Set in the fictional city of Lawless during the prohibition era, the story follows Avilio (Angelo) as he seeks revenge against those who killed his family.
Some spoilers below.
Revenge stories are always a bit of a problem because right from the start you have a fairly narrow range of options from a plot point of view. Either they will succeed or they won’t. You can throw in as many loops and twists as you like about who they need to extract revenge on and the manner in which they will get their revenge, but the story itself is pretty much set. That means you are dependent upon your characters and setting to carry your story and to make people care.
And this is where 91 Days failed for me. Initially I was very interested in Avilio and his quest for revenge. He’s an interesting character and a fairly tragic one right from the word go and he draws you into the fairly generic world of Lawless (generic in terms of giving all the look of prohibition era America without ever really capturing the feeling that other movies set in this era have – not so generic from an anime point of view). However, by the time we hit the mid-point of the series Avilio feels like he has lost his way and while they attempt to justify the drawn out nature of his revenge on a number of occasions it really comes down to the fact that they needed 12 episodes when they had about 6 episodes of actual plot driven story.
While Avilio’s story (once you trim it down to what is needed) is still interesting and his character progression (admittedly not positive progression) is enjoyable to watch, there are too many characters in this show who exist just to exist. We have a mafia setting so we’ll be introduced to all the usual stereotypical gang members and sycophants. We’ll even have a minor sub-plot of dealing with a new police guy who after a minor bombing incident will quietly slip away and the law enforcement will effectively disappear from the remainder of the story. But none of these characters matter in any meaningful way and they don’t make you care about what is happening. By the time we get to the inevitable tragic ending where the vast majority of characters (who are still alive) start dying, I really was indifferent. And mass murder should never leave you feeling indifferent even if they are trying to create a point about the futility of revenge and murder.
Nero and Avilio are a great duo to watch on screen together. The double meanings behind Avilio’s statements, Nero’s genuine humanity under the mafia don’s son mask that he has worn for far too long, and the real friendship that develops despite the situation Avilio is in makes this one of the more compelling parts of the series. Yet for the vast majority of the series these characters are given nothing to do. Nero in action is reactive to the world around him and is given few moments where he can actually make a choice. The few choices he makes are almost always deferred to Avilio. Avilio on the other hand has some sort of plan that he amends on the go but as we are not really privy to the plan his actions remain fairly inexplicible for the vast majority of the episodes. Neither character seems in any rush or driven to get somewhere and that really affects the overall feel of the show.
Before I move on from characters I just want to touch on Corteo. Outside of Avilio he was possibly the only other character I was really interested in seeing progress. While I’m not going to go into detail, I am still not convinced about the choices Corteo made as a character. They fit with the plot and drove Avilio nicely into the final corner that triggered the ending, but based on Corteo’s personality and actions earlier in the series it all just seemed too much like a plot contrivance rather than the real actions of a real character. Coreto’s death at least gave an emotional impact but left me at least with more questions about whether we were supposed to be taking these characters seriously as people or whether they were all just stand ins for various ideals.
It is really hard to review 91 Days. It is one of those anime that I look at and know from almost every point of view is a good anime. The plot makes sense and is resolved. While I didn’t feel connected to the characters, there are some well written characters here. The dialogue, while a little generic at times, never falls into the completely bad. There is forward thinking and ideas that are foregrounded early return with significance later (even when we preferred they didn’t). While the mid-season episodes suffer from poorer animation than the early and later episodes, they aren’t poor compared to the vast majority of the other anime I watched during the summer season.
That said, I still don’t much like 91 Days. While I may watch this with a particular friend (because I actually think they’ll really enjoy watching it and it is hard to talk them into anime usually), I probably won’t ever rewatch this by myself because I’m just not that interested in it.
A final recommendation: If you want a serious story about revenge, then 91 Days will deliver. For anything else, you may need to look elsewhere.