Monday, August 5, 2013

Thermae Romae; Mari Yamazaki

Recently, the second volume of what will be three volumes here in the U.S., Thermae Romae by Mari Yamazaki was released and having just finished it this morning, I'm here to tell you that it's another fantastic volume about the bath houses of ancient Rome and modern Japan.

The reader gets an entertaining education of bath houses of ancient Rome via the central character, Lucius, who lives in ancient Rome and designs bath houses. We also get to experience modern day bath houses of Japan also via Lucius, who from time to time gets transported to present day Japan (don't ask how, that's not important and doesn't get explained anyway). When Lucius gets transported to modern day Japan, of course he is amazed at how far technology has progressed, especially that of bath houses and plumbing. In this volume Lucius spends more time in modern day Japan (and he has no control over how long he is in our present era, nor does he speak Japanese) and he's able to remember his future trips and can even take objects back to his time period. Mari Yamazaki, the cartoonist, doesn't concern herself with the time paradoxes this creates, she is just presenting an entertaining, educational, often humorous account of the differences between bath houses of ancient Rome and modern day Japan. Towards the end of this volume, Lucius meets a young Japanese woman who has studied Latin and can speak it (she developed a fascination for ancient Rome at a young age) and she tries to help Lucius understand things like television (not very successfully).

Thermae Romae is an expensive graphic novel ($34.99), but it is about 400 pages in length and it is over-sized. I suspect that one of the other reasons that it is priced as such is because it has a low print run here in the U.S. (in Japan it was hugely successful). I'm thankful that a graphic novel such as this exists because it is a great illustration that any story can be told in comic book form and hopefully it's selling well enough in the U.S. so that we get the concluding volume (check your local library, they may have a copy or you may be able to put in a request that they get this for you or you could put this on your gift wish list). 



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