91 Days is pretty delicious, butter or no.
No question about it, this season is proving to be a relative powerhouse – relative to the general lack of such seasons we’ve seen in the past three years, that is. The tradition of summer being one of anime’s weakest seasons has clearly gone by the boards, because it’s been the strongest of the year two out of the last four (unless this coming Fall ends up significantly better than it looks on paper). And this summer isn’t being powered by amusing escapist shows either – it’s got quite a few dense and pretty mature series, and 91 Days belongs on any short list of the best.
Apart from the simple fact that it’s just a very good show, what really strikes me about 91 Days after three episodes is how authentically Western it is. For the record, I love it when anime skillfully puts a Japanese spin in traditional Western genres and settings – Baccano! is the most obvious example here but there are plenty of others. But 91 Days slips into the suit of a true-born American mob story with an effortlessness I can’t remember seeing from another anime. Director Kaburaki and writer Kishimoto getting the little details right is certainly a big part of that (clearly, both are fans) but it’s also that they don’t try and filter the material through an anime lens. There are a few stylized touches, sure, but for the most part this series seems like a straight-up homage to the American crime film – and a damn good one.
Also to be noted is the clear and cogent way those two unspool the story, which makes it easy to follow despite its complexity. Faces do a lot of talking in 91 Days even when mouths aren’t moving, and I’ll take that over wordy exposition by explanation any day of the week. One of those faces we see for the first time belongs to Orco (Chafurin), and it doesn’t take long for him to establish himself as a despicable figure – as we meet him, he’s sentencing a chef to death for using too little butter in the lasagna. Given how feared and ruthless Orco is, just why Fango is able to get away with the stuff he does isn’t clear – he certainly has no loyalty to or respect for Orco, and useful as an attack dog he may be, Fango seems like more trouble than he’s worth.
Meanwhile, things with the Vanettis are complicated. Avilo, it seems, is going to be given one more chance to prove he didn’t kill Vanno (which of course he did) – find Serpente’s body. Unfortunately the barkeep had been snooping around on the fateful night of Serpente’s death and has sold it to Scusa, the crooked investigator who tries to get the Vanettis to buy it back off him to avoid word spilling out to the Galassias. Everyone’s (except Fango) is trying to avoid open warfare between the Vanettis and the Orcos for fear of pissing off the Galassias. But to say the playing field is level between the Vanettis and the Orcos doesn’t reflect the evidence we’ve seen.
There’s still a lot we don’t know here, which only makes sense because each of the major characters only knows one slice of the truth themselves. What’s clear is that the Galassias have ordered Vincent Vanetti to kill his own son, Nero – though we aren’t given the specific reason we can make certain inferences about his having stirred up trouble with the Orcos. And then there’s Frate (Nishiyama Koutarou), Vincent’s youngest son who looks nothing like anyone else in the family. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at shots of Frate and Luce (Avilo/Angelo’s younger brother) but – while I get the speculation – I gotta say, I just don’t see it. Somebody doesn’t just grow freckles like that between the ages of what, eight and eighteen? Unless he spent a freakish amount of his adolescence at the beach, I don’t think Frate is the same person.
What we’re left with, in the end, is Nero fleeing town with Avilo (who volunteers himself for obvious reasons) in tow. That seems to leave poor Colteo rather in the lurch for starters, but aside from that someone hasn’t been fooled, and they’ve sent this fellow to take out both Nero and Avilo. As far as I’m concerned we still don’t know exactly what happened the night Angelo’s family died, and what role we saw Nero play in it – all we saw with certainty is Nero shooting at the fleeing Angelo and missing. I haven’t ruled out the possibility, in fact, that Nero may have sent that letter to Angelo – and that his disloyalty to the family may be why he’s become so much trouble to the Vanettis. I don’t know for sure where this is headed (which is why original series can be great) but I think it’s very possible that Nero and Avilo are going to become close on their road trip, and that Avilo is going to become quite conflicted over what he’s set out to do. Any way you slice it 91 Days is turning out to be a fascinating tale, with all signs being that the best is yet to come.