, hopefully you found as much enjoyment with the show as I did.
It is, by no means, a masterpiece, but it is still a very good show that I believe a lot of people would enjoy.
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91 Days brings you back to the old mafia movies and puts a bit of an anime spin on it. Glorious show worthy of anyone's time.