Kritique I - 91 Days Ep1 ("Night of the Murder") Review
91 Days is a revenge story set in the crime-filled prohibition era. This anime was directed by Hiro Kaburagi, who's done work on popular shonen ("boy") anime like "Hunter X Hunter" and was animated by Shuka Studios, who's done work on popular TV series like "Durarara." Both the director and animation studio are experienced and have an impressive resume so high quality work was expected from them and I believe they delivered with this crime drama.
The story follows Avilio Bruno, voiced by Takashi Kondo, a seasoned voice actor who's done work on Naruto Shippuden, Bleach, Gurren Lagann and other popular anime. Avilio's real name is Angelo Lagusa, a young man seeking revenge who's haunted by a tragedy that befell him when he was a child. Seven years later, while still in hiding, Avilio receives a letter, from an unknown person, that holds words we can't see and a picture of a young boy who we later discover is his younger brother Luce Lagusa. Avilio, crippled by grief, anger and intense sadness, regains his vigor and finds his purpose as he gleefully whispers one word; "Vanetti."
From there the story goes into a flashback showing us a young and happy Avilio. He lives in a fancy house with his parents and little brother Luce. It's Avilio's birthday and he's playing with Luce and his friend Corteo. Corteo is a bright boy who comes from humbler means. Avilio is Corteo's hero; a fearless and cool hero he's in awe of. After Corteo leaves to take care of his sick mother, Avilio's father, Testa, comes home to celebrate with the family. Testa is unaware that there were men staking out his home and waiting for him to return.
Avilio and Luce play their traditional game of hide and seek with their father when there's a knock at the door. The men staking out the house were Vincente "Vince" Vanetti, his son Nero and a third unidentified man. These men were fellow mafia members. Testa was the mafia's accountant. Vince informs Testa that the don, the boss, is dead and that he was the one who killed him. He holds Testa at gunpoint and demands a ledger from him. This ledger is the mafia family's books that highlight where all the money is being held and what/who it's being spent on. This is valuable information that is essential to keep any organization afloat; especially a criminal enterprise.
Testa insists that the ledger is at the bank which angers Vince. He and Testa get into a fight which leads to Testa scarring Vince's face with a knife and being shot down. Luce, unable to sit still while his parents are being hurt, runs from his hiding place with Avilio to his mother's arms. She begs Vince to let Luce live but Vince understood that letting him live would mean having a witness or worse, a potential enemy. Vince and his men kill the mother and Luce without hesitation. Avilio witnessed every moment of this tragedy, painfully aware that his life would never be the same and that he'd never forget this moment just as Vince predicted.
Avilio is almost shot by Vince's men but he's able to barely escape and reach Corteo's house. Corteo provides Avilio with shelter, does his best to console him and tells him that from now on they're brothers and they always will be. I believe that while Corteo is by no means happy that Avilio lost his whole family, he is happy that he has Avilio all to himself. He's happy that Avilio has to rely on him and he can be, in a sense, his hero. He's also always wanted to be his brother and now nobody was in the way of his desire to be as close to Avilio as possible.
However, Avilio knew that staying with Corteo and his mother would only put them in danger. He had to leave town and go into hiding to survive and protect Corteo. He visits his family home one last time and finds it burned down and in tatters. Just like the house, Avilio's life as he knew it has been burned down and
destroyed. Angelo Lagusa was dead and Avilio Bruno was born.
The letter Avilio received spurs him to return to his hometown Lawless, where he reunites with Corteo. Corteo is now a bootlegger, and his top-shelf moonshine liquor attracts the attention of the Orco Family. The Orco's are the most powerful mafia family in Lawless and they control the alcohol trade in and out of town. A customer of Corteo's and member of the Orco's, Cerotto, tries to shakedown Corteo and convince him to sell to the family. Corteo hates the mafia and refuses and is promptly assaulted by Cerotto's older brother. He starts to destroy Corteo's moonshine lab but is saved by Avilio and his huge wrench.
Corteo is happy to see Avilio and wants to impress him with his alcohol. Avilio dismisses it by saying, "I know it's good." Corteo let's Avilio know that he's only bootlegging to save up for school, like he's embarrassed and doesn't want to disappoint him in some way since bootlegging is illegal.
