Thermae Romae is the story of a roman architect, Lucius Modestus, specialized in baths houses, who travel many times to our modern world for an unknown reason, it’s involuntary.
The manga is funny, with strange situations : imagine an ancient roman in modern Japan! Beeing an architect, he brings then back home many ideas from Japan.
This manga is a huge success in Japan. It was adapted in anime and in a movie! It’s funny to see “romans” with Japanese faces, even more when you know that the movie wasn’t a low cost one.
Thermae Romae, in a way, contribute to show to Japanese people a bit of Roman Empire’s culture. At least, other than just the warrior one.
Thermae Romae from the point of view of a reenactor
It’s not so bad as it looks at first! Of course, if you look at the movie, and only see asians faces doing roman roles, you’ll find it ridiculous. But it’s a funny movie, remember, it’s not intended to be a documentary about ancient Rome. And the real “Thermae Romae” is the manga of course, and there, the realism is quite good.
Looking just at soldiers : the centurion wears a Lorica Hamata (OK, don’t look at the Hollywood armband), with phaleras and armilla. The pugio is on the right side. Simple legionaries have Lorica Segmentata and of course cingulum, well done and well transcribed in the animated version also. Not so bad! Of course, I could point the flaws, but does that really matter? It’s way better than almost every Hollywood movie on the subject. It’s almost Japanese folks who teach to western movie producers how to do it!
No, my main critic would be the attitude of Lucius. He looks more like an ancient Japanese than a ancient roman! But it’s funnier that way, so… But in another note, Hadrian seems quite good, Lucius Verus is arguable, but Mari Yamazaki explains why. I said, quite good!
But how is possible that a Japanese female mangaka could know that well ancient romans? She even include in the manga personal thoughts about it! Well, she’s married to an italian, and lived many years in Europe. That’s why.
For the movie, it looks like they used old material from the excellent series “Rome”. They used the good, but also the bad, unfortunately, like those strange helmets you can see on a soldier at the bottom of the image below. But once again, roman militaria is not the main purpose of Thermae Romae. The manga is still ongoing on Japan, with already 5 books published. I’m waiting for the next one impatiently :)