Friday, October 18, 2013

Thermae Romae (2012) ★★★★★

The Plot:

In the year 128 AD in Hadrian's Roman Empire, architect Lucius Modestus is an architect who builds only unimaginative bathhouses. All the swimming pools or public baths that he builds have characteristics that have already been seen more often than not, while other architects are building ambitious and innovative new projects. But someday, while relaxing in one of these public baths, Lucius is swallowed by a whirlpool only to come back to the surface in a modern day, 21st century public bath in Japan. There he meets a young Japanese woman and discovers the refinements of modern era bathing. His discoveries will make him a genius of the Roman empire but his travels back and forth between his time and ours seem to always lead him to the same young woman, a manga artist whose career is as bad as Lucius' before his travels. Are their fates linked and how can they help each other?

My verdict:

Being an adaptation of the eponymous manga, Thermae Romae harbors a form of absurd humor that is often associated with manga and can be reminiscent of City Hunter. The historical aspects of Rome and the mystery behind Lucius' travels keep the movie from falling in the infamous B-movies category and keep it fresh. The acting is excellent and the 2 main actors are charming (but be careful! Aya Ueto also played in baaaad movies like Azumi 2: Death or Love). The strongest point of this movie is really how imaginative its story is. For most people, it will deserve 4 stars but for people like me who have been fans of mangas for years, the final verdict will be 5 stars. Way to go, Japan!

On the subject of availability, I also need to mention that I saw this movie while travelling by plane and the best I could find was a Japanese (original) version with English subtitles. I don't know if any translated version exists or if the subtitles have been created for other languages.

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