Creator: A Palm Studio Production
Director: Masaki Watanabe
Length: 11 Episodes
Anime Not Licensed
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+ Insightful dialogue
+ Beautiful animation
+ Story lingers like a beautiful dream
Bartender lingers like a beautiful dream. It slowly draws us in with beautiful animation and subtle dialogue focusing on emotions such as loss and regret. Episodes end on a hopeful note as Ryu's guidance helps each new character find his or her own solution to their problems. Teenagers and young adults may be bored by its slow pace but older adults will likely be drawn in by its slice-of-life drama and philosophy about the real reason people go to bars. Also most episodes end with a recipe for one of the cocktails featured in the show. It's a great show... take a taste.
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Bartender Anime Review
Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 2/5/2009
Human beings have always enjoyed alcohol. In ancient times, the forms of alcohol available were beer, wine and mead. They were relatively simple to make through the process of fermentation: mashed up fruit, grains, or honey were mixed with water and yeast, placed in a barrel and allowed to age until alcohol formed. In many cases beverages such as beer and wine were a safer source of water than pure water -- nothing harmful can live in alcohol and those micro-organisms that do live in alcohol are beneficial to human beings. Beer, which ancient societies may have discovered before the invention of bread was also a source of calories from carbohydrates, which were essential to the working man in the pre-industrial age. Drinking alcohol also became associated with religious experience and artistic inspiration -- alcohol was seen as a gift from the gods or the medium through which gods entered and communicated with us. In the Middle Ages, alchemists searching for the elusive water of life stumbled onto distillation through which alcohol could be further purified through an elaborate process of heating and cooling. In was in this way that spirits such as whiskey and vodka were developed -- both words can be translated as "water of life". In the 19th century, an increasingly urban population began demanding increasingly sophisticated and complex alcoholic drinks. It is in this time that the bartender was raised from the man who simply poured the drinks to a craftsman -- a "mixologist" who not only knows the recipes for hundred if not thousands of mixed drinks but also makes and pours them with the flourish and showmanship of a magician and a more patient ear than any therapist.
Originally created by Araki Joh and illustrator Kenji Nakatoma, Bartender is the story of Ryu Sasakura, an exceptional bartender at the mysterious Eden Hall, a bar hidden away in the Ginza district of downtown Tokyo where those with troubled lives are invited not only to imbibe Sasakura's expertly made cocktails but also receive guidance through their problems.
As the story opens we learn that Eden Hall is hidden in a dark corner off the main drag in Tokyo's Ginza district, its bartender, Ryu Sasakura has the disarming habit of knowing what a patron wants to drink even before they order it and has earned the nickname God of the Glass. In each episode Ryu meets a character whose life is troubled and through the bartender's art, helps the person through the problem. Ryu is an interesting character. He is not just a brilliant mixologist, he is a philosopher, and has a Sherlock Holmes-esque talent for deductive reasoning.
Show More For instance, in the first episode, "Bartender", we are introduced to Kamishima a contractor and hotel remodeler who has nothing but contempt for bartenders, he refers to them as "bartens" and sees them as appliances whose sole purpose is to serve customers, believing that a bar's clientele are brought in by factors such as contemporary design and efficiency of service. His current project is behind schedule and over budget leading to friction between himself and his superiors and between himself and his underlings. He drinks every night to calm his nerves and hasn't been home in months. One night while angrily wandering around the city, Kamishima finds himself in front of Eden Hall and against all his better judgment, he is drawn inside. Ryu explains the history of the name Eden Hall: the name is derived from an English folktale about a nobleman who stumbles into a gathering of fairies. The next morning, after the fairies have departed the man discovers a mysterious glass inscribed with a warning that whoever breaks the glass will never again receive the hospitality of Eden Hall. In commemoration, Ryu keeps an ice sculpture of the Eden Hall glass on permanent display near the bar. Ryu begins to explain his philosophy of bars to Kamishima. A bar isn't just a place to drink in, it’s a place where customer goes to forget about his worries, to be comfortable, and hide away from the world. When broken down, the word bartender really means a place of gentle rest. The bartender, Ryu explains, is like a physician in that each is trusted to sell substances that can be medicines or poisons depending on the proportions. Using the ice from the Eden Hall sculpture, Ryu fixes Kashima a "water-mix" and before he knows it, Kamishima explains the origin of his contempt for bars. As a student, Kamishima took his first trip into a bar, he rang up a large tab, and when it came time to pay, Kamishima was embarrassed to discover his money had all fallen out of a sizable hole in his pocket. The bartender told Kamishima to settle his tab later but the embarrassed Kamishima never returned. After visiting with Ryu, Kamishima is able to complete his bar remodel incorporating Ryu's philosophy of trust and hospitality.
Show More Bartender should be shown in bartending schools. It is not only an entertaining series. It is a deeply philosophical one. It sees bars not so much as a place for drinking but as a refuge for finding lost dreams, reliving lost memories, and generally refreshing the spirit. For example, in the second episode, "Menu of the Heart", Miwa Kurushima comes to Eden Hall to find out which liqueur was in a bottle she broke as a child. The bottle was intended for her grandfather, the head of a family that has run an inn for generations. A member of the WWII generation, he is devoted to operating a traditional Japanese inn where the guests are treated like family. He has particular feelings about service and hospitality. He endows his favorite cocktail, the aphrodire, with his memories of his late wife, and he has served room temperature rather than ice cold because the first time he tried one was just after the war when refrigerators were still uncommon and bartenders had difficulty chilling their glasses. His son, Miwa's late father, was a creature of business driven contemporary Japan who believed the future lay in high rise western style hotels, not in quaint country inns. Each man's obstinance about the issue threatened to tear the family apart. When Miwa was four, he father attempted to reconcile with grandfather by offering him a special drink at dinner. However, in her excitement, Miwa breaks the bottle before cocktails are served and shortly thereafter her parents were killed in a car accident. Miwa has spent years searching for the special spirit and Ryu, following clues from her story, surmises that the drink her father intended to serve was Suntory's Kakubin -- the first Japanese whiskey. He suggests that Miwa's father wanted to send the message that just as Suntory was able to create a western style liquor such as whiskey that appealed to Japanese tastes, there family hotel business could create western style hotels that still carried on the Japanese style of hospitality.
Structurally, Bartender is built much like the cocktails it celebrates. Visual and story elements are slowly layered in until the audience gets a complete picture of the story and the characters. One major motif, carried over from live theater is the technique of breaking the so-called fourth wall -- characters often speak directly to the audience. These scenes are cleverly edited so that they begin with the character speaking to the audience but transition to the character speaking to the person they are having a disagreement with. Unlike anime that most people are familiar with, there is very little action in Bartender, like a play, the story is told through dialogue, with often seemingly insignificant snippets later proving to be more important than they seem. Each episode is only 23 minutes long but they are so well written and beautifully animated that they develop a more satisfying portrait of their characters than many full length films. Like a good, cocktail, when each episode is over it lingers in the memory.
Bartender is a very adult series but not in the sense that there is anything objectionable in it that that children shouldn't see such as sex or violence but because it deals with concepts such as loss and regret that most young people don't have experience with yet. The audience for this series is adults who realize that the bar isn't a place for getting drunk but a refuge from the daily grind where the world weary can refresh the spirit, remember the past, and find the future. It is also for those who drink because they appreciate a good cocktail as work of art by a master craftsman not just a medium for getting drunk.
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