Title: Densha Otoko aka Train Man
Director: Takeuchi Hideki, Nishiura Masaki, Kobayashi Kazuhiro
Format: 11 episodes
Dates: 7 Jul 2005 – 22 Sep 2005
Synopsis: Yamada Tsuyoshi is an anime otaku who’s never had a girlfriend in his life. One day, on his way home from Akihabara, he notices a beautiful woman on the train. However, an old drunk begins harassing her and other women in their carriage. Yamada, in a fit of bravery, stands up to the drunk, saving the woman and the other passengers. Later, the woman, named Aoyama Saori, gives Yamada a gift as thanks: an expensive tea cup set.
Characters: Likeably pathetic male lead.
Comedy: Hit-or-miss to the extreme.
Directing: Clever ideas, amateurish execution.
Ending: Goes on and on and on.
In many ways, Densha Otoko was the series that had to be made, and not just because it’s based on the (supposedly) true story of an anime otaku who saved a woman on a train from a drunk and then turned to 2channel, Japan’s biggest internet forum, for advice when the possibility of a romantic relationship arose from it. But more so, Densha Otoko is a modern love story, a love story with two particular elements of society that weren’t anywhere near as prominent some ten years ago as they are today: the otaku and the internet. And while the famous case presented in this series is the most publicized example of such a relationship, even if it didn’t happen, it wouldn’t be totally unrealistic to expect similar relationships may happen today or, at the very least, that it could be penned by a fiction writer.
Strip away the internet legend and you’re not left with much more than a standard rom-com. I won’t deny it’s an entertaining rom-com, but a rom-com nonetheless. The romance aspect is, for the most part, fairly predictable and rather inoffensive (well, it is the every-otaku fantasy after all), but is aided by the fact that, as pathetic as he is, Yamada is just so hard not to like. Similarly, while the comedy has its flaws, there’s a certain charm to it that makes it redeemable. While it’s very hit-and-miss, when it does hit, it’s downright hilarious and, fortunately, for the most part it doesn’t miss too oftenâ€¦ I just wish I didn’t have to be there when it did, since it really falls on its face when it misses. However, what makes Densha Otoko unique is the part the internet plays in the story. Yamada’s message board acts not just as encouragement and motivation for Yamada in his indecisive moments, but actually consists of individuals, each with their own interesting stories and personalities, and while they don’t get the spotlight that often, when they do, this is portrayed well.
There are some unique and clever ideas that are attempted with the directing that range from ambitious to eccentric, and while the concepts themselves are good, the execution is amateurish. The pacing is fairly constant throughout, but when it does break stride it slows to a snail’s pace, making some segments frustrating to watch. By far the worst example of this was the last episode. Here, we had ten minutes of recap, ten minutes of plot (that’s completely predictable) and over forty minutes of reflection. It’s an episode that’s a true chore to watch, ending the series on an unfortunately dull and sour note.
Densha Otoko the myth is huge but Densha Otoko the television series has its flaws. It’s an entertaining romantic comedy, and unique in the way it relishes in modern technology culture, but the story isn’t quite as compelling as it may have been and the ending was terribly executed. It’s hard not to like Yamada and his internet friends, but with a million and one romantic comedies out there, this doesn’t offer that much that puts it above the rest.
The Rating: 6
Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun