This particular anime is a rarity among anime in that (a) it is based in America and (b) it is set in the past. I used to lament that anime seemed to be most about a Japan of the future. There is a challenge in trying to do the past, especially one that Americans would be more familiar with, but at the heart is a story that is no different than any samurai epic like “Yojimbo” or “Kagamusha”.
This is “91 Days”. Welcome to 1930. We are in the town of Lawless, Illinois, which, I assume, is potentially within the sphere of influence of Chicago. As with most prohibition matters, there are crime families, vying for the top spot and we have three very powerful ones in an uneasy truce: the Orcos, the Vanettis and the Galassias. Into this volatile mix is flung (or perhaps intentionally walks into it) Avilio Bruno (him of the left). Ah, but he holds a dark and deep secret (which is revealed during the first episode), a horrific event that went down seven years earlier. An anonymous letter puts him on the Road to Revenge.
He begins to infiltrate the Vanetti Family by slowly befriending the don’s son, Nero (weirdo beardo to the right). However, in this story, revenge breeds revenge, and killing yields drastic consequences. He entrée into the family is through a good friend, Corteo, who makes up a particularly fabulous brand of whiskey. It is a rather complex formula, but it certainly beats trying to smuggle it in through the border and running afoul of the other families and those lawmen you can’t buy off. However, where there are illegalities, there are guns, mistrust and tons of death and you get more than you bargained for.
This is a very strong cat-and-mouse game, where Avilio is mono-minded in how he will exact his revenge, regardless of the cost and collateral damage and how he is able to ingratiate himself amid these people who are, for the most part, amoralistic and possibly insane. It is also a good-looking show, as they do have the flavor and design of the times down pretty good (although there is something off about the hats). There is also a muted visual quality to the show, much like sepia-tone photos of the time, now even browner with age.
And you see the emotional depravity of the people involved, despite the almost bulletproof nature of them. Crap, some of them get shot up with an alarming regularity that I’m surprised that the family doesn’t have their own special hospital to take care of them. The only real clunker of the show it the actual end. The ambiguity of letting us make the decision as to what happened on that beach is a tad frustrating. Did he or didn’t he? Or are we to take this as a metaphor about moral ambiguity of the era, where things are done more for business than any kind of personal reason?
What is the 91 Days of the title? This is the time frame that Avilio has given himself to bring his plan to fruition, the grand denouement to all of his hard work and efforts. The only other show that I have seen that comes close to this is “Baccano!”, but that had a supernatural element to it (and two of the most deliciously stupid characters I have ever seen in any anime) and can’t be fully compared to each other. This is better grounded in a reality and the limitations of that world. It all unfolds, but not in a smooth manner (as if any plan goes without a hitch) and draws you in.
I would give this high marks for you to watch and with the series complete, if you wanted to binge it, that would work as well.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Less for style, more for effect)
Plot 8 (Nice twist on the ‘revenge’ tale)
Pacing 7 (Like life, it runs fast and slow)
Effectiveness 7 (Sometimes spools out to languidly)
Conclusion 2 (I dislike the ‘you call it’ ending)
Fan Service 0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Overall 8 (Solid entry)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. It’s the best you’ll ever taste.