Have you ever stumbled upon an anime that is so under appreciated, so underrated, and so forgotten? Forgotten to the point where you don’t know a single one of your friends has even heard of it before. Well that case scenario for none other than Bartender. So ladies and gentlemen… sit back, relax, and pop a bottle of champagne while I introduce to you for the first time… Bartender.
Before you freak out about the score, let me give reasons as to why. For starters the biggest reason is due of the fact in which the show is episodic. Not episodic in the way of having an overarching plot and having each episode include their own little story, for example Cowboy Bebop and Kekkai Sensen. Instead the show takes a slower approach in which each individual episode has a new patron each episode, each of these patrons have a different backstory, occupation, and ambition in life. Every episode takes its time to have the patron talk about their life goals or struggles meanwhile having the bartender be of aid to them, all of the while introducing both the viewer and the patron to a new type of drink that they may have never heard of before. One additional thing that I find kind of interesting thing that occurs at the end of each episode and that is how the show provides the recipe to the drink being served in the episode.
A few problems that I personally have with the show is how each episode is too structured: patron walks into bar, customer explains past, bartender does some life counseling, bartender gives patron drink, patron is satisfied and leaves, end of episode. The problem about this is how the bartender always is able to solve the problem almost instantaneously, it’s as if he always knows the exact drink to serve the patron without ever accidentally serving the wrong drink. Another item of concern is how the show can get extremely philosophical at times when it’s just not necessary in certain situations.
My personal favorite episode from the series is episode 8. This is mostly due to the fact in which the episode ignores this pattern and how the patron decides to challenge the bartender instead of lecturing about his life story to the bartender.
I’m adding the “(s)” into this category due to the fact in how even tho the show introduces a wide range of characters, but only one of them is recurring in every single episode. And that man is the young twenty-six year old bartender & owner, Ryuu Sasakura. Ryuu is the owner of Eden Hall and is widely considered to be a genius in his occupation, so much so that he was given the nickname/title “Glass of Gods”. Ryuu is cool, calm, and knows how to deal with a large variety of circumstances all while still remaining on the side of the patron no matter how bad the person is… even if they are Donald Trump…
One thing that was bothering me about Ryuu he was always shown to be a man who never makes mistakes, someone who is never wrong. Up until two-thirds of the way through, Ryuu had always been shown to be the god of bar-tending… then you finally learn how he has been wrong in the past. This discovery is a nice thing to add, however at that point it is a little too late to be revealed about something like that especially since most people have already formed an opinion about the character at that point.
The opening to the series is one in which I feel like would have been orchestrated better if it were to be an instrumental opening like Baccano, Cowboy Bebop, and Trigun. The problem with the opening that I feel is that the vocalist for the OP is one in which I am really not fond of, this is to the point where in some episodes that I feel like I would want to skip the opening in it’s entirety. Most people who know me realize how I almost never skip the opening to a series unless if I am marathoning the show, in this case I was not. Overall the animation to the opening was good and gave a clear depiction of what this show has to offer however in my personal opinion, I really was not a fan of the song itself.
As for the ending, it is slow and relaxing. The song is a great depiction of what the show’s themes are. The main talking point about this ending theme is not about the song, it is about the visuals playing in the background. Bartender’s ending theme is unlike anything that I’ve ever seen in an anime, and that is in the sense how their is an actual video of a bartender creating the drink that was on display in the episode. One other thing to note about this ending is how there is always a recipe at the beginning of the animation on how to make the main drink being represented in the episode. Overall, I felt like it was an interesting idea and was executed effectively.
Lastly, the soundtrack in this show is slow and fits the scene perfectly, so well that you might not even notice how there is music being played in the background. That is exactly how a soundtrack should be fully incorporated into a scene unlike a little show called Grimgar (which is currently airing at the time of this review’s release). The soundtrack is not anything particularly special or memorable, but it works well for the series and that is all you can ask for a soundtrack to accomplish. As for the music itself, it tends to be a combination of both piano/violin and sometimes guitar and that is all it needs to be fully able to integrate effectively with the series in order to elevate every scene in the show.
If you had to ask me, I would say that my personal favorite songs from the soundtrack would be the following: Red Eye, Manhattan, Margarita, and Gin Tonic.
The art and animation in this series is one that might be comparable to Rokka no Yuusha, not in sense of style but in the sense of it being one of the weakest part of the show. Some scenes may be animated beautifully but others might be animated poorly, and it is very noticeable for most viewers. Just wanted to also mention how the bottles and glasses in the series are all CGI’d in. I believe that this is perfectly acceptable since it still looks just as good if it were to be animated. Unlike throwing in tens of hundreds of the same CGI designed character like Arslan Senki had, there are about one hundred different bottle designs one the shelf to be on display.
I understand that the art and animation are poor at times but I am not putting blame on the studio who made the show. In reality, I would personally put the lack of production budget for the series at blame.
Overall, I believe that this is a series that I personally enjoyed but could easily see some people calling the show “boring” and I would not try to defend that statement because it is true for most people. Bartender is a show that I believe is worth watching but only if you have been experienced in watching either Mushishi and/or Kino’s Journey. Since this is a case, I would personally recommend those who are interested to watching by telling them to watch at most three episodes per day. Bartender was a unique & interesting watch and could recommend to others but is not one that I would tell people to watch immediately. One tragic thing that occurred for this show is how it sold so poorly in japan is that the studio ended up going bankrupt the following year, and sadly I believe that this might be the case for one of my favorite shows of last year… Rokka. I just find it to be a real shame in how you can not watch this show legally in the United States, there is no BD or DVD and it is not being streamed on any of the legal sites like Crunchyroll, Funimation, Hulu, Netflix, etc.
In conclusion, I fully enjoyed this series and would be honored to give it a high 7/10 score. It was right on the edge of pulling an eight from me, but I carefully thought to myself and decided on the score that I ended up giving it.
“Here’s hoping that when you leave, you are a little happier than when you came in.” – Ryuu Sasakura
I will be busy for nearly all of next week due to touring different colleges during my Spring Break. I’ll try to get a review out, but can’t guarantee anything. Sorry for the back to back if’s and maybe’s. I might review Anthem of the Heart next, but it isn’t a definitive yes or no.