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Thermae Romae is 6-episode short anime by DLE based from an award-winning manga by Mari Yamazaki. This show is actually very different from the all the animes featured in the Winter 2012 anime and way out of every typical anime viewer’s radar.

It’s all about a Roman bath architect named Lucius Modestus, who tries to come up with new ideas for building bathrooms. One day, while relaxing in the public bathhouse, he found a hole which whisked him into modern Japan. There, he was amazed by the modern conventions of the Japanese, which he refers to them as “flat-faced slaves”.Later, when he goes back to his time period, he applies his learnings to his works.

The plot is very interesting and entertaining. The concepts about Roman and Japanese bathing cultures were well-researched except some Italians complained that the title should be called “Romae Thermae”. I’m not Italian so I can’t verify on that. But that’s just one minor error since the mangaka happens to live in Italy for some time and I guess, she’s very interested in Roman culture.

This anime only covers the first few chapters of the manga. And it seems that it serves a promo material for the upcoming live-action movie, starring Hitoshi Abe. BTW, one of the flat-faced slaves told Lucius that he looked like Hitoshi Abe XD

It’s flash animation which is one of the biggest weaknesses incorporated in this anime. Apparently, the studio in charge of this isn’t one of those mainstream anime studios (like Production I.G. or Madhouse) and probably don’t have enough bucks to make a decent animation. Though some of the character designs of the main cast are good, some are….ugly caricatures and doodles….. probably drawn by some college student who got bored in class…and there’s also some copy-paste magazine cutouts….probably for art’s sake.

But the ED animation is awesome.

You’ll really going to like Lucius here. He’s very open-minded and curious but has the Roman pride in his heart. And whenever he saw a newly-innovated contraption when he’s in Japan, he goes into deep culture shock XD. The Roman supporting characters, like Marcus, only serve as support for Lucius while the Japanese supporting characters (aka flat-faced slaves) are there to teach Lucius the innovations of modern baths and Japanese bathing culture. Of course, they thought that he’s just a curious “gaijin” who popped out from nowhere….butt-naked.

Oh, since this is ancient Rome, there’ also the real historical figure, Emperor Hadrianus (or Hadrian), who even asked Lucius to build his bathroon….and be his *cough*personal*cough* assistant. Don’t ask if Julius Caesar or Mark Anthony are here because they’re not. Oh, you’re looking for a moe/loli/bishounen character here? Sorry, buddy. Half of the characters are middle-aged and old men….but, there’s also a good-looking female minor character…and she’s Japanese.

The OST uses very well-known classical music of Beethoven, Strauss, Chopin etc. The ED song is very catchy, probably one of the best EDs that I’ve heard this year.

The voice casting is good. Ryo Ono (aka Frogman) did a great job in voicing Lucius, who is all mighty and proud of being a Roman. The other supporting cast did well.

You’ll get some laughs here but it’s a hit-or-miss. But you’ll get to learn something about Roman and Japanese bathing culture….including the Japanese bidet which, until now, most people find it fascinating. It is very entertaining and relaxing. Maybe after watching this anime, you might wanna take a bath….well, not Roman or Japanese-style…maybe fill-up the bath tub, light some candles or take a warm shower…

Actually, I did not intend to watch this. However, since I got bored, I decided to try it out. And frankly, I enjoyed and I had this feeling that after watching it, I feel satisfied. This is one of the anime which has the rarest style and completely different from all the animes featured this year. But who knows….

But it’s too bad that it’s only 3 episodes (actually 2 episodes were released each week) since Black Rock Shooter is coming up in February. If you’re looking for something to relax or if you’re interested in the culture of bathing, you might look up into this. Or if you’re really friggin’ tired of all the high school, moe, mecha, ecchi fanservice shows out there, then you should watch this.

Story: 8
Animation: 5
CharacterS: 7
Sound: 7
Enjoyment: 9
Overall: 7.2

Highs: Interesting storyline, great lead character, relaxing atmosphere
Lows: Ugly character designs for some supporting characters, some people will be turn off by the animation, comedy is a hit-or-miss