If you have some time to spare, You probably still wouldn’t want to spend it watching Thermae Romae Novae, the latest mediocre offering coming from the coffers of Netflix Anime. Let’s see what the series was all about in this review!
Thermae Romae Novae Overview
Thermae Romae Novae is a historical slice of life show based upon the original manga written by Mari Yamazaki. The show is being brought to the medium of anime by Studio NAZ, a studio known for shows like Id:Invaded and Re:_Hamatora. The show is being directed by Tetsuya Tatamitani, who has previously had experience with directing music videos and shows like Africa no Salaryman. The series premiered on Netflix on March 28th, 2022.
Thermae Romae Novae Review- The Plot
Netflix has had to go through an extremely bumpy road in its quest for anime dominance, though it’s not been quite as bad as most Crunchyroll originals. Some bad shows have come out of it, not naming any names, but there have been several gems as well, looking at Beastars and Kotaro Lives Alone. Looking at it from the top, this show falls somewhere in between those two extremes. It isn’t as bad as Netflix’s worst, but it doesn’t come close to even touching Kotaro.
Thermae Romae Novae is a concept, a neat one at that, but it is nothing beyond it. It establishes a formula and sticks to it for 11 straight episodes. It doesn’t deviate from it for a single second, even if that particular formula got tired the third time it was ever used. There is very little nuance to anything it does, and it lacks subtlety altogether. The show is very clear in what it depicts and what it means in every scene that it showcases.
The entire show is based on just one thought that someone had- that ancient Roman and current Japanese societies both tend to enjoy bathhouses. That’s it. Now you know the entire concept of the show. You will now see these set events in every episode- there will be a conflict, the main character will somehow teleport to the current day Japan from his native ancient Rome, praise every aspect of Japanese culture that he comes across, and will go back and copy whatever he just learned. Rinse and repeat for 10 episodes, and you’ve got this show.
The way the show depicted Rome was great, and it was fun for a while to watch an ancient Roman interact with current-day Japan. It felt like a bit of the victorian child meme came to life. However, it got old extremely quickly once you realised that that’s all the show was ever going to be. The same storyline is repeated with different characters, locations, and types of bathhouses. There are only so many times one can endure bathhouses being built and someone praising Japan for everything they do.
Speaking of praising Japan, there was certainly an element of nationalism and patriotism here that the creator used liberally throughout the show. Through the eyes of a Roman architect, the author found a way to appreciate and put over every aspect of their country that they could think of. While that is appreciated to a certain extent, and Japan is certainly a praiseworthy country in many regards, the constant bombardments felt like propaganda at times, and that’s not a word to be used lightly.
Thermae Romae Novae Review- The Characters
In Thermae Romae Novae, there’s just one noteworthy character to speak of, and he’s the show’s main character. Lucius is a fine character with many good qualities, such as him being modest, humble, and great at his job. He was a fine character to go around in this journey to Japan and back, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t absolutely sick of him by the show ended. Being the only character worth mentioning for most of it left him overexposed, something his character couldn’t quite handle well.
There were some fine characters that aided him throughout his journey, the most notable of them being his friend Marcus. Most of them didn’t have that big of a presence in the show, and their meetings with Lucious felt very fleeting. The same went for the characters he met while visiting Japan, but while they were all typically extremely nice (as the show didn’t showcase someone who wasn’t willing to help Lucius, for some reason), they only existed as plot tools for Lucius to learn something new. The tools and the coincidences got bad towards the end of the show.
Thermae Romae Novae Review- Animation and Music
We aren’t done talking about how disappointing this was yet, as the animation in Thermae Romae Novae was not very good. It had its own charm, and some scenes fit the theme very well. The world was designed with a bunch of detail, and the Roman segments were great to look at. But after a while, the awful shading and lighting really stood out from everything else that was going in, and the show looked like something straight out of 2004.
There was an extensive usage of CGI here. In fact, the whole anime was entirely CG. While this isn’t the place nor time to bring back the traditional vs CG argument, Thermae Romae Novae will certainly not sway anyone towards the CG side. The music was also average at best and forgettable at worst. It was pleasant enough to listen to and wasn’t particularly offensive, but you will forget you even heard it once the show ended. It’s up to you to judge if that’s good or bad.
Thermae Romae Novae was painfully repetitive and boring despite having some good ideas and a novel concept. It outstayed its welcome and was painfully mediocre at the best of times.
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