Revenge is quite the act, especially when dealing with mobsters to obtain it. When you join said mobsters only to disrupt their plans from the inside, things become convoluted. Enter 91 Days. In the town of lawless where alcohol is distributed due to prohibition, the families of mafia rule with an iron fist. With the mafia always causing ruckus in town, getting revenge is sure to be one heck of a task.
Out of everything that aired during the summer 2016 season, 91 Days was the most interesting to watch. Not because it was set in prohibition or that it’s inspired from mafia films (which is rare to see in anime), but due to the theme of revenge it had. 91 Days is a story centered around causing suspense and going off all drama it causes for the characters. Avilio Bruno and Nero Vanetti are some of the personalities that 91 Days focuses on with it centering on Avilio trying to get revenge due to his family being murdered. By having Avilio attempt to take revenge, a series of events take place that creates suspense, which in turn causes drama and violence for the 3 families: Orco, Vanetti, and Galassia. With the series being written by Taku Kishimoto (Silver Spoon, Joker Game), you can see his writing style of drama and suspense become effective. By having multiple characters get involved in on said drama, everything turns into a thrill, which makes viewers come back for more.
Despite the suspense thrills, there are issues with 91 Days concerning its story and characters. Personalities seem simple and a little too easy to remember, leaving out some characterization when it is needed. An example are some characters not thinking for themselves or not figuring out simple things that anyone would be suspicious of. Out of all three mafia families, the Galassia’s do not receive much portrayal compared to other families. They are the biggest and baddest in lawless, yet, we do not get much about them other than that, which is a flaw in character writing. Another issue is how complex the story can become. Because of the drama taking place, many characters express actions that offset another event, which in turn, causes more plot points. With many things going on at the same time, everything can be convoluted for some viewers, which may require another viewing of an episode or two.
Even with it’s flaws, 91 Days holds up well by using drama and suspense efficiently. Utilization of symbolism and character tension sets up for exciting setups and interaction. Said interaction reaches its climax when drama and suspense leads into thrilling action full of death, violence, and a bit of gore between families. Additionally, there are even some slight mystery elements involved due to the letter Avilio receives. 91 Days is secretive on revealing who sent Avilio the letter, which raises curiosity on who it could have been as well as sparks Avilio’s actions for his revenge.
The most intriguing part of 91 Days would be its ending, rather, how it ended. Without trying to spoil, while it can be confusing due to the timing of cutting from present to past, it’s an ending that can spawn many conclusions depending on the viewer. It’s a type of conclusion that relies solely on interpretation and how one wants it to end. Ultimately, this works out well. Having cuts to different scenes in awkward places feels intentional. Also, because it feels awkward, there’s an insinuation in the writing that conveys characters are feeling awkward as well. Of course, this method could backfire if the viewer doesn’t piece it together. Despite that, it fits well with 91 Days and its complexity.
91 Days‘ art and animation production can simultaneously look good and bad with some episodes lacking quality and others having superb quality. Since studio Shuka (Durarara!!x2) is animating 91 Days, there were bound to be moments where scenes would appear derpy as the same happened during Durarara!!x2. Examples in 91 Days are when characters were off model and awkward. Some episodes also contained numerous still frames, which felt like it was stalling for run time. With the directing by Hiro Kaburaki (Kimi ni Todoke, Hozuki no Reitetsu), there are moments where art and animation quality do excel. Character designs are rememberable and look like real mafia members. Background art feels stern with the sky, atmosphere, or towns looking grim to fit the surroundings.
Animation is particularly good with character movement and expression. By using a character’s facial expression, it shows signal cues that tells actions without having to use dialogue. Doing this sets up for events to happen or even foreshadowing. The quality is at its best when action is happening. When characters fight or cause mayhem, their movements are clear and splendid, which makes for great action scenes. Maintaining animation fluidity is an issue 91 Days runs into quite a bit. There are some scenes where a character moves in a sloppy fashion that makes their model appear like jelly. Judging the quality of this show can be a mixed-bag because how it can look subpar and superb. It does feel like studio Shuka were saving their manpower only for important scenes, which is a letdown.
The opening “Signal” by TK from Ling Tosite Sigure is a fitting introduction for 91 Days as it sounds dark and somber, which goes well with the theme of revenge. As for the soundtrack itself, with it being composed by Shogo Kaida (Betrayal Knows My Name, Special A), some tracks have a tone you would hear in a mystery or mafia film. Although that blends strongly with the show, 91 Days’ soundtrack can sound calm and amusing as well. Use of natural instrumentation such as a violin helps soothe the sound for calm effect. Additionally, utilization of horns help bring out a spontaneous tune to fill an episode with a happy feeling. Music is at its climax when the suspense is high and multiple events are taking place. A fine combination of drums and a symphony are used to raise tension of said events further, which works well in unison to deliver that final impact of thrills. To cap it off, the ending “Rain or Shine” by ELISA sounds pleasant and classy since it feels like something you would hear at a 50’s jazz night club.
91 Days is a solid show overall. When comparing it to old mafia and mobster films, it does contain that same feeling those films have, but there are moments where it doesn’t. This could be due to lack of characterization it had or perhaps it placed too much emphasis on suspense. Although the animation quality could have been better, the story made well use of drama and suspense. The music sounded good with most tracks blending together with scenes to help raise tension or enjoyment value. Seeing what studio Shuka will produce next will be intriguing since they did well with Durarara!!x2 and 91 days. Hopefully with better quality, their next show will be one to anticipate.
Pros: Great use of suspense and drama, feels like a mafia film at times, music is well-blended with scenes for impact.
Cons: Art and animation issues, story can be a little too convoluted for some viewers, lack of characterization for some characters.