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Manga / Thermae Romae

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Thermae Romae (Latin for "Roman baths") is the manga and anime story of a 2nd century Roman architect named Lucius Quintus Modestus, who designs baths. He gets transported to 21st century Japan, learns about their bath and toilet technology, and brings these modern ideas back to his time.

The manga, written and drawn by Mari Yamazaki, was serialized in the seinen magazine Comic Beam from 2008 to 2013 and compiled into six volumes. It is available in English print thanks to Yen Press. It was adapted to anime in 2012, and was licensed by Discotek Media and released with an English dub. It also got a live-action movie in 2012, which got a sequel in 2014.

In 2020, Netflix announced another animated adaptation of the series, Thermae Romae Novae, which had a batch release in 2022.

This work provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: At the end of the final episode of the anime Thermae Romae Novae, Emperor Hadrian saved Lucius' marriage with Livia, having felt guilty for nearly tearing the couple apart by constantly assigning construction projects to Lucius. Unlike in the manga, Lucius made amends with Livia and never met Satsuki in modern-day Japan.
  • Adaptational Dumbass: Commodus, while still ultimately seen as a halfway respectable Roman noble, has his character more focused on his womanizing and weak constitution rather than the artistic and sensitive side he's more known for. Yamazaki even mentions it in the commentary, but justifies it since it was almost always Played for Laughs.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: In the 2012 anime Lucius is light blond, but in the manga and 2021 anime his hair is light brown. Then he's black-haired in the live-action movies, but then the actors are invokedall Japanese.
  • A Good Way to Die: In this series' version of Hadrian's death, he passes in the thermae, overlooking the baths in Baiae and giving his parting words to Lucius.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: Of the anime, done by Chip and Ironicus during their Let's Play of No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle.
  • Anachronism Stew: Deliberately so. When ruins are found at some of the bathhouses Lucius built, the excavators find ramune-styled bottles, leather shower circles, and bottle caps based off of the ones in modern Japan, all because Lucius took the concepts back with him to his time.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Modern banana cultivars do not have seeds and consequently can't be grown from them as Lucius is able to do with the banana he brings back to Rome from Japan. To cultivate a new banana plant, you need an offshoot from an old banana plant. This is besides the fact that bananas are not native to Egypt (where Hadrianus first tastes one), which is far from their native tropical climate.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: A lesser explored aspect of time travel to the past and to the future is the impact of bacteria and viruses - someone from the distant past traveling to the future could (potentially) expose himself to bacteria and viruses which, while harmless to the humans whose time frame he is visiting, could be troublesome or in extreme cases, even deadly for him. Worse, he could bring them back to his own timeline and infect everybody else.
  • Babies Ever After: The finale has Satsuki reuniting with Lucius in Ancient Rome, and go on to bear his child.
  • Central Theme: The importance of bathhouses in Roman and Japanese culture, and how they contribute to the stability and overall citizen satisfaction of their respective countries.
  • Chick Magnet: Many Japanese girls take a shine to Lucius, given his strength, gentlemanly aura, and his exotic foreign flair. Even a horse is charmed by him, and he's unaware of nearly all of it.
  • Creative Sterility: The main reason why Lucius got fired by his employer at the beginning is because his ideas were too outdated for Ancient Rome’s standards. Even during his time travels, he merely copied what he saw in the future, using rudimental materials of his time.
  • Darker and Edgier: The live-action films. Since the story doesn't have much outside its "Ancient Roman in modern Japan" theme, the films shoehorn in a Rome civil war scenario, a villain who serves as a rival to Lucius, and the romance between Lucius and Mami (the Japanese lady he encounters) is doomed to end because neither can stay in each other's era.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Between Ancient Rome and modern Japan, though it's mostly played for laughs.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Or rather Roman out of the Roman Empire. And later, Japanese (plural) out of modern Japan.
  • Furo Scene: Including the Roman equivalent.
  • Gallows Humor: In an otherwise somber scene, Aelius Caesar spends the last few minutes of his life on his deathbed tasking Lucius with the delivery of many letters, all heavily implied to be women he has had affairs with. Just as he hands over the last letter, he declares he can rest in peace and coughs up blood, his death imminent. Lucius awkwardly hides the letters behind his back as Aelius's wife rushes in.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: With each trip to the future, Lucius brings back knowledge of modern technology, and has contemporary Roman craftsmen (such as his best friend, stonemason Marcus) reproduce them, with results akin to Bamboo Technology.
  • Going Native:
    • While trapped in the hot springs town of Ito, Lucius gradually acclimates to modern life.
    • Similarly, Satsuki goes back in time to reunite with Lucius, eventually settling down with him in Ancient Rome.
  • The Good King: Hadrian is an emperor version of this trope, both in and out of universe as he's labelled one of the 5 Good Emperors. He constantly visits the outposts of Rome and is always looking for ways to maintain peace throughout the Empire, often resorting to using improved and innovative baths to placate the people. We also see the final Good Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, but as a fifteen year old boy.
  • Good Old Ways: The manga doesn't completely adhere to this mindset, but Lucius and many Roman citizens do prefer traditional thermae and try to keep as much of the old bathhouses alive.
  • Gratuitous Latin:
    • Averted — Lucius mostly speaks in Japanese, though that probably represents his Latin in a way that the audience will understand. In addition, he uses the Classical pronunciation when he does speak Latin.
