Stream It Or Skip It: ‘91 Days’ on HBO Max, a Slow-Burn Throwback Gangster-Drama Anime Series

HBO Max now features English and Japanese dubs of 91 Days, a 2016 Crunchyroll series that stands out among many gregarious and color-drenched anime series. It’s a mafia-revenge-noir story set during the Prohibition era, and is influenced more by The Godfather than Ghost in the Shell or Akira. At the very least, it’s original for its medium.


Opening Shot: A dreary rain dumps on a weathered yellow-brick housing complex.

The Gist: He once was Angelo Lagusa (voice of Austin Tindle). As a boy, he hid in the closet and watched in horror as members of the Vanetti crime family murdered his father, mother and younger brother in cold blood. He ran off before they could gun him down, too. Nobody in his hometown of Lawless, Illinois saw him for seven years, until he returned as Avilio Bruno, an angry young man bent on revenge, inspired by a letter he receives, the contents of which we haven’t seen. It’s 1928, smack in the middle of Prohibition.

Avilio’s first stop is to see Corteo (Brandon McInnis), his childhood friend. Corteo brews and bootlegs moonshine to pay for school, but refuses to sell his hooch to the mob. The latter point results in a human slab of beef bashing up his brewing facility with a baseball bat — until Avilio arrives just in the nick and introduces the brute to the big, heavy end of a wrench.

Avilio dodges the where-ya-been question and talks the reluctant Corteo into peddling his wares to the Vanettis, keeping his scheme — kill Nero Vanetti, the son of the don — to himself. They meet with a pair of Vanetti reps, who agree to order some of Corteo’s grade-A booze. But in walks Fango (Brandon Potter), a loony longhaired tough employed by the rival Orco family. Convinced the Vanettis stole a load of booze from the Orcos, Fango puts a whole lotta holes in the place with a machine gun. But Corteo concocts an explosive out of paraffin and they blast their way out, alongside the Vanetti creeps. (Have we seen the last of Fango? No way.) The four men escape.

Our Take: The first thing you’ll notice about 91 Days is its visual aesthetic — muted earth tones, a tangibly gritty sense of setting and an almost painterly quality. It’s artful and gorgeous; think Studio Ghibli crossed with Miller’s Crossing, and you’re in the ballpark.

That isn’t to say the series’ realism isn’t heightened. 91 Days isn’t a typical pinstripe-suit throwback gangster drama — the Vanettis and Fango are colorful characters, and one gets the sense that the deeper Avilio immerses himself into the underworld, the bigger and crazier the personalities might get. The debut episode asks a key question to establish a strong dramatic dynamic: How compromised is Avilio’s morality? He’s already using Corteo, a naif and relative innocent, as a pawn to gain access to the mob. He’s shown a propensity for violence — we’re not sure if the hoodlum he clobbered with a very big wrench ever got up; in reality, he’d probably have a fractured skull — that’s troubling. How much further is he willing to push his ethical boundaries to achieve his goal?

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: One of the Vanetti creeps removes his hairpiece and reveals himself to be… Nero Vanetti himself!

Sleeper Star: With his garish look and loony bluster, Fango is the scene-stealer here.

Most Pilot-y Line: “A blade’s got nothin’ on loyalty.” — Avilio

Our Call: STREAM IT. Thus far, 91 Days is a slow-burn drama in anime form, and shows significant potential for meaningful storytelling. Only one episode in, and it already feels like a tragedy, whether Avilio gets his revenge or not.


John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

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