Attention to detail on the subject matter of alcoholic drinks.
Dull unless you love alcoholic drinks’ history.
No mystery or intrigue with a slow pace.
Almost no animation.
With little to say about Bartender, this will be a short review. As the name implies, this anime is about a bartender who can mix drinks like no other. By observing behaviour and attire, he can discern which drink is best for the individual. He remembers every drink he has served to any given person, while being a well of knowledge on all alcohol.
That’s really it. Each episode focuses on a few drinks, gives you their history, tells you the recipe, and wraps it in a light story of the bartender helping someone, possibly depressed, or in a search for the perfect drink, or someone in need of help. In every case, there is little conflict, if any, and most of the time passes with the facts. The lack of mystery had me dying to move on to another show.
Needless to say, this is a boring show to any but the most interested fans of alcoholic drinks and related history. It overestimates what alcohol does for people as if such drinks create miracles for your soul. While it is charming to see such passion and attention to detail for the subject matter, we all know that it’s far from reality – this isn’t the place for that debate, though.
Bartender is an alcohol history program swirling in a glass of anime with a taste of jazz and a slice of plot on the side.
Art – Medium
The environments are quite good, suiting the look of a bar. However, with no variety, get used to seeing the same compositions throughout. They shouldn’t have used CG for the drinks, as to stand out from the surroundings.
Sound – High
Music is Bartender’s strongest aspect. The jazz and piano tunes are fitting to the bar environment – it is exactly what you would expect from a quiet drinks lounge. Opening sequence is a mismatch, while the ending is perfect, using live-action footage of a bartender showing you how to mix a new drink each episode as musicians perform. It may be worth getting this soundtrack.
Story – Low
Not much one can do with a story whose focus is on alcoholic drinks in a bar.
Overall Quality – Medium
Recommendation: For fans of alcoholic drinks and their history; boring to everyone else.
Length: 13 episodes (12 is the finale; 13 is a bonus)
Fantastic art style and animation to create a vibrant, yet haunting world.
Well-suited music to the dialogue heavy plot.
Strong male and female protagonists.
Solid voice work to accompany the varied dialogue.
Dark humour from lead female is a pleasant change of pace.
Incoherent story overall marred by throwaway side characters.
Random screens of text flashing every few seconds.
Sexually creepy at times.
Too little character development, even from the protagonists.
No world building despite the incredible visual design.
Bakemonogatari is one weird anime. You don’t get many as weird as this one. This anime has people with spaghetti for brains and staplers as weapons. Probably the most normal thing here, as far as anime goes, is starting with a pantie-shot. From then on, it goes to a whole different dimension. The question we ask ourselves: Is this weirdness good? It does create greatness, but unfortunately, it brings several poor decisions along for the ride.
Immediately, I was struck by the vivid art of Bakemonogatari. Its brilliant use of light, shade, and colour is gorgeous. There is style here, plenty of it. Gradients give backgrounds depth on top of the multi-layering. All colour choice is deliberate, intended to match the mood and atmosphere of the characters and their situations, even at the cost of continuity – a room could be bright one moment and change to dark if the situation called for it, regardless of realism.
It is a shame then that poor choices mar these visuals. Bakemonogatari use a mix of live-action, stop-motion, collage pages, and text for metaphors and similes. At times, the change in art is both hilarious and clever, the rest, tedious and forced. The worst offenders are the screens of text; they flash at random intervals for no purpose. Every instance broke my immersion. Get used to seeing a flat colour with Japanese lettering and the subtitle ‘unidentified cut’ underneath. A dozen times. Per episode. Every episode. Unbelievably stupid decision to kill the atmosphere. It feels as though they had a great idea to use live-action, collages, and so on, and found them to work so well that they thought, ‘why not add more?!’ only to kill it all by going too far. Such a shame.
