Bartender is an anime series that takes an acquired taste to appreciate: its progressively engaging slice of life premise is unlike most anime series that are either exuberant in tone or use emphasized elements to tell their respective stories. Instead, Bartender takes its time to immerse you in an environment that's enticing and seductive in its own undertones. Like Antique Bakery for pastries, or Yakitate Japan for bread, Bartender immerses you in the world of alcoholic beverages with a mature flair. Only...it doesn't quite invest in the same humor or flares that define the series aforementioned.
I might be among the right audience for this series, in that I enjoy progressively paced slice of life series that indulge in a central theme, and don't mind if it has an episodic progression if the themes in each are tangible and relate well to each other. While I've never consumed an alcoholic beverage, I felt enticed by my watch of Bartender, in that it features a rather soothing environment and intuitive approach to the occupation with a charismatic bartender and a multitude of characters who wish to escape their dilemmas, shown in each of the 11 episodes this series highlights. The idea that a choice of a drink can characterize a person completely reeled me into the respective story and up to its rather noted conclusion, though if one is expecting something to culminate into a conflict or central resolution, you are definitely NOT the audience for this series to be able to appreciate it.
The problem also lies in that it is a series that you really have to be in the right mindset to watch it, otherwise, its affect is lost and those who are looking to be easily entertained or engrossed may find it quite dull. I personally thought it was one the best character expansive/philosophical series I've come across in a long time, and literally most series don't give the kind of depth and intricate expansion that this series does, with a soothing flair and at ease progression that takes its time accordingly.
Very high quality character designs and coloring, as well as depth to the environments that are just as soothing as the tone the series sets. The light/dark contrasts are easy on the eyes and the designs remind me of series like "Monster", "Master Keaton," and "Human Crossing" for fair comparison, if a bit more rich in quality. (Yet I should note the only one this series remotely resembles in tone and progression is "Human Crossing.")
Settings are quite realistic in design and intricate details, even from the sculpture that's showcased in one of the early episodes. I was impressed even with the level of detail in the wine bottles and the cocktail glasses.
Beautiful soundtrack overall, I'd honestly put it among my favorite anime soundtracks for its calm, jazzy quality. The opening theme is an enticing number called "Hajimari no Hito" by a prominent jazz group called Natural High. The showcasing of the various characters in the dynamic opening sequence invites you in its mature, moderate tempo song. The ending theme "Bartender" is just as elegant, and the BGM provides a nice accent to the environments and situations in which the characters are showcased.
Voice acting is appropriate though it isn't so much a factor that improves the series. Rather, it complements the characters and situations in its own right.
There are an array of characters that are showcased throughout Bartender in the episodic array of episodes, each dealt with an intricate manner of how their back story, personality, or respective situation matches the respective beverage of choice. The series treats its characters intricately, but doesn't really develop them over a progressive time where you come into resonation with them individually. Rather, you learn to appreciate who they are in an aesthetic, philosophical notation. Don't come into this series expecting characters to jump out at you, because while its characters drive it, it's done so in a way that's different from most anime series. I'll compare it to Human Crossing again: a series of stories in one-shot context that revolve within a central theme. If you can keep that notation in your mind as you watch, or you like series that are in that vein, you'll find yourself enjoying it for what it offers.
Yet, in the midst of it all, I was impressed with the character Ryu Sasakura, who acts as your "friendly neighborhood Bartender" with an eye that can see the core of his customer base. He has an awareness of who they are, their personality and what to match along with it, and he does so with a kindness and ease that's both attractive yet subtle.
It pains me a bit to not rank this higher than its respective measure, because I truly loved the series for what it had to offer, but this is one that I wouldn't recommend every anime viewer to watch, only those who can truly appreciate the elements it brings to the table. It's a beautiful series, soothing to the senses, and provides an educational look at the occupation, but I would say if you love series with progressive pacing and a different flair than most anime series, then this is one to watch. Likely, if you've ever seen the series Human Crossing and loved it, then you'll definitely like this.
Bartender is a fine example of a show which is driven by its premise and nothing else to back it up.
