Thermae Romae is the best Noitamina anime to finish in 2012 (adding in ‘to finish’ because I’d rate Psycho Pass as being better). Sure it’s partly a commentary on how the timeslot continued its poor form from last year that its best show was some 3 episode flash anime, but that’s giving Thermae Romae way too little credit. It’s charming, funny, original but most shockingly of all, for something as short and based off such a silly premise, has this great little bit of depth to it that I love.
One of the running threads of Thermae Romae is how Lucius’s wonder at the technology of the flat-faced slaves starts turning into shame at how much it outclasses that of the Roman empire. He has grown up believing in his country and being proud specifically of its culture. It’s stressed in the show that one of the vital components of why the Romans are able to take over so much of the continent is because others become envious of their superior culture and want in on that luxury. The fact that these slaves so out-class anything his nation can produce, and that his attempts to mimic them are unpolished shadows of the originals, starts to send Lucius into a spiral of self-doubt and depression.
This reaches its peak when he’s walking around this festival-like area in a hot springs resort. He sees that they’ve got this entire open air facility that makes the baths of Rome seem uncivilised and barbaric in comparison. This girl who he’s with is so used to seeing this kind of quality she is unfazed by stuff that Lucius finds utterly incredible. That is, until they reach an archery stall. The bow is of terrible quality and anyone else who tries the game fails miserably. That is, until Lucius steps up and, even with the terrible bow, easily beats the game and wins the grand prize.
Walking around this festival area, clutching a giant dumb teddy bear, proud that the military capability of these flat faced people pales in comparison to those of the mighty Roman Empire. At that moment, Lucius was the height of moe.