The plot swims in much the same ocean as the alternative art styles: greatness weighed by poor decisions. We start with protagonist, Araragi, running up a grand spiral staircase in what you can assume is his high-school (most expensive high-school I have ever seen, especially considering no one goes there – more later). He looks up to see a girl falling down the hundred-meter tower. He catches her (don’t question how she drifts twenty meters from the central axis into the stairs) only to find she weighs five kilos (still enough that it should have broken his arms from that height, however). With Senjougahara’s secret revealed, she cannot let him go; she attacks armed with a box cutter and a stapler. After she staples the inside of his cheek for the fun of it, he pulls open his mouth to show no wound. Turns out Araragi recently reverted to human after a stint as a vampire. They become tenuous allies to return Senjougahara’s stolen weight (from a giant ghost crab that also took her memories) with the help of his acquaintance who cured his vampirism.
This initial premise captured my interest; unfortunate then that it lasted but a few episodes before it took a tangent about a little girl with another supernatural problem. The tangent itself wasn’t poor, but lacked development of the main plot and romance. When yet another girl with a paranormal issue enters afterwards, one realises this show is on a formulaic cycle and has little to do with the initial promise. His former life as a vampire has no bearing on the plot. Senjougahara’s backstory seems forgotten, and the relationship development stalls until episode twelve – a fantastic episode, admittedly.
In all, five girls partake, including the lead female, which is why you see Bakemonogatari categorised as a harem anime, yet this isn’t one. Yes, creepy sexualisation exists with a side character or two, but nothing that constitutes a relationship or even a crush required by harem anime. At least they made the correct decision in that aspect.
One of the strangest factors is how the entire world’s population is nine: protagonist, five girls, mystic, minor vampire girl, and Senjougahara’s father. That’s it. No background characters at all, not even in a school big enough to have a glass tower of no purpose, and parking for a thousand bicycles. Is this a problem though? Not really, but it did reduce world depth. This brings me to another negative: no world building. Why is this ghost crab after her? Where do all these supernatural elements come from? Where is the lore, the backstory? You get nothing. The world feels empty despite the visual depth.
Bakemonogatari is heavily dialogue driven. You have to pay attention, as it moves at a brisk pace while you extrapolate what is relevant from the random junk littered throughout. Episodes tend to diverge halfway through into some long-winded tangent before they return on track – medium success rate. The camera likes to cut away to different angles during dialogue. Focus on someone’s feet, then their hands, the corner of the table, the wall, a badly framed shot of the face. Prepare for irrelevance as well. The side of a building, some grass, a window, dirt, more grass…
Allow me to stress that this isn’t for children, and not because of the nudity. Topics of discussion range from Araragi’s virginity to Senjougahara’s choice of clothing and even to some specific types of incest-like fetishes. Honestly, I didn’t even know those were actual fetishes… Anyway, they deal with deep psychological issues caused by broken families and assault on loved ones. Dialogues are largely between the two lead characters, where Bakemonogatari is at its best. The dynamic between these two is a pleasure to watch. I find it hilarious how her attempts to help him with problems (she’s the more mature of the two), end up abusing him instead, making things worse, except, she honestly believes she’s helping. The humour is along those lines: serious in delivery, ironic in reception. His stray lock of hair being a symbol for his arousal level is clever too.
Despite the negatives, Bakemonogatari is still an anime worth watching. For maximum enjoyment, I recommend you watch no more than three episodes at a time to avoid overload and to maintain your focus throughout. Marvel at the art, focus on the lead characters, and you will end with a positive opinion.
Art – Very High
Truly spectacular. From the light to the shade, marvellous work here. However, it is brought down by some obnoxious screen flashes that occur far too often.
Sound – High
The right actors to match the great dialogue. Music is enjoyable too, outside of the opening and closing sequences.
Story – High
Moments of greatness distracted by random elements thrown in for the sake of being random. Three of the five story arcs fall flat.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: Watch this for what it does right. Take Bakemonogatari in small doses to stave off what it does wrong.
Mind-numbing characters meandering through a pathetic plot.
Several disturbing elements like underage nudity.
The character voice work, especially for the protagonists, is either loud or whiny at all times, which gets annoying fast.
