[Synopsis]: Seven years ago, a dispute within the mafia lead to the violent murder of the Lagusa family save for their youngest son who escapes into the night. Years later, hollow and lusting for revenge against the Vanetti Family, young Angelo Lagusa (Kondou Takashi) is offered an opportunity to fulfill his ambitions when he receives a mysterious letter detailing the family members involved that night. Returning to Lawless, a town steeped in the black market liquor sales of the prohibition, Angelo takes up the name Avilio Bruno and befriends Nero (Eguchi Takuya), the eldest son of don Vincent Vanetti as he takes the first steps towards exacting his terrible revenge.
Being the organized crime drama that it is, 91 Days hosts a fairly substantial cast of characters in order to really flesh out the mafia dynamic of each of the families and provide a genuine feel to the cast. And that’s what most stands out about the characters of 91 Days, their authenticity. The show focuses heavily upon Angelo and his relationship with his close friend Corteo as well as Nero as they each subtly develop as the narrative progresses. While the supporting cast isn’t given this same kind of attention, the number of named characters, of family allegiances, and minute character details brings them to life. None of these people are good or evil – they all operate based on circumstance, because of their past, the family, and their future. They might not all stand out distinctly in the long run, however the atmosphere they provide and the legitimacy of their portrayal is striking and adds immensely to the story.
To talk briefly about Angelo, he’s a husk of a person. He lost everything when the Vanettis killed his family and ever since has fostered a deep-seated hatred for them that drives his revenge. He isn’t all that diverse of a character as he keeps his emotions quite muted and though the show at times eludes to his underlying feelings or humor he mostly conducts himself in a stiff and methodical manner. This isn’t somebody who has been driven mad by his hate but rather someone who feels they have nothing left to live for, who desperately latches onto this chance of retribution in order to give their life meaning again.
Angelo’s humanity, whether he fully throws himself into his vengeance or finds a new way to live again, is what is held in contention throughout the show – at times wavering and solidifying with each dramatic movement. To Angelo, his very existence is pain. His cleverness makes him interesting to watch as well and the way in which he goes about manipulating others and steadily carrying out his plans paints an engaging story even early on in the show.
Nero is an interesting character as well. As the eldest son of the Vanetti Family, he embodies the mafioso ideals of family above all else. The Vanetti’s continued existence and image mean everything to him. His relationship with Angelo, known as Avilio to him, influences both characters a good deal and is one of the major cruxes of the show. In the same way that the supporting cast doubles and triples down on their excellent portrayal of the 1930’s mobster atmosphere, Nero breathes life into the narrative through his strong sense of family and responsibility.
Perhaps more than anything else, 91 Days is a show about presentation. The setting, the character designs, the color palette all ooze that iconic mafioso charisma and panache. The most outstanding visual quality of the show is its directing which features great shot composition, a film-esque sense of perspective, and great subtext which feeds into the show’s foreshadowing and complicated appeal. Homages to other famous gangster films as well as The Godfather were also included, emphasizing the passion and vision behind the show’s visuals.
The animation has a lot of emotive movement which further emphasizes the authenticity of the cast however the character designs can admittedly look off-model at times and low quality. Small details such as attention to gun handling and reloading bring everything together atmospherically in a believable and immersive way. The various backgrounds and scenery of the show look fantastic and while they are delivered in a slightly different style, their subdued colors and earthy tones fit the setting incredibly well.
The story starts off to a thrilling beginning, opening on the appropriately brutal murder of the Lagusa family and young Angelo’s escape from the residence. It was a strong hook into the show, starting off with the flashback to 7 years ago and ending with a bootleg deal gone wrong while establishing the setting and various mafia names and interests. From the get-go, 91 Days makes it clear what kind of show its going to be – a bloody period piece delivered in a muted aesthetic with a western-style dramatic narrative. It follows up on this over the rest of the show substantially well, launching right into Angelo’s revenge plot very early on and featuring tons of world-building details such as family politics and territory disputes.
While not all that thematically complicated, the show’s use of foreshadowing and imagery is put to good use and underscores its presentation-centrique style. 91 Days is slow and methodical in how it unfolds, placing a lot of its appeal in its grounded atmosphere and stylish cinematography. It’s not so much thrilling as it is tense and high-strung, slowly building to a grand finale at the end of the show but for the most part avoiding doing so on a scene by scene basis. This generally will mean that 91 Days will expect a bit of patience out of its viewers and might seem to drag on or loose focus for those that aren’t as invested. While it’s slow to unfold, the show lives for its big, payoff moments which happen frequently enough. These are big developments in the plot and sometimes quite interesting twists in the story which keep things entirely engaging as the show builds towards its ultimate conclusion.
The soundtrack of the show was great. In more lighthearted times it was jazzy and upbeat but once the drama and intrigue set in it was able to match the tonal shift. This is what I feel the soundtrack did best. While its tracks weren’t individually memorable, the music’s ability to match the show’s different modes and accentuate the story at each turn was impressive. As the narrative sat brooding, as it climbed, and as it climaxed, the music was there at each stage emphasizing the scenes exceptionally well, especially towards the end.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
91 Days was thrilling and dramatic and absolutely overflowing with style. While it wasn’t as engaging at every step of the show as it was at its peaks, those big, dramatic moments that strung everything together were highly entertaining.
I gave 91 Days an 8 because of how each of its elements, its characters, its story, and visuals, all fed into one grand, immersive presentation. While the characterization of the cast was kind of subdued, they were a good deal of fun regardless of this. The show had a handful of unexpected twists and a great ending which tied together its most decisive elements.
I think because of how heavily the show relies on its sense of style and subject matter, that those viewers who know they enjoy the kind of gangster, mafia stories will undoubtedly enjoy the show more than others. That isn’t to say it can only be enjoyed by those people as I myself don’t have a history with those films or shows but it certainly lends itself better to some audiences. It’s got a lot of great drama and should entertain anybody looking for a solid revenge story.