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Manga / Bartender

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Bartender is the title of a Japanese manga series written by mangaka Araki Joh and illustrated by Kenji Nagatomo. Its focus is a genius bartender who uses his talents to ease the worries and soothe the souls of troubled customers. There are also anime (2006) and live action (2011) adaptations.

Bartender follows the nightlife of Ryu Sasakura, a bartending prodigy who is said to mix the best cocktails anyone has ever tasted. Sasakura bides his time in his bar, Lapin (or Eden Hall in the anime), hidden in a nook of the Ginza district in downtown Tokyo. Over the course of the series, various figures of high and low stature, all of who share unusual troubles and heavy burdens, are "invited" in and are treated to Sasakura's fine drinks, which, with guidance from the young bartender, lead the customers to reflect on their lives and decide on a course of action to tackle their problems.


A prequel, showing Ryuu's return from Paris, and two spin-offs, following a different protagonist, were released somewhat recently as well.

This series provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Law / Artistic License – Economics: A minor tequila-related error appears in chapter 59. Ryuu states that Mezcal and Tequila are virtually the same drink, the only difference being that Tequila is manufactured in Jalisco. This is both true and false. Mezcal and Tequila are both made from Agave, but only a specific type of Agave (Blue Agave) is used in the manufacturing process for Tequila, and while Jalisco is the major producer of Tequila, other regions within Mexico, by Federal Law, can also manufacture the liquor and be legally recognized as Tequila, that is, certain regions within the states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Tamaulipas and Michoacan. Any Blue Agave based liquor manufactured outside the sanctioned areas by the Mexican Government, including other countries, cannot be called "Tequila", this is because Mexico holds the exclusive global trading rights to the word "Tequila".
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  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Ryu, thanks to his Sherlock Scan. It has backfired on him a couple of times.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Used in the only instance of nudity in the manga so far, involving Miwa.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The animated series. In fact, they compressed about 46 chapters, and three arcs, into 11 episodes.
  • Con Man: Ryu has a battle of wits with one.
  • Contemplate Our Navels: The entire series is rife with philosophical discussions on everyday problems.
  • Credits Gag: The credits for each episode includes the recipe for the main drink featured and a bartender showing how it is prepared.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The closing credits feature a video of a live-action bar, where a bartender prepares a drink (the drink varies depending on the episode). [1].
  • Deuteragonist: The series spends as much time to develop Tsubasa's progress as an aspiring bartender as it does explore Ryu's far more skilful exploits in dealing with their customers.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Most of the customers who come to Sasakura are troubled people who orders drinks to ease their pain.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Miwa's grandfather in the last volume.
  • Friendly Rivalry: The bartending industry generally don't bother to outdo each other, as each bar offers their own unique style of service that may cater to different clients. Some bars may even recommend their rivals if the clients is not pleased with their style.
  • Generation Xerox: Miwa looks just like her grandmother did in her youth.
  • Good Old Ways: Bartending, in general, in the series. They make a point distinguishing traditional "cocktail" bartending over the more commercial "club" bartending.
  • Greek Chorus: Seen mostly in the anime. The best example has several clients of Ryu's explain his backstory to each other in "The Face of a Bar"; it is also used in other episodes to a lesser degree.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Kyoko. Miwa, to a lesser degree.
  • Hidden Depths: Many of Ryu's customers, who appear as Jerk Asses at first, are later shown to either have more tender sides to them or nagging insecurities that made them appear that way, usually both.
    • "Mr. Perfect" Kuzuhara learned the philosophies that underlie his mode of bartending during months spent as an acolyte in a Buddhist monastery.
    • Ryu is smooth as ice and slicker than a silver bullet behind the bar. Outside of his professional setting, he is The Ditz, The Klutz and apparently completely obsessed with eating gyoza.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Ryuu turns out to have been disinherited by his family.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Being an Iyashikei series, the manga focuses on people taking time off to ponder life's challenges over a cocktail or two.
  • Jerkass: Miayu Emi, a nurse, acts like a complete Jerkass to others in the service industry just so she can feel better about herself. This has caused her to be blacklisted from several hotels.
  • Job Title
