I am a big fan of Abe Hiroshi. He’s played a book-smart but street-dumb Physics professor in TRICK, a disillusioned Finance Minister in Bubble Fiction: Boom or Bust, an ineligible bachelor in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko, a lawyer turned unorthodox school teacher in Dragon Zakura, and many more.
Abe is characterized by ruggedly handsome features and a deep, masculine voice. He also has an inexplicable comical quality. Perhaps it’s because he’s too manly. People can’t help but see him as unreal. It also doesn’t help that he’s mildly OCD and an awkward communicator – both traits that frequently appear in his roles.
Now, Fuji TV is producing a new movie that will further solidify Abe’s caricature as an eccentric character actor. It’s called Thermae Romae.
Thermae Romae is an adaptation of a popular manga written by Yamazaki Mari. The story follows a bath architect named Lucius in Ancient Rome. While he is skilled, his insistence for tradition is unappreciated in a time when progressive architecture is gaining popularity. One day, Lucius takes a bath in the local bathhouse, only to be transported to present day Japan. He is shocked by the strange people, but is pleased at the bath-loving culture. Using this newly found portal to the future, he goes back and forth between Ancient Rome and Japan, taking advantage of his knowledge to further his career.
Abe, of course, will be playing Lucius in the adaptation. Abe has always played eccentric characters, but at least till now, he was always playing a Japanese person. Though, I have to admit that his height, his dark skin, and his deep features do make him appear a bit Italian. The movie is a comedy, so while the casting may be a bit of a stretch, it’s an intentional decision in order to add to the humor.
Joining Abe are the always beautiful Ueto Aya and a whole bunch of other Japanese actors whose distinct features make them seem slightly foreign: Kitamura Kazuki, Takeuchi Riki, and Ichimura Masachika.
The movie will come out in Japanese theaters on April 28th, 2012. Watch the trailer below followed by my English translations.
Text: Over 5 million copies sold
Narration: In Ancient Rome, bath houses known as Thermae were popular
Text: Bath architect Lucius
Narration: 2,000 years later, a secret is about to unravel
Narration: Thermae Romae
Text: Ancient Roman
Lucius: What the hell is this?
Lucius: The faces are so flat!
Old man: Ah, it’s a gaijin!