Train Man: Densha Otoko - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 101
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Train Man

Train Man: Densha Otoko

By Sakura Eries     March 22, 2007
Release Date: February 06, 2007


Train Man: Densha Otoko
© Viz Media


What They Say
Computer engineer Otaku is an average young man, dressed in unstylish clothes and dorky glasses. But as luck would have it, he encounters a pretty young woman on a commuter train and saves her from a lecherous molester, falling in love with her at first sight. A few days later he receives a thank-you message from the woman along with a set of Hermes teacups.

Having never had a girlfriend or received a gift from a girl in his life, Otaku seeks out his pals on his BBS website for advice using his codename Train_Man (Densha Otoko): "How should I ask her out?"

Deeply interested in Train_Man's first love, his BBS pals eagerly supply him with advice. 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...

The Review!
Audio:
Because this was a live-action film, the only language track available was the original Japanese. Due to lack of equipment, I am unable to comment on the quality of the 5.1 track. However, I didn't notice any problems when the DVD played on stereo. The background music primarily consists of wind/strings/keyboard combinations.

Being used to commentary voiceovers by actors, voice actors, and directors, I found the commentary track a little bit unusual in that none of the commentators were actually involved in the production of the film. The three commentators, comprised of two Japanese and one American, are Japanese pop culture experts. So while their voiceover doesn't provide much insight into the making of the film or behind the scenes stories about the film's actors, it does clarify cultural references and address different aspects of Japanese society and the impact Densha Otoko had on Japanese culture.

Video:
Originally released in Japan in June 2005, this live-action film is presented in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The images were satisfactory overall although some computer monitor close-ups were a bit fuzzy and the colors sometimes seemed dull (although this may have had more to do with the original film than the transfer to DVD).

The subtitle font wasn't the prettiest, but the yellow color contrasted well against backdrops and was sized large enough to be easily read throughout the entire film. All the spoken dialogue was translated, but the text on Train_Man's PDA screen, computer printouts, and other print material in the film were not, which was frustrating at times. Closing credits were also not translated though Viz attempts to make up for that omission by providing the names of the main cast in the director/cast profiles.

Packaging:
The cover design for Train_Man: Densha Otoko is busy and bright. It features Train_Man and Hermess standing side by side. They are a study in contrasts; Hermess looks impeccable and is smiling confidently while Train_Man, decked in full otaku gear, looks at her with an uneasy expression on his face. In the background behind them, we have images of the Akihabara night scene, ASCII art and posts from Train_Man's thread, and the seven main representatives of the online community that lends Train_Man their aid. In the center foreground are the movie title and the film's honors. For those of you who have seen the Densha Otoko manga released by Viz Media, the slick black and white title logo should look very familiar. The back cover has a few screenshots from the movie and a short summary, and technical information is clearly presented towards the bottom.

What I found inside the case was a bit more disappointing. Aside from the disk, the only insert provided was a single sheet advertising Viz Picture's releases of the live-action films Kamikaze Girls and Linda, Linda, Linda. I was hoping for a booklet about the Densha Otoko phenomenon in Japan or at the very least information about the film.

Menus:
The main menu design incorporates all the main elements of the film with Hermess in the foreground, a geeky Train_Man some distance away, the interior of a train, and ASCII art. Animation for the main menu consists of some of the more complicated ASCII art being "typed" onto the screen with lines of Japanese emoticons flowing across the background. "Emoticons" also pop up alongside highlighted selections in the DVD menus and submenus. No noticeable problems with access times, and the layout is straightforward and easy to navigate.

Extras:
This DVD is a little bit weak in the extras department. In addition to the original Japanese trailers (un-subtitled), we have profiles on the director and cast, otaku culture tips, an ASCII art dictionary, and a still frame advertising Viz's Train_Man manga. I had expected short interviews with the director and actors, but the profiles are comprised of a number of still frames. Director Shosuke Murakami and lead actors Takayuki Yamada and Miki Nakatani each get a frame with an accompanying (and badly translated, I might add) brief blurb, and only the names and pictures of the members of the supporting cast are presented in the final three frames. The set up for the otaku culture tips extra is similar; you toggle through a number of frames explaining various cultural references that pop up in the film. The ASCII art dictionary is a helpful addition, but it was irritating to have to toggle under each emoticon in order to see its definition.

Content:
A twenty-two year old computer geek, Gundam Wing otaku, and denizen of Akihabara (Takayuki Yamada) one day posts an unusual message on a popular Japanese Internet forum. Under the username Train_Man, he describes how a drunk salaryman stumbled into his train on his ride home and began harassing the passengers. At first, he (like everyone else) tried to ignore the troublemaker, but when the drunk laid hands on a young female passenger (Miki Nakatani), he intervened in an uncharacteristic burst of courage. A scuffle ensued, but fortunately for the otaku, train personnel arrived quickly to break it up. Because of the ruckus, the passengers involved had to file a police report. The otaku gave his statement with the others, but as he was about to leave, a few of his fellow passengers requested his contact information in order to send thank yous -- including the young woman he had helped.

