Train Man

"Very Good"

Train Man Review


The back story behind Train Man is as entertaining as the film itself. Based on an allegedly true and utterly inconsequential encounter on a Tokyo subway that occurred in 1999, the film follows behind newspaper articles, books, comics, and even a TV series, all of which rehash and reflect on one nerd's much-discussed quest for true love.

"Train Man" (Takayuki Yamada) is a 22-year-old dweeb who does corporate tech support by day and hangs around Tokyo's electronics district by night collecting toy figures, fidgeting nervously with his glasses, and hiding behind his stringy hair. He's a classic otaku, an ubernerd who is most comfortable when he's alone and typing on his computer.

One night on the subway he intervenes when a drunken commuter starts harassing a group of women. The police eventually get involved, and he's hailed as a gallant hero by the women, all of whom want to get his address so they can send him thank you gifts. Train Man is so overwhelmed by this burst of social interaction that he recounts the story in a popular otaku chat room, where anonymous chatters cheer him on and encourage him to follow up with the women when he gets the gifts.

One gift, a set of tea cups, arrives from a lovely young woman (Miki Nakatani) he has admired. What brand are they, asks the chat room. "Hermes," he says. Wow! they all respond. "That's an expensive gift. It means something. She likes you. Go for it!"

And so begins Train Man's Cinderella-like attempt at an extreme makeover, complete with new hair, clothes, and shoes, on all of which he's advised by the chatters. They tell him where to take her, what to order, what to say to her, and what her responses mean. Miss Hermes, as she becomes known, is a sweetheart and enjoys Train Man's shy ways and insecurities. With every step forward he takes a step back, but the chat room is always there to cheer him on as he updates them on his shaky progress.

The movie gives us plenty of glimpses at the other chatters: a lonely nurse, a tired businessman, the businessman's wife, a comical trio of manga nerds who come across like The Three Stooges, and one young man so socially inept that he literally never leaves his bedroom (an affliction common enough in Japan to have a name: hikikomori, which means withdrawal).

As the chatters pin all their hopes and dreams on Train Man he almost crumbles under the vicarious pressure, but it's surprisingly touching how much they invest and how hard they work to make sure Train Man finds the happiness that he, and by extension they, all feel they deserve. We're going to get you through this, they keep telling Train Man. We'll do it together. That famous Japanese group dynamic is very much in effect, even if in this case the group is a bunch of shut-ins who never see each other's faces. Train Man is a very fun ride, and if you're really interested, the original chat room transcripts can be found online for your reading pleasure. "Banzai, Densha Otoko!"

Aka Densha otoko.

Come on ride the train and choo-choo ride it.



Train Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 4th June 2005

Distributed by: Viz Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 6

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Shosuke Murakami

Producer: Yoshishige Shimatani, Yoshikazu Seki, Yoshiro Hosono, Yoshiro Yasunaga

Starring: Takayuki Yamada as Densha otoko, as Hermes, Ryoko Kuninaka as Rika, Eita as Hirofumi, Kuranosuke Sasaki as Hisashi, Tae Kimura as Michiko, Yoshinori Okada as Yoshiga, as Middle-aged man in train, Hiroki Miyake as Tamura, Makoto Sakamoto as Muto, Momoko Shimizu as Schoolgirl on the train, as Hermes's friend

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