As long as you fancy the basic formula of how each episode plays out, you will get one hell of a series. If on the other hand you expect something more… mainstream should I say? With action, plot, plot twists, development, and a powerful ending, then DON’T EVEN BOTHER!
The story is quite the simple one. There is this fancy bar where people go and tell their life’s problem to the barman. The barman listens to them and after a cool metaphor regarding different types of liquors from around the world, and how combining them into a specific cocktail creates a very specific flavor, the customers feel refreshed and may even reach to important revelations regarding their issues.
As cool as all this sounds, it is a completely episodic show and it is basically the metaphors that matter and not the actual issues the customers may have. To be honest, I hardly cared how cruel their lives are, how bad is their boss or how unfaithful is their wife. All I cared about was seeing the barman doing his weird allegories and mentioning the historical facts behind some drinks and then combining them into a super elixir of sorts that produces a flavor akin to the needs of the customer.
Each episode has a very linear and simple plot which is made to look fancy because it is filled with lots of allegories.
It is very thrilling the way I describe it and definitely eons more mature than most anime out there.
*stares at an ugly woman who now looks gorgeous*
At the same time though… it is not what most people would call entertaining. Since each episode follows the same pattern without deviating or evolving past its initial form, it eventually feels duller with each episode. The premise is great for the first three cases but after that the excitement simply starts to wear off and you are now staring at a formulaic show with predictable outcome.
Do you remember how each episode of Pokemon was following pretty much the same pattern? Well, despite being a very immature show for little kids, most of the times it would have something new for the viewer to take notice. They would go to different cities, meet different trainers, fight different critters, and even Team Rocket would occasionally change its punchlines and role in the show. Plus there was action; simplistic one but definitely something regarding energy beams and things blowing up. Bartender does not have this sort of variety and this is basically what makes it boring past a few episodes for most. It is always the same place, always the same rhetorical questioning, and always the same conclusion, without any action or even much of motion in general. The whole premise is driven through people sitting still, looking all gloomy, and talking all emo about something. Hardly as exciting as watching a bunch of high-spirited kids fighting with weird creatures popping out of spheres.
*Whiskey on the rocks, I choose you*
Although Bartender also has to do with lifting spirits through … spirits (the drinking kind)
and despite being very mature and interesting as a premise, this is not the reason most people are watching anime for. If they wanted enlightment, they would read a philosophical book or join some religion. They would NOT watch an anime, which its main objective as a medium is entertainment. Making the audience think and wiser is a great bonus but it is not enough by itself; it also needs to be EXCITING! And Bartender lacks that completely.
Sure, we could say that the show is directed at a very mature audience who has aged significantly and no longer looks for excitement but rather for insight and maturity. To those kinds of people Bartender would appear as a holy book or something. So speaking of books let me drift off a bit and make an allegory of my own based on the same subject.
*hallucination mode on*
Although there is no other anime like this one, there are lots of books that attempt to combine a story with a philosophical quest. I have read some myself, the most vivid examples I choose to mention is The Shack by William P. Young, and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Both are revered as books that have given insight to several philosophical questions and there are thousands of people who have them as their favorites. At the same time, watching these books from afar you easily tell how they can usually be very pretentious, with bad storytelling, nonsense events, and eventually shallow philosophy that is forced upon the mind of the ignorant and unsuspected reader. Again, they are interesting but are not realistic, or THAT smart to begin with. At the same time, The Shack is basically a guy making questions in some hut and having the Holy Trinity answering them, while The Alchemist is about a guy traveling to many exotic places, having lots of adventures and even using mystical powers at times. Context aside, the later book is ten times more interesting to follow because SOMETHING HAPPENS! So back to Bartender, NOTHING HAPPENS!
By nothing, I am of course referring to some motion, other than mouths flapping and glasses being filled with more booze. Seeing the show from afar is basically staring at a bunch of drunkards in a bar, talking all emo in front of a cool bartender. ALL THE TIME AND IN ALL EPISODES!
Do you know how easy it is to get bored with all that? Or do you know how eventually the characters become nothing but plot elements that are forgotten as soon as the episode is over? Instead of caring about them as characters, the customers end up being nothing but ephemeral excuses for the bartender to start blabbering about booze.
