91 Days, a show that promised a new way to present an anime. A show that would throw away the traditional anime tropes and truly tell a story that was different to what we had seen before. The previews looked great, a true historical action drama! After the slight disappointment that was Joker Game, I was hoping this show would rekindle my love for period dramas. For the most part, it succeeded in that regard, I really did enjoy this show for a while but to say that it did everything right wouldn’t be fair in the slightest.
1920’s MAFIA REVENGE STORY WITH A SLICE OF YAOI BAIT FOR GOOD MEASURE
12 EPISODES | ACTION, HISTORICAL, DRAMA | ANIMATED BY Shuka | DIR: Kaburagi, Hiro
91 Days seems to fall at the show’s very biggest hurdle after a really great run up. I have to say that the first episode had me hooked, it was a simple revenge story but it was set up so well that I was excited to watch ahead. Like many shows that season, I was rather behind so I had the next three episode to watch and let me tell you, the hype died down rather quickly.
The Premise of the Show
Set in the prohibition period, the law had no power and the mafia ruled the town. As a young child, Angelo Lagusa is having a modest birthday party in his large home with his younger brother Luce and parents. When a swift knocking on the door surprises the family, the two brothers hide in the closet as a group of intimidating men enter the house to chat with their father. The conversation turns sour as the group becomes violent and begins beating both Angelo’s mother and father. In a panic, Angelo’s younger brother bursts from the closet to be beside his mother. The mafia began to realise that whatever they were there to receive was not going to be given to them, which meant only one course of action was viable. The three of them were shot on the spot, executed right in front of young Angelo’s eyes as he continued to cower in his hiding space. Now fanning out for any witnesses, the group splits up around the house. In a swift and somewhat underwhelming sequence, Angelo manages to escape dodging a single bullet fired from the guard outside.
Now an adult living alone for seven years, Angelo receives an anonymous letter detailing the names of the men responsible for his family’s demise – the Vanettis. With the newfound knowledge to avenge his family, Angelo sets off to finish what they had started all of those years ago.
A great set up with no real follow through
To summarise my thoughts on the opening setup to the show, I thought it was incredible. While the action segment felt somewhat lacklustre, the exposition and dialogue was well written and kept me engaged with the plot. 91 Days is a simple revenge story set in a period of time where the mafia ruled the streets and nowhere was safe. The story follows an adult Angelo (now renamed Bruno) who infiltrated the Vanetti family and plans to assassinate every man connected to his dark past – leaving Nero Vanetti to be the last man to see it all. Unfortunately, the action grinds to a halt after the first few minutes and doesn’t pick up again for a long time. Any time an exciting sequence arose I would get pumped up because something interesting was finally going to be handled in a violent manner but then it would be over within a few minutes. To put it very simply, I feel that 91 Days tries to be a action story without presenting any of its story’s themes in action.
Staggering amount of tedious dialogue
Linking in with the lack of action, the time is filled up with dialogue. These characters love to talk about absolutely everything that is going on. While a good story will have the characters reveal smidgens of information and let the viewer figure out the details themselves, 91 Days takes the route of having the characters never stop talking. And for the majority of the time, the dialogue is either meaningless and contributes nothing to the plot or is so mind-numbingly obvious that the viewer feels patronised for even reading it. I adore shows with clever writing, the reason I look up to David Fincher so much as an auteur is his ability to make exposition interesting. He can make two characters talking (which arguably is the least cinematic thing in the world) look and feel intense. It feels like this show is trying to emulate that kind of effect but falls flat in revealing too much all of the time.
Beautiful animation and backgrounds
This is why it really irritates me though, because the animation staff have done a fantastic job in presenting the show to the audience. The people down at Studio Shuka have really effectively painted the scene of a muggy rundown mafia town. As an audience, we don’t need the characters to tell us how terrible the town of Lawless is because (while the name kind of gives it away), the visual direction has framed the town so that we know it’s a seedy place. Admittedly, there is not much within the arts department of this show that really stands out other than those backgrounds. The character designs were rather dull, almost every character looked like a generic anime adult which hardly presented their personality to the screen. Given the short range of possible characters within the context, it makes sense that they all look similar but it makes for a boring show – not to mention that it makes remembering their names even more difficult. Most of this show just felt forgettable.
A confusing spaghetti structure to the plot
As much as I respect narratives that take a different angle on the tried and tested method of storytelling, 91 Days changed all of the wrong things and forgets to fill in the blanks. None of these characters make any sense for the position their in on their defined personality they have been given. Our main character Angelo devises such a convoluted plan for his revenge that, even after a considerable amount outside of watching the actual season, just doesn’t work. Given that this show has a very short run-time of 12 episodes, it would make sense to make the actions extravagant and the structure simple as to not overwhelm your audience and fill too much into too small a timescale. With all of the drawn out dialogue filling the time, the story we end up with is, quite frankly, a mess. Instead of going from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3, we seem to skip steps 2 and 3, jump to step 6, return to Step 2b(iii) and accidentally kill one of the nicest characters in the show. Which nicely leads me on to my next point about 91 Days.
Nothing in this show feels justified or satisfying
Events kind of spring up out of nowhere with little to no build up, leaving all semblance of tension in the scene to be null and void. There are multiple shocking moments in this show as to be expected in a town run by the mafia. However, in almost every occasion that the viewer is clearly meant to feel upset, I personally didn’t feel anything. This is coming from the guy who openly admits crying at shows like Code Geass and Love Live so don’t take statement lightly. None of these characters have any connection with the viewer due to such poor writing and so when something dreadful does happen, there’s no empathy for that character and the effect is lost. The show really amps up the pressure near the end as well, we’re treated to increasingly upsetting moments every episode as time goes on and each one seems to fall more flat than the last. For fear of spoiling the show for those of you who are yet to watch it, I won’t talk too specifically about the ending but I personally was not a fan of how the finale was handled.
Don’t get me wrong, the show wasn’t all terrible
First and foremost, I really enjoyed watching Angelo’s character. There’s something slightly sadistic about engaging with such a merciless being become so successful in their quest. As a brutal character wishing the worst for his enemies, it isn’t enough for him to simply assassinate members of the Vanetti family. He wants to absolutely crush their entire world with them still inside it, powerless yet forced to watch. While I’ve made it quite clear that I am not a fan of how the character was written, there were times where I was thoroughly entertained and enjoyed seeing how his mind works. To go slightly off topic but still be relevant, I didn’t like the protagonist of Death Note because he became this arrogant god character who I physically couldn’t stand to watch anymore. Credit to 91 Days, they refrain from dehumanising Angelo which may be why I don’t despise his character as much as I expected. The protagonist works as a character because not everything goes to plan – some factors couldn’t possibly get any worse in some cases. So while the show as a whole may have been a nonsensical mess of dialogue and incomprehensible character development, there were a few glimmers of light in 91 Days.