Genius bartender, Sasakura Ryuu makes the most incredible cocktails anyone has ever tasted. Seeking his "Glass of God", individuals from all different walks of life visit his bar. With both a compassionate ear and a godly drink, Ryuu helps people with their problems.
“In happy times, one cocktail is enough, because anything you drink will taste good. But if there are a hundred shapes of unhappiness, I want to be a bartender who will make a hundred cocktails to soothe unhappiness.”
An anime series about a bartender at work might not sound like anything worth paying attention to, but Bartender is a calm, gentle series that might be just what you need. Each episode covers the stories of customers that go into a bar to soothe their souls. Bartender Ryu Sasakura assists them with their problems by making them a cocktail with a history or taste that relates to
the customer’s situation. By coming to terms with themselves through their drink, each customer can leave the bar satisfied. Each story is expanded upon not only by what the customer reveals but by narration, often by others that have also been healed by the bar. Each individual story is well-developed, detailed, and brought to a satisfying end. However, there is no plot carried across the full show.
Much of the animation style is abstract, using many unrealistic background effects, quite a few of which are theatrical. For example, a character may be having a conversation at the bar counter, then the scene will cut to a narrator elaborating on what is happening, perhaps in a spotlight or even simply living their own lives. It may not seem realistic, but it’s pulled off quite well. While it may seem that it would be difficult or boring to follow a show narrated like this, it never is thanks to the animation that makes it clear what is happening in reality and what is abstract.
While the background music doesn’t stand out in any particular situation, it also helps to create the atmosphere. The opening song provides a good introduction, and the ending is slow and simple, yet effective.
The characters in each story are very believable. Instead of crazy characters made for the viewer’s excitement, they are developed to be believable people. In addition to each episodic character, the bartender himself is presented very well. Although at first he is the idealized “Glass of the Gods,” the man who can always make the perfect cocktail for a customer, his past is also addressed. By the end of the series, he has become a three-dimensional character with his own history and shortcomings.
Bartender’s true strengths lie not in the technical aspects, but the atmosphere. It’s an incredibly relaxing show and does a great job doing exactly what the creators felt a bar should do: soothe the customers. Watching an episode is a great way to calm down after a bad day; you can sit back and enjoy without shutting down your brain. A word of warning, it’s not as enjoyable in large quantities, save it for when you need it.
Bartender doesn’t try to be big or exciting, but instead appeals to people who want to relax while learning a little bit about alcohol and life. It’s a lovely little series that brings emotion and realism in a way that other, flashier shows can’t achieve.
Anime as a medium is very diverse, it covers every topic, premise and concept under the sun. But for the most part a majority of shows tend to be very quirky with a "in your face" kind of attitude. This presentation is fine but every now and then we as an audience seek out titles with a change of pace, something to help us unwind from the frantic bubbly madness that the medium is known for. As it would have it Bartender happens to be such a title, a show that leans more towards a somber easygoing tone than what is commonly presented. It is
handled with a sense maturity. Like the drinks they talk about, the show also establishes a sense of class and composed order.
But this show isn't without fault, as it seems the very strength of subtlety it conveys is a double edged sword to the presentation of every given episode. Since the show is episodic it really all depends on your enjoyment of the stand alone episodes and the impact it leaves. But when the setup seems devoid of actual tension or a sense of a proper conclusion this leads to a lot of hits or misses depending on your state of mind at the given time.
The strongest aspect of this show comes from the individual stories and how well they are put together. Most of the show takes place in the bar Eden Hall and for the most part they almost always follow the same structure, where our lead bartender Ryuu Sasakura solves our clients problems over a glass of a particular alcoholic drink. This isn't to say they aren't interesting as some of the individual stories really do stick with you, but as a whole, not many leave a lasting impression.
Perhaps the more entertaining bits are when they discuss the history of certain drinks and how they came to be. Like a brief history lesson we as viewers can find new appreciation for the drink after learning of its origins. Also showing the proper technique for preparing certain drinks gives the title of bartender new meaning, as it is made out to be more of an art form than just cheap service. It can get a little campy at times since the show seem to promote a motto of "drinking is the key to life/ the key to soothing one's soul" since everything is haphazardly solved over a glass of alcohol. It can be absurd if one really thinks about it a broader context, since life is never that 1 sided. This contradicts with the shows "down to earth" approach at times in the way the topic is handled. This is not to say it doesn't have any merits but that too much importance is placed on something so mundane, that it almost becomes little difficult to suspends one's disbelief in its almost mythical portrayal of spirits.
