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Literature / Train Man (2004)

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Densha Otoko (Train Man in English) is a franchise that consists of a book, a film, a television drama, and five different manga adaptations, all of which are based on forum posts in 2ch.

The main character is a nameless otaku living in Akihabara. One evening, as he is taking the train home, he sees a drunk salaryman accosting a woman. Overcoming his shyness, he intervenes, and in gratitude, the woman asks for his address and mails him an expensive Hermès tea set as a thank-you gift. The otaku relays this information on the forum he frequents, whereupon he is given the moniker ‘Train Man’. He seeks the advice and support of his fellow forum-goers to tidy himself up and ask ‘Hermès’ out.

The series in general contains examples of:

  • Only Known by Their Nickname: ‘Train Man’ and ‘Hermès’.
    • The TV series gives names to the leads, but they remain nicknamed in BBS discussions.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Quite a few real anime items show up on the Otaku's shelves.
    • The animated intro for the TV series and the use of the Electric Light Orchestra song "Twilight" are nods to Daicon IV, one of the fan-made animations that lead to the creation of Studio Gainax.
    • The movie poster also shows up in the TV drama.
    • A lot towards Mobile Suit Gundam, but probably the most notable is the otakus' rendition of the "fallen comrades" moment after Operation Odessa, with one otaku in particular getting WAY too immersed in his portrayal of Amuro:
      Matilda-san... Matilda-san... MATILDA-SAN!!!
    • Pretty Woman. The song was also used for his clothes shopping montage.

The 2005 live-action film contains examples of:

  • Beautiful All Along: In the movie at least, Densha turns out to be a hottie after getting a haircut, contacts, and a fresh wardrobe.
  • Those Two Guys: The 2channers, consisting of Those Three Otaku, a hikikomori, a nurse, and a man and woman who are revealed to be husband and wife late in the movie.

