91 Days Series Review

Overview:

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.

I reviewed 91 Days week to week so if you are after individual episode thoughts click here.

Review:

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.

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91 Days Episode 12

Review:

Now the weakest part of this series so far was the diversion from the whole revenge thing to go on a road trip. So, for a final, how about we get a taste of the war going on and then send our main characters on an echoing road trip again only this time it will be really depressing? Sounds fun, doesn’t it? While I appreciate that all the way through, 91 Days has attempted to ensure it was building consistent metaphors and themes, being reminded of my least favourite moments from the mid-season and the general feeling of failure and pointlessness that permeated this episode really just made it a little bit flat.

I’ll admit, this anime is going to be hard to review because it is a good anime but I have not enjoyed it very much.

91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.

91 Days Episode 11

Review:

Turns out we have one more episode but this was a highly entertaining episode. The first half was all semi-ironic statements about planning for a future (that we should all know by now was never going to exist) and the second half was metaphorically about burning everything down (though less flames and more knives and bullets involved). I do question how incredibly lame you have to be to have two guys stabbing someone else multiple times and still not actually succeed at killing him, and worse, allowing yourself to be killed by the wounded beast. Anyway, this episode brought us to the conclusion that everything (right from the killing of Avilio’s family) has been for nothing because nothing is going to survive the war that has now been ignited. I’d ask if Avilio is happy with this outcome but the answer to that is obvious.

I still think this whole story would have been more affective with less episodes as the middle really felt stretched out, but I am very satisfied with where we are going for the conclusion.

91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.

91 Days Episode 10

Review:

If I wasn’t sure before this episode more or less confirmed that Avilio has no intention of surviving his revenge quest. With that piece of information in mind, his actions throughout the whole series make a lot more sense because at no point could I see what his exit plan was going to be. This isn’t to say that his death is guaranteed, but it does make it clear that beyond his revenge he has no plans, and the number of death flags raised this episode make it very doubtful the anime has any plans to save him last minute. Who else will end up dead? Or more importantly, will there be anyone or anything left when the flames from this revenge burn out?

Corteo’s death this episode is not tragic as it is definitely the result of his own choices and has been inevitable for awhile now, but the execution of this death was perfect for the tone of this story. While this episode is slow moving it hits all the right notes to draw us back into the story after a middle that seemed to lose its way.

91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.

91 Days Episode 9

Review:

Corteo is captured but not yet killed. Kind of surprising really. This week felt like the story was done diverting us from the central narrative by watching gang in-fighting and seemed to get right back to Avilio and his revenge. Who is the elusive letter sender? Who is the fourth killer? With that focus back front and centre the story was far more compelling than I’ve found it in recent weeks and by the end, when Avilio figured out who was behind recent events at least I was actually really engaged with this story. While at times the characters seemed a little off visually this week, this is probably the best episode 91 Days has delivered for awhile.

91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.

91 Days Episode 8

Review:

Corteo is going to be a problem. Okay, he is a problem. He’s a problem for the other characters and he’s a problem as a character. I won’t spoil the developments in this episode but I do want to address the problem of Corteo as a character. He is Avilio’s friend. He wants to help him but has no desire to be involved in the shady world of the gangs. Which all makes perfect sense as does his hesitancy at certain times. What doesn’t make sense are his actions this episode (no specifics to be mentioned). It’s just impossible to figure out what he is attempting to accomplish so when it goes wrong you just roll your eyes at the inevitability of it all and you still don’t know what Corteo wants. Does he still want to help Avilio? Are his actions somehow supposed to help him? Or has he just slipped off the deep end?

On a mostly unrelated note, I’ve decided 91 Days has the prettiest title of any anime this season.

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Anyway, 91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Summer 2016 Week 9

Here we are in week 9. This week has been a real mixed bag with some shows dropping the ball entirely (or tossing it away) while other shows have really gone forward full steam ahead. I’m starting to look now to see what is ending in a few weeks and what is continuing but there are a couple of shows that I won’t mind seeing finish sooner rather than later at this point. I’m also now down to only 4 series in my must watch.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the season below.

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I Must Keep Watching

  • D.Gray-Man Hallow (Ep 9)
  • Alderamin on the Sky (Ep 8)
  • Days (Ep 9)
  • Tales of Zestiria (Ep 8)

D Gray Man continues to be my favourite watch (and yes I am aware that it may not be the best show of the season but it is the one I am loving the most).