Cool stories I admit, but nothing of interest around THE CHARACTERS! Do you know how stupid it looks to care more about some fancy allegory than the tragic life of the character? Essentially, there are NO CHARACTERS in the show; just excuses for fancy allegories. Not even the barman is a character since he just talks about stuff and we never get to know anything about him … other than being the Buddha of alcohol, offering his wisdom to the tired customers that is.
WHO WOULD WANT TO WATCH A SHOW WITHOUT CHARACTERS? This is closer to a documentary than a series. And for its medium, it’s bad. And this is again the difference between The Shack (which had a passive protagonist who was just making questions) and The Alchemist (who had an active protagonist, doing stuff all over the world).
Let me make another example, this time regarding anime. If you have watched a few comedies made by studio SHAFT (Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, Arakawa Under The Bridge, Maria Holic) you will have easily figured out that there isn’t any story or characters in them either. All their comedies are episodic, lacking development entirely, and the cast is nothing but eccentric caricatures defined by a few repeating punch lines and mannerisms. At the same time, there are many cinematics in each episode, combined with wordplays and fan service, usually leading to some criticism regarding society and stereotypes, making them far more pleasing to watch. There is motion, there is emotion, there is crazy camera scrolling, there is criticism, and there is pantsu. ENTERTAINMENT! Bartender doesn’t have that; it’s just people talking while sitting down in a room and drinking!
Of course all the above are generalizing the show. It is still very good if one with proper mindset gets to watch it. It is not a lie if you read other reviews and comments regarding this show; they all say it is a very special show for a very specific audience, which makes it very hard to be appreciated by the majority of the anime fans. This does not make it a bad series. In fact, if we talk about production values, Bartender is great in overall.
*the song “What A Wonderful World” plays in the old pick-up*
The artwork is amazingly realistic for an anime show. You watch an episode and get the urge to go buy yourself some Gin&Tonic. I mean just look at those bottles! They are so amazingly drawn! The sound of liquor pouring in the glass, the ice melting in the glass, the soft music playing in the bar, the low lightning, the mesmerizing voice of the barman, YOU JUST WANNA TURN DRUNKARD AT THAT SECOND! Do you know the tag called Gar? (Gay for Archer). Well this show gets the tag Drub (Drunkard for Bartender).
It is THAT successful in terms of atmosphere; it just sucks you in! … Of course chances are you will be bored and ask to pull out after a few episodes because the formula becomes boring but the show is still successful in its initial impressions and overall directing.
So in all, I find this show to be VERY SPECIAL and HIGHLY CAPTIVATING IN THE BEGINNING but also NON-EVOLVING and eventually BORING FOR MOST PEOPLE. If you like it or not, it’s up to you. I warned you about it as best as I could.
*puts eggs in a blender*
Time of Eve
p.s. Can someone tell me what was I doing last night and ended up waking up in a bed shared with a very ugly woman?
Bartender is a strange kind of anime. It does not have a continuous story but rather focuses on a customer every episode. During every episode there is a certain flow of pace which sets a mood that flows slowly through the whole episode. This is not a series I would recommend to other people as the right watching mood cannot be captured at will I think, it is something to stumble upon at the right moment for maximal enjoyment.
Though lots of liquor advertisement is done, it barely annoyed me as it blended in well with the bar and bartender who told something on the origin of that particular liquor.
Every episode shows the case of a customer who has a mindset that needs to be altered by the right drink. The bartender welcomes the customer and quickly sees right into his or her soul to provide the right drink with a metaphore to help the customer. The idea is simple and similar to animes as Death Parade and Jigoku Shoujo but in Bartender there is no action and killing involved. Also people are not punished but helped.
A lot of CG is used to make the bottles and glassware look alive. The characters look simple but believable and their bodily stance and facial expressions show very subtle details. In between scenes there is often a shot of a bottle of spirits (lots of advertisement are done here) to show what a customer will get.
The voice cast in Japanese was better than I expected, people sound real and believable and the script was done well. The music fitted nicely in the scenes as well.
I loved the opening and ending songs which is quite rare for me in anime.
Real people in real situations, everybody is believable and has his or her own story. I don't want to spoil anything so you can read other reviews, the wikipedia episode list or just watch it yourself.
