91 Days was an anime that intrigued me from the first time I saw the promotional image on the season line-up , it seemed to promise a dark story set in a gritty world with melancholy characters and plenty of criminal intrigue and violence. Reading the description fed that intrigue even more , a mob story, set during the prohibition era ? It ticked all my boxes especially the setting I can count on one hand how many times prohibition and the organized crime that sprung from it has been covered in anime but I’d need a hundred hands to count how many times it’s been done in western and more so in American media. It was an exciting prospect , even more so when I saw it was to be an original show meaning no need to be tied down by a pre set manga story. So how did 91 handle all these promising elements ? Better than I had expected but still not as strong as it had the potential to be.
91 comes from Studio Shuka who so far have been mostly involved with the Durarara!! Series and 91 days is there first series outside of that mould and a pretty ambitious first series at that. It’s also a big step up for director Hiro Kaburaki who has only been in charge of select episodes of a range of series until now.
So with all that riding for it , does 91 manage to live up to the potential it set for itself ?
“During Prohibition, the law held no power and the mafia ruled the town.
The story takes place in Lawless, a town thriving on black market sales of illicitly brewed liquor. Avilio returns to Lawless after some time away, following the murder of his family in a mafia dispute there.
One day, Avilio receives a letter from a mysterious sender, prompting him to return to Lawless for revenge. He then infiltrates the Vanetti family, the ones responsible for his family's murder, and sets about befriending the don's son, Nero, to set his vengeance in motion.
Killing brings more killing, and revenge spawns more revenge. How will the 91-day story of these men guided by a tragic fate end?”
As I said before the prohibition era has not been covered almost at all in the anime medium , that is not to say however that mob stories have not been done especially seeing how Yakuza media accounts for a huge proportion of Japanese entertainment , what has however been done across the scale of almost all fiction since the beginning of time are revenge stories. When I started watching 91 and realized that it was a run of the mill revenge story it made my heart for the series sink. It meant that the writers were going to focus on a small group of characters and a rather boring narrative rather than reaching out on a larger scale and trying to bring to life this interesting world and having us explore it through a grander arc. Nonetheless I remained hopeful and while , yes, the plot is filled to the brim with the cliches of a crime story ( betrayal , infiltration , familial death ) there is something about 91 that manages to keep me dragged into every suspense scene with hooks. Even the most standard and predictable of scenes become enthralling and I credit this mainly to the scene writing and direction.
The direction is a shining point of this show , with some shots being so cinematic I swear I was watching a feature film. Each scene has a compelling and natural flow to it that guides the viewer to explore it with minimal cuts, it amplifies suspense and tension by letting scenes linger.
Interior designs in particular are always rich and can convey the emotion and lifestyle of the characters within them from mansions , to run down apartments and sleazy bars. The playing with lights and shadows adds to this and is fantastic in its subtlety and ability to blend into the world.
Actual animation and the movements of characters are fairly basic but it’s made up ten fold with the aforementioned movement and scene setting.
The sound-design , soundtrack and often empty silence are all effective tools for keeping the suspense scenes right with tension and unpredictability. The score is well fitting to the time-period. I also appreciate the bare and sophisticated designs of the OP and ED as they feel as the best fit for the overall tone this series is attempting to convey.
I do have some beef with the sound engineering however. First off the sound effects themselves are often hollow and feel out of sync by a beat or two to the action on scream second and this is real irritation for me , the guns sound completely dull, weak and without personality , it’s a crime anime there’s gun been shot all the time and I can’t stand them being so measly
The costumes are all sophisticated and in keeping with the time period. Even though the character designs feel fairly bare bones at worst.
Despite the characters being mostly complete mob cliches 91 plays off of them and creates some original and not to mention fairly touching interactions and fearsome villains.
Being one of the first crime orientated of this kind 91 days has a lot going for it, enough to warrant you watching it from start to finish. The world is gritty , violent but still has a sophisticated side. The characters are easy to understand and watch. The direction and animation are beautiful and enough to warrant an award on the opening scenes of the first episode. Scenes are so well directed and flow so well that no matter what’s going on , a child's game or a brutal fight , it’ll be sure to drag you in.
Now that the world has been set-up , the basic archetypes for a story established I feel that 91 is in prime time to go ahead and try for a second season with a completely fresh plot-line.