Posted by psgels on 11 June 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



Anime, just like any other medium, does suffer from the fact that as time goes on, it gets harder and harder to be original. In the past decade, nearly all of the genres we know today were already invented, and during the past few years, it has become near-impossible to create any new genres it seems. If I’m not mistaken, the last time a new genre was created was with the horeca-series: short series in which the main characters run a restaurant/food-shop/bar/etc. After shows as Ristorante Paradiso, the genre is quietly picking up in recognition and popularity, but the anime who pioneered it, Bartender, is even more notable.

Likewise, today it’s very hard to be original anymore. Just try to think of something that absolutely has never been done before; only a select amount of series can truly do such a thing with confidence. Still, I really have to say that Bartender is THE most original anime series to have aired in the past five years. It’s really one of those series of which you can’t think that anything good can come out of it… and yet it’s great. From the outside, it’s simply a series in which characters drop by the bar of the lead character, drink a bit, talk about their problems and “see the light”. This series however doesn’t only make this work, it also throws in lots of unique stuff that really makes optimal use from the fact that this is a show about liquor.

So yeah, the generic formula for this series is that a customer comes into the bar called Eden Hall, hosted by the bartender who can serve the Glass of the Gods, and talks about his problems. In cases like this, it’s of course very tempting for a show to simply cheese up his story and shallowly deus ex machina all of the customer’s problems away simply after drinking a bit, yet somehow Bartender manages to avoid this pitfall. It doesn’t just view cocktails as just mixes of random drinks, but it looks at where these drinks came from: why were these drinks created? How did they get their names? Why do people drink them? Throughout each episode it provides all kinds of real-life anecdotes, both well-known and obscure, and relates these to the customer’s problems. By cleverly combining all of this, the customer comes to an understanding of his problems that actually doesn’t feel forced or obvious, and yet makes a lot of sense. And THAT’s the strength of Bartender: it intelligently looks at its customer’s problems and analyzes them; all in a way I have never seen done before.

You can really see that this is a series that’s written by someone who has a passion for liquor. I’m a liquor noob myself, but even I could tell that this series has an incredible amount of knowledge about all sorts of drinks, cocktails and also the detailed history behind them. It’s just like Osamu Tezuka, who as a Medicine graduate made optimal use of his knowledge when he wrote Black Jack, or take Shion no Ou, whose manga was written by a former professional shougi-player, who completely understood all of the principles of the game.

The third point at which Bartender shines with originality is the way it handles its narration, which again is something I have never seen done before in anime. Customers simply don’t disappear when their story is over, but they instead turn into narrators: they occasionally return to help out the main narrator to tell his story, and share their views of the new customers, while at the same time they never try to butt in with other people’s problems. Especially the final two episodes shine in this, and the entire series closes off with a really rounded final episode, in the way that Seraphim Call’s final episode was originally meant to end.

Amidst the originality though, there is one flaw that really sticks out like sore thumb. While I’m often not bothered by animation, the animation in Bartender really is abysmal at times. A lot of the shots look like they were drawn in a rushed way, and the only thing that seems to save this show’s aesthetics is the atmosphere of a bar that this show manages to create. The distorted faces really get in the way when we see a customer have a moment of self-discovery and during these moments, the cheese also tends to take over. This series screams maturity, but at the same time it also becomes hard to take it seriously with some of these hideously drawn faces. Thankfully though, the production-values do get saved by an excellent and relaxing soundtrack that still manages to pack a punch.

In any case, this is probably the end of my little review spree for now, since the next show I’m planning to watch is another one of those 52-episoded ones, but the series that I’ve reviewed during the past week all have something in common: excellent narrative and a true passion and understanding for the subjects they were dealing with. This is another reason why I still am such a big fan of anime, because the series that are made with passion really are the most enjoyable to watch, and Bartender, just like Hunter X Hunter’s first OVA, Victorian Romance Emma’s first season and even Futakoi Alternative really show this.

Storytelling: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Production-Values: 7/10
Setting: 9/10

13 Responses

  1. The_Observer says:

    If you like this incarnation of Araki Joh’s work (manga-ka)

    Then I recommend you look up “La Sommeliere”…the manga is not scanlated (sadly) but its looks great and very appealing to a wine fan like me.

    Looking for my own Kana-chan in my life…

  2. Dop says:

    The thing I always liked about The Bartender was that it was very theatrical. You could imagine each episode working as a stage play, and that’s really unusual for anime.

  3. Kurisu says:

    Dop: I wouldn’t bet my life on it. Mouryou no Hako was definitely just like a stage play, too. If you think about it, most anime with little to no action would work as a stage play, especially all the sitcom-like comedy. Also this frame plot of a narrator isn’t anything special either. Even old anime for kids like Tao Tao had this.

