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I highly suggest playing this OST of Bartender while reading this review, as it captures the mood of the show perfectly.
Let’s start off by saying that Bartender is an anime you need to watch at the right time to get the most out of it. It’s like a piece of Jazz for a Rock / Metal fan like myself; a great way to relax and clear my mind as opposed to fast riffs to get me pumped up. Therefore, if you pick the right time (and drink) to watch this, you’ll get much more out of it. For me it was the perfect change of pace between anime like Ga-Rei -Zero- and Bokurano.
Bartender follows the meetings and conversations between visitors of the Eden Hall bar and Ryū Sasakura, a bartender whose skills are so famed he is nicknamed “The Glass of Gods”, after his most famous cocktail. Not only is he a master with the liquors, he also is a brilliant talker with a very good perception towards his customers. In every episode you get to see the problems these customers have, and the simple, yet ingenious ways Ryū manages not to directly fix these problems, but how he manages to fix the attitude of his customers towards these problems, in his own, incredibly likable way.
The quality of the animation is good. This is one of the only series I’ve seen in which the darker color tones actually added to the whole experience, making you feel this is taking place in an old, calm bar instead of some flashy club. Also, the details in which the bottles were drawn added more to the series than I imagined it could.
The sound too, is a perfect fit for this anime. The OST exclusively contains feel-good jazz without any big-band pieces and with lots of piano used. The opening theme is very fitting and brings you in the right mood for every episode straight away, and every episode has its own ending theme, appropriate to the customer and drink served.
Now, on to the weak points. First of all, the three tags used on the A-P entry are entirely correct, and are also what will keep most people from watching this. It’s unmistakably a Slice of Life / Episodic / Slow-Paced show. There is no action going on at all in the entire show, there are only conversations and journeys through the annoyances of the customers (in a way that keeps it from being bitter, mind you). This isn’t your everyday “giggling-high-school-girls” RomCom™, nor is it some heavy psychological drama. Aside from Ryū’s otherworldly skills, this anime comes across as entirely believable. These are mostly unexaggerated problems the everyday person runs into in those stages of his or her life.
Oh damnit, there you go, I lose my restraint for one moment and I already managed to transform the section for ranting into a praising. Asides from the obvious statement that this genre won’t appeal to everyone, I really can’t see any flaws in this incredibly pleasant show. For me, this is about as good as episodic, slow paced conversation-based shows go.