You may not have wondered much about what a Roman architect would have thought of modern Japanese baths. I must admit it was not particularly on my radar either! However, if you have had any contact with either the Japanese manga, anime movie or new Netflix series Thermae Romae, I am sure you will be as hungry as me to find out more about this bizarre combo!
The original manga is classified as a seinen, i.e. aimed at young male adults, but its success has spilt across wider audiences, and the new Netflix series is presented as a 12+, which is great news for those looking for a fun complement to their Latin GCSE work or Classical civilisation courses. It is, however, a show that will please all ages: the universal themes of leisure, nationalism, personal crisis and... well... toilet humour! make it appealing to a broad range of ages and, particularly, to young adult readers.
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The series is a spin-off of Thermae Romae by the talented mangaka Mari Yamazaki. She has participated in the project and provided the plot for the new adventures, which explore the life of Lucius from his childhood. For those not familiar with the plot, Lucius is a Roman architect that gets literally sucked through space and time at the bottom of the baths and emerges in the pool of the Japanese baths. In both the manga and the new series, the magic realism of Mari Yamazaki sucks us in as deep as Lucius, the Roman architect, gets trapped in modern Japan.
A movie adaptation was released in 2012 by Hideki Takeuchi and became an instant hit in Japan. I know... How did we miss that???!!! Here you can get a general idea of the plot:
Returning to the new release, the series is as visually stunning as the manga and, if you are a fan of traditional anime, there is a lovely retro feel about it. For those thinking about historical accuracy - if such a concept can be applied to a series where a Roman man travels through a hole to modern Japan, the good news is that the representation of colours and buildings in Rome is well achieved, complete with graffiti, mostly coloured statues and plenty of attention to small detail as, for example, the shape of the bread they eat.
And it is not all about jokes and arts, every episode comes with a really interesting mini-documentary with the author's point of view and some insights into her creative processes.
You can watch me presenting Thermae Romae on my Youtube Channel.
If you are looking for other ways to entice young readers into the world of the Romans and the Greeks, join my email community to find out what is brewing in the Latin and Greek learning world for younger students.