「Night of the Murder」 (Satsujin no Yoru)
“Night of the Murder”
Thrilling, stylish, ominous, cinematic—91Days’s debut has well exceeded my already heightened expectations. And I’ll end it there. Seriously, watch the episode first before continuing reading this SPOILER-FILLED post. I usually don’t do this but this one is seriously worth going in with as little knowledge as possible. Don’t worry, I’ll give you minute. La la la. Done? Okay, let’s continue.
First and foremost, the show’s setting is entirely unique to anime. 91Days takes place during Prohibition—an era of early-twentieth century American history when the production and sale of alcoholic beverages was constitutionally banned under the eighteenth amendment (which was subsequently repealed in 1933). As such, alcohol began to be distributed and sold through illegal, underground means. This marked a rise in Mafia power and activity, which quickly came to dominate the majority of the market. A young man named Avilo (Kondou Takashi), witnesses the brutal murders of his parents and younger brother at the hands of the mafia. He subsequently sets out to seek justice—getting wrapped up in all kinds of trouble and danger—stopping at nothing to make things right.
Anime is rarely if ever set in America—let alone during past historical eras—let alone during an aspect of the twenties so rarely covered in popular fiction as prohibition. This allows for scenery and atmosphere that’s unlike anything I’ve witnessed in anime. The sweeping early industrial America vistas are absolutely stunning, the activity of streets densely packed with capitalist aspirations (too much? sry lel) breathes life into every scene—to see such American hallmarks and landscapes blended with absolutely dynamite quality Japanese animation is something incredibly exceptional. This is a vibrant world, brought to life by a gorgeous, muted color palette, wonderfully animated visuals, and stellar sound design. God damn I love America.
Not only this, but the show’s overall tone and presentation is far more cinematic than we’re used to seeing in television. The stylized roll of the opening credits, the slow subdued pacing, the swelling orchestral background tracks—I feel more like I’m being treated to a feature presentation than a televised anime show. 91 Days completely breaks the mold of anime shows. This really feels like a high-budget production, and is the perfect way to frame the action-packed, emotionally rife narrative.
We haven’t even gotten to the actual events of the episode. I went into this show as blind as I possibly could, and it seriously paid off. Every emotional and dramatic beat hit profoundly for me. Avilo’s character motivations were admittedly catalyzed in distinctly Bruce Waynian fashion, but the guy has emerged far thirstier for vengeance. He’s a fascinating character because he seems for the most part stable and in control of his emotions—remaining calm during life-threatening situations. However, the show’s cold open presents him as far more unhinged. He balances precariously between rationale and insanity. No matter how composed Avilo may seem, we can’t forget that it’s heart-tearing anguish and grief which drives him. It’ll be interesting getting to know his character more and more as he will no doubt be thoroughly tested on his quest.
That being said, not much really happened in the show’s debut. Aside from the protagonist’s backstory and a brief action sequence, the episode was primarily concerned with exposition. But that’s absolutely fine. 91Days seems to have no problem in taking its time and organically building the elements of its plot. Instead of being concerned with overcrowding its debut episode with a rushed plot setup and character introductions, the show is not afraid to provide just the right amount thrills and narrative details to keep you enticed and wanting more. There’s an overall sense of mystery and intrigue befitting of a crime thriller—one which will keep you pondering
Furthermore, it manages to skillfully exposit details of the world, its status quo, and its inhabitants without launching off into explicit monologue. All pertinent information is relayed through subtle dialogue—teaching you about the world without you even knowing it. It’s a testament to the strength of the writing and the skill of the writers. At no point does the show make it apparent that I’m watching a show by reeling me back into reality through blatantly functional exposition. I feel like I’m really watching this guy’s story unfold.
In conclusion, an amazing opening for my most anticipated series of the season. I was a little biased going in, sure, but I was not expecting the level of quality which 91Days’ debut provided. From a rich and dynamic setting to an engaging plot and protagonist, the series shows us in just twenty-three minutes why it will be worth sticking around for.
ED: 「Rain or Shin」 by (ELISA)