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Bartender

 

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Genre: Slice Of Life
Company: Palm Studio
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 10/15/2006 to 12/31/2006

“Even if the entire world is the customer’s enemy, the bartender must remain his last ally.”

Somewhere in the legendary Ginza district of Tokyo, behind a heavy, old-fashioned wooden door and an inconspicuous brass nameplate, one might find a wonderful little bar called Eden Hall. Behind the well-polished bar stands the “Glass Of The Gods”: Ryu Sasakura, bartender extraordinaire, with the perfect glass of cheer for all poor souls seeking a bit of solace.

summary by Papa-san

 

Reviewed: 1/1/2016 by

Grade: 80% av-Gendo

Highs: Intriguing stories, each a bit of a mystery which Sasakura must solve.

Lows: Virtually no action. This consists almost entirely of people talking in a bar, aside from flashbacks
and some outside sequences, which also consist mostly of people talking.

Produced in 2006 in honor of the alleged 200th birthday of the cocktail, this short series explores some of the history and lore of liquor, using the backdrop of an obscure Ginza bar called Eden Hall and the mysterious young bartender, Ryu Sasakura.

In the first episode, Sasakura explains to the harried Karishima-san that the heavy door and inconspicuous nameplate on the door make the bar like a secret hdeout, where you can shut out the rest of the world and face your own self: but it is Sasakura himself who is the real secret of Eden Hall. He has a marvelous insight into his clientele, and by a combination of keen observation and empathy (and perhaps a touch of magic? the opening song’s lyrics speak of “clairvoyance”), he knows exactly what drink to prepare which will unlock the drinker’s heart and soul. In a very real way, Sasakura is an analyst helping his patient achieve the climactic “breakthrough” which begins the real healing process.

Episodes are presented as Glass 1, Glass 2, etc., with the episode title following. Each episode is independent and there is no continuous story to speak of, although there are some recurring characters along with Ryu-san.

Most of this series is little more than people sitting in a bar and talking, although flashbacks and occasional outside scenes lend some movement and action. Alone, the 10th episode, a Christmas episode, lends some comic relief juxtaposed against some seasonal expressions of faith and hope.

Perhaps because cocktails and the liquors which go to their making are largely a western phenomenon, this series seems a bit more western-oriented (THERE’S an oxymoron!) than most of anime, and so may be a bit more accessible to a western audience.

Broadly, thumbs up to the art and animation. Visually, this is a treat! A lot of the background artwork is vivid and almost photo-realistic, particularly the bar shelves holding the many bottles portraying real liquors. Only the fact that the colors of the liquors inside the bottles betray that this is art — I assume for clarity, a lot of liquid which should be dark is much lighter than it should be, or a bizarre color — such as
whiskies appearing green. The CGI is quite visually distinct from the traditional animation, but is only sometimes awkward-looking. A few actual live shots occasionally interpolated add to the illusion of realism. In contrast, a lot of the traditional animation consists of simple still-shots, which tends to detract from the scenes.

On that line: the closing credit sequences are live action. We see an actual bar and bartender, with the name and recipe for some cocktail mentioned in the episode: then we see the bartender prepare and present it!

Opening theme seems out of place and not very interesting, either musically or the lyrics. Closing theme is better, although perhaps some of the translation seems a bit awkward. Incidental music throughout is good, if unmemorable.

Bottom line: perhaps not everyone’s cup of Amaretto, but certainly a pleasing change of pace from mecha battles, Uzi-wielding pre-teen girls, and undead vampires sucking people’s heads off. Thoughtful and introspective, and very much romanticizes both bars and bartenders alike.

Bartender can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

This was remade as a live-action series of the same name, which I think is better than this. There is quite a bit more backstory, character development, and plot. At least one plot point which in this anime is tossed off practically as a one-liner becomes a major thread in the live series. I’ll refrain from a full review of it, as this is Anime Academy, but it can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

I’ll close with one more tagline:

Memories, you know . . . are the proof that one has lived.”

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