Have you ever wondered about Japanese bathrooms? No? Why not?
Story: An architect from Rome has just been told his designs are dated, and then he's sucked through a time warp to a shared bath in Japan, or a hot springs in Japan, or a bathroom showroom in Japan... basically, if it's bath related in Japan, he popped up there. So, since I'm sure most people in Japan know what the baths are like in Japan, I can only assume this was for foreigners. Because now I know a lot more about Japanese baths than I ever learned from all those ecchi harem anime combined... I don't know if that's a good thing...
Animation: This is pretty typical DLE Inc style of animation. It's more like you're watching the dialogue of an Japanese RPG, with either soft-toned or realistic backgrounds. Another example of this style is Haiyoru! Nyaru-Ani. Now, that isn't necessarily bad, and I rather liked it, but it is definitely not the normal style of current anime.
I mean, just look at this...what is with this guy's face?
Sound: I actually found the sound to be rather comedic, especially the voice acting of the romans. (I've found that Japan sometimes has a difficult time with accents; it's kind of cute when they try, though)
Characters: Aside from the main character, everyone else is a bit player. And again, it's more focused on the culture surrounding Japanese baths than it is on the individual characters.
Should you watch this? If you are going to Japan and need to know about bathing practices. Otherwise, for comedy.
This review brought to you by the DAMC.
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” is 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.
What I Liked: The minimalist Flash animation that mixes simple cel-shaded figures of varying detail with semi-photo-realistic backgrounds. The character designs were interesting and full of personality. Nice use of classical music as the score. The Ending Theme, which was as catchy as it was nice and rocky. Episode 3. Voice acting was perfectly over-the-top and suited the silliness of the show. The run-time was perfect for the kind of humour the show was presenting - any longer would have risked the show feeling like a one-trick pony.
What I Didn't: It's rather obvious when previous assets are used repetitively. The jokes surrounding the Emperor fell flat with me (since they were basically "ha ha, he's gay! Isn't that funny?"). The show does get a little repetitive as episodes go on. Some possibly racist humor.
Final Verdict: While it's not hugely impressive on a technical or storytelling standpoint, what with it's basic Flash-based animation and almost formulaic episodes, Thermae Romae relishes in its own eccentric simplicity and manages to (mostly) make it all work. What results is an enjoyably funny little number with plenty of charm to go around and a short enough run-time to prevent it from feeling too stale.
I read the synopsis for this anime and it seemed like a fun idea. An ancient Roman that travels in time and compares bathing traditions with Japan? Sounds fun! It's indeed a fun watch. Good thing Thermae Romae is only a few episodes. Any more than that and it would get stale very fast.
You can get a laugh because you never seem to see people's legs! They very rarely move thier limbs. They mostly stand still. You never see anyone past their shoulder most of the time.
The best animation is during the ending theme, lot's of bright colours<3
The ending theme is somewhat catchy. The other music you can recognize as public domain classical music. One example is Swan Lake.
This is a series that's only 6 episodes long, each episode is roughly 10 minutes. They don't have much time for chararterization. Lucius is the Roman that's amazed by everything, the rest of the people I find are charatures of some sterotypes.
If your looking for a quick series to get a bit of a chuckle...this is it. Just don't expect a masterpiece :)