The 2005 TV series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Pervert: Yamada volunteers to get a girl’s balloon that got stuck in a tree, and accidentally looking into a strange woman’s window while she’s getting dressed. She responds with swift anger.
  • Adaptation Expansion: ‘Densha’ and ‘Hermès’ are given names—Tsuyoshi Yamada and Saori Aoyama, respectively—friends, families, and work lives; most notably, ‘Densha’ has two fellow otaku friends named Matsunaga and Kawamoto and an abusive client he’s assigned to named Misuzu Jinkama, and ‘Hermès’ has a brother named Keisuke, two friends named Kaho and Yuuko, and a close friend named Kazuya Sakurai.
  • Amicably Divorced: Saori’s parents reconcile and finalise their divorce following an inspirational speech by Tsuyoshi.
  • Anime Opening Parody: The opening parodies the Daicon IV anime sequence, using the same music and key sequences but using Mina (a character from a Show Within a Show on Train Man) instead of the heroine and with flying trains instead of flying swords.
  • Arranged Marriage: Saori’s mother tries to set her up with different men in the beginning of the series, much to Saori’s chagrin. By the end of the series, her mother is looking for a new man for herself instead.
  • Artsy Beret: A beret-wearing artist (apparently on a world tour) is one of the people talking to "Densha" on the message board.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other:
    • Tsuyoshi’s parents.
    • Also Yuuko realizes that, despite all his nerdy traits and that she initially planned to get with him for his money, she truly started to care for Matsunaga.
    • When Tsuyoshi is hospitalized after waiting for Saori in the rain, his sister Aoi admits that despite how much she complaints about Tsuyoshi's personality, she does care for him and encourages Saori to be with him.
  • Babies Ever After: Tsuyoshi’s parents declare in ep. 11 that they’re expecting another child.
  • Bad Boss: Tsuyoshi’s supervisor, who practically bullies him.
  • Beta Couple:
    • The JIS artist hikikomori and his old girlfriend, who also happens to post on the board, inspired by ‘Densha’, re-unite in their own subplot.
    • Matsunaga and Yuuko, despite a minor hitch in the road.
    • Ushijima and the Korean girl from the bar he frequented.
    • The couple on the message board.
    • The divorced man on the message board who gets back together with his ex.
  • Berserk Button: Never lie to Saori, even if it’s something insignificant, unless you can pass it off as something else. She will struggle really hard to ever trust you again.
  • Blatant Lies: Kazuya relies on this too often for his own good. It never works for long.
  • Book Ends:
    • Parodied in ep. 11. Kazuya and Misuzu happen to almost run into each other on the street while contemplating their loneliness, when a random pervert tries to molest Misuzu; she starts beating him up, but pretends to be helpless when Kazuya comes by so he’ll come and ‘save’ her. Shortly after, Kazuya is seen broken-hearted, recovering from repeated injuries, and is in such poor shape he forms a club of men who’ve been dumped by Misuzu.
    • In the final scene in ep. 11, Tsuyoshi and Saori are seen riding off to their future on the train, when Tsuyoshi notices the drunkard who harassed Saori.
  • Brick Joke: Matsunaga, Tsuyoshi's friend, is particularly fascinated by a voice actress’s ankles. When he dumps Yuuko, he tells her it’s because her ankles are fat, although it turns out it was a lie and he was just afraid of getting hurt in the relationship.
  • Butt-Monkey: Tsuyoshi, during the first half or so of the series. Kazuya becomes this afterwards, though it’s often self-inflicted, in a sense.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The abused housewife disappeared after her first and only appearance.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Kazuya uses the ‘Chicken Game’ and is told that he will never get married, and his only girlfriend will be his right hand. He answers triumphantly that it’s not true—he is left-handed.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Tsuyoshi, seeking some dating advice, asks his father how he managed to win over his mother. His father tells him how he stalked her and aggressively chased away her fiancé, and Tsuyoshi realises he might be asking the wrong person.
  • Divorce Is Temporary:
    • ‘Densha’ inspires a divorced man to reconcile with his estranged ex-wife and get back together with her.
    • Averted with Saori’s parents: Her mother refuses to sign the divorce papers. It was because of Tsuyoshi that she realizes it’s for the best to break up and be cordial for Saori’s sake.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
    • Misuzu’s abusive attitude towards (mainly) Tsuyoshi is Played for Laughs. Her abuse of Tsuyoshi is bad.
    • When Yuuko kicks Matsunaga for dumping her, it’s used as a gag.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: The Chikan who try to molest Saori and Misuzu are seen as disgusting people, but when Misuzu almost rapes Tsuyoshi, it’s Played for Laughs mostly.
  • Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Kazuya almost kisses Saori when she's briefly sleeping off her inebriation, but she wakes up before he does without realising what he's doing.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Kazuya, when he finally notices how pretty Saori is.
  • Fan Nickname: In-universe example. Tsuyoshi and other otakus refer to it as ‘Akiba’, and Tsuyoshi has to correct himself when bringing it up while talking to Saori.
  • Gambit Roulette: Kazuya tries his luck with this repeatedly. It fails him repeatedly.
  • Gold Digger:
    • Misuzu is very much this, to the point she has no shame at all at using this to advance up the corporate ladder. She dumps Kazuya on the spot when his father’s company goes bankrupt.
    • Saori’s friend Yuuko starts dating Matsunaga when she discovers he’s the heir of a very wealthy family.
      Kaho: Have you no shame?
      Yuuko: Of course not. It flew out the window once I turned 30.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Appear before Kazuya when he debates whether or not to make a move on Saori. Ultimately, the Bad Angel punches the good angel in the face, marking Kazuya’s Face–Heel Turn.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Kazuya, who starts desiring ‘Hermès’ after reading the board, and sabotages Tsuyoshi’s efforts every chance he gets when he realises she’s actually Saori.
  • Have We Met?: Saori introduces Tsuyoshi to Kaho, who mistreated him in profound disgust earlier. She doesn’t remember him.
  • Hikkikomori: A side character is this. By the end of the series, he gains the courage to finally go outside.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In the series, after Tsuyoshi and Saori get together, the forum members bid ‘Densha’ a heartfelt good-bye as he ‘graduates’ from the single men’s board. In real life, when Densha and Hermes got together and it seemed they were about to sleep together for the first time, the board members started making rude remarks and Densha just left.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Saori can’t tell Kazuya is manipulating her and Tsuyoshi every chance he gets and winds up believing Tsuyoshi was making fun of her on the board.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • Tsuyoshi goes through this in No Good Deed Goes Unpunished below, and it doesn’t end there: after he painstakingly collects all of his papers from the gutter, a surge of water gushes out all over him, and Misuzu chews him out for being late. (As a matter of fact, Misuzu is fond of torturing him in general.)