  • Just Friends: Ryu and Miwa, for the time being. Some ship tease moments have been scattered here and there, and Kyoko even lampshades that they could become more than that.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Kase gets to bartend one last time days before passing away of old age.
  • Like a Son to Me: How the senior Kurushima sees Ryu.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Several of the clients fall in this category. Including one who is broke.
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Kaze Gorou -> Ryu Sasakura -> Wakui Tsubasa. Being Kaze Gorou's first grand-apprentice opens a lot of doors for Tsubasa.
  • My Greatest Failure: Failing to dissuade one of his bar customers from committing suicide was this for Ryuu.
  • Oblivious to Love: Ryu
  • Off-Model: The anime tends to run into this, due to its low budget.
  • Ojou: Miwa is a downplayed version of this. Despite being the granddaughter of Kurushima Company CEO, she rather have a normal life than inheriting the company.
  • Old Master: Kase Gorou, Ryu's first master. Kitagata, Ryu's senior, gives off the vibe, but isn't more than a couple of years older than Ryu.
  • Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: A rare non-wedding example in chapters 136 to 143 features "Treasures of the Bar" which uses the the same wedding criteria for the purpose of collecting specific mementos to as good luck charms for reopening a new bar.
  • Parental Neglect: Apparently, Ryu went thru this as a kid.
  • Persona Non Grata: Two undesirable guests tried to skip on paying their bills. The third undesirable guest just liked to create problems in order to release stress.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Ernest Hemingway loved daiquiris. It's his love for daiquiris that gave birth to the Hemingway Daiquiri (also known as the Papa Double). His love for Mojitos is also mentioned.
    Hemingway: My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita
  • Secret Test of Character: The Martini competition for Kyoko, and possibly, the whole manga, up to the Eden Hall arc, so far for Ryu.
  • Self-Made Man: Ryu, the second son of a powerful man in Japan, most likely a high ranking diet member, yet he decided to run away from home and start working at restaurant and bars in France. It was there where he got his first big break.
  • Serious Business: Some people are way too impressed by Ryu's skills.
  • Sherlock Scan: Ryu has something similar just by looking at people's hands.
  • Ship Tease: Some moments in the manga, here and there, for Ryu and Miwa.
  • Shout-Out: Hemingway, The Luck of Edenhall, amongst other things — mostly references to the story of several spirits, famous cocktails and some real life celebrities.
  • Shown Their Work: At least when it comes to how drinks are prepared and the history behind the featured spirits and cocktails.
    • They completely avoided failing computational fluid dynamics forever.
  • Skilled, but Naïve: Ryu is at times shown to be this, in spite of his experience.
  • Slice of Life: The manga doesn't have a specific plot, or really any goal to accomplish, and deals with the everyday experiences at a bar.
  • Stealth Mentor: Mister Perfect Ryuichi Kuzuhara and Master Saito Higashiyama to Ryu. And Ryu, and Minami-san, to Kyoko, a young bartender girl. Ryu becomes a proper mentor to Tsubasa Wakui, although some of his mentorship is stealth.
  • Stepford Smiler: A good deal of Ryu's clients. It's considered a sacred duty of the bartender to allow this facade to be perpetuated, at least as long as the customer's still in the bar. However, Ryu will make some exceptions to the rule, such as when a con man tries to marry a girl for her money, after which he will presumably skip out on her; Ryu considers adding such trauma to a proposal, which is supposed to be the happiest moment of a young woman's life, to be unforgivable.
    • Ryu himself is one. Lampshaded by a client that says that no matter how bad or rude the client is, or how depressed and troubled the bartender is, its the bartender's duty to keep smiling as part of his job. Ryu confirms this in a later mini-arc.
      "No matter how much pain you feel inside, a bartender can never wear a painful expression on his face in front of the customers."
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Ryu, mostly when he's not on the job.
  • There Are No Therapists: Bartenders are just as good, it seems.
  • The Reliable One: In this manga, bartenders are one of the two professions (other than a pharmacist) which are not allowed to betray a customer. As a drink of a bartender can be a medicine or a poison.
  • To Be a Master: Subverted. Ryu Sasakura travelled the world, learning his craft from the best bartenders in the world, and has reached such a level of skill that he is known as "The glass of God". That is all in the Back Story. The manga begins as he has returned home and begins to apply his skills.
  • Walking the Earth: An interesting variation. Ryu moves from bar to bar on recommendation of his seniors, in order for him to improve even more. At this point, arriving back in Japan after spending 8 years in France, he starts in Bar Lapin, then moves on to Bar Saito, under the apprentice of Master Saito, later moves into Bar Eden Hall, and, later moves to Kurushima-san's new bar at Hotel Bishop, also called Bar Eden Hall.
  • The Watson: Tsubasa Wakui (Ryu's apprentice) is quite a newbie in the bartending world, and he asks many questions regarding the technical jargons associated with the industry that the Audience would otherwise not know about.