What They Say:
Prohibition—a lawless era where bootleggers prosper and mobsters prowl. Avilio Bruno has grown up alone in this murky world after the Vanetti’s murdered his family. One day, he receives a letter that holds the key to revenge. Befriending the don’s son, Nero, Avilio works his way through the Vanetti family and sets his vengeance in motion.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded with the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The series is one that is largely dialogue driven with what it does, some of which has some solid moments of intensity, but it gets punched up nicely from time to time with the action. The shootouts have a good sense of impact without it being crazy over the top and that lets it stand out all the more against the more straightforward dialogue scenes. Some of those definitely go a bit on the lower side with the way some of the characters talk but it all comes together in a clean and clear way. The music is one of the big winners here beyond just the opening and closing as there are some really good instrumental pieces in the mix that adds to the show. It’s a solid sounding and encoded show throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2016, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episode series and OVA is spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by studio Shuka, the series has a really great look to it where it captures the period well with lots of earthy colors when it comes to the settings and costume design, which makes the “cleaner” look of the various family members when showing off stand out all the more. The earth tones fit for the locations really well with roads and some of the ramshackle places they visit and a lot of these are poorly lit when inside, which is definitely nicely handled with the interior design such as how the wallpaper is done and the like. The bit rate handles a lot of this very well with very little looking like it’s problematic in terms of noise and gradients while details still come through cleanly where they exist. It may not be the flashiest of shows in its design but the encoding brings out the show as it should look to represent the area and settings.
The packaging for this limited edition release comes in a heavy chipboard box that uses some of the familiar key visual and Japanese artwork to good effect. The two main panels provide different images of Avilio and Nero together that shows the kind of relationship they have in a good way and with the way it uses the dark browns and leather-like design for the background it just has the right kind of earthy grime tones about it to really click well. The logo is kept straightforward along the top with the familiar design that adds to it and I really just like the way it sets the feeling of the period in all the right ways. Within the box we get the thicker than normal case so that it holds the discs from both formats. This uses more of the Japanese cover artwork with different character pairings on the front and back while the reverse side has the original main key visual of the two men facing off against each other with the cathedral style window in the background to give it a really nice pop of color.
The limited edition aspect of this beyond the box is the inclusion of an envelope with really well done postcards that showcases all of the Japanese cover artwork and a square bound booklet. This full-color piece breaks down several of the characters and elements of the show while digging into a lot of promotional artwork and the original covers that were done in white with the logos.
The extras for this release are plentiful though not all are going to be things a lot of people will check out. The main focus is on the array of promos that are included with character pieces, main promos, commercials, and home video spots. The big extra for me is the inclusion of the seven shorts that were done up for the Japanese home video release that are about two minutes each as they do chibi versions of the cast with quick little cute gags, which thankfully has a play-all function.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When original projects come down the road my interest ends up going up significantly simply because they’re not constrained by publishing formulas for manga and light novels. 91 Days landed in the summer 2016 season and while I didn’t watch it at the time it was pretty well received. I’m a huge fan of crime drama shows, though I tend to stick to modern day international pieces from elsewhere in the world, but having studio Shuka working on a project that takes place in the prohibition era Illinois? Well, color me intrigued as I belly up to the bar. The series may not really go expansive in capturing the tone of the time and all of the nuance but it does such a good job in feeling properly earthy and of the period as it focuses almost solely on the mafia side that I can’t help but to be entertained.
The series focuses on a young man named Avilio Bruno who has come to the town of Lawless, Illinois in order to exact revenge. Seven years earlier, his father, mother, and brother were killed by the Vanetti family that his father was an intense member of but didn’t look at things in the same way as some other members. That caused a small cabal of them to kill him and his family but Avilio, then known as Angelo, escaped and disappeared. The Vanetti don was told that he was killed and that put them at ease. But Angelo ended up with a letter from a mystery person naming all of those that were involved in the murder except for one, and unsigned at that, and that has brought him back to his hometown in order to exact revenge. The series opens giving us a glimpse of him in his younger days and some of those he knew and it sets a good foundation.
