From the acclaimed manga by Araki Joh comes the slice-of-life anime adaptation Bartender, a unique series which delves into the psychological elements of alcohol. The show went largely unnoticed when it aired back in 2006, yet it has managed to keep a steady number of fans who appreciate its natural atmosphere and calm story. The manga was very well-received among the older audience, both male and female.
The story focuses on Ryu Sasakura, a prodigy bartender who runs a bar called Eden Hall. With his talents, he is able to craft the best cocktails anyone has ever tasted. Throughout the show, Ryu meets a variety of customers from various backgrounds and social statuses. With both a compassionate ear and a godly drink, Ryu leads each of his customers to reflect upon their lives and decide how to deal with their personal issues.
It is often a questioned, how such a premise can be successful. It is true that Bartender is rather formulaic. Each episode starts with a new character or characters feeling the burdens of their lives taking its toll. Somehow, they always come across Eden Hall to have a drink. Not just any drink, however. It has to be the “right” one. By mixing the perfect drink, Ryu is able to help his customers in making the important decisions that trouble them. What makes the show great is the attention to detail. Each cocktail that Ryu serves is purposeful and deliberate, taking into account how the drink was created, why was it thusly named, and why do people drink it. All these elements are cleverly place together offering a sense of insight and awe whilst watching each episode. One can tell that Araki has a passion for cocktails and the history behind them.
Originality is something that is becoming increasingly rare in anime these days. When creators find a formula that works, they are less likely to take risks and more inclined to stick to what has proven successful. Bartender is one of the few series that offers something new to the scene by exploring the restaurant/bar service sub-genre. Though it eclipsed in popularity by the likes of Haruhi Suzumiya and Deathnote, it went on to inspire Antique Bakery in 2008 and Restorante Paradiso in 2009. One of the interesting things about Bartender is the fact that despite its originality, the show actually does little to take advantage of the medium. Bartender is one of those shows that, had it been a live action production, would have kept much of its substance.
Final Thoughts: 8/10
Bartender takes a unique premise and transforms it into one of the best slice-of-life anime of the past decade. It’s pace is slow yet deliberate and manages to incite an aura of calmness lacking in many slice-of-life series. Though the show is clearly geared towards older adults, it still manages to draw appreciation from many parts of anime fandom.