Alderamin on the Sky delivers another solid episode. It’s moving slower now but with established characters and a fairly clear direction, this is still a really enjoyable show to watch.

Days wasn’t as strong this week as we spent most of the episode watching the game and it didn’t finish by the end of the episode. I get that this is a pretty major game but one of the things I’ve liked about this series is that even though it is an anime about sport they haven’t made us watch episodes of people playing sport.

Tales of Zestiria the X is still pretty interesting. I’m probably enjoying more because I really like fantasy and its been awhile since I’ve seen something with a dragon that has been even vaguely watchable. I get the feeling that this is a show that really shouldn’t be scrutinised too closely because it just won’t hold up.

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Still On My Radar

  • The Morose Mononokean (Ep 9)
  • Cheer Boys (Ep 8)
  • Orange (Ep 9)
  • Food Wars (Ep 9)
  • Momokuri (Ep 18)
  • 91 Days (Ep 7.5)

Okay, The Morose Mononokean delivered a fairly ho-hum kind of episode. It tried to bring some emotion to the scene but it just didn’t really work and to be honest the whole episode felt filler worthy. While I really held onto this one with high hopes because it was generally sweet and kind of reminded me of Natsume Yuujinchou, this series has just consistently failed to deliver a solid performance. There are definitely good moments and it is certainly watchable, but it is also going to be fairly forgettable unless they do something amazing in the next couple of episodes.

Cheer Boys continues to be light and entertaining. They resolved some of their issues and are driving toward their next challenge so the feel good continues even if it lacks depth.

Orange gave us another significantly weaker episode. This second half of the season is seriously faltering. It just can’t hold up visually or dramatically to the first half and it seems like the story has all but run it’s course. That isn’t to say it couldn’t recover from this but this week was disappointing.

Food Wars also gave us a fairly lack lustre follow up. Last week I liked because it was the set-up for the finals but this cooking match was kind of dull. It doesn’t measure up to some of the previous efforts either visually or in terms of excitement. I’m not sure I even care who wins (which of course has not yet been revealed).

Momokuri resumes being adorable this week while still not really doing anything new. The thing with this show is, if it just stopped, I probably wouldn’t care, but I do enjoy watching the episodes when they come out.

91 Days recapped the story. Thanks but no thanks.

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Not Dropped But Close

  • Hitorinoshita (Ep 8)
  • Taboo Tattoo (Ep 9)

Hitorinoshita… Well, it’s kind of continuing on. I’m sure there’s a point in here somewhere. There’s some fight sequences? Okay. I don’t know. Stuff is still happening, everyone still wants Soran, and to be honest it doesn’t really feel like anything is going to come together in this anime any time soon.

Taboo Tattoo… Flash back to a more interesting character? Doesn’t that just make us realise how rubbish the rest of the show has been?

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Dropped

  • Cute High Earth Defence Club Love (Dropped at Ep 4)
  • The Highschool Life of a Fudanshi (Dropped at Ep 4)
  • Sweetness and Lightning (Dropped at Ep 4)
  • Danganronpa 3 (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Mob Psycho 100 (Dropped at Ep 1 – Revisited to Ep 3)
  • Servamp (Dropped at Ep 2 – Revisited to Ep 3)
  • Rewrite (Dropped at Ep 2)
  • The Disasterous Life of Saiki K (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Ozmafia (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Scar-red Riders XechS (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • Qualidea Code (Dropped at Ep 1)
  • First Love Monster (Dropped at Ep 1)

Is it just me or has this summer season flown by really fast?

 

Friday’s Feature – Recap Episodes (Or Why I Came Close to Dropping 91 Days)

If you’ve been following my reviews this season, you will know that I have now had not one, but two recap episodes thrown at me. The first came from Cheer Boys (episode 5.5) and the second came from 91 Days (episode 7.5). In both reviews I made it pretty clear that I don’t like recap episodes in general and that these ones were particularly hideous. But then, I realised just recently I watched the recap episode of Twin Star Exorcists and it didn’t really bother me so I began thinking about why these two recap episodes annoyed me so much.

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It came down to two main points.

  1. These series haven’t even had 12 episodes so why are we recapping? I know 91 Days kind of threw me with some of the family relations and characters but the recap did nothing to alleviate that, instead focussing on Avilio’s interactions which were already pretty prominent.
  2. Linked to the first issue – no new material or insight given. Now Cheer Boys attempted some narration over the top of their wonderful reconfiguration of seen footage to let us know that next episode the whole squad would show up so at least they kind of got us interested in what was about to happen next episode. They also tagged the recap on after they achieved their first goal or performing at the festival so at least they found a natural spot in the story to pause. 91 Days didn’t do either of those things. Avilio did orchestrate Nero killing his brother quite well but this has never been stated as a primary goal so there hasn’t been any real break through on the revenge he seems to be craving and there was really nothing new revealed.

