Bartender(Japanese: バーテンダー,Hepburn: Bātendā?) is a Japanese manga series written by Araki Joh and illustrated by Kenji Nagatomo. Its focus is Ryū Sasakura, a genius bartender who uses his talents to ease the worries and soothe the souls of troubled customers. The manga was first serialized in the Shueisha's Japanese manga magazine Super Jump between 2004 and 2011. The individual chapters were collected by Shueisha and released in twenty-one tankōbon volumes.
The manga was later adapted into an anime television series, which was broadcast between in 2006 on Fuji Television. It was also adapted into a Japanese television drama in 2011 that aired on TV Asahi, and two spin-off manga have been serialized in Grand Jump in 2012 and 2013 respectively. In Japan, the manga has sold over 2.5 million, while it received a mixed reception from English-language manga and anime publications.
Bartender follows the nightlife of Ryū Sasakura, a bartending prodigy who is said to mix the best cocktails anyone has ever tasted. Sasakura bides his time in a bar named Eden Hall, hidden in a nook of the Ginza district in downtown Tokyo. It is said that normal people cannot simply find and enter Eden Hall, but they must be invited in by the host. Over the course of the anime, various figures of high and low stature, all of whom share unusual troubles and heavy burdens, are "invited" into Eden Hall and are treated to Sasakura's fine drinks, which, with guidance from the young bartender, lead the customers to reflect upon their lives and decide on a course of action to tackle their problems.
Ryū is a genius bartender who helps the people who come into his bar. Both technically and artistically skilled in bartending, Ryū is able to decant wine from seemingly incredible heights. Although not thoroughly explained at first, Ryū actually runs the bar by himself, and Eden Hall was his first bar. He worked as an assistant for a senior bartender before he opened Eden Hall, and that gave him the experience he needed to handle the job. In episode 9, it is revealed that Ryū has in fact made a mistake by serving a cocktail in an incorrect glass to a lady, as she requested a different drink afterwards, despite his almost flawless outlook. He also served an incorrect cocktail to the man she was accompanying and tried to cheer him up but failed. Due to this, for every year after he opened Eden Hall, Ryū has reserved that one special night for this man whom was Eden Hall's first customer. Often, Ryū maintains his composure and throughout the story, puts on a brave and sincere effort to help the customers who fret and seem disturbed in his bar. He has been shown to handle all sorts of spirits and know most of the history of the drinks he serves. Ryū is also known to serve the "Glass of the Gods", and being entitled to this, made Eden Hall a pleasurable venue for customers seeking the menu of their hearts. According to the manga, Ryū is 26 years old. He is voiced by Takahiro Mizushima in the anime, and portrayed by Masaki Aiba in the drama.
Miwa initially comes to Eden Hall to ask Ryū to define what spirit was contained within a bottle she broke during her childhood. Miwa, when she was little, was shown to be the only child of the family. Her father decided one day, that he'd propose to Miwa's grandfather to change the inn that he has been running into a fully comfortable hotel-like bar, due to the change in era and customer's requests. However, Miwa's grandfather was hesitant, and decided not to take in his son's proposal. They later became apart and distant from each other, until the day came when Miwa's father called her grandfather and asked him to taste a special drink that he would like to present to him. On that fateful day that Miwa broke the glass as she gripped the bottle and ran towards her grandfather. She tripped and the bottle, which was encased in a bag, broke and its contents spilled. Miwa felt guilty as she thought if only they had the drink together, her father and grandfather wouldn't be apart like they used to. Not long after that, Miwa's parents were killed in a car accident, and this has halted her chance of ever finding out the name of that special drink. After much discussion with Ryū, the mystery of the drink was solved, and Miwa had the chance to finally allow her grandfather to have a taste. The drink was Suntory's Kakubin (referred to in the show as "Kaku"), and shortly after this episode, Miwa appears almost in every other episode as a side or minor character, and she usually narrates part of the story. She has been known to be a regular visitor at Eden Hall, and has invited one of her friends to the bar. In episode 7, Miwa takes care of Ryū after he has fallen sick, although she was unable to fetch a doctor. In the manga version of Bartender, Miwa works for Kamishima, the first customer featured in the anime. She is voiced by Ayumi Fujimura in the anime, and portrayed by Shihori Kanjiya in the drama.
The Bartender manga was written by Araki Joh and illustrated by Kenji Nagatomo and serialized in Shueisha's biweekly seinenSuper Jump magazine between May 2004 and September 2011. Between November and December 2011 it was serialized in Grand Jump, and the chapters were collected into twenty-one volumes with first one released on December 3, 2004, and the final one on February 17, 2012. The series is licensed by Haksan Publishing in South Korea, and by Sharp Point Press in Taiwan.
A spin-off series titled Bartender à Paris started to be serialized in Grand Jump in January 4, 2012. It was collected into six volumes; the first was published on June 19, 2012, and the last on December 19, 2013. It is licensed in Taiwan by Sharp Point Press. On November 6, 2013, a follow-up, Bartender à Tokyo commenced to be serialized in the same magazine. As of April 18, 2014, its first volume has been released in Japan.
The Bartender was adapted into an eleven episodes anime series directed by Masaki Watanabe and written by Yasuhiro Imagawa. It was broadcast on Fuji TV with the first episode on October 15, 2006, and the last one on December 30, 2006.Pony Canyon compiled the series and released it into 5 DVDs between December 20, 2006 and April 18, 2007.
The music for Bartender was composed by Kaoruko Ōtake, and released on an official soundtrack album on Novembery 29, 2006 produced by Sony Music Japan under DefStar Records label. The anime opening theme "Bartender" is performed by Natural High featuring Junpei Shiina while the ending theme "Hajimari no Hito" (始まりのヒト?) by Natural High. Both themes were released by Sony inside the single "Hajimari no Hito/Bartender" on December 13, 2006.
In November 2010, through the 24th issue of Super Jump, it was announced the production of a Japanese television drama series starring Masaki Aiba, who had been training with a professional bartender since September. Directed by Osamu Katayama and written by Natsuko Takahashi, it aired on TV Asahi "Friday Night Drama" time slot from February 4, 2011 to April 1, 2011. The series theme song, Lotus, is performed by Arashi, a boy band Aiba is a member. On August 5, 2011, TC Entertainment released all episodes in a DVD and Blu-Ray box set. Several tie-in products were also released, including straps, cups, pens, and candles.
As of November 2010[update], Bartender manga had sold more than 2.5 million copies in Japan; individual volumes frequently appeared on the lists of best-selling manga there. The television drama debut had a 11 percent television viewership rating while its finale earned a 11.7 rating, and the DVD box set sold 7,978 copies. At Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix it was voted the fourth best drama and Masaki the third best actor in a drama.
Bamboo Dong of Anime News Network (ANN) called it "a delicious ode to mixology", while Erin Finnegan from the same site stated there is "pretty craptastic CG" but she can "forgive it because" it is "self-aware of how cheesy" it is. ANN's Carl Kimlinger criticized its concept "as insipid, silly, and downright awful" and "monumentally uninspired". Although said "no stylistic elaboration on earth can save it from boring its audience to tears", he praised its animation. Writing for THEM Anime Reviews, Tim Jones called it "an interesting concept for an anime". Jones asserted the animation "isn't all that stellar", but commented the drinks in CG "look quite good". He found the character designs "fairly generic" except for Ryū, and the music "a little repetitive" all over 11 episodes although stressed it "fits the atmosphere of the show." David Welsh in the The Manga Curmudgeon declared the way Ryu use liquor to help other people "is a beautiful, uplifting message for a comic. Okay, maybe not, but it sounds like a lot of fun."