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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar 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. Avatar demiplayer says:

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

Leave a Reply

Star Crossed Anime Blog

7 User(s) Online Join Server

Featured Posts

Vinland Saga – 7 [Normanni]

Welcome to the true start of Vinland Saga, as this week adapts what was originally the 1st Chapter of the manga. This week Thorfinn hits puberty, Askeladd makes bank and the French get laughed at. Lets jump in! Starting off, this week was a series of highs and lows for Vinland’s production. I said it […]

DanMachi2 – 6 [City of Lust (Ishtar Familia)]

DanMachi, as an anime, grew up this week. From the show that brought you the cosplaying mechanic of the “Hestia ribbon” comes an episode dealing with largest taboo in hero anime, and in some ways, Japanese conservative culture as a whole. Watching DanMachi this week is like this: you have a friend who you hang […]

Kimetsu no Yaiba – 20 [Pretend Family]

After last week’s episode, I had high hopes for Kimetsu no Yaiba this week. Sadly, I think I came away from it with more criticisms than complements. Perhaps natural, since living up to last week was nigh impossible. But I wasn’t prepared for Yaiba to undercut its best episode either. Welcome to Yaiba, episode 20, […]

Dr.STONE – 7 [Where Two Million Years Have Gone]

Ah today is a good day. The day where Dr.STONE reinforces what I loved about it when I first read it. You see this week Science takes center stage, we meet the ancient sorcerer Chrome, and the legendary Kinro gets his fabled weapon. Enough with the preamble though, welcome to this weeks Dr.STONE and lets […]

Mononoke – 2 [Zashikiwarashi – Part 2] – Throwback Thursday

There really isn’t a good way to introduce this episode. Nothing is really going to soften the madness of what I just watched. As this week Mononoke has given us one of the darkest/creepiest yet most endearing episodes I have seen in a long time. So let’s just get on with it. Starting off, a […]

Cop Craft – 06 [Need For Speed]

Cop Craft mixes up many unusual elements such as porno magazines, gay policeman, car chases and even romance into its trip this week. The result is that while it’s light in content, it proves to be more entertaining than when it deals with serious plot. While at this point I still prefer the relationship between […]

Kanata no Astra – 08 [Past]

There sure is a lot to unpack in Kanata no Astra this week. Kanata no Astra loves to give clues, and with every reveal it opens up more questions and make it think how all these puzzles fit in a big narrative frame. I must say that I am enjoying the ride so far, it’s […]

Lord El-Melloi II Sei no Jikenbo: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note – 6 [A Girl, a Department Store, and a Gift ]

It turns out that next week will be the beginning of the adaption of the source material of volume four and five and this episode marks the end of original anime content. I rather like this episode as it breaks away from Waver solving cases and has a fun little shopping adventure with the three […]

Vinland Saga – 6 [The Journey Begins]

Another week, another dose of Viking murder, courtesy of Vinland Saga. This week we watch our baby boy grow up, learn a bit about Viking history, and get into the series proper. Let’s dive in! Starting off, as always, the production aspect. This week showed us some of the cracks in Vinland’s production. For while […]

Latest Reviews

Serial Experiments Lain Anime Review – 78/100 – Throwback Thursday

Serial Experiments Lain is weird. It is a series unlike any other, wholly unique in anime, both modern and historical. Every aspect of it, from presentation to narrative, is best described as an experience. It is because of this that I believe Lain is a must watch, if only to experience a piece of anime […]

Penguin Highway (2018) Movie Review – 89/100

You’re walking along in your neighborhood, going about your daily routine. It’s a fine morning. The sun is shining brightly. But suddenly, you see something strange. You squint your eyes; even rub them, to make sure it isn’t a mirage before exclaiming with excitement, “Oh, look. It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane! No no. […]

One Punch Man Season 2 Anime Review – 34/100

Often at the start of one of these reviews, I will wax philosophical about a series. Attempting to slowly draw you, the reader, in to whatever topic or anime I am discussing in that review. This time, none of that. This time, I have to come out and say from the beginning, that One Punch […]

Dororo Anime Review – 55/100

In the modern anime sphere, getting a complete story, start to finish, is a rare thing. As is getting an adaptation for an older work. Dororo however has, through the grace of Twin Engine, managed to get both of these. Based on the 1967 manga of the same name by legendary Mangaka Osamu Tezuka, Dororo […]

[Star Crossed Anime Exclusive] Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection Review – 80/100

I was lucky enough to be at Sakura-con in Seattle on 20 April 2019 for the Funimation’s movie premiere of Code Geass’ third movie with the Director himself, Gorō Taniguchi, along with his senior staff in attendance inside a room full of raving fans. Was it was worth the decade-long wait to have a worthy […]

Paranoia Agent Anime Review – 67/100

In an era of the mundane, where every series is the same moe blob, the weird sticks out. Even the most mediocre series can get attention just by being weird. Paranoia Agent is not mediocre, and it is far beyond simply “weird”. Written and Directed by Satoshi Kon, Paranoia Agent is one of his last […]

Boogiepop wa Warawanai (2019) (Winter 2019) Anime Review – 78/100

Just like the titular character, Boogiepop Phantom the series has become some sort of urban legend itself in this medium. Its Light Novels are amongst the first Light Novel ever released, dating back to mid-90s. Moreover, the franchise has endured the test of time, as it inspires anime, live-action adaptations and Boogiepop is a well-known […]

Kouya no Kotobuki Hikoutai (2019 Winter) Anime Review – 77/100

Coming to Kotobuki, there are lots of aspect that catch my attention: it’s from a famed director Tsutomu Mizushima who can turn the most trashable and genre-able concepts into something intriguing; it’s an CG show about air pilots: it has extended aerial combat set-pieces. Watching it till the end, I have to tip my hat […]

Kemurikusa (2019 Winter) Anime Review – 79/100

Kemurikusa is your very definition of an overlooked gem, one that never really gain much discussion anywhere, but one that has a distinctive style from an up-and-coming auteur who has full control of his projects. Coming to Kemurikusa, all the attention it has came from the fact that it is created by TATSUKI, a mastermind […]