The story is a comedy about Lucius, an architect of public bath houses in ancient Rome, who time-travels to various modern-day baths in Japan. The author explores the two cultures in the world "that have loved baths the most: the Japanese and the Romans."
Please note that MAL considers this show to be 3 episodes and not 5. See More Info for additional details.
It’s not every day you run into shows that are just plain eccentric, especially one that's centered on baths. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me, thanks to a little TV special I stumbled upon called Thermae Romae, based on Mari Yamazaki’s award-winning manga of the same name. It may seem like just another low-quality show with no point whatsoever, but Thermae Romae is a fairly humorous show that has a surprising amount of depth to it. Set in ancient Rome, it follows the bizarre, time-trotting adventures of public bath architect Lucius Modestus to modern-day Japan.
Despite the seemingly dumb premise, Thermae Romae’s story is entertaining
in its own right. Using time travel as a plot device is a pretty unique and comical way to teach people some casual, though intriguing facts about both Japanese and ancient Roman cultures. What’s great about Thermae Romae is that it doesn’t beat around the bush and gets straight to the point in exploring the similarities and differences between Roman and Japanese baths.
What’s the most enjoyable about Thermae Romae are Lucius’ reactions whenever he periodically has glimpses of a different and significantly more advanced society than his own. You could say the show indirectly addresses the issue of how a foreigner would react in a relatively unknown land, due to the extreme culture shock they’re experiencing, and vice versa. From generating your voice through an electric fan to having an exaggerated reaction to eating not-so-instant ramen for the first time; somebody’s bound to do one of these things or something similar when they’re put in the same situation as Lucius. Hell, I haven’t been to Japan yet, but I bet my first time will resemble the latter. Like something trivial as being astonished with voice-operated toilets or bidets…and the Japanese natives would just look at me like I’m crazy. It’s moments like this that make watching Thermae Romae amusing.
From a distance, it’s easy to dismiss Thermae Romae’s animation as terrible, but the show is more concerned with the method it presents itself. The flash animation style could be compared to other similar shows like it; FX’s Archer comes to mind or basically anything from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, such as Sealab 2021 or Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Also, the variations between the character designs is as deliberate as they get, serving to denote the physical, cultural disconnect between Japan and Rome. And probably, on a smaller note, poke some fun at the different drawing styles used by various animation publications.
Thermae Romae’s notable style fits the light-hearted, intentional tone it’s going for, I think. The classical themes help with that as well, and the appropriate one plays at just the right time. Some noteworthy ones include Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" and Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker." Chatmonchy’s ED song, “Thermae Roman” sounds excellent as well. Sure, the animation looks stilted. Environment’s not detailed enough. It looks unappealing. But, the animation does succeed in producing its intended comedic effect, which I think a show like this can definitely get away with.
Thermae Romae is one weird anime; probably the weirdest I’ve seen in a long while. It’s one of those shows that, at first, is difficult to pinpoint whether it’s amazing, awful or even both. Still, I enjoyed it for what it was, and what it lacks in animation, it certainly makes up for in substance. I can’t exactly recommend this type of show to everyone, though if you want to take a break from the more self-serious, dramatic type of shows, Thermae Romae is a good though surreal change of pace. I’m willing to go so far as to say that Thermae Romae has got heart, and you’re more than welcome to try it out to see if you have the same reactions as mine. Besides, 3 episodes (or 6-part, 10-minute chunks if you prefer it that way) couldn’t hurt, right?
On a slightly related note, I simply can’t wait for that live-action movie adaptation they’ve been talking about.
I love to watch weird, ridiculous shit. There is no hiding that fact at this point. This is one of the reasons I'm so drawn to anime and always will side with anime over American comics. Believe it or not, American comics used to have detective stories, horror, romance, and categories besides spandex wearing super heroes back in the 1920s-1940s. The diversity of American comics was murdered forever in 1954 with the passing of "The Comic Code". It was decided by the Eisenhower Administration that comics should only be for little kids and comics aimed at older audiences would make Americans gay! Thanks Ike!
