by Mari Yamazaki
published by Yen Press; $40 US
Thermae Romae Book 3 picks up in the middle of events from the previous volume, which meant I had to find and reread Book 2 before I was sure what was going on. Given that it’s been nine months since that was released, a little bit of “story so far” would have been a help.
It’s not that complicated a plotline, though. Lucius is still stuck in modern-day Japan, and a horse that has fallen in love with him (because he’s so masterful with animals) is rampaging through the inn, but Lucius is able to calm the animal. He then rides it bareback through the town, which immensely impresses the Rome-loving Satsuki.
Her grandfather, who’s drawn to look exactly like Tommy Lee Jones, is an acupuncturist and chiropractor. He’s celebrating that Satsuki has finally found someone to fall in love with, even if she doesn’t recognize or acknowledge it yet. Lucius calls her Diana, since he first saw her in a bath by the light of the moon. She’s essential, since she’s the only one who can translate Japanese to Latin for him, but he’s starting to feel more for her as well.
There’s a bigger plot here, with young punks wanting to redevelop the hot springs town into a more modern resort. Satsuki’s grandpa gets information from an old buddy, who’s drawn to resemble Lee Van Cleef, but all of that winds up seeming a distraction. Lucius wants to learn all he can from his unusual stay in Japan, but he also worries about what’s going on with the aging emperor Hadrian back in his own time.
My favorite sequences were the wordless ones, first where Satsuki’s grandpa and Lucius size each other up in the bath, and a couple with the horse, who’s a majestic animal even if older. That’s an underlying theme here, with Lucius demanding respect for elderly farmers from younger tough guys. It suits his style of architecture, too, designing buildings in classic style to last through time. The idea that bathing is a way to achieve harmony and relaxation becomes prominent throughout this volume.
The last half of the book becomes a quest, as Lucius and Satsuki are separated by time but seek to find each other again. Some of the previous plots are forgotten as the author races to a happy conclusion. The price has risen $5 for this installment, but I’m just glad we got this final volume (the equivalent of books 5 and 6 from the Japanese releases). (The publisher provided a review copy.)