Where to start, where to start… This anime is terrible. There is really no other way to put it. I could probably leave it at that and advise you never lay eyes on this abomination, but you deserve elaboration.
The characters are awful. Not a single one of them is redeemable in any way. Every episode, you have to endure obnoxious character after obnoxious character, especially the leads. The boy, Sasshi, spends all his time either yelling like a twit or fantasising about fondling – among other things – the breasts of his older sister and grandmother… (As I write this, he just made out with his grandmother…)
No, you didn’t misread.
He is rounded out in stupidity by his friend, Arumi, who yells just as much he does, but thankfully doesn’t dream of groping her family. When she isn’t yelling, Arumi keeps hitting the kid over the head with a paper fan – typical aggressive anime girl behaviour – only, she doesn’t hit him when he’s at his stupidest. To be fair, that would mean her hitting him non-stop. For a comedy, they simply aren’t funny.
The supporting cast in no better. We have this old woman, (possibly a man, though she does have personal airbags on her) who hits on the kid, a low teen…and likes to be whipped and ridden by little boys. Sasshi’s older sister is even creepier as she’s always in the least amount of clothing for her younger brother…and likes to play dominatrix with her father and grandfather, followed by her brother. This has got to be some twisted fan-fiction; it’s the only explanation. There’s also a blue haired man called Abe, I think (unmemorable), who is supposed to be the sage or sorcerer of this world, or something. I have no idea, as he’s pointless.
The greatest mental challenge this anime presents is whether the characters or story are worse. The narrative, such nonsense, is difficult to describe. Best I give you random bits first (it will make just as much sense either way.)
It starts with the news that the restaurant owned by the girl’s family will be closing, the latest of many shops in the same shopping centre. That’s where the normality ends. Dragons appear in the sky, old people morph into mushrooms, and a rainbow bridge manifests before them. The two kids are transported to different worlds, each depicting the shopping arcade in alternate realities, a parody of something famous: Voltron, Bruce Lee, film noire, JRPGs, Apocalypse Now, etc. This isn’t anything new, to use a different pre-established world episode to episode, and has produced great results in the likes of Doctor Who. With Abenobashi however, it is nothing more than a gimmick, as the humour has nothing to do with the parody subject. Take, for example, the film noire episode: the joke is that getting shot turns you into a comic relief midget… Yeah, I don’t get it.
In the JRPG parody, they defeat the Great Evil Lord, a giant skeleton in armour, by waving a giant floppy sword (not a euphemism) at its chest so that its breasts inflate to such a massive size that, get this, it falls over and they pop, defeating the creature… I can’t make this up.
Wait there’s more! There are breasts bouncing around as balls, dinosaurs with breasts bigger than their heads, and you have to watch the kid urinate while running with his seabiscuit in hand. The humour is random and relies too much on the characters being imbeciles. They try throw a twist to the story, but since I care naught for anything at this point, I laugh (for the first time) at how feeble the writing is. Zero coherency and zero intelligence are the themes of this show.
At first, I thought Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi would be weird and simply not my sort of thing. A few episodes in however, it became more and more twisted, less and less funny. There is little to analyse here, for nothing makes sense, even the message they try to cram in at the end. I cannot fathom what audience the creators had in mind because it is inappropriate for kids with its underage nudity and not-so-subtle sexualisation, while too stupid for adults.
Art – Low
With characters super deformed for comedic effect at all times, it kills any potential for visual humour. No effort went into the art, especially the characters with no detail or lighting depth to them. Voice and mouth doesn’t synchronise half the time.
Sound – Very Low
Many of the music tracks are rip-offs of famous themes, especially Star Wars ones, done poorly. The voice acting is as obnoxious and ear grating as the characters, no matter if many of these actors have done great voices elsewhere. You may claim hearing damage compensation.
Story – Very Low
Such rubbish. The obnoxious and creepy characters would have been fine if humorous. They aren’t.
Overall Quality – Very Low
Recommendation: Don’t watch this torture. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi isn’t even so bad it’s good.