Engaging Anime For Adults

If you ever find yourself in Tokyo’s Ginza district, take a break and visit Eden hall. Meet Eden Hall’s legendary bartender, Ryu Sasakura. He’ll mix you the perfect cocktail for what ails your weary soul, dubbed the “Glass of the Gods” by everyone that has ventured there.

Almost more educational than mere entertainment, Bartender’s eleven tenderly scripted episodes delve into the history and culture behind different alcoholic beverages from across the world.

Bartender is based on the best-selling manga by Araki Joh. The anime was produced in 2006, developing a cult fanbase outside of Japan for its smooth tales of lonely patrons and Ryu providing each customer with a drink that warms their soul. All the while incorporating the drink’s storied history into the conversation. He’s part therapist, friend and healer for his customers at Eden hall.

Well-crafted with heart and engaging writing, Bartender personifies warm storytelling

Cocktails and other alcoholic beverages from across the world are given their due. Hemingway Daiquiri, Old Parr, Black Velvet, Absinthe, Bijou, Moulin Rouge, Rusty Nail, Pastis Water – if these names mean anything to you, Bartender provides a crash course in how they came about and why they are popular in certain regions.

Customers from all across society visit Eden hall, often bringing their troubles with them. Ryu engages them with polite candor and understanding. The young bartender often relates the history of a particular alcoholic beverage with each customer’s personal issue, everything from exotic cocktails to simple vodkas. That is how he makes the perfect drink for each patron. These are genuine and sincere morality tales where the customer leaves feeling good.

Bartender has a small permanent cast beyond Ryu Sasakura, as each episode brings in new customers with different problems. There’s the awkward couple meeting on a first date, a filmmaker that has lost his inspiration, a con man trying to swindle a young woman, an aging businessman that always orders expensive drinks. These are human tales tinged with love, loss, regret and tender emotions.

Not all anime programs are flashy adventures or wild concepts geared for teenagers. Bartender is solely aimed at adults with its engaging slice-of-life narratives. These are simple, often nostalgic tales without giant robots or catgirls. The mature storytelling takes a sentimental and respectful look at the craft of bartending while presenting interesting stories about popular alcoholic beverages. Well-crafted with heart and engaging writing, Bartender personifies warm storytelling.

Learning about the history of cocktails may not be intended for everyone. Bartender is crafted for a specific audience that loves their spirits, but the anime serves that niche with classy elegance and style.

Video

Authored by AllTheAnime out of the UK, eleven episodes of the traditionally animated Bartender are spread across two BD-50s. Encoded in high-bitrate AVC, that seems like overkill for episodes that barely run over 22 minutes. The 1.78:1 presentation is shown at 1080P resolution. There are no technical issues hampering these Blu-rays beyond the anime’s own limitations. It’s very possible these encodes are duplicates of the original Japanese discs. Fans should be happy as long as they understand Bartender never looked that great in the first place.

First released in 2006 when anime was still stuck in the transition between SD and HD, Bartender’s animation doesn’t spring to life on Blu-ray. Colors don’t glow with vivid clarity like newer anime. The hand-drawn animation features simple character designs and very sparing movement. The picture is soft with minimal detail.

Most of the animators’ focus seems to have gone into faithfully reproducing each bottle of alcohol in exacting detail – nice reproductions of labels from Gordon’s Orange Gin to Guinness, and many other well-known alcohol brands, receive screen time.

Bartender’s video quality isn’t going to wow anyone, greatly limited by its original animation. Outside of a few CG splashes in the credits, its animation style owes more to the 1990s than newer anime made in true HD today. Many anime made in the 2000s were animated below HD quality – 540P wasn’t uncommon. Bartender is likely one of them. The colors are flat and dull. Black levels are merely okay, while not offering the inky darkness we’ve come to expect from newer anime productions.

Audio

The 2.0 Japanese PCM audio offers intelligible dialogue without issue. Bartender is a dialogue-driven anime with a subdued musical score. The sound design is pedestrian with a laid-back approach that barely utilizes the stereo soundstage. A perfectly decent recording that doesn’t draw attention to itself.

The atmosphere is mainly light piano music playing as an underscore, music you might hear at a Japanese piano bar. Veteran Japanese voice actor Takahiro Mizushima plays Ryu. Those expecting an English dub will be disappointed. The opening and closing themes are performed by Natural High.

English subtitles play in a white font. They cannot be turned off, likely a condition of the license. The translation is very straightforward and doesn’t take liberties with the Japanese dialogue.

Extras

Outside of Funimation, Sentai Filmworks, and a handful of smaller labels in North America, many anime never receive distribution outside of Japan. Bartender came and went in 2006, getting a small DVD and BD release in Japan. It never hit physical media in English-speaking countries before this premium edition set. Those Japanese releases have been out of print for years and go for major bucks if you do happen to find them.

That has now been rectified by Anime Limited (better known as AllTheAnime) in the UK. Shout Factory has picked up AllTheAnime’s 15th Anniversary Blu-ray Collector’s Edition for distribution in North America, porting the same discs and packaging. The only difference appears to be region coding. The Shout Factory discs are coded for Region A.

The two-disc set is a classy, handsome affair. Enclosed in a deluxe chipboard slipcase, 4 drink coasters from Eden hall and 9 cocktail cards on glossy card stock are included. Mixing drink recipes with topical histories of certain alcoholic beverages, the cards are fairly interesting bonuses worth reading. So anyone looking to learn how to mix a Grass Hopper or a Black Velvet, this is for you.

Actual bonus content found on the discs is listed below.

Clean Opening Credits (01:20 in HD)

Clean Closing Credits (16:33 in HD) – Each episode’s distinctive closing credits are included.

Clean Bumpers (01:51 in HD) – The artful bumpers are provided sans text.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Bartender
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Series

A creative anime made for adults that explores the history of alcoholic beverages from across the globe with tender detail and emotive storytelling.

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