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
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 05:18 AM)
    Oh, awesome, dark horse is releasing volume 10 of black lagoon in April, its been nearly five years since the last complete volume…
  • Emma
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 03:56 AM)
    @Aidan: I think theres something seriously wrong when theres the actually possibility of there being a good PA works anime but we all have our opinions =P
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 03:13 AM)
    @Raggers, I will go into detail when I review it. But I think something is seriously wrong when I get a far more satisfying ending out of shirobako than Death parade.
    Looking forward to writing a review of shirobako too.
  • Raggers
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 02:56 AM)
    @Aidan: it wasn’t bad though. I think it suffered from too high expectations and lack of focus (or overreaching).
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Mar 29. 2015 02:29 AM)
    Well. Death parades ending was quite underwhelming.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 11:21 PM)
    Waiting between releases for this will be a good thing, its the sort of manga you pick up and put down, then go back to with breaks in between.
  • Emma
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 11:13 PM)
    13 volumes into dorohedero, I’ve found it good enough to buy now that I’ve caught up with the official English releases. While the plot meaders and is kind of messy, isn’t up to much, I love how crazy the gory action is, the gritty artstyle/world and the black comedy more than well make up for it. It works best when focused on those masked gangster magician guys and also the main character, the others are only alright.
  • Raggers
    (Saturday, Mar 28. 2015 02:19 AM)
    @Aidan: true, but I don’t think the level is anywhere close to a true shounen. And once the basic rules are established it’s strategising and straight out fighting.
    I’d be more inclined to call it seinen with shounen elements than actually shounen.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 27. 2015 09:59 PM)
    Good all action finale to cap off Garo there, went out with a bang, though thing is I have no idea where their going to go with this when the movie, second season comes along, this seems like a pretty good point to finish.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 27. 2015 05:35 PM)
    I think that just about all the manga serialized in ultra jump feel less seinen than those serialized in other seinen magazines.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Parasyte The Maxim Review-82.5/100

Parasyte, along with Gugure Kokkuri-San, are the only two shows from the last season that I’ve actually finished, and that’s actually saying quite a lot–seeing as how I haven’t been watching (much less blogging) anime at all this past season. However, I figured I should at least write a final review for Parasyte, just because […]

Death Parade – 11

So we are reaching the final conclusion and things are coming to a head. Chiyuki’s memories are restored and we find that in life she was an ice skater. An odd choice but it did lead to a rather beautiful scene of Chiyuki skating on Ice as she recalled her past. Admittedly I did try […]

Death Parade – 10

So Onna name is finally revealed and newly christened Chiyuki plays a game of old maid with a storyteller. Death parade, you are doing it again. You are drifting from what should be the focus of the series and really pushing this ongoing plot thread. So we learn a number of things. One, that Chiyuki’s […]

Durarara!!X2 – 09

  In reflection I think Durarara may have been a poor choice to blog. The reason being that when I sat down to watch this episode I was fully intent on finding something I could comment on. Then as the end credits roll I find myself at a loss to what to write about. With […]

Death Parade – 09

Well the end of the episode did get over melodramatic but still, a very good episode. It is rather amusing to see two people bond over a shared goal of revenge. Their thinking slowly edged towards a dangerous outlook it became clear that one of these two is not on the same wavelength as the […]

Durarara!!X2 – 08

No animation issues this time around thankfully. Really like the touch of Irelands flag on the cup Shinra gave the girl at their apartment. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Celty is indeed Irish. Probably one of the few Irish characters in anime. And here we learn that the one who told the little girl […]

Death Parade – 08

Why do you do this to me death parade? You dodge your true potential and instead focus on background exposition or, of all things, comedy. Then just as I was about to lose interest and give up, you present the best episode of the series so far. Now this, this is what I was talking […]

Durarara!!X2 – 07

I think the problem with this episode was evident right from the opening scene. I had to do a double take when seeing a very poorly drawn Simon. I even questioned whether it was a new character entirely. But no, the animation budget took a nosedive. Or the guy who was to do the inbetweens […]

Death Parade – 07

Why is the girl from the last episode still around? This episode brought up three rules about arbiters. The third rule, about arbiters not having emotions, Is odd to me. For the arbiters we have been introduced to are very emotional. They state that Decim was given human emotions yet he is the least emotional […]

Latest Reviews

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: […]

Clipboard04

Silver Spoon Review – 86/100

When Noitamina started airing two series per season, it was amazing. It’s a timeslot that on average tends to be aimed at a much older audience than usual, and having two series with the same mentality definitely helped to bring more diversity to anime overall. Unfortunately it’s a schedule that could not be kept up […]

Clipboard07

Yondemasuyo, Azazel-San Z Review – 82,5/100

Reviewing a comedy sequel usually is quite simple: in most cases it just drops the bomb and runs out of inspiration, and in rare cases it actually manages to stay hilarious. The tricky thing with these kinds of series is that you need to remain funny, and you need to have the inspiration for that. […]

Clipboard05

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet Review – 81/100

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet tells the storyline of a planet that is completely submerged, with only giant ships residing on the surface, while one of those ships gets visited by this guy and his AI-mecha from this very technologically advanced civilization. Yes, this show is about world building. What this show managed to do […]