In the last several months of my stay in Japan in 2011, I had heard of this J-Drama on TV Asahi titled "Bartender"（バーテンダー）starring Masaki Aiba（相葉雅紀）from Johnny's group Arashi（嵐）. I saw the commercials pitching this show and I quickly figured out that Aiba would be playing the typical J-Drama trope of a character who seemed to have one foot in reality and another one in surreality while possessing this otherworldly ability. For this show, Aiba was the bartender extraordinaire who could whip up the perfect drink to not only quench a troubled customer's thirst but miraculously heal his problems.
And I gather that this was an idea whose time had come. Bartenders the world over have been, rightly or wrongly, seen as counselors without the high fees per hour. A joke that I used to do when I was teaching English was whenever I saw one of my students plop himself/herself down in front of me looking a bit more down/stressed than usual, I took my handkerchief and pretend to wipe down the table as if I were a mixologist polishing the bar before asking "O-nayami desu ka?"（お悩みですか。Anything troubling you?）.
Little did I know that "Bartender" had its origins as a manga back in 2004 and that a couple of years later, Fuji-TV even released an anime version, presumably in the late-night hours. I saw Episode 1 just this morning when I first discovered that there had been an anime about it, and yeah, sure enough, the bartender Ryu Sasakura was there in the near-secret Eden Hall bar in Ginza ready to dispense the right drink, advice and solution to the imbiber in trouble. Yeah, the premise is probably corny to all heck but wouldn't anyone enjoy that sort of treatment at a classy all-wooden temple of mixology?...at least, until the bill comes.
I liked the ending theme for "Bartender", "Hajimari no Hito" (The First One) as well. This was the 9th and penultimate single (December 2006) by Natural High（ナチュラル ハイ）, a female duo with vocalist Yuko Shiroki（白木裕子）and pianist Kaoruko Ohtake（大嶽香子）. Ohtake was responsible for words and music, and for that matter, the score for the anime itself.
Although "Hajimari no Hito" relates the story of a woman reminiscing about her first love in high school a decade after the fact, I think it also fits the bar milieu. The soft piano arrangement rather approaches that Bill Evans type of jazz that could be heard in any classy drinking establishment but the song is still a pop ballad to me. Plus, Shiroki's vocals are as enticing as that kind bartender inviting you in for a spell of good drink and banter in comfy surroundings.
"Hajimari no Hito" peaked at No. 161 on Oricon. Along with their 10 singles, Natural High released a mini-album and 2 full albums. Their run lasted between 2003 and 2008.