Movie review: Densha Otoko (Train Man)
Based on an allegedly true story, an extremely shy and socially awkward otaku comes to the defence of a young woman being accosted by a drunk on the subway. In thanks for his heroic act, the lovely young lady sends the otaku an opulent gift, which throws him into a frenzy. Is she trying to become his friend? Does she *gasp* want to be more than just friends? With the help of his anonymous online community of Dr. Phils, the otaku struggles with self-expression as he tries to emerge from his shell and find true love.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve seen it before: the nerd becoming cool after finding true love. The 80s pretty much did all that needed to be done with this scenario. But since this movie is set it Japan and is about otaku, it has a new relevance.
Even though otaku are finding a place in Japanese society, they are still seen by most as weirdos. And the lesson of this movie, that our hero needs to open himself up by sharing his feelings with others, is directed not only at him but the Japanese audience as a whole. The film is a strong condemnation of Japan’s strict social mores that stifle self-expression.
And regardless of all its social commentary, Densha Otoko is fun, surprising and a very touching love story.