All genres besides the costumed hero were instantly banned. The costumed heroes became more kid friendly and we got the "golly gee willikers" bullshit known as The Silver Age. By the time the code was FINALLY lifted in the 1980s, those other genres had been gone for so long that it was decided they weren't worth bringing back. That's why every American comic to this day is basically the same fucking thing with only a couple exceptions.
Japan never had the same problem. Manga and anime can be about absolutely ANYTHING! A medieval merchant and a Wolf goddess team up to teach economics. A bunch of Germans in space hold lengthy political discussions in a boardroom. Girls transform into fucking WW2 battleships and fight each other. This is all fair game in the world of anime! This brings us to today's ABSURD topic.
Thermae Romae is a story about an ancient Roman architect who designs bath houses. One day, he gets sucked through a drain and winds up in current day Japan. Our Roman hero is amazed by all the technology, but is also comforted by the similarity to Roman bath houses. This is a comedy anime all about comparing Roman bath houses to Japanese bath houses. A continuing theme is that Japan is the only country in the modern world that still really loves bath houses. In a way, this makes Japan the successor to Roman Civilization and makes Tokyo the 3rd Rome. I just felt a huge disturbance in the force! It's as if 147 million people in Eastern Europe cried out in anger and were suddenly triggered.
Our main hero is the Roman architect Lucius. He is very serious all the time and dismissive at first towards non-Romans like the Japanese. He is a dutiful citizen of the Roman Empire and extremely dedicated to his craft. His overly serious nature and "fish out of water" status is the basis of virtually all of the series' comedy.
The art is flash animation and as pointed out by previous reviewers, it looks like Japanese Archer. Seriously.
The entire soundtrack is lifted classical music. Unfortunately, it doesn't use this music quite as effectively as Galactic Heroes does. The selection often seems completely random. I'll be watching a scene and think "Hey it's Verdi's Requiem! I love that piece...but I don't know why they're playing it at this time."
Dmitri: Vladimir Vladimirovich! Urgent news! I have discovered anime that claims Japan is only country that loves bath houses and is the cultural successor to Rome.
Vladimir: Blasphemy! Moscow is 3rd Rome! Those Japanese savages don't know how to bath house! They don't even beat the shit out each other with tree branches! How can you have a bath without branch beatings! This will not stand! Fire the ICBMs at Japan!
Dmitri: How many ICBMs?
Vladimir: ALL of them! (Putin trembles in anger as "The Sacred War" blares in the background)
I am not sure where to start my review for this one. The storyline compares and contrasts Japan and ancient Rome in regards to their bath culture. I applaud the attempt to make the subject matter interesting but I am also glad this lasted only the few episodes that it did. The two flaws in the story line are the fact that it is repetitive and the fact that despite the fact it makes the subject some what interesting I doubt very few people are going to remember that many historical facts from the show.
I loved the style of the artwork but hated how this
whole thing was animated. The animation made it seem like they did cheep tracings from the original material and story boarded it without any real smooth transitions. One thing I liked was how certain characters showed up in different places and the humor was enough to help me finish this series despite how short it is. I think my favorite part is the ending music though and music tends to not stand out for me.
Thermae Roma is a show that I don't think I'll pick up again unless I am showing it to a class for educational purposes. It is also an Anime that I don't think is for everyone. There is plenty of historical fiction out there that is more interesting. The blame doesn't lie with the subject matter because I've seen “Hanasaku Iroha” and I felt like I had more fun learning about Japanese inns by watching that. I also feel like I'll remember what I learned for a long time.
I also had a problem with the characterization in the show. The main character seemed really dumb yet he was supposed to be a major architect in Roman history. I can't place my finger exactly on what bothered me other then that.
_Thermae Romae_ is very much a one-note gimmick anime, from its basic plot style to its animation-style and Lucius's hilarious reactions to everything (I'd call the series a bit like _Sayonara Zetsubou-sensei_ or _Yakitate! Japan_), but it suits me at the moment, and the historical accuracy is sufficient to not bother me. Really, where else are you going to get any thing like this sort of historical fantasy but anime? The diversity and weird gems like TR is one of the reasons I love anime.