Released as a Netflix Original and adapted from the manga “Thermae Romae,” “Thermae Romae Novae” or “Roman Bathhouse” is a historical slice of life anime series created and composed by Mari Yamazaki. It boasts of the different cultures of rejuvenating natural hot springs of both Japan and Rome. A day-to-day life of an architect who ends up in Japan to experience the love of his life, baths. The anime is quite informational, with tidbits of both cultures included here and there.
‘Thermae Romae Novae’ Plotline
The storyline of this anime follows the journey of a Roman architect called Lucius Modestus. Lucius Modestes follows in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, who were also architects, and shares their dream of designing and creating the best Roman baths for the people of Rome. His dream is to make sure that peace prevails in Rome and that once the citizens relax, and wash off their daily grime after toiling through the day in the baths, they will not engage in violence, essentially allowing peace to reign. The ongoing theme of “Thermae Romae Novae” was that relaxing in the baths will make anybody forget about being a miscreant and settle their inner soul. To follow his dreams, he must come up with innovative recreational concepts for baths. Through fate, Lucius is dragged to Japan, a country famous for its natural hot springs. With keen eyes, Lucius takes in the engineering and the innovation behind the different experiences that Japanese onsens have to offer. He takes these experiences back with him when he is pulled back to Rome after his reverie and sets on to combine both cultures and make a bath that would provide an extraordinary experience to the citizens of Rome.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Japanese Onsens And Roman Baths
From the onset of the civilizations, bathing has been ritualistic to keep oneself clean. The art of recreational bathing was first discovered and followed by the civilizations of Rome and Japan. Mari Yamazaki has beautifully portrayed how two civilizations miles apart may share the same tendencies of enjoying a bath and drawing a bath for the sole purpose of recreation. Japanese onsens have been quite a hit among both tourists and locals. The onsens are Japanese for hot springs that originate in the mountains. These are naturally made baths of hot water that are full of minerals beneficial to the human body. They rejuvenate the mind, soul, and body. Roman civilization, on the other hand, has been the masters of public baths and indoor plumbing. This is quite visible through the various ruins that have been excavated in Rome. Both the Japanese and the Romans believe that it is important to take a bath and keep yourself clean. It is essentially hygienic and also quite rejuvenating. “Thermae Romae Novae” Season 1 focuses on the bathing culture of these two civilizations that share similarities and may have been an influence on each other unknowingly.
Through Lucius, Mari also travels through different provinces of Japan to experience their culture that was mainly built around these onsens. Great Rome was also known for its baths, and the culture of Rome was also built around these public baths. Each onsen inJapan has a different experience to it, whereas public baths in Rome were mostly divided into the hot bath, the cold bath, and the sauna. Lucius succeeds in changing the order and focussing mainly on the hot water. Through his journey, he teaches the audience about the healing tendencies of the natural springs and the hotbeds. The empire of Rome does go through many emperors, but Emperor Hadrian, impressed by Lucius’s efforts, encourages him to build more baths using the creativity and the knowledge that he gained through the Japanese onsens. Hadrian appreciated Lucius more than the other emperors and granted him many jobs that helped Lucius gain a good name for himself.
Lucius And Modern-Day Bathroom Appliances
While enjoying a bath in the bathhouse created by his father and grandfather and also contemplating about his next design after he got fired due to outdated bath designs, Lucius finds himself transported through time to a public bathhouse in Japan through a hole in the Roman bath. He is perplexed and confused by the new faces peering at him, suddenly appearing through the water of the bath. The Japanese people patiently walk him through the process of using a bucket and provide him with clothes and a sweet milky drink. Lucius, confused and wary, tries to navigate through the bathhouse but eventually ends up accepting and following the completely new faces around him. He discovers the buckets and the way to clean before stepping into the bath. He gets whisked away to Rome with the empty bottle of the sweet drink as a souvenir. He immediately sets on to build a similar bathhouse following his experiences with the Japanese bathhouse.
