Ryuu Sasakura is a young bartender returning home to Japan after spending his time in France to hone his skills as a bartender and to create the perfect drink, “God’s Glass.” Night after night, working at several different bars, Ryuu encounters many of the countless patrons to grace the Ginza bar district, each with their own burdens and troubles that only a seasoned bartender can soothe.
As a frequent bar patron myself, I know just how much a perfect cocktail can do after a long day of work and Bartender captures that feeling to a tee. Ryuu Sasakura, a world reknowned bartender in France now returned to Japan to find work in the Ginza Bar District. Ginza is famously known for it’s many bars littering the streets, most of them tiny, secluded, and seating no more than six to ten people. Bartending is a big deal, sometimes apprentices are not even allowed to start making drinks for customers until they’ve worked under the head bartender for years. Using fancy techniques, like the Ginza Hard Shake, Bartender pulls you into this culture of high class mixology and makes you feel like you’re sitting right there at the counter top yourself.
The story focuses mainly on Ryuu, with many supporting characters popping in and out, some of them recurring while others are a one shot. The character designs do seem to fall short; many of the designs seemed a little plain and even had me struggling to remember who was who after awhile. But I won’t knock on his illustrations of each of the liquor bottles – they are flawless! However, while the artwork is lacking, this Slice of Life manga focuses more on it’s characters and intricate knowledge of the Ginza bartending lifestyle. You learn a lot about how drinks are made, which liquors are used for each drink and the histories behind them – you even learn the recipes for most! But what does a good bartender really do? A good bartender takes care of their patrons, this is something that Ryuu, dubbed playfully “a nosy bartender”, seems to have to shortage of. It does seem cheesy to a degree: in comes customer, customer has a problem, bartender conveniently comes up with a solution, everybody’s happy. Sure, but Bartender does it so well, that you don’t mind how cheesy it is. The burdens and worries of the customer are usually heavy, and a drink offered by Ryuu is wrapped in more than just a solution. He gives a drink with a story or a meaning, and reminds the reader that just like culinary and performing arts, mixology and bartending has their own ways of reaching the human heart.