It’s a shame I’m traveling this weekend, because with a series as good as 91 Days it always sucks not to be able to go into the depth I’d like to. Not only is this a terrific anime but it’s the sort of show that really demands in-depth discussion – it’s like a movie that you realize while watching is going to be shown in film classes for years to come. I find it quite surprising and vexing that Joker Game – a series with a seemingly similar demographic target – generated so much more commentary (and far more disc sales, almost certainly) than 91 Days despite not being nearly as good.
Be that as it may, 91 Days is making its case as one of the best anime of 2016. Once again it proves an intoxicating cocktail of atmospherics and plotting. The locales of this series are so alive, and the music is tastefully consistent with the staging itself. It may be less recognizably “anime” than any anime this season, but it’s still possible to sense that you’re seeing an outsider perspective on the Hollywood view of prohibition. It is a fanciful tale, but not fanciful in the way of most anime that quite consciously stylize American period drama.
All that comes down to the presentation, the sizzle, but the steak is every bit its equal with 91 Days – and the plot is a 22-ounce bone-in Chicago cut ribeye. When Nero checks in with Valbero, he gets the message that the Orcos and the Vanettis have agreed on a truce – and Nero is welcome to come home. But Valbero has Nero and Angelo meet him at The Lodge – the fabulously realized mountaintop distillery that Nero had built – and while it’s not immediately clear, those two hatch a plan for how Nero’s return should play out. An invitation is also proffered for Angelo to join the family – and he can’t completely mask the conflicted feelings this raises in him.
We’ve had reason for a while to believe there was a traitor inside the Vanetti family, and while Valbero was also a possibility, Frate always seemed like the likeliest candidate. When Nero’s homecoming is revealed to be a trap after all, Nero loyalist Tigre is shot, and Nero’s hard-core group of supporters (which ironically now includes Angelo and Corteo) make their getaway. Frate’s motivation seems clear enough – the Galassias demanded Nero’s head as proof of Vincent’s loyalty and as a gesture to the Orcos, and Frate is manouvering himself into taking over the Vanettis. But there’s something else going on with Frate – he’s got the eyes of someone who’s either not sleeping or serially abusing some kind of drugs.
It’s an ironic twist that with Tigre dying and all exits from Lawless blocked off, Nero has no choice but to turn to Fango for help – which he initially refuses to do. Fango has built his semi-autonomous fiefdom on the island (which despite this being America is 100% inspired by Venice), and could offer a safe haven to someone with a common enemy – but there’s a lot of bad blood here (not to mention Fango is nuts). It’s Angelo who takes matters into his own hands, and his motivations are hard to read. In theory he wants to earn enough trust from Nero to get close enough to Vincent to kill him – but that sure seems like a moot point now. It’s all a deliciously complex puzzle that’s a long way from being solved.