  4. elianthos says:

    *de-lurks* aah, Bartender ^^. I remember picking this series by chance about a year ago, the food angle + seinen approach (meaning: no anime about food championships or unbelievable cooking tricks, as enjoyable as they can be XD) really tickled my fancy . I must agree about the animation, some of the distorted faces shots do ruin the mood.
    But it’s a relaxing, insightful anime, plus the CG drinks looked very appealing, I tried some of those after watching :p .
    Btw, thanks for presently blogging RisPara and Anne too ^^ .
    I wonder what 50+ episodes-long series you’re going to watch. Eureka 7 maybe? The DVD for the AU-retelling movie will be out this month too :) , you could watch both with a fresh mind *wink wink*
    I’d love to suggest you (again :p) Rose of Versailles , but it’s ‘only’ 40 episodes long.
    Anyway, every review of yours is a change to discover -or redescover – some underlooked series, so whatever you’ll choose is fine. Happy viewing!

  5. Sarynn says:

    Very interesting… Bartender… I’ve had this on my “want to preview” list for a while now, but never really felt compelled to view it. A show about drinking and customer’s telling their problems to the bartender; maybe that’d be interesting, but I had doubts :P.

    But the way you describe it, it sounds like this show handles its premise rather intelligently.

    I’m definitely looking forward to it now. It’s hard to find good “intelligent” anime these days. Even harder to find is “originality”. Thanks for letting me know that this show has a bit of both. =)

  6. c160 says:

    I thought you reviewed this before 0.0 I seemed to remember reading a review on this before in your blog and watched it after reading your revew,but it seems I’m delusional nowadays :p I’m also curios,what 52 episode series are you gonna review next?NANA?

  7. Shippoyasha says:

    Hmm. I’m certain you’re missing a few other anime in the past that had the kind of themery Paradiso and Bartender had. It’s just that it’s gotten a bit of a modern makeover that’s all. I’m pretty certain Bartender isn’t the first of its type. Maybe in modern years.

  8. gsilver says:

    I believe that Oishinbo was the first anime specifically about the food industry. It’s from back in the 80s, and the manga is now being released by Viz. A few of the episodes were also fansubbed a while back.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oishinbo

  9. PL says:

    one of the first things I learned as a budding writer is that “there is nothing new under the sun…” ultimately, there are only two plots: man vs. other and man vs. self. Everything else is just the author/artist’s personal style, or as George R. R. Martin says, the furniture changes, the stories don’t. Of course, that style is extremely important, and it is what makes the difference between someone like Shakespeare and his contemporaries like Marlowe, who were telling the same Italian and French stories, but we all know who Shakespeare was, and only English major geeks like me have ever read Marlowe. Most of the time, I’d rather see a familiar story told really well, with the author and artists’ using the plot as a device to develop characters and themes which bring into sharp focus some aspect of the human experience over a story that is highly experimental but so unfamiliar I can’t make that connection with the human aspects of the story. Pushing the boundaries is good, but leaping out lightyears ahead of them only leaves us confused for the most part. Originality, for me, takes back seat to solid storytelling, great dialogue, recognizable symbolism and a feeling of connection with all the great stories which came before this one. Umberto Eco calls this last part “intertextuality” and for me, it is one of the most important parts of a good story because when I’m engaged in a story that reveals its connections with that vast intertext of which it is part, I feel attached to a long-standing tradition, and because some of the tropes are familiar (but not neccessarily cliche”, those tropes fade into the background, my suspension of disbelief takes over, and my engagement is with whatever unique and creative thing the artist is bringing to the story.

  10. Thanks for the heads up. This show sounds great. Can’t wait to find it.

  11. AKI says:

    Thanks for the review, psgels. Just watched it, and boy, was it amazing. The animation was indeed a shot in the face but overall it was a refreshing experience. Had a few drinks myself. If ever I’ll go to Holland (got a cousin living there) let’s have a drink or two. Hehe. BTW, what’s the Netherlands’ official liquor?

  12. psgels psgels says:

    We don’t really have an official liquor here, although people do drink lots of beer. I don’t, though.