A small pearl if you are in the right serious mood, a pile of advertisment thrash if you are not. There is no action and comedy, no single panty shot and nothing flashy except for lots of drinks. I loved the conversations and character insight/development in this small anime but as I already said, I won't recommend it to most anime fans as it asks for your full attention while little happens.
A friend and I decided that we wanted to watch an anime together and, due to the great reviews we had seen for this, we decided to give it a go. I was completely let down and I genuinely expected more from this anime than a bunch of heavy handed metaphors that were the base for each episode.
Story: The concept the story started with was pretty fun. At its core, this show is about the numerous people that come into a bar, Eden Hall, and leave with a lesson well learned from the Bartender who works there. The creators didn't have to push the concept as hard as they did. I felt like the irony of the situation and the terrible metaphors were being shoved down my throat. Around the third episode of the show my friend and I decided we needed to start doing whipped cream shots every time we heard a terrible metaphor. That was a lot of whipped cream. I am going to give some examples. In episode two Sasakura, the bartender, asks the woman who walks in if he can get her a menu. She replies that he can help her find "A menu of the heart." My friend and I had to rewind this part because we could not believe she had just said that. In episode 6 the phrase "flames of passion" was being thrown around like it was the most natural line of dialogue in the world. It was incredibly halting for the story line since we kept missing things due to our laughter and having to rewind it. The dialogue was this horrible throughout the whole anime. It didn't feel natural, like average people talking about their problems to a bartender. It felt like the creators beating a terrible metaphor to death throughout the course of an episode. Ultimately, the fact that I could feel the creator’s presence behind this whole anime was incredibly irritating to me as the whole show felt like their extensive monologue. One major plus I will give this anime is the history behind the alcohol. That was genuinely interesting and incredibly entertaining. Every drink that went along with an extended metaphor would get a historical explanation. I genuinely found that to be the most interesting part of the show. I probably would watch a show on the history of alcohol so I thought that part was excellent. Furthermore, I really enjoyed how the ending credits were individualized to show the episodes main drink being prepared by a live bartender. That was probably the best part of the show in my opinion.
Animation: I feel like I need to split the animation into two categories. Firstly, to get the negatives out of the way, the character animation was incredibly poor. Their movements were very choppy and somehow seemed to defy the laws of physics. For instance, in a shot that is used repeatedly in multiple episodes, Sasakura is shaking one of the numerous drinks. His forearms and bangs are the only things that seem to move but the fashion in which they do is so improbable. They treat the shaker as if it is creating such a vacuum of wind that his bangs would move along with it and not as if the force against his body of the shaking would cause his bangs to move in the opposite direction. Little matters like that piled up so all of the characters actions just felt bizarre. Furthermore, for an anime that bases so much on emotions, the expressions were far too stiff looking and didn't even seem to fit the scene. Moving on to the positives, the background animation was stunning. Any time I would see the row of bottles on the shelves I couldn't help but admire the amazing job that the animators did with making each and every individual bottle look real. The same goes for pouring the drinks. The animation of the liquid was smooth and flawless and it was obvious that the creators had done a lot of observation on how liquid would pour. In the end, the pairing of the prop and background art with that of the people was bizarre and felt like it didn't mesh. I only wish that the people had been animated better so I could give this a higher score.
Sound: The music was actually pretty good. I loved the opening and ending themes. They were catchy but also caught the laid back nature of the show. The music in the anime scenes itself was alright but I will admit that I didn't notice it much. I would say that the music was well done but nothing I would rave about.
Characters: Don't get me started. Sasakura could have been such an interesting character if he had been developed more. I don't think that he needed more of a backstory than we got but I felt like his personality should have been developed more in the moment. His attitude seemed to stay on one level throughout the entire show. He almost didn't feel human. It got to the point when my friend and I thought he was an alien who had come to earth to learn the ways of humans. The rest of the characters were just as two dimensional. The creators obviously developed one level of "deepness" for every character in order to give all of them a problem that the Bartender needed to help them solve. There weren't any characters in this show that I would believe for a moment.
