Thermae Romae II / テルマエ・ロマエII (2014)
Director: Hideaki Takeuchi
Screenplay: Hiroshi Hashimoto, Mari Yamazaki
Cast: Hiroshi Abe, Aya Ueto, Kazuki Kitamura, Riki Takeuchi, Kai Shishido
If you didn’t see the first film then you can simply read the first paragraph of my review of it for the premise because it remains unchanged in this sequel. It isn’t absolutely necessary to see the first film before this one but a few things may feel unexplained if you haven’t seen the first film. For example, how Lucius is able to time travel back to ancient Rome and the nature of his existing acquaintance with Japanese manga artist, Mami. The former is actually a bit of a spoiler for the first film. If you do have a choice, I suggest watching the first film because it is unsurprisingly superior to this one.
That’s not to say that this sequel isn’t funny. Despite almost identical jokes but with different modern bath technologies and Japanese food, it still manages pretty good laughs. Highlights include Lucius’s reactions to massages and water slides. It probably helps that it’s been a year since I saw the first film so the jokes don’t feel stale. I do think the Rome part of the story is generally better in the sequel if only because it seems easier to follow and the desire for a more pacifist Roman civilization makes it easier to care about this plot thread. However, when it comes to the characters, they seem to have less involvement in this story. There’s also no real progression in the relationship between Mami and Lucius, except for a scene near the end which is a scene we desire to see but one that had no development leading up to it.
Like in the first film, the visuals are wonderful. It is very nice to see some of the beautifully made sets of ancient Rome and also the hot springs in Japan but besides the new sights, there’s nothing new in this sequel. For those who consider Hiroshi Abe’s physique under visuals, his work at the gym has paid off again this time. It’s amazing for a man who recently turned 50. For fans who couldn’t get enough of these jokes in the first film, this second installment does the job in that respect but it is disappointing how closely it follows the formula of the first film. I still had a good time watching this film but one hopes if a third installment is made that there be some shake-up in the story and laugh set-ups.