Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Japan, Europe and Thermae Romae

First, sorry for the sudden disappearance, since I started to work, life obviously decided it was just the right moment to start throwing things at me, now it's calmed down a bit (until the next time at least), I can blog again!

Second, today's subject is Thermae Romae, as a French who's studied Latin and (reluctantly) roman history as well, I had to watch it. If only because, for once, the title is proper Latin (unlike Madoka, because yeah the full title was supposed to be "Latin").
Truth is, I really like seeing anime set in Europe, no matter it's a fictional Europe (like in Gosick for example) or a real one (like in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, to a certain extent), because I find it incredibly interesting to see the representations Japanese have of my continent.

Thermae Romae is a bit special in that aspect.

First, its subject is a theme common to both Roman and Japanese cultures, mainly, baths, and I can only admire the researches that have been made to accurately present the differences between them.

Second, as you probably noticed, the animation style is special. Want to know where it comes from? Then, let's take a look at Alix, hero of a French comic set in Ancient Rome.

Now look at Lucius :

See the similarity? 

But these two points are not what make Thermae Romae that special, the thing that striked me when compared to other Europe-inspired anime is that it is always implied that Japan is superior, at least when it comes to baths. 
Lucius says it at every episode. 
Every episode has Lucius improving Roman baths with Japanese inventions. 

From an historical point of view, that isn't true, I am pretty sure that at the time of Ancient Rome, Japanese culture of baths wasn't near as technologically advanced as Rome's. 

And so, not only did I find Thermae Romae somewhat funny, but also sociologically interesting because for once, an Europe-inspired anime didn't cater to exotism but to nationalism to attract viewers.