  13. demiplayer says:

    want something really unique? try watching nazca, it’s definitely a unique experience to watch

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 06:27 PM)
    @Space Dandy, was planning on getting to work on it soon. But I won’t be posting it till the current seasons episodes reach episode 11. It’s still quite a while yet till the fall season.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 03:20 PM)
    I think I was one of those spammy posters aswell that didn’t even pick up on the fact they were spammy/looking for attention .
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 03:16 PM)
    I certainly remember being on forums/messengers in my mid-teens, my vice at the time was simply putting zero thought into the posts I’d make, also coming off as desperate and indecisive and the typing, oh God the horrible horrible typing….
  • Space Dandy
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 03:10 PM)
    Any plans for fall season prevew? If so, when approximately?
  • Odin
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 02:37 PM)
    @AidanAK47 Thx
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 12:49 PM)
    This ladies and gents is why I am glad the internet wasn’t in my teenager years. Because Christ I regret those days enough already without reminders on the interwebs.
    There are all kinds of people on the internet. Hell there are a group of people who believe they are actual gods. They even ask for worship and sacrifices and shit. It’s just sad. Or those types who think they are so deep and special. They really annoy me as I was one of those types in the old days…gah…
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 12:42 PM)
    @Odin, I will try to get it out tonight or tommarrow depending on your timezone.
  • ff
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 07:46 AM)
    Doctors simply dont have the time to be serial killers.
  • Odin
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 05:14 AM)
    when is Gangsta episode 9 review coming
  • ;(
    (Wednesday, Sep 2. 2015 04:38 AM)
    @Emma:
    Actually because there was so many deaths in WWII aside from the wargrounds, many were killed in these principles.
    Not execution by killer (which is quite against this principle) but by means which will save the killers from facing their victims, thus avoiding the psychological backlash.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There! – 09

So the reason Itami got married was because a girl pretty much said take care of me and I will marry you. And the reason why she divorced him was because Itami believed she saw him as a meal ticket when she had developed feelings for him. Those are oddest reasons for a marriage and […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 08

Well this episode starts off with a dark revelation and we see that Megumi is not buried on the roof but instead is roaming the school as an undead corpse. Her location seems to be the door where Yuki talks to her. From the looks of things, after taking a picture with the group she […]

Gangsta. – 08

Some focus on Alex this time around as with the drug out of her system she remembered that she had a younger brother. A pretty startling revelation for her as forgot about him the whole time she was under Barry’s control. It was done well on just how much this shocked her but I must […]

Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There! – 08

Itami continues to be a mystery as he is shown not only to be a ranger but also a member of special forces. Its not really confirmed whether he is a genius in hiding or a slacker who was tossed into high profile positions and got through it with minimum effort. The big part of […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 07

This episode has been a weaker episode than those so far. The opening has gone through a number of changes now that we have reached over the halfway point. Megumi’s part of the opening has been replaced by a shot of her grave, the colourful transition after showing the title is now a series of […]

Gangsta. – 07

Now the past has been mostly revealed, Worick’s friendship with Nicholas has become a more complex thing. Worick seems to see him as a good friend yet resent him for going kill crazy and murdering his whole family. Though the murder of his father looked to be an order he himself made to Nicholas and […]

Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There! – 07

I understand that for an anime adaption some character designs need to be simplified in order for an easier time to keep them in proportion in animation. But while the characters who suffer in this episode because of this are indeed minor characters, its really a shame to see them become something unrecognisable. The two […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 06

Well the story continues on from the flashback, showing Miki first joining the club. Right off the bat the episode pushes to answer the question of Megumi’s existence. It’s a answer that was pretty obvious by this point as the foreshadowing was pretty heavy on this particular detail but this episode makes it crystal clear. […]

Gangsta. – 06

When taking into account the show so far, I find that the quiet character moment stand out far more than the over the top fight scenes with knife wielding psychos on rooftops. The dialogue between characters is much more engaging that two characters jumping around like Bleach Soul Reapers. In particular it great seeing Worick […]

Latest Reviews

Little Witch Academia The Enchanted Parade – 81/100

I wonder when it was that a film being childish became a flaw. As a medium grows it takes steps to aim to mature itself and seek a more intellectual level of presenting entertainment. Animation did it as Anime aimed to explore terrontry that cartoons refuse to explore and video games only recently broke away […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks Review – 85/100

For a long time now this adaption has been the dreams of many a Fate fan with many believing it would never come to pass, but now that it is here is it everything that we dreamed? Short answer to this is no, long answer is nearly. I feel this show will have many divided […]

Shirobako Review – 80/100

When you see a harem anime and sigh as the breasts of the female lead jiggle with every step and wind that can flip a skirt it’s easy to forget that somewhere in Japan a group of people worked hard to get that jiggle right and draw each frame of animation. The hardships of the […]

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]

Clipboard01

Pokemon: The Origin Review – 75/100

Normally I try to avoid spoilers with these reviews, but screw it, it’s Pokemon. Pokemon The Origin is a bomb of nostalgia. If you haven’t played Pokemon Red, Blue or Green, then you will not enjoy this one slight bit. This really is made as pure undilluted fanservice for the fans of the first games. […]

Clipboard08

Tamayura – More Aggressive Review – 75/100

I’m not going to dedicate a post for my impression for the final three episodes of this series. It was just too boring to write much about. I guess that that gives a pretty accurate indication of what I think about this series. Right at the start of Tamayura’s second season, I asked one question: […]