    • Kazuya undergoes this frequently when his plans explode in his face.
  • Japanese Spirit: Mentioned by name and briefly paraphrased as the ‘otaku spirit’ by other board members.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Misuzu, though the ‘heart of gold’ part shows only little, and only after she finds out about the board. She’s basically just a Jerkass, it’s just a matter of where she directs it.
  • Karma Houdini: Misuzu. She slept with a lot of men, dumping them unceremoniously, and treats Tsuyoshi poorly on regular basis. By the end of the show, she decides to travel around the world, breaking the hearts of even more men.
  • Koreans in Japan: One of the subplots was about Ushijima (the Osaka Tigers fan) trying to find the girl he was in love with, a Korean girl named ‘Tiffany’, who worked at the bar he frequented (all he had from her was a polaroid photo with her name wrote in hangul). Ushijima also intended to propose marriage to her so she could stay in Japan with him, but it seems like she’s seducing Ushijima to get money from him and leave. It turns out that she was scammed by a false talent agent and she was too ashamed to return to Ushijima without his money. Ushijima still proposed to her without the ring and she accepted.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Almost every manipulative scheme Kazuya tries to win Saori’s affections blow up in his face spectacularly (and rather hilariously).
  • Last-Name Basis: Tsuyoshi and Saori address each other by their last names (which is the norm in Japan, actually). After they get together, Saori refers to Tsuyoshi by his first name.
  • Leitmotif: Misuzu’s is ‘The Imperial March’. It's both her background music and Tsuyoshi's ringtone.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Kazuya and Saori. Kazuya changes his mind about Saori when he learns that she’s ‘Hermès’.
  • Moe: Discussed in-universe by Tsuyoshi and his friends, mostly with regard to anime, and a particular board member expresses this sentiment repeatedly towards ‘Hermès’. When Saori comes to Akihabara and is confused by the otaku terminology, she evokes this tenfold in Tsuyoshi and his friends when she asks in confusion what it means.
  • Never My Fault: One of the men who complain about Misuzu says his life was ruined after his wife discovered their affair, other men say they’d wasted a lot of money on presents for her. This hardly sounds like it was actually her fault.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Yamada comes across a young girl whose balloon flew into a tree, and agrees to help her get it back. The balloon flies away when he can’t get it, and he winds up looking into a strange woman’s window and getting chewed out by her and falling out. The girl calls him an idiot and throws his papers into the gutter.
  • Not So Stoic: Saori briefly loses her composure when Tsuyoshi collapses in front of her, having waited for her for hours in the rain.
  • Old Maid: Yuuko, Saori's friend, is frustrated because she is 30 and unmarried. As soon as she meets Matsunaga, she only considers dating him because he is rich and she will finally stop being single.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Kazuya pretends to be ‘Densha’ and tell the board members that ‘Hermès’ dumped him, using a very poor imitation of Tsuyoshi’s speech patterns. They see right through it and shame him away.
  • Perspective Flip: The 12th episode is partially this, giving more focus to Matsunaga and Ushijima (the forum member whose computer broke).
  • Pity Sex: Misuzu wants to ‘help’ Tsuyoshi this way after he gets dumped by Saori, so he’d forget about her; he refuses, adamant in his affection for Saori.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Keisuke gives a passing glance at the board and concludes that Tsuyoshi has been making fun of his sister online. She tells him never to see her again. It takes tremendous efforts from Tsuyoshi, the other board members, and Saori’s friends to get Saori to actually read the board and realise her mistake.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Tsuyoshi’s supervisor’s attitude towards the CEO’s son. His demeanour changes radically when he talks to him as opposed to Tsuyoshi.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: We’re supposed to side with Tsuyoshi even when he calls Saori 25 times without getting an answer after being told she had a fiancé, and resent his supervisor for his attitude towards him, despite having a very good reason for it (namely, Tsuyoshi is not only fairly incompetent, he’s been taking too many days off without proper prior notice).
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Some otakus regard those who are ashamed of being an otaku with little respect.
  • Race Fetish: The woman from No Good Deed Goes Unpunished above happens to be black, and accuses Yamada of this.
  • Really Gets Around: Misuzu, so much that by the end of the series, the men she dumped form a union.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Tsuyoshi and Saori. There’s even a song that plays often as background music about this theme.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: Kazuya builds one for an elaborate proposal to Saori on her birthday. He winds up activating it by mistake when he realises the party changed its venue and has to run out to catch her.
  • Schmuck Bait: Yamada has just finished collecting his papers from the gutter when he hears a rumbling noise from the pipe leading to it. Does he realise what’s going on and move aside? Does he realise he’s late for work and go, realising his curiosity will probably have to go unsatisfied? No! He looks straight into the pipe for a few seconds and doesn’t move aside when he realises what’s going on. Guess what happens next.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Tsuyoshi’s company’s CEO’s son bosses Tsuyoshi’s supervisor around due to his position. When the supervisor defies him, he winds up demoted and later fired.
  • Shout-Out: The opening animation pays homage to Hideaki Anno's DAICON IV animation.
  • Show Within a Show: Getsumen to Heiki Mina.
  • A Sinister Clue: Kazuya is left-handed.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: When Misuzu swears at Kazuya after dumping him, her swearing is apparently so bad it’s replaced with a roaring sound effect.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That:
    • When looking for a socially acceptable hobby to bring up, Tsuyoshi tells Saori he surfs the net; she thinks he means surfing, as in with a surfboard and everything, and he goes along with it, trying to learn to surf before he has to demonstrate his skills. It goes awful.
    • When Kazuya tries to bring Saori to see his Rube Goldberg Device and propose dramatically, he accidentally drives past where Tsuyoshi has been waiting for Saori in the rain for hours. She thinks that’s where he was going to take her, and he grudgingly claims it is.
  • Those Two Guys: Kawamoto and Matsunaga, Tsuyoshi’s two otaku buddies.
  • Tranquil Fury: No matter how hurt or angry she may be, Saori will always be the paragon of calm, polite, gracious demeanour.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The original events, as reported on the original board, have been ‘embellished’ for dramatic/comic effect.
  • Worthy Opponent: Kazuya sees Tsuyoshi as this.
  • You Are Not Alone: Repeatedly emphasised. The similarity between ‘Mina’ and ‘minnanote  is pointed out to underline the importance of co-dependence.
  • Zany Scheme: Kazuya repeatedly tries these to win over Saori. They fail invariably.

Alternative Title(s): Train Man, Train Man 2004