He ends up in onsens more frequently whenever his body decides to take a dive due to some circumstances. But there were times he ended up in a normal bathroom inside a house and a bathtub in an appliances showroom in Japan. When he was mulling over the statement of having the bath brought inside the house by his friend, Marcus’s master, who was an old man, Lucius found himself whisked away to the bathroom inside a Japanese house. He saw that the tub was covered to preserve the hot water, and there was a hand shower, a scrubbing towel, lufa. Puzzled, Lucius tried to figure out how to use it before a Japanese old man showed him how to use it. Similarly, when he ended up in the showroom, the saleslady mistook him for an Italian client and walked him through different bathtubs. He came across television which was showing a video of jellyfishes swimming around. He mistook it for an aquarium. During this time, he had to use the toilet, where he discovered that they had private stalls and technology he had never come across. The toilet was equipped with a fountain that functioned as a bidet that was fitted inside the bowl. Fascinated by the contraption, Lucius improvised a similar toilet back in Rome with the bathtub facing the aquarium. He was quite taken with the massage chair he had stumbled upon during an onsen visit. He improvised a similar massage chair with the help of servants in a bathhouse in Rome.
Emperor Hadrian Saved Lucius’s Marriage
The Roman Emperor, Emperor Hadrian, was a ruler who enjoyed peace and the quiet luxuries life had to offer. He had a private villa which was a sanctuary to him where he took a respite from the ongoing politics, wars, etc. He took pleasure in experiencing his bath designed by Apollordus, a Thermae architect. Lucius looked up to Apollordus, who had worked with both his father and grandfather during the time they were Thermae architects as well. After Lucius had built an indoor bath inspired by his journey to Japan, he was called upon by Emperor Hadrian. An official appointed by Hadrian had happened upon the indoor bath when he had come to check if Marcus had finished sculpting the statues of Emperor Hadrian’s lover Antinous. While taking a look at the statues, he was taken aback to see Marcus’s master washing himself indoors. He immediately informed Hadrian, who called upon Lucius. Lucius had to set forth towards Hadrian’s private villa immediately after receiving notice.
Now, during this time, he had promised his wife Livia that he would take her out and relax with her the next day. On receiving the notice, he immediately set out, neglecting his poor wife, to build a private bath for the emperor. After he returned home, he was called for again, this time for three years, to build a retreat and a bath for the military. He completely neglected his wife and had finally reached his home after three months to enjoy his vacation. His wife forgave him and wished to start a family during this vacation. While talking about it, yet another summon sent his wife fuming, and she left him to go to her parent’s house. Dismayed, Lucius answered the summons and showed up in a pitiful state. Married in shambles, Lucius desperately tried to finish the new project of creating a spa city in Rome.
Lucius was called off for his duty as a Thermae architect more often than Livia could fathom. Lucius, a true patriot, always put his duty towards his emperor before his family. He was proud of being a Thermae architect after following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. Livia had accepted him for himself, she did not mind when he unintentionally neglected her. But, the moment he was summoned away after she expressed her desire to start a family, and he had agreed but then had to go away for another extensive trip for his work, it served as the last straw before her patience snapped. Upset, Livia left Lucius forever to go live with her family. Emperor Hadrian, after losing his own lover Antinous, sympathized with Lucius’s struggles and took pity on him. After Lucius had completed his work, in the end scene, Hadrian took it upon himself to make amends and help Lucius regain his wife back.
The Savior of his marriage came in the form of Emperor Hadrian himself when he patched things up between the couple. The lovers united and enjoyed a bath together boasting of finally regaining their mental peace and recharge their bodies together as an act of love and faith towards themselves. The couple was also surrounded with other citizens joining them to enjoy a refreshing bath to signify peace, unity, and love for the Roman Empire. Eventually, Lucius could have a happy married life, and “Thermae Romae Novae” Season 1 ended with the tagline “All baths lead to Rome.” Though the exact phrase would be ‘all paths lead to Rome, ‘ which means that whichever way you may apply to solve a problem, the solution would be exactly the same. Though the wordplay of paths and baths may just mean that all the baths are the same. The Romans, the Japanese, all of them take baths, recreational baths, hot spring baths, due to the plenty of minerals, rejuvenate mind, body, and soul, and may even aid in healing wounds. So the result would be replenishing and taking care of body, mind, and soul, which is the same for these types of baths apart from the hygiene, of course. Hygiene is always important.
The Ending Of ‘Thermae Romae Novae’ Talks About Season 2
The entire first season of “Thermae Romae Novae” is based on the onsens that were in Gunma Prefecture, a province in Japan. Mari Yamazaki, the creator of the series, went around experiencing the onsens located in this prefecture and spun her tale around them. Lucius was spirited away to the many onsens located in this prefecture, even during the time he had ended up in the Edo period of Japan. Mari, herself admitted at the end of the season of wanting to experience the rest of the onsens the nation has to offer. Therefore Lucius and his love for creating wonderful baths for the Roman empire may very well continue to a new season.
“Thermae Romae Novae” is a 2022 Animated Series created by Mari Yamazaki.