Tsuyoshi Yamada is an otaku… a lonely otaku. He throws away his free time watching anime and surfing the net, dreaming of one day falling in love, but alas, he is merely an awkward, shy bloke who lives in his bedroom with nothing but dolls and figurines for company. One non-specific day, riding the train on his way back home, Yamada protects a beautiful woman (Saori Aoyama) from an abusive old drunk. Of all people, an otaku came to rescue of this damsel in distress. And so begins the romance of Densha Otoko (“Train Man”); advised by his message board buddies, the clumsy and unconfident Yamada (already in love with Saori) begins his quest for love.
Densha Otoko has been a phenomenal success in Japan; based loosely on a true-story of one otaku’s discovery of romance, it is a franchise that began life on an internet message board but went on to spawn a live-action TV series, a live-action movie and a manga series too. The subject of this review, the TV series, is quite fantastic- although some of the acting is atrocious (Mistake Itou’s Saori is as wooden and clueless a female lead as I have seen for a while), a lot of Densha Otoko is inspiring and touching; it gets right to the heart of a lonely otaku, chronicles his every fear of love and rejection, without degrading him as stupid or pitiful.
It’s an innovative story in the way that it depicts the internet; Densha often turns to an anime-themed message board in search of advice and we are regularly shown the people who respond, people from every profession, every walk of life, who are supporting, and are in turn being inspired by, Densha’s search for love. It’s the first time I’ve seen the internet depicted on such a human level.
This is a funny and touching story exploding with heart warming sentiment; an almost too-close-to-the-bone examination of otaku culture, Densha Otoko is an ultra modern romantic fairy tale.