Not to belittle the show but it's hard to offer praise in the art/animation department. Everything feels like it was made on a shoestring budget, and this can't be simply chalked up to the show trying to be "subtle" either. As when compared to other titles made within the same year it is average at best. Good example being another episodic series made within the same year but with twice the episodes, Mushishi, which looks far superior in every aspect of production. Or even another episodic series made in the same year like Hell Girl, which despite repetitive animation showed better fluidity on a whole. Of course these series don't follow the same premises or setup but given the fact that many other titles made in the same year greatly surpasses Bartender in terms of quality, it really works against it on a final impression.
It becomes quite apparent that a lot of still frames were used. Also many dialogue scenes involved stagnant characters, with only their mouths moving. The aesthetics were also subpar with stiff movements and no camera angles outside your typical flat frontal view shots. This impeded on one's immersion and made it abundantly clear that you're simply watching a show and not being apart of it.
The tracks played were very simplistic and calming. Given the feeling the show tried to convey it is to be expected, with either a soft piano ballad or quiet instruments played over dialogue scenes. It did well to contribute to the overall atmosphere and didn't overstep the stories being unraveled. The narrator also added a sense of calm with a pleasant voice. Voice actors were all fine, no real standouts to speak of but they captured whatever characteristics they were suppose to display.
Since the show is episodic the only true character worthy of noting was Ryuu Sasakura, our main bartender. He's characterized as a well kept, soft spoken individual who treats every customer as welcomed guest. You can also call him a Houdini bartender since he seems to be a guru of alcohol knowledge, like a walking encyclopedia of everything drink related and a master at reading people's characteristics upon first encounter. This has earned him the nickname "Glass of the Gods". Very little is known about Ryuu personal life and only 1 episode is dedicated to his beginnings as a bartender. Instead he is treated as an educator to teach the viewer the different types of drinks and the importance they hold in the annals of history.
There are recurring characters but they only serve the purpose of giving us character backstory exposition or serving as side narrators to the story. Some simply shown for the sake of cameo appearances and add nothing to the stand alone episode. The show does a decent job of fleshing out the individual customer in the short 20 minute runtime, so that we as viewers can emphasize and understand them.
Although the show served its intended purpose I can't say it is one I would ever revisit. The history presented behind each drink and seeing them prepared by our Mc was certainly fascinating but nothing that really stuck with me.
I can't full heartedly recommend this title unless you're just looking for something to relax to. It made for a good time passer but left nothing it terms of overall impact. It isn't a bad show and was a soothing watch but it simply lacked the proper finesse.
At first glance, Bartender appears mundane. It appears to be one of those self indulgent works that could easily turn you off. I mean, are we really going to spend 25 minutes talking about a bartender, and drinking? But you are wrong! This is one anime that is really interesting. We have here a work from someone who loves drinks and presents it to you in a very creative way.
The stories to me are real, and relatable. Each episode appeals to the mind and the emotion. There is no cheezy moment that you see in most slice of life anime. The writer of this puts
effort into making each episode captivating. Something worth noting is that Bartender is slow paced, but not drawn out. I felt like the timing, conversations and narrations were excellently synchronized. One thing I really enjoyed in the story were the narrations - it was so well placed.
The art is crisp. I also enjoyed the visuals in this. In some instances you feel the life of a bar...thanks to the lighting. The shots of the city at night were lovely. Another thing in the art was how the character flashbacks showing the younger years were so realistic, and when the older character is shown it feels like a real aging process had taken place. The art is lovely in this.
There is nothing extraordinary about the sound. It is well done, and is of the expected quality. One thing I should point out is how nice the ending soundtrack is, I like it a lot. Usually I skip listening to a soundtrack after hearing it once, but in Bartender's case, I wont mind having a copy of that song!
The characters are well rounded. The bartender at first seems one sided in the stories, more like a prop. But as the series continue, you see how human he is. I love it. There are various narrators in this story, but I particularly enjoyed the (few) scenes when the "NeoBartenders" give history or insight into some topics.