Recaps make sense when you have a long series (or you’ve taken a break and are coming back). They make sense when the recap is given a purpose (other than to fill air time). Personally, I prefer it when whole episodes aren’t dedicated to recap and the story finds a better way to remind you of key plot points but if you have to do a recap episode at least do it in an entertaining fashion.

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Which brings me to Twin Star Exorcists episode 14. Notice it isn’t a X.5 episode title. Episode 14 Yukatas, Stars and Wishes is an episode in its own right, admittedly a fairly weak one. If you remove all the flash backs, it’s an episode about out main group of exorcists sitting in the back yard and contemplating their wish for Tanabata. There is little new revealed but the interactions are on occasion fun. What it really becomes is a framing device for each character to reflect on the journey to where they are. The contrasts between the characters in episode 14, and who they were in each of the flashbacks, gives the audience something to reflect upon as well, while it reminds us about key plot points. So Twin Star Exoricists managed to do a recap in a way that didn’t make it feel like they just gave up for the week.

Recapping: It had already had more than 12 episodes which means the story had been running for over 3 months which is a long time to remember some of the finer details and it provided us with new material while it made us reconsider the characters.

Was it a brilliant episode? Not really. But it was watchable and enjoyable enough.

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Another example of a recap episode that was done well comes from Kimi ni Todoke. Season 1 goes for 25 episodes without a recap (which given how slow the story is moving is probably a good thing). Then there is a gap before season 2. Enter season 2’s episode 00 which is a recap of season 1. At this point, a recap is warranted to remind us where we are in the story and how things have progressed. But Kimi ni Todoke does one better than just timing their recap appropriately. They have the recap from the view of Kurumi (Sawako’s rival during season 1 for Kazehaya). With this we get insight into a character who before was really played up as an antagonist but is moving into a new role during season 2. It’s a great way to recap and make things feel purposeful.

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So back to the title of my blog. 91 Days started slowly but interesting. It was a really well done opening episode and in honesty, every episode after has been well put together. The story however has been stagnating. Despite lots of things happening, none of it has really been explained in context to the stated goal of our protagonist and while we can see connections, it hasn’t started bringing anything together. That would be fine (save the reveal for the end) except that we haven’t been given anything else to care about. I don’t care about the in-fighting of the family’s because I haven’t been asked to by the story, and yet that is all we’ve seen for several episodes. Then we are recapping. Reminding us that yes, Avilio’s family were killed and it was horrible. Reminding us that since then, he made some progress on his revenge (taking out one of his 3 targets) before realising there was another target and since then he has stalled. All recapping at this time did was remind me how little progress has seemingly been made.

I get that some people are going to disagree with me, but 91 Days has not been holding my interest well for awhile and the recap episode nearly did it in. Episode 8 is going to need to be amazing for me to re-engage.

What are your thoughts about recaps? Or 91 Days?

91 Days Episode 7.5

Review:

You know, Cheer Boys did the whole recap thing awhile back and I expressed my dislike of recap episodes that add nothing new then. At least when it did it, they added some narration and they were following a high point in the series. 91 Days follows the killing of Frate (which might have been emotionally interesting but is hardly a major plot progression) with a recap episode that literally gives us nothing new. It did however make me wonder why Avilio hasn’t changed his haircut throughout his entire life. That is the level of engagement I had with this episode. Now, 91 Days has put itself on the back foot because if the next episode doesn’t do something good, I am going to go from finding it interesting enough to being frustrated with it.

91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.

91 Days Episode 7

Review:

I’m pretty sure this was conclusion last week; everyone in this anime is going to end up dead. This episode more or less confirms that the ultimate end for all these betrayals and intrigues is a bullet. It really feels like this show only has one reveal to go and that is who is the extra person involved in the killing of Avilio’s family (and will he still be alive for Avilio to kill when he finds out who it is). Until then, we’re just going through the motions of having Avilio pressing just the right buttons to have the others more or less self-destruct. Maybe there will be a better twist coming, otherwise it really will be just watching this to see the inevitable end.

91 Days is available on Crunchyroll.