Aug 31, 2007
Anomalous (All reviews)
“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.