Movie Review: Thermae Romae

By William Kustiono

Thermae Romae is a Japanese film adaptation of the Japanese award winning manga series “Thermae Romae” by Mari Yamazaki. The manga won its third Manga Taisho and the Short Story Award at the 14th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize. Hideki Takeuchi is the film director. He is most known for his directing for Nodame Kantabire. This film tells about the journey of a Roman Bath (Thermae) Engineer/Architect who finds himself transported into the future and in a Japanese bathhouse.

The film starts with a scene dating back to the Roman Empire. There is an ancient Roman architect named Lucius (Hiroshi Abe) who struggles and is unable to keep up with the fast pace designing job. One day, his friend brings him to a Roman bathhouse to distress and clear his mind with the calm soothing water. Suddenly, an unknown force pulls Lucius deep to the bottom of the floor. Crawling to find a way out, he awakens and finds himself inside an unfamiliar bathhouse. He somehow traveled into the future and is in a Japan bathhouse in the present time.

This movie casts several prominent Japanese actors. Abe Hiroshi plays Lucius, the Roman bathhouse engineer who lacks inspiration until he finds a portal that can send him back to his time. Mari Yamazaki, the creator of this manga adaptation, is a character played by Aya Ueto. Mari is depicted as a manga artist who is struggles to survive, thus creating a perfect manga story. Her character ponders and brainstorms for days, but still could not find inspiration for her manga. When she learns of Lucius, she decides to write a manga around him as the main character in the manga.

This movie is really humorous. Whenever Lucius crosses over to Japan, he always makes a shocking face about the current bath accessories. Somehow every time he gets an inspiration, he always makes a priceless face that will leave the audience laughing. Imagine a tribesman creating fire for the first time. This discovery would leave him dumfounded, as did Lucius. On the other hand, Mari’s character is somewhat clumsy. She falls asleep during the day because she works all night to finish her manga. She is smitten by Lucius’s appearance, despite him being married to another woman.

Overall, this movie is a must watch for Japanese comedy lovers. Every single time Lucius travels to present Japan, you will laugh out loud rolling on the floor. His facial expressions are just too amusing.

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