Otherwise known as the story of how a guy killed his entire family and blamed it on a can of pineapples.
91 Days comes to us from Shuka, the sorta rebirth of the old studio Brains Base now that current Brains Base is a pile of crap (think Trigger from Gainax). 91 Days appears to be them attempting to do something stylistically similar to Baccano. Another prohibition-era American story, albeit this time with a much less manic story and more entrenched in the staples of the genre. It’s a mafia revenge story through and through, treading through the story paces with confidence as though they know exactly what they are trying to achieve. They are producing a piece of genre fiction and never really stepping outside the boundaries of what the genre entails, which makes it a little hard to review.
That opening paragraph may sound like I’m being a little bit harsh on the show, so I want now to accentuate that 91 Days is an incredibly well-written piece. The characters, with the possible exception of the madman Fango with his cowboy boots, are all very well rounded individuals with clear distinct personalities. You understood their goals in life and they acted according to these dreams of theirs. It was particularly noticeable with the random minor characters. The mousy-faced driver who kept getting caught up in things larger than he could deal with was a personal favourite of mine. Alternatively the fat Don who was constantly irritated by the incorrect amount of butter I rather enjoyed too. It was the kind of character writing where you felt like they established exactly what kind of people these characters were and then wrote them so they would act like so.
This sounds like a stupidly basic thing that every good story should do, but so many don’t it’s worth pointing out. In general it points to 91 Days having an understanding of the basics of storytelling and executing on them proficiently at every available opportunity. This is kind of what you have to do when you’re producing such a stubbornly entrenched piece of genre fiction. If you’re not going to try to evolve the genre then by god you’ve got to absolutely execute everything you’re doing within your comfort zone to be even remotely worth mentioning, and 91 Days does that throughout. The transforming nature of the revenge plot keeps you interested. The character relationships feel strong enough to be invested in their friendships and hurt when things don’t go according to plan. It’s just so damn competent at everything it does that it’s hard not to admire what they’ve achieved.
Well OK I can’t let the word “everything” go unopposed. As I said earlier, Fango felt like he had stepped out of an entirely different anime. It was like they were trying to make Ladd Russo from Baccano, but missed the point where they weren’t making an anime anywhere near the kind of tone Baccano had (and as an aside, Ladd Russo wasn’t even a particularly great character in Baccano yeah I went there). The animation drops off after a strong start. It was going for the kind of directing a film usually has but ultimately couldn’t keep up with that style as the show progressed. Also this isn’t really a complaint since this is more my fault for watching this over the span of 5 months, but it is very difficult to keep up with all the different relationships in this show. Which family is warring with who and who just died and who has been betrayed and so on. If you’re watching this yourself, try bring a piece of paper and write down the relationship charts yourself, as well as keeping a tab on who died.
One thing I had an issue with midway through was I felt the story was loosing track of Avilio’s revenge story, but by the end it became more clear that I was just looking at the story the wrong way. It was more about Nero than Avilio, the kid he befriended in order to murder his family. It took on this mirror image that became pretty powerful by the time the end rolled around. It actually gave the story more depth than your standard revenge story usually has, even if that depth mostly consisted of “yo revenge solves nothing” which most revenge stories ultimately boil down to. Such is the nature of it not really ever stretching outside of its mafia genre comfort blanket I guess. But as I’ve stressed throughout, it’s such a good one of those it’s hard to criticise it too much for not doing anything new. I sure as hell can’t think of another anime that has done this genre as well, with the obvious solo exception of Baccano.
As a final aside, my personal favourite interpretation of the story is that Avilio never existed after all. He was the creation of Nero as a way to atone for the shooting of family in the first episode. He actually totally shot that kid instead of letting him get away and the guilt gnawed away at him his entire life. Avilio was how he imagined that kid would grow up and his guilt made that invention of Avilio into the monster devoted to revenge. Avilio was just this pineapple can all along. OK I don’t actually think this is true since it leaves a metric tonne of plot holes but hey it’s fun to think about. I think that’s actually what the ending was implying in a more metaphorical sense. If Avilio hadn’t shown up, this would have happened anyway.