Thermae Romae Novae

Web (11 eps x 28 min)
NAZ
3.57 out of 5 from 686 votes
Rank #4,990

A proud bath architect in ancient Rome starts randomly surfacing in present-day Japan, where he's inspired by the many bathing innovations he finds.

Source: Netflix

Content Warning

my anime:

User Stats

1,917 users are tracking this. to see stats.

If you like this anime, you might like...

Reviews

krofire
6

Studio Naz’s 2022 strange fantasy-comedy was preceded by the anime “Thermae Romae” by Studio DLE in 2012. This, the Netflix remake, has been spliced together with a live-action documentary/travelogue on Japanese bathing culture featuring the manga’s author and artist Mari Yamazaki. The story’s main character is a Roman-bath architect Lucius Modestus who works in Rome around 130CE. Lacking inspiration for new baths he finds himself repeatedly getting sucked through time to contemporary Japan to witness modern communal bathing & hot-spring systems. He takes the ideas back with him and becomes so successful he ends up as Emperor Hadrian’s personal architect. It is an interesting idea for a story but, on the face of it, pretty silly too. If there is one thing that you can guaranteed turns up in every anime (after food) it is Japanese bathing. Food and baths. Baths and food. Time-travel and food was (sort-of) covered-off by the Silverlink 2017 anime “Restaurant to Another World” which covered the concept with such love and passion that it seemed truly infectious, romantic & poetic. “Restaurant..” was a good lesson in how to do this sort of fantasy. Well written, adorable to look at and dominated by global cuisine, it struck such a good balance between topic and intelligent entertainment. “Thermae Romae Novae” reminded us more of J C Staff’s 2021/22 “Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House” in more resembling something the Japanese Tourism ministry would have created to promote Japanese culture to foreigners. Even that isn’t a fair comparison as “Kiyo in Kyoto” was actually pretty cute and watchable. The trouble with “Thermae Romae Novae” is that it isn’t very entertaining. It relies too much upon an assumed cultural superiority of modern Japanese bathing techniques over ancient Roman ones. The story just assumes that Lucius is going to be impressed by modern Japanese culture. It would not take too much imagination to believe that ancient Romans might actually be horrified by what modern Japan has to offer. One example of this is the bed roll on the floor. Romans had beds. Lucius uses the idea of putting the bed roll in a cupboard like they do in Japan. Everyone is impressed despite the fact that the bed is still right there in the room dedicated to it, i.e., the bedroom! Hence that makes no sense. If he did that his fellow Romans would assume he had gone mad. Sticking your mattress in a cupboard during the day only makes sense if you haven’t got a bed and your bedroom doubles as living space during the day. This appears to be historically and culturally-blind to the way the Western world solved the same problem, in a different way, under different circumstances. This sense of assumed cultural hegemony by modern Japan is also felt in Mari Yamazaki’s mini-documentaries. We only get to see Japanese baths. We learn nothing about Roman baths. Surely the interesting aspect of such a culture clash would be to compare and contrast the two systems. How were they similar, how were they different? Where are the common influences? The whole “Thermae Romae Novae” delivery is based upon an assumed principle that ancient Rome = bad & modern Japan = good. The two never learn from each other. It is a one-way street. The chance to draw out a richer story is completely passed on in favour of unfunny, facile nonsense. Of course, this sense of disappointment may well only be felt by a foreign audience with an outsider’s perspective. We would question the author’s assumptions and hence expect something slightly more profound to happen in the cross-fertilisation between cultures and times. Inevitably this story format seemed to have resonance with Japanese audiences. We guess as much from the fact that this manga earnt itself two animes as well as two successful live-action films. “Thermae Romae Novae” is a neat idea but looks pretty silly from an international perspective. The animation is dull, unfunny and stilted with each episode sticking to the same rigid dramatic formula. It quickly gets tiresome for anyone who expects something a bit more intelligent and demanding in their animation. Probably best avoided.

See all reviews

Related anime

Related manga

Characters

See all characters

Staff

See all staff

Discussions

Custom lists

See all custom lists