Posted by psgels on 27 January 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews

So, for those of you who don’t know: Noitamina is a timeslot started back in 2005, dedicated to showing anime for an older audience and touching upon themes that are beyond the norm for anime. 2010 was a huge year for it: it upgraded to having two series air per season, on top of showing three brilliant series right after each other (Sarai-Ya Goyou, Yojou-han Shinwa Taikei and Shiki). Unfortunately these didn’t sell so well.

This lead to a completely different direction for the timeslot in 2011: it actually started making series that focused on a younger audience. Yeah, the same audience that every other show was also focusing on. In particular Fractale and Guilty Crown were very unnerving examples because of how they also dumbed down their own content and characters. For a long while the future of the timeslot was uncertain. Of course an experimentation into different audiences should be encouraged, but the timeslot shouldn’t stay in this and lose the thing that made it stand out in the first place. Thankfully, with Thermae Romae the producers have shown that they haven’t run out of their drive to experiment anytime soon. Yes, we here have a series about roman baths.

This probably is the first full comedy that the timeslot aired. It did feature funny series before, but the humour never was as important to the whole series as here. What makes this series work so well is the deadpan humour that it uses. It’s got this great lead character who is a roman architect in charge of building baths, and throughout the entire series he keeps taking himself seriously, even though some really weird stuff happens to him. The show is only six episodes long, and each episode is just ten minutes, so it’s perfect if you want to watch a little bite-sized comedy that touches upon something different for a change.

It’s just a damn shame that out of all the production companies to get their hands on adapting the manga for this series… it had to be the single worst one out there. The animation i this series is just completely abysmal. Instead of actually animating the characters, they just stand as cardboard cutouts on the screen and wiggle back and forth with bad flash transitions. This feels more like a fancy visual novel than an actual anime, and it’s the same in a long line of terribly animated gag stories like High Score, Haiyoru Nyaruani, that gothic teacher one and Himitsu Kessha Countdown. With Thermae Romae, they finally sat down and actually got themselves some good source material, and it shows, even through their crappy translation. But how good this series should have been if it didn’t have such awkward animation and direction.

Storytelling: 9/10 – In particular the deadpan dialogue works really well for a comedy, and it’s well written here.
Characters: 8/10 – The only one who really stands out is the main character. But he is so enjoyable to watch that he dwarfs the unlikable and one-sided other characters.
Production-Values: 5/10 – I usually don’t try to be harsh on bad animation: sure, it’s nice to have good animation, but it’s not vital for a good series. Here though, the animation is so bad that it really does get in the way of the story. And that’s a bad thing.
Setting: 9/10 – It’s baths in Rome, with a little japanese twist.

Suggestions:
Marie & Gali
Hetalia Axis Powers
Gag Manga Biyori

12 Responses

  1. andrea says:

    I found the constipated stillness of the faces kinda hilarious, it added to the humor. A very good anime, it has the craziness we expect from Japan without being nerdy otaku crap.

  2. Frost says:

    Disagree, I think the “cardboard” look actually adds to its charm and makes it even more unique… I find it weird you can praise Penguindrum for all kinds of visual shenanigans and bash this for doing the same, lol

    Anyway, style aside, it was hilarious all the way through, just like every mature comedy that shows up once in a while

    • Puran says:

      In MPD it was for 2 short segments, not for the whole series. And even then, it was more animated than this one.

      Although, I do agree, the animation (or lack of) did work to its favour, up to a point. But they could have had more variety.

  3. Gavrilo says:

    Loved this all the way through. While I do agree the animation was just plain lazy and in no way worthy of praize, it actually fit quite well within the context.

  4. joojoobees says:

    I completely agree. Imagine this same material handled as beautifully as Sarai-ya Goyou. This could have been great, but at least it was different and amusing.

  5. omo says:

    Going to chime in with the people who think it is animated well enough as is. I just don’t think it would be all that suitable to the sort of thing you’re implying. I think the stilted animation actually adds a lot to the humor and timing of the humor. If it was fluid like, say, Nichijou, it would be way too intense.

    The problem to me was more like they cut a lot of corners in the animation, so there was a degree of inconsistency that was not always purposeful.

  6. Reed says:

    You care too much about the animation of this show. You are underrating it for no good reason.

  7. AlexS says:

    I loved this show. Despite the title, it really is about Japanese bath culture, with a clever twist to make it more interesting (you don’t learn anything about roman baths).

    I loved the self derision of having a foreign commenting on Japanese. They really pull no punches (“flat faced tribe”, etc), the extreme feeling of inadequacy and stereotyping that Japanese have when dealing with foreigners, all that with lots of humor.

    As for the production values, it felt like it was more of a glorified kamishibai (japanese paper theater), and like the other commenters, it fitted really well with the type of comedy.

    • atua says:

      Self-derision? Sounded more like indirect self praise to me, especially with regards to technology, food and culture.

      I agree with the other posters that felt that the “cardboard cutout” animation style, while cheap looking, worked in the series’ favour more often than not. It fits well with the feel, comedy and style of the show.

  8. Froob says:

    I think it’s about time I started watching this.

  9. dm00 says:

    I think the animation style reflects the manga’s style, and like many others who have responded here, I think the animation doesn’t really harm the show at all (and may contribute to the wonky humor). Noitamina was originally for experimentation. This qualifies as experimentation.

    I wonder what’s going to be next in the time-slot, since this was basically a half-season.

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