Blugh. Glargh. UGH. FEELINGS.
I don’t like to admit that I’m a romantic. In fact, I go out of my way to prove that I am bitter, cynical single female who needs not this emotion you humans call love.
But then…urgh, ARGH, but then I’ll catch myself listening to a certain song or watching a certain movie and then all those girlie feelings will bubble to the surface and then it’s all tears and swelling hearts and BLARG!
Up until recently, I’ve been able to keep these episodes private. But then…Train Man. Freaking Train Man.
What’s Train Man, you may ask? Well, Train Man is a supposedly true story about a 23 year old Japanese otaku (aka guy who love love loves anime) who saved a girl on a train from a drunken man who was harassing her. He then went onto a singles forum where he began to get advice about dating the girl.
To this day, the identity of the true Train Man has never been revealed. Whether it’s true or not became irrelevant though. It became a modern Japanese legend, inspiring a novel, manga series, movie, and finally, a television series.
I was pleasantly ignorant of this whole phenomena. Until Errol introduced me to it that is. Errol with his stupid face and 80’s ballads and smug smugger smuggy manner.
Errol at the time was unaware of my secret love of…well, love. Now don’t get me wrong. I still hate bad Rom Coms. And Train Man has the makings of some of the worst Rom Com material: a nerd guy meets a gorgeous girl and falls in love? Please. To me it sounded like yet another wish fulfillment story.
Except…except…CURSE ERROL. He’s always right. I got hooked almost immediately. Now, I’m only talking about the television series here. I saw the movie as well, and while I enjoyed it…the television series was what cemented my obsession. There’s a lot about this series that sets it apart from you conventional rom coms.
For one, the main character actually LOOKS nerdy and awkward. I don’t just mean they dressed up a good looking guy to look like an Otaku. I mean they got someone who was not only somewhat awkward looking, but also naturally awkward in his mannerisms. Obviously he tries to cover that up and does the whole “makeover” montage, but even with a makeover, he STILL looks somewhat uncomfortable in his own skin.
Do you know how rare that is? A lot of movies do the makeover montage, but the moment a character merely changes their clothes or hair, suddenly they are Captain Confidence. Changing your appearance DOES make you look better and maybe even feel a little better, but it doesn’t change who you are. It was really nice to see a series acknowledge that. Because it also means that the love interests falls in love with HIM and his personality, not his makeover.
Then there’s the love interest. And yes, she’s your stereotypical pretty girl who is beautiful and demure and sweet and seemingly WAY out of Train Man’s league. BUT the one thing the television series does (which the movie doesn’t because of time limits) is actually spend time with her. She’s not just some symbol or trophy for him to achieve. It’s as much her story as it is his and you end up getting invested. But more importantly, it makes a lot of her choices make sense, like when she gets upset at him for lying.
But that’s not the only reason I love this series so much. You see, it’s not just about the romance between a guy and a girl. It’s also about the friendship that forms between Train Man and the forum.
Every episode focuses on one member of the forum and some obstacle they are trying to overcome. It could be another romