A Roman architect from 128 A.D finds himself mysteriously transported to a bathhouse in modern day Japan while taking a dip in a public bath of his time! That’s the plot of the 2022 Netflix animated series “Thermae Romae Novae”, which is based on the manga series by artist Mara Yamizaki.
This genre-bending plot would appeal best to viewers who are interested in history, and even then, it might feel like it takes a lot of time for the story to get interesting and entertaining. The Roman hero is called Lucius Modestus, who is extremely proud of his heritage, but becomes confused when he keeps slipping into a future Japan; the technological achievements there make him question if Romans are really as progressive as they believe themselves to be.
The series explores the bathing culture in Japan and juxtaposes them with the Roman public baths. So in each episode, Modestus slips into a different kind of bath in Japan, then tries to recreate them when back in Rome. For ruminative viewers, the series is a reminder of how we take bathrooms for granted, while a lot of people around the world still don’t have access to clean toilets and have to defecate in the open; a nice shower is a literal luxury to them.
The animation is engaging, even though it keeps manga-like exaggerations to a minimum. A lot of situational humour is infused throughout the show, making it a fun watch. Maybe they could’ve shortened the series by one episode.
Lucius is like a Roman era example of a nationalist and his character has little growth over the episodes. Even though he does become an extremely famous Thermae architect. His little time-travel trips to Japan is the best thing about the series and shows viewers a very unique glimpse into the country. It might even make some people want to go on their own hot-springs vacation.
It’s a 7/10 from me.
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