I wouldn't recommend this anime to anyone. There were good aspects to it but I didn't feel that the good parts outweighed the bad. Unfortunately, Bartender was a letdown.
Do you like going to a bar to relax and forget the world? That’s exactly what this show is about and the feeling I get from it. The first time I heard about this show was from Arkada from http://www.desudesbrigade.com (Which is not existing right now. If you wish to see his stuff, please find him at http://blip.tv/glassreflection/ ) and when I did hear of it, I thought that the main character would be mostly the focus and how he would get a lot of screen time but in truth, I was wrong and love it all the same. The main focus is not of the bartender exactly, but of the customers giving each show its own cast, and own character screen time. In fact, even though some of the characters reappear in other episodes, they are not really anything but to relay some message that might not be known about the main character of that episode.
In each episode, the story line stands alone, nothing you have to remember from the last show unless you want to know what the other side characters are from and so your full attention is on the show right in front of you, giving you the same feeling as what the bar is like, where nothing from the outside world should interrupt you from enjoying the special drink. In my mind, our drink as the viewers is the show in front of us like the drink in front of the customer is the one they talk about. And like all good drinks, the show does not leave a bad taste so you can enjoy the slow easy going nature. It’s a good show to watch right after watching a high action packed show as a way of winding down.
There is almost no point in this story where it feels off-key and fantasy like. The stories are very real, everyday problems that normal people would have. A woman who wishes to help break the tension between her father and grandfather; a man who works on creating bars but doesn’t like them; a man who came to the bar after seeing a ‘shining star’ walk in, these are the fears and dreams of so many different people, not just in Japan but all over the world. This anime seems to speak to you as an individual, not just to a wide number of people. They even go so far as to address the watcher, breaking the fourth wall as though you are with these people.
Like almost every anime out there, this one has a Christmas episode but unlike all the others, it doesn’t feel like it was forced into the show. It actually feels perfect with no ‘hot girl’ showing off what she’s got in a scandalous Santa outfit. In fact, there is really no Santa outfit at all and no talk of what Christmas is. They only give you the warm feeling that would make you smile, much like how a drink would warm you up slowly.
The animation is so beautiful. There is a lot of CG when it comes to the bottles and glasses but it never feels out-of-place. It feels a part of this art and never gets distracting from the characters. As for everything else though, the only other ‘CG style’ things could be the liquor and the glass when they stand alone. It doesn’t get in the way of the artwork at all though or make it feel out of place as they merge it well. It’s interesting that at first glance, you would never really see Ryu as anything special, just pretty much a standard Japanese character in a bartenders outfit. I truly love that about this show, the very simple and gentle feeling. They have a lot of scenes that loop or are taken from other shows but I never saw it as a eye sore except for one instance.
The ending of each episode is surprisingly very simple live action of a bartender creating a drink, mixed with a little CG and music video. This is one of the most beautiful and gentle ending I have ever seen and they made it different for every single episode, the drink being different for each one. It’s so calming and gentle that I actually wanted to keep watching the ending, not speed past it. The cinematic camera angles add to the somewhat surreal feeling of just being in the current place at the special time. The music for the ending as well was so sweet that I want to get a single disc of it and play it as I fall asleep.
Now, when we get to the opening, I do have my problems. The opening animation is beautiful and amazing but the music seems to put me off a bit. I watched a couple of these in line and the music unfortunately felt a little too upbeat. It’s not that it wasn’t any good; it was just that it didn’t seem to fit the feeling of the show.
At no part is there really a time that has no talking or music and only silence. All the music is orchestrated well and fits perfectly. There one song for every drink and each of them seem to reflect the story of that drink.
The voices, while expertly done by the Japanese actors, seemed a little off for me but I believe that was only because I am really not into subs. I will read subs while watching the English dub and see how close they were to the original but mostly. But when they give me subs, I have a hard time with them since I have to read a little to fast. I fell into that with this show and so the Japanese voices felt distant and hard to get close to but I feel if I was a native Japanese speaker, I would be much more into loving it. This is one that I really hope comes over to America to be dubbed and not ‘fucked up’ with a lot of script changes and high vocals. PS I think J. Michael Tatum would be a great Ryu. Just my thoughts on it. ;)