It’s been a bit of a theme. I think in 2016 I’ve watched more shows that pretends to be anime, when in reality they could be much better as live action works. I think 91 Days follow this. A little spoiler below, just very little.
The reason why I say it is because I don’t really see what making an anime out of the story convey any ostensible advantages, as a work in the whole, to tell the story. There are some “meta” advantage, I guess. It’s a lot cheaper to make a 12-episode story than to hire American actors to do a 1920s mobster short series. The runtime of about 4 and a half hours is perfect for a mini-series, and I think the story of 91 Days would even work better. There’s a major advantage in that by approaching a story like an anime, we sort of grade it on a curve, too, with things like suspension of belief and our expectations. Or at least some of us. Maybe, making it into anime allows you to market the work to an established segment that the story may not otherwise reach?
The length of time, in that show, is totally not respected. I mean the guy in the end says 3 months, and he could have said 6 or 18 months and I would have believed him.
Anyway, minor problems aside, we can look at the major problems I have with 91 Days.
- This is a Japanese take on a couple big time mobster themes. The logo image invokes the obvious Godfather feels and I think the way the story panned out in the end is invariably just like it, with the last Don fighting against the scheme put on him and his family. The way the story plays out also make homages to other works of the genre, most notably A Better Tomorrow. But that’s kind of it. The story is written where organized crime gain power due to the power of money and influence of the cartel has as provider of liquor. If you substitute liquor or organized crime with, say, dystopic authoritarian government; or present day and instead of gin it’s cocaine… And I feel this is like where 91 Days dropped the ball. This is a big problem…in as much as some software bugs are actually features. I just find it kind of inauthentic. Aside: a version of Infernal Affairs done like this could be interesting, but that sort of disregards the setting.
- The character acting is so un-American that it is a constant reminder that I am watching an anime. Well, I am watching an anime, obviously, but this is the other aspect, the hard-to-tease part of what makes anime anime, as opposed to all the Chinese anime we see this Fall season (man did y’all watch Bloodivores). To an extent this is my problem with that spy versus spy anime Joker Game–the characters are paper maches of Japanese stereotypes of foreigners. At least in 91 Days since everyone is American (except the main guy who is really just Setsuna F. Seiei, and his good friend, who is more like stereotyped ship bait) the stereotype can’t hold enough diversity to characterize everyone. I put it as a major problem here to distinguish from the causal Japanese-isms. In a mafia film you are watching for that charismatic character interaction, and other than Nero I find this entirely lacking. Not enough Italians, just weirdo Japanese people.
- The main character is Setsuna F. Seiei. Com’on. In the 1920s if you were like this you would never have wormed your way into any mafia, unless they call you the janitor (and he was kind of…not). This is not how things worked! I guess if there was a mafia made up of otaku and fujoshi, it could work… Anyway, he had no hold over me, I had no vested interest in him except for the main plot thing–which is if he will let Nero and the Mafia life win him over or not.
- America is pretty hard to get around even in a car back then. It’s not clear if the sense of scale panned out. Maybe this is something where on paper it was all researched out and thought through, but the anime left out some of the more authentic details. I don’t know. But this also goes into the time scale of things. Ninety-One days is not a long time back then. I guess this is not that important. Would be funny if SPOILER was SPOILED on a New Jersey beach.
Anyway, I thought 91 Days was OK, but I should just go watch more the Wire or something instead as a better use of my time. If you have exhausted all that mafia culture, maybe this is worth your time. If you have not, please go watch something actually good. Like the Godfather films. Or those classic Chow Yun Fat movies.