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
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 08:14 PM)
    The word Iran means “the land of the Aryans”, and the Germanic tribes that settled in Bavaria are correctly identified as nomadic people called Indo-Europeans, whom many settled in northern Iran. I heard similar theory of etymology for ‘Ireland’, but I’m not too sure about that one. So interestingly enough the Nazis were completely fine with Iran. The many strange forgotten wrinkles of history.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 08:10 PM)
    @K-off: believe it or not, I get confused for Spanish or Itaian all the time, so we probably share similar features. I have a Sicilian friend who’s also blond, and they’re supposedly the darker Ities, so I completely believe it.
  • K-Off
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 06:08 PM)
    Lots of people who don’t interact with Italians think we’re all black haired and brown eyed, but my dad is a blonde Italian while only my mother is a black-haired woman from Lecce. The guy on the flight was a black-haired Italian as well, but apparently terrorists look like well-dressed Italian hipsters doing differentials.
  • K-Off
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 06:01 PM)
    @Bam That reminds me of a fellow Italian American economist who got reported on his flight to Syracuse by some woman who thought the differential equations that he was working on in his notebook were terrorist scribblings.
  • K-Off
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 05:49 PM)
    @Bam Ha, I sympathize with you on the beard, after years of having one it feels uncomfortably bare whenever I shave it. Also helps out my resting bitch face.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 02:05 PM)
    Also the guy playing Cassidy in Preacher is actually Irish tho.
  • Bam
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 02:04 PM)
    @Kaiser: haa! That’s improbable. Gimme two weeks and I’ll be at Gandalf level. Just trying to keep people at ease.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 11:15 AM)
    @Bam: Ah, K-off wins the beard combat warfare =) lol
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 11:14 AM)
    Voice actors never seem to match their voices =<
    Then again I end up associating them so much with the characters.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, May 25. 2016 11:12 AM)
    @Bam: Oirishness/paddywhackery/Mick-Irish or in more simple terms, stereotypical Irish characterizations irritate me considerably….
    Especially Irish-American cliches, quite literally wanted to punch the screen when I was watching the departed for example.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Flying witch – 07

One of the thing that Flying witch always does it right is how it establish the chemistry between any characters, while at the same time maintain the consistency in their personalities. It feels like if you give them any random characters in any random situation, pretty much the show can hit it off. Last week […]

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World – 08

I feel bad for the artists and animators who made the opening and ending for this show as they don’t seem to be getting much use. Not that I am complaining of course as if the choice is between a catchy theme song and more content then content wins every time. Though it is a […]

Kiznaiver – 07

To some this may be the strongest episode of Kiznaiver to date. However to someone like myself I find myself mixed on what I just witnessed. I have said before that what I like about this series are the aspects which are distinctly Trigger which would be it’s sense of wacky humor and character chemistry. […]

Mayoiga – 08

Again this week Mayoiga succeed at bringing a big screw-you to us audience. The cliffhanger last week is quickly revealed, and we come to learn that Masaki is not a ghost, nor is she a witch, but simply that… she had visited the Lost Village before. Big surprise! It really is a ridiculous anti-climax, but […]

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 06

If you haven’t heard by now, the second season of Attack on Titan has been delayed till 2017 because Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is far too awesome for Studio Wit to handle in a single year. I really couldn’t care less about the delay since I already know what’s going to happen in season […]

Bungou Stray Dogs – 07

This week the plot revolving the Azure King was resolved and it raises the conflict of sense of justice between Dazai and Kunikida. Like what I suspected last week, all the new characters are in play in this episode and now I get the hang of Bungou Stray Dogs storytelling now. The new characters will […]

Joker Game – 07

You know, I am beginning to wonder just how do those lessons go at the D-Agency. Is it something like “Ok, class. Today I will teach you how to summon dolphins with a whistle. After that we will go over the magic rituals of Aleister Crowley and finally have a refresher on the finer points […]

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress OST Review

This will be the first time in my anime blogging career that I have ever done one of these anime OST review. It should be known that I have a complete bias for Hiroyuki Sawano as he has become one of the biggest composer for anime in recent years in some of my favorite anime […]

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World – 07

A certain criticism has loomed over this series from its very inception. As the series continued people have asked the question “How can Subaru brush off his horrific deaths so easily?” Today we have the answer to that question and that answer is that he doesn’t. It’s been building incognito in the background all this […]

Latest Reviews

Schwarzesmarken – 65/100

Schwarzesmarken is a strange title in that it has a setting with fantastic potential yet the story is dampened by a rushed pacing and Missing characterisation. Despite this there are signs of a greater story under the hood and at times that story can shine despite haphazard adaption. The Stasi make for a great villain […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 85/100

In the large reservoir of anime it is surprising just how few titles focus on the concept of time travel. There are of course titles which feature time travel but few that make it the core focus. So here we have Boku Machi or ERASED, a tale about a mangaka time traveling to his childhood […]

Gangsta. – 58/100

Gangsta is an anime with a lot of things going for it. A mature cast, gritty themes, a interesting setting and a trio of main characters who can carry the show. However due to a number of factors it never quite reached its potential. The main trio of characters are unconventional and quite interesting with […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 80/100

Gakkou is one with a good facade as promotional material would have you believe it was some dime a dozen moe slice of life. I was one who wasn’t fooled by the cute cuddly exterior but I was truly surprised with just how good this anime ended up being. Gakkou is one of those rare […]

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 […]