Bartender: Glass Of God – Episode 1

By: Caitlin Moore April 5, 20240 Comments
Sasakura gazes at a ball of ice

What’s it about? A ritzy new hotel has opened in Ginza, but it’s missing one amenity: its bar, which is sealed behind a closed door. It will remain so until Kurushima Miwa and Higuchi Yukari are able to recruit the perfect bartender, one capable of creating the “glass of god.” What exactly does that mean? Kurushima and Higuchi aren’t sure, since their boss only told them they’d know it when they found it. Enter Sasakura Ryuu, a scatterbrained man who just also happens to be an award-winning cocktail bartender. Could he be who they were looking for all along?

I watched the original Bartender ages ago. To be honest, my memories about it aren’t very clear, as I mostly remember purely episodic stories about a bartender who picks out the perfect cocktail for the weary customers who end up at his old-fashioned counter bar. At a glance, I’ve noticed fans of the original aren’t particularly enthused by this new episode. Personally, I thought it was fine? Pleasant. Nothing terribly exciting.

Sasakura pointing to his smartphone with an awkward expression. Subtitles: Do you mind if I ask you something?

Bartender is, at its heart, an iyashikei series for adults. It’s the fantasy of, after a long hard day, going to a place where someone will identify your needs and care for you. It’s being in a space where, just for a short time, you can leave everything else behind. The bars of Bartender: Glass of God are quiet and atmospheric, designed for solitary contemplation rather than socializing, dancing, or even really getting drunk. The wall behind the bar is lined with backlit liquor bottles, and I could hardly imagine Sasakura pulling out a tap. Even the soda water he pours for a highball comes from a glass bottle.

Sasakura states, “In this world, there are two types of professions that absolutely must not deceive the customer. One is the physician or pharmacist. And the other is… The bartender. In either job, one small change to the formula is the difference between serving poison or medicine.” I’m no teetotaller, but this didn’t sit right with me. I didn’t like the conflation of bartenders and medical professionals. Alcohol is not medicine; the evidence for any touted health benefits of drinking is weak and are just as likely to be correlation as causation. Nor does drinking solve the characters’ problems. They’re enjoying a drink created by a person skilled at his craft, and who is attentive to their emotional states. That’s what’s healing to them after a stressful hunt for a new employee.

Soda water being poured into a highball glass

Lest my dear readers think I have a stick lodged up my ass, I’m not opposed to drinking! I’d love to try one of the cocktails at Edenshall, though I doubt I could afford it. I love having a drink with friends, whether it’s loosening up before doing a panel, tapping into my silly side for some Jackbox, or catching up at the local watering hole, I generally won’t turn down a good cocktail or a glass of cider. But at the same time, I firmly believe that alcohol isn’t a solution for anything, and comparing a bartender to someone who went to school for a long time to learn how the human body works is pretty ridiculous.

A flashy guy holding a cocktail shaker. Subtitles: 'Sup
This guy? On par with a surgeon.

To be fair, maybe I was just a little sour after the ludicrous false etymology for the word “bartender,” which Sasakura asserts means “a gentle perch.” You know, because a “bar” is a perch on which to rest and “tender” means gentle. UM, NO? That’s not what either of those mean in this case? Is this revenge for all the times white marketers claimed a Japanese word had some deep meaning, like claiming “yomi” means “reading your opponent”? I thought bartenders weren’t supposed to lie to their clients, Sasakura!


So yeah. I liked Bartender: Glass of God well enough, but its lofty claims gave it an air of pretension that I couldn’t really get past. Bartending is a skilled trade worthy of respect, just like any culinary art, but it’s a little silly to pretend that it’s more than it is.

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