With some unknowns in the mix, Avilio knows he has to spend time inserting himself into the Vanetti family to get close to them and discover what he needs before all the eliminations are put into play. What makes it complicated as it plays out over the ninety-one days of the series name is that there’s lots going on with other crime families, some vying for position in the area and bonds with another larger family out of Chicago factoring into it. This proves to be an avenue for Avilio to exploit as his childhood friend of Corteo has crafted a great brew called Lawless Heaven that serves as a way to try and get in with the Vanetti’s by offering it to them through Corteo. Corteo, for his part, isn’t thrilled about this as he just wanted to make enough to get out of there and off to college. But knowing the truth of who Avilio is has him honoring that dark past and helping him against his better judgment by getting enmeshed heavily with the mafia.
What really complicates the show and makes it as engaging as it becomes is that the main person that Avilio aligns himself with is Nero Vanetti, the up and coming son of the don. We know that Nero was involved in the killing years ago, one of the first experiences with such mafia actions, and Avilio understands that staying close to him will bring him into orbit with everyone else – particularly the reclusive father that must be eliminated. The two establish a really great kind of wary friendship of sorts to the point where you know that Nero sees him as something close to a brother. Avilio is harder to read but part of you wants to believe he feels the same and that it’s not all an act, especially as more reveals arrive about that life changing night. The dynamic between the two is pretty thrilling to watch unfold even if it does feel like this goes on longer than the ninety-one days of the title. You can easily imagine a much longer game involved and that Avilio would do just that in order to achieve his goals but also because there’s a genuine kind of respect that he has for Nero that doesn’t cloud his mind as to what was really done.
The series does a good job of exploring some of the basics of the era but it avoids digging into some of the more complex things, such as the political aspects of what’s going on and what the mafia does to survive such aspects or a heavier look at the local police. We do get some federal level intervention briefly but it’s more to put a challenge to Avilio and show how deep into things he’s gone. The various groups that we get early on are fun and the character of Fango is definitely the right kind of crazy dangerous that would crop up from time to time with a flamboyant element. This doesn’t go as crazy big as it could and it’s better off for that as he’s not certifiable but just going at his goals in a big and lively way that offers up challenges for all involved. The family dynamics are decently handled as a whole but there’s a good part of me that wishes this would get adapted as a live-action series to really dig into all the nuance and possibilities of such a story in long-form Hollywood style.
If there’s any complaint I have with the show is that the OVA that we get – which came out in the summer of 2017 – really shouldn’t play at the end of the TV portion and shouldn’t be watched after finishing it. With it being a small grouping of tales from the past at different points in time it ends up in my mind undercutting aspects of the finale itself instead of letting you just soak up all the events that happened. I appreciate the last taste and exploration of things but it definitely should be watched somewhere in the middle of the series rather than the end.
91 Days is the kind of original work that I wish we saw more of since it steps outside of the usual comfort zones and tells a complete singular tale – one with a great bit of ambiguity at the end that I just delight in. Placing it in the time period and location with prohibition and all it entails works wonderfully and I was glad it wasn’t just some alternate world take with a kind of fuzziness to it. This one feels grounded and rooted well and while some of these characters may feel like their luck is holding better than it should, even with a few shots taken at them, it doesn’t end up in a place where you have to really suspend disbelief. It’s a fairly tight show that has room to breathe and the end result is an engaging work that’s worth marathoning. Funimation did a great job with it overall from packaging to dub and the encoding itself.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Day 4 Commentary, 91 Daze, Promo Video Collection, Web Previews, Trailers
Limited Edition contains episodes 1-12 + OVA episode plus a 40-page companion guidebook (with artwork, character profiles and background information on Prohibition, the Chicago mafia, period firearms, and more), a collector’s rigid box featuring artwork from the series, and a set of six art cards.
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 14th, 2017
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.