Thermae Romae Novae Review – A Fair Formula That Has Lasted Too Long

If you have time to spare, you probably still wouldn’t want to spend it watching Thermae Romae Novae, the latest mediocre offering from the Netflix Anime vaults. Let’s see what the series was in this review!

Presentation of Thermae Romae Novae

Thermae Romae Novae is a slice-of-life historical pageant based on the original manga written by Mari Yamazaki. The show is carried in the middle of the anime by Studio NAZ, a studio known for shows like Id: Invaded and Re:_Hamatora. The show is directed by Tetsuya Tatamitani, who has previous experience directing music videos and shows like Africa no Salaryman. The series premiered on Netflix on March 28, 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 hasn’t been nearly as bad as most Crunchyroll originals. Some bad shows came out of it, not to name names, but there were also several gems, watching Beastars and Kotaro Lives Alone. Looking at it from the top, this show falls somewhere between these two extremes. It’s not as bad as Netflix’s worst, but that doesn’t even get Kotaro down.

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Thermae Romae Novae is a concept, a concept proper to that, but it is nothing beyond. He established a formula and stuck to it for 11 consecutive episodes. It doesn’t deviate from it for a second, even though this particular formula got tired the third time it was used. There’s very little nuance in anything he does, and it’s completely lacking in subtlety. The show is very clear in what it portrays and what it means in every scene it presents.

Thermae Romae Novae Milk

The whole show is based on a single thought someone had – that both ancient Roman and present-day Japanese societies tend to value public baths. That’s it. Now you know the whole concept of the show. You will now see these events defined in each episode – there will be a conflict, the main character will somehow teleport to present-day Japan from his native ancient Rome, praise all aspects of the culture Japanese that he will meet, and will come back and copy everything he has just learned. Rinse and repeat for 10 episodes, and you’ve got this show.

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The way the show portrayed Rome was awesome, and it was fun for a while to watch an ancient Roman interact with today’s Japan. It felt like a bit of the Victorian child meme came to life. However, it aged extremely quickly once you realized that was all the show was going to be. The same scenario is repeated with different characters, locations and types of bathhouses. There’s only so many times you can stand building bathhouses and someone praising Japan for everything they do.

Old Guy Thermae Romae Novae

Speaking of praise Japan, there was definitely an element of nationalism and patriotism here which the creator used liberally throughout the show. Through the eyes of a Roman architect, the author found a way to appreciate and showcase every aspect of their country they could think of. While this is appreciated to some degree, and Japan is certainly a laudable country in many ways, the constant bombing has at times felt like propaganda, and that’s not a word to be used lightly.

Thermae Romae Novae Review – Characters

Lucius Thermae Romae Novae

In Thermae Romae Novae, there is only one notable character to speak of, and he is the main character of the series. Lucius is a handsome character with many qualities, such as being unassuming, humble, and excellent at his job. He was a good character to go on this trip to Japan and back, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really sick of him by the end of the show. Being the only character worth mentioning for the most part left him overexposed, which his character couldn’t handle well.

There were a few good characters who helped him along his journey, the most notable of them being his friend Marcus. Most of them weren’t as featured on the show, and their encounters with Lucious were very fleeting. The same goes for the characters he met during his visit to Japan, but while they were all generally extremely nice (as the show didn’t feature anyone who wasn’t willing to help Lucius, for some reason), they only existed as plot tools for Lucius to learn something new. Tools and Coincidences went awry towards the end of the show.

Thermae Romae Novae Review – Animation and Music

We have not finished saying how disappointing it was, because 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 in great detail and the Roman segments were nice to look at. But after a while, the awful shading and lighting really stood out from everything, and the show looked like something straight out of 2004.

There was heavy use of CGI here. In fact, the whole anime was entirely CG. While this is neither the place nor the time to bring back the traditional argument against CG, Thermae Romae Novae certainly won’t 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’ll forget you even heard it once the show is over. It’s up to you to decide if it’s good or bad.

Verdict

Thermae Romae Novae was painfully repetitive and boring despite some great ideas and a new concept. It overstayed its welcome and was painfully mediocre at the best of times.

Watch Thermae Romae Novae on Netflix!

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