51pTGX6YnmL._SY344_BO1204203200Lucius Modestus Quintus, the time-traveling Roman architect, continues to research Japanese bathing culture with Satsuki’s help. Ito’s traditional bath houses are beginning to struggle to keep up with the times and Lucius is indignant that, thousands of years in the future, the new tends to push out the old, just as it did in ancient Rome. When a yakuza group makes plans to take over local properties and build a huge spa complex, Lucius routs the thugs with some behind-the-scenes assistance from Satsuki’s grandfather. Meanwhile, Satsuki is falling in love with Lucius even as she begins to accept that he really is a Roman from the 2nd century. Back in ancient Rome, Emperor Hadrian is very ill and depressed, wishing only to die. Lucius must somehow return with his knowledge of Japanese bathing culture to build the ultimate bath house for his Emperor so he may die in peace.

Thermae Romae vol. III brings the series to a quiet close, ending with Lucius and Satsuki giving their child his first bath; he is a son who will grow up to “cleanse the world.” While there are loose threads left untied—most notably that of Ito’s fate—author Mari Yamazaki assures us that she will get back to these stories “when the time is right.” As the series ends with the death of a major character, this last volume is rather less hilarious than the first two, but it is still difficult not to snort when faced with a fat tanuki statue, huge testicles and all, sharing the view with a classic statue that appears to be Minerva. One of the most delightful anachronisms: shampoo hats and ramune bottles are popular enough in Rome to be found on archaeological digs at the site of Baiae in the 21st century, eliciting amusing reactions from the non-Japanese scholars on site.

The quality is consistent with the previous two volumes: the same large hardcover edition with thick glossy paper, great artwork and research, occasional humorous author’s notes, swift pacing, and good comedic timing. Satsuki’s grandfather and his no-nonsense approach to ancient Roman culture is especially comical, and it’s one of the brighter bits in this slightly more subdued volume. There is less nudity in this volume as Lucius manages to keep a towel around his waist most of the time. 

Other content of note includes an attempted kidnapping that would have led to slavery, and depictions of yakuza activity in Japan, both positive and negative. Yakuza are trying to forcibly take over land in Satsuki’s neighborhood, but they are routed by Satsuki’s grandfather, who is implied to have been a yakuza gang member himself in his youth. I hope Yamazaki will include more information about him in follow-up stories, as his is definitely a colorful past.

Thermae Romae, vol. 3
by Mari Yamazaki
ISBN: 9780316369114
Yen Press, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: OT(16+)

  • Saeyong Kim

    Past Reviewer

    Saeyong Kim is currently studying in the MLIS program at the University of British Columbia, where she also took a Master of Arts in Children’s Literature. She wants to take all the fascinating courses and never graduate, almost as much as she wants to hurry up and become a real librarian (almost). She loves anime and manga, is introducing herself to comics (via Sandman, a wonderful first comic if there ever was one – Watchmen may be next), and her to-read list of children’s literature never gets shorter, which is a good thing. She is also learning to play games on Playstation 3.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!