    • The Spanish translation of the manga does have Gratuitous Latin everywhere, sometimes with terrible anachronisms like saying someone is an engineer summa cum laude.
  • Has a Type: Lucius's looks to be reserved or shy women, as he learns when he gets his first erection in a long time observing a Japanese worker shying away from his naked body. Satsuki hits all of his preferences.
  • Heroic BSoD: Lucius has one of these after he learns that his wife has not only left him, but has also married another man, and is pregnant with her new husband's children.
  • Hot Springs Episode: With Mount Vesuvius substituting for Mount Fuji in providing the hot water for the outdoors bath.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Emperor Hadrian, in his introductory episode, had recently lost his gay lover. Lucius is afraid Hadrian might become infatuated with him and attempt Sexual Extortion. They do become friends, but no more than that, and Lucius, so far, is shown to be strictly attracted to women.
  • Inconsistent Dub: Also overlappig with Too Long; Didn't Dub in the Spanish translations, both official and fansubs: Partly due to a mix of both "Blind Idiot" Translation and Executive Meddling, almost all the Roman names, including Lucius, are left in their original language, rather than using the long-used convention on translating Roman names to Spanish.note  However, there's times when the translated names are used, and not in a consistent way, especially in the Latin American Spanish dub of Novae. On the other hand, this is averted, somewhat, with the Latin American Spanish subs, when all the Roman names, excluding Lucius and his family, are translated to Spanish.
  • Instant Expert:
    • In the 2012 live-action film, reading "Latin For Dummies" is enough for Mami to become fluent.
    • Averted in the manga, where the modern Japanese people trying to communicate with Lucius cannot comprehend his Latin (and try speaking to him in English instead). Satsuki is the sole exception, as she can converse in Latin thanks to years of study as a Roman Empire otaku.
  • Involuntary Time Travel: Lucius has no control over his time travel jaunts - they just happen. He attributes them to the Roman gods.
  • Like Parent, Like Spouse: Satsuki has her father figure in her grandfather, and like Lucius he's a stoic, no-nonsense working man with a soft side.
  • Limited Animation: The animation in the first anime consists largely of manipulation of and pans across still frames with only the lips moving, since it was done in Flash. Averted with the second anime.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Lucius and Satsuki respectively, in the end. Mami would have been Satsuki's equivalent in the movie, but their love can't be fulfilled in any meaningful way.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Emperor Hadrian is gay, and despite his rank most Romans see male homosexuality as a laughably Greek affectation. The palace soldiers frequently joke that Lucius is Hadrian's new lover, a sentiment his baby crazy wife shares once he starts traveling all over the empire with Hadrian on account of his bathhouse building projects. This becomes one of the reasons why she decides to leave him.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The concept of bathtubs, toilets, toothbrushes and other sanitation practices. Possibly inverted though because the significance of hygiene and sanitation was something new for Lucius (and ancient Rome back then), and also because Japan has above-average plumbing technology and different cultural standards relating to baths.
    • Lucius' reaction to fruit-flavoured milk implied something huge was happening, but really it was just very good milk.
    • Lucius' reaction to most things in modern Japan count as this.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Lucius' wife, Livia, is rather big on this. This, along with the rumors that Lucius had become Hadrian's lover, becomes the final straw for Livia, who decides to leave Lucius. Later on, she remarries another man and becomes pregnant from him.
  • Naked First Impression: Lucius mutually with Satsuki, due to him being transported into her family's onsen while she's bathing.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Whenever Lucius goes to the future he usually does it while he's naked, which freaks out some of the local Japanese people whenever he appears.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Satsuki's grandfather has more than a passing resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Otaku: Satsuki is this towards anything related to the Roman Empire. She founded a Roman Empire themed club in high school and learned English, French, Italian and Latin so that she could read about the Roman Empire from western sources. This becomes useful once she meets Lucius—she's the first person of the "flat-faced people" he can communicate with.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Hadrian's greatest fear is that he might outlive his adopted son (and chosen successor) Commodus. Later on, his fear comes true.
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: The trope image and nearly every scene is set in a bathhouse.
  • Satellite Love Interest: The final arc kicks off with Marcus asking Lucius to take up a wife, and once he goes back to Japan he really lucks out with Satsuki. She's his perfect fit: intelligent, incredibly beautiful, loves Rome, speaks enough Latin to understand Lucius, and was directly told by her mother to find a "Spartan-like" man when she was younger. Much of her screentime is devoted to their romance.
  • Spiritual Successor: Has one in Olympic Circles, also made by Yamazaki, which concerns an Ancient Greek youth named Demetrios who gets sent to 1964 Japan.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Lucius and Satsuki develop feelings for each other. So do Lucius and Mami in the live-action films, though they don't get together.
  • Translation Convention: Lucius (and all other Romans) speak in Japanese, and "think" in Japanese as well. The only time a Roman speaks in Latin is when Lucius is in Japan and trying to communicate with the Japanese. Then again, this could be due to the fact that since everyone speaks Latin in Lucius's time, it's the author who's translating the Latin to Japanese.
  • A Wizard Did It: It’s never explained why Lucius is the only one who can time travel in the future through water sources. Lucius just hand waves it as a work of the gods.