Creator: Shosuke Murakami
Publisher: Viz
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Romance
RRP: $24.98
Train Man: Densha Otoko DVD
Reviewed by Michael Aronson

�When a computer engineer otaku who has never had a girlfriend in his life saves a pretty young woman on a commuter train from a lecherous molester, he seeks out his pals on a popular internet BBS website for some dating advice, using his pseudonym Train_Man (Densha Otoko). Deeply interested in Train_Man�s first love, his BBS friends eagerly supply him with tips. Encouraged by their support, Train_Man undergoes a total makeover for his first-ever date with �Hermess.� Little does he know that he is about to ignite an internet phenomenon . . .�

I�m always amazed at how far ahead Japanese hand-drawn animation is from the quality of animation anywhere else in the world, and yet I�m always shocked at how far behind their live action film industry proves to be. Quality and professional aesthetics, be it for horror, action or drama, seem to lag behind moderns standards by ten to fifteen years. It�s good to see that Train Man is conceptually and technically up to snuff, but the approach to telling the story still suffers.

Based on a novel that was in turn based on a true story, the film version of Train Man succeeds over the manga adapted from the story, as the jumbled voices and opinions of various internet browsers are better conveyed through voice-overs than cluttered panels. Yep, the characters voice over themselves while they�re typing their thoughts online, but it�s a clever choice of editing that keeps the pace kinetic. The subtitles are adequate, but a working knowledge of the Japanese language will broaden one�s appreciation of the movie, as computer text is cleverly scattered throughout the background as Train Man wanders through Tokyo.

The story is rather unique too: a bumbling geek meets a girl through a combination of pure luck and reluctant volition and utilizes the help of his internet comrades who are in turn inspired by his quest. The problem is that the hero, Train Man has social skills like a quadriplegic can swim. I�m not talking in terms of the story, I mean the entire performance is painfully over the top. It�s understood that he lacks all social grace when he trips and falls in the train in the beginning, but he does so over and over throughout the film. Furthermore, the length could easily be cut by twenty minutes if Train Man could keep from stammering all the time and actually spit out a word or two. His inadequacies translate into a crippling experience for the audience who just wants to see him get the girl and call it a day. Lastly, the characterization of the girl is so bare-bones that it�s bewildering why she would be attracted to him at all.

I�m not sure if most Japanese romances lack the grace that Train Man does or if this one is just the black sheep, but the concept is solid enough that it might as well bear a western remake � so long as the screenwriters can form the characters more fully.

21 March 2007
Pantheon High v1

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