Train Man

Last night, I got around to watching the film Train Man, which I had put off sending back to Netflix for some time. While I’m not fan of romance or romantic comedies, the premise of Train Man (Densha Otoko) had me intrigued. Based on a series of allegedly real-life messages collected on a thread on a 2channel forum (in other words, based on a true story, in the same way that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on a true story) from March to May of 2004, the original posts were collected and published as a light novel (later published in  English by Del Rey books in April 2007). The novel gave way to a manga adaption, a play, a live tv drama, and the film, released by Viz media in the US.

The story revolves around a hapless otaku (only ever referred to by his screen name, Train Man) who, after a day of shopping  in Akihabara, courageously stands up to a drunk menacing passengers on a train. One passenger in  particular, who Train Man secretly has a crush on, shows her gratitude by sending him an expensive tea set (and earning herself the nickname Hermes, after the brand name of the set). Realizing he is in a position to date her, the  nerd seeks help from an internet message board. The other anonymous posters, including a trio of fellow otaku, a lovelorn nurse, a pessimistic hikikomori, and a young couple with communication issues (who have no idea they post on the same board) decide to take Train Man on as their own pet project, advising him and cheering him on in his mission to win Hermes’ heart.

Although it loses pace toward the middle, the film overall is a surprisingly upbeat and entertaining look at the way technology has changed how we date, how we mature, and how we help ourselves by helping others. If nothing else, the scenes in and around Akihabara are worth the rental.

Fun Fact: When Napoleon Dynamite was brought to Japan, it was retitled “Bus Man” due to similarities to (and the extreme popularity of) Densha Otoko.

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