He tries to learn what Avilio's been up to but he continues to be closed off and firmly reminds Corteo to no longer call him Angelo but Avilio Bruno. Avilio asks about Corteo's mother and he informs us that she passed away last summer. Instead of consoling him he says "there's no one holding you down then." He then tells Corteo that he wants to sell his booze to the mafia and make some money. Corteo is uncomfortable and expresses that he doesn't want anything to do with the families but Avilio manipulates him into saying yes by playing on Corteo's love and admiration for him. He says that he needs his friend and reminds him that they're brothers which was all Corteo needed to hear to agree to his plan.
This scene is very important because it highlights how much Avilio has changed from his childhood days and how far Corteo is willing to go for him. We learn that Avilio is not afraid to get violent. He knocked out the big thug with a wrench with no hesitation or remorse. We see that he's become much colder and calculated. He didn't console Corteo when he learned of his mother death, instead he saw it as one less wrench, no pun intended, in his plans to take down the Vanetti family. He's forsaken his old name and old self by claiming the name Avilio Bruno in Corteo's presence. And it's clear that Corteo is nothing more than a means to an end for him. He needs his booze so he can have a way into the Vanetti family. He seduced him with fancy words like friendship and brotherhood and sealed the deal with a playful smile reminiscent of the childhood he lost.
Corteo takes Avilio to "The Island," a church turned speakeasy, an underground bar, where the most dangerous gather to have a nice illegal drink. Selling Corteo's booze there would get them the highest price and attract the right buyers. Avilio and Corteo walk in on a deal in progress with two mysterious characters who are selling booze that was stolen from the Orco family. The bartender tries to turn Avilio away, calling his booze "bathtub gin." Bathtub gin refers to any style of homemade spirit made in amateur conditions; an insult to wannabe bootleggers.
However, Avilio makes it clear that he's not leaving until his moonshine is sampled even after the bartender dumped it on the floor. One of the two mysterious characters gets curious and tries the booze and loves it immediately. He agrees to work with Avilio and Corteo and buy their booze. The deal was about to close, when a man, who I believe will be one of, if not the main antagonist of this story, walked in.
This man's name is Fango. He's the new enforcer for the Orco family and it's clear from the beginning that this man is crazy, violent and unafraid of death. He reminds me of the Joker from "The Dark Knight." He's playful, violent, unpredictable and has a dark sense of humor. He enters the bar thanks to his accomplice, Serpente. They hold the occupants of the Island at gunpoint while they demand Nero Vanetti show himself. Nero has stolen booze from the Orcos and Fango is there to collect the stolen property and punish him.
In an effort to draw Nero out, Fango starts picking "Neros" at random starting with Corteo. Avilio steps in however and is able to save Corteo from Fango thanks to his quick thinking and fighting skill. A one-sided gunfight ensues with Avilio, Corteo and the two mystery men on the wrong end of the barrel. Thanks to Corteo's chemistry skills, Fango's trigger happiness and a big explosion the four men are able to escape the Orcos and get away safely.
This near-death experience worked out in Avilio's favor because he and Corteo proved themselves in a sticky situation to the two mystery men, saved them and gave the Vanetti family a way to threaten the Orco family's hold on the alcohol trade in Lawless with their novel booze. The biggest revelation comes at the very end of the episode. One of the mystery men pulls off a disguise and reveals that he is Nero Vanetti. Avilio hit the jackpot. He's unintentionally curried favor with one of his main targets and found a way into the Vanetti family.
This was a very good first episode. We got backstory on our main character, we know what his goal is, we've met a lot of the main players of the show and were given a lot of action all in twenty minutes. This show is wasting no time giving us the goods. It's no nonsense and not for the faint of heart. People get hurt and die in this show. If that's something you have a problem with I suggest you stop now and find a high-school drama to watch instead. But if you don't mind an intelligent, revenge fueled, witty and violent anime then this show is the one for you. The animation is crisp, the voice-acting is on point, the translations are solid and the wide-ranging music blends perfectly with the show. I was left wanting even more and I'm excited to see where the story goes. This episode is King Kritiques approved!