His posting receives a few responses. Some of the forum members think what he did was admirable, but everyone -- including Train_Man -- doubts anything will come of it. But the very next day, he receives an overnight package. It's a pair of teacups -- a thank you gift from the young lady!

Excited and baffled about the unusual gift, the Train_Man runs back to the forum. His news generates mild interest and discussion until someone asks what kind of teacups they are.

His answer stuns everyone. The teacups are Hermes! Expensive designer-brand teacups!

Suddenly everyone on the forum is e-screaming him to call Hermess, as Train_Man's lady is now known on the forum. The problem is, Train_Man is a complete novice when it comes to women. He's too nervous even to dial her number! However, the forum members recognize this as a huge opportunity and will not let him throw it away that easily. With their encouragement, Train_Man summons the courage to call and ask her out to dinner!

The next days are a whirlwind of new experiences for Train_Man. Under the tutelage of the online community, he fully remakes his image and survives his first date ever. Amazingly enough, that first date leads to a second. One thing leads to another, and he even gets invited over to Hermess' house for tea! Not bad for a guy who relied on his PDA to help him make conversation on his first date!

Things go so well that when Train_Man finally confirms that Hermess does not have a boyfriend, he tells the forum that he's going to confess his love to her. His online friends are thrilled and eagerly help plan for that special moment. However, on the big day, things don't go as expected, and Train_Man is left with his feelings unconfessed and feeling foolish. His confidence gone, he decides that he and Hermess are too different, and that there's no point in pursuing her. He goes crawling back to the forum to tell them his decision, but their response to his news is not at all what he expects...

For those of you unfamiliar with this story of "Beauty Meets the Geek," Densha Otoko (literally "Train Man") stemmed from the postings on a 2channel chat room for single men. There's some question as to whether or not the events described actually happened, but in any case, Densha's postings became a hugely popular cultural phenomenon in Japan. The postings were eventually collected and published under the fictitious name Nakano Hitori (which is a homonym for a phrase that means "one among many"), and to my knowledge, there are now four manga, a wildly successful TV series, and this movie that are based on this story.

I'm a big fan of the Densha Otoko tale. The story is one that otaku (Japanese and non-Japanese) can relate to, which is probably why this movie's American debut took place at last year's Anime Expo even though it's not an anime. Because our knowledge of the original story is limited to what is posted on the chat room thread, the plot is extremely flexible, and there's probably a version of Densha Otoko for just about everyone. The movie's screenwriters chose to turn it into a chick flick, and unlike the TV series which had equal portions of wild comedy and tear jerking moments, the movie stays largely in the realm of angst and romance. Also, this story is more about Densha Otoko conquering his fears than an otaku trying to pose as something he is not. In the TV series, Train_Man's otakuness isn't obvious to Hermess at their first meeting, but movie Train_Man is very obviously an otaku from the start (after his fight with the salaryman, Hermess even hands him his bag of anime baubles that he dropped).

The director is quite clever in overlaying the action and conversations depicted in the movie with the corresponding posts from the forum. The forum member conversation montages are varied and lively so that they never get boring visually. Thread entries are sometimes shown as is on computer screens, sometimes depicted alongside the person entering the post as a text caption, and sometimes spoken aloud in voiceovers. In other scenes, such as Train_Man's introduction, the text is superimposed upon storefronts, signs, and other parts of the setting. Murakami gets really creative with interweaving the forum's instructions for Train_Man into the background as he undergoes his makeover.

One of the challenges of telling the story in film format is the approximate two hour time limit. As such, the film narrows down the numerous anonymous members of the online community to seven main representatives. This actually works out fairly well as you're able to become familiar with them and they're varied enough to keep things interesting. There's a pretty good interplay between them and Train, and Train's not the only one to benefit from the relationship. At the end of the movie, you get to see how Train's impacted the lives of these seven for the better.

A little less satisfying are Train_Man and Hermess themselves. In real life, Takayuki Yamada is an extremely popular idol, the antithesis of an otaku. So when Train undergoes his transformation from geek to stud, it's a little too dramatic to be believable. (In contrast, when TV series Train undergoes his makeover, he goes from geek to a dressed up and tidier geek). As for Hermess, my criticism is not so much about casting (after all, Miki Nakatani was chosen because one of Train_Man's entries stated that Hermess looked like Miki Nakatani) but about the way her character is written. The way she talks and acts and reacts is too perfect -- too perfect to be real.

The film is not rated, but I would probably rate it as PG for a “war� scene, some profanity, a tiny bit of sexual innuendo, and the fact that you need to read subtitles for the entire movie unless you understand Japanese.

Features
Japanese 2.0 language,Japanese 5.1 language,Audio 'Otaku' Commentary with Patrick Macias; Tomohiro Machiyama and Jay Tack,English subtitles,Original Japanese Trailers,Otaku Culture Tips,Director and Cast Profile,ASCII Art Dictionary

Review Equipment
Sony Bravia 40� KDL-V40XBR1 LCD HDTV ,Sony SLV-D350P DVD Player/ Video Cassette Recorder, Sony Bravia KDL-V40XBR1 built in stereo speakers, S-Video and RCA audio cables.

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