I loved this series, and would recommend it for anyone. It is well paced, and good to enjoy especially on a weekend, or at night after work. Lovely, Lovely Lovely. Thanks for reading this review.
Children have no place in a bar, and most youths prefer dancing in nightclubs to loud music and cheap booze... but for those who wish a calmer and more mature place, there is the bar.
Even among bars, there is a variety of styles: from seedy dockside dives, to beer halls where there is always a ball game or race being played on a large screen, to the dimly-lit classier cocktail bars...
What, then, is a bar? A place where they serve drinks, sure, but that's just an element of the whole.
A bar is a social environment safe from the rest of the world where one goes
to throw off the worries for a while; the drinks are just aids to relax and let go of tension and inhibitions. If it is a good bar, it's a place one regrets leaving even to go back home.
In Bartender, we are welcomed with a warm smile to the Eden Hall, a small but cosy cocktail bar. The bartender himself is a confident and therapist to the regulars, well known for his near-magical ability to serve just the right drink to soothe each customer's soul from their problems. Go talk to him for a while, then ask him to surprise you - he'll deftly squeeze, blend, shake and mix the contents of a few bottles while sharing bits of trivia about the different ingredients.
You might eventually realize that he's adding more than spirits into the cocktail, he's also mixing in tales, history, metaphors and emotions... that what he's making isn't simply a drink, but a customized healing potion to which the liquid in the glass is itself only a minor part.
Story & direction: 9.
Bartender is a niche experimental anime, episodic, and although the introduced characters become regulars and appear or even participate in subsequent episodes, in general each episode is dedicated to a patron and his problems.
Instead of following a formal plot, it depends on realistically fleshed-out characters and an excellent direction using advanced techniques such as multilayer superimpositions, juxtapositions, camera angles, flashbacks, using characters as mouthpieces for a omniscient narrative, and seamlessly intermeshing the episode's theme with documentary elements. While the latter are fundamental for understanding the characters' thought processes, they sometimes distract from the main theme, which is why I didn't give a full 10 to this section.
As said before, the characters are realistic and well fleshed out. Sure, we mostly only see what they allow through the metaphorical public masks everybody uses or the tidbits we get from third parties, but isn't this also part of the realism?
Even the bartender himself, who keeps his professional face throughout the series, gets a significant bit of his past explored by the regular patrons' chatting and rumoring, bringing him down from the near-deity status his current abilities grant him and back to the human realm.
The one time this realism was broken was when a character behaved irrationally in an emergency, for the sake of setting up the stage for an episode - but the outcome was so satisfactory that I'm unwilling to penalize the series for it.
This is a hit-or-miss series that should be avoided by anybody who either dislikes bars or slow, talky shows; it also requires a modicum of maturity to enjoy properly. If this is not your case, avoid it altogether.
Even then, as with alcoholic drinks, it should be taken with moderation. The best way to enjoy it is one or two episodes at a time, in a dimmed room, and with your favorite drink at hand.
Art & animation: 8
The art is very good; the bar was created with loving detail, with shadows, reflections and detailed settings. The characters are competently drawn, with a wealth of adequately used facial expressions.
There's not much happening throughout the episodes, most of the time it's just talking heads - the most fluid animation happens during the preparation of the cocktails; still, the characters smile, frown, gesture, grimace - and blink! - while in the background there's the occasional patron going to the toilets, blowing smoke or adjusting his chair.
There is the CG that, given its age, is far from photographic; still, it is pretty much limited to the flow of liquids and the sparkle of bubbles in tall glasses, and doesn't interfere in the enjoyment.
The OP is a nice duet between a female patron and the bartender; it is, however, too upbeat for such slow and intimate series. The ED is a delicious jazz song, played while a real barman prepares and serves us the cocktail featured in the episode... Not once did I feel the urge to skip it, instead I wanted to pick up the glass and sip it.
The rest of the music is ambient soft jazz, jamming in harmony to the scenes and accompanying the mood without ever overwhelming - which, for such a series, is just perfect.
The background sounds are what one should expect from a small bar: glasses and bottles clinking or tapping on the table, chairs dragging, and the such - nothing spectacular, since anything more would actually detract from the experience.
There’s just something about anime food that makes us drool with desire, and food has been the main theme of various anime series. If you’re looking to satisfy your food and anime cravings all in one go, get a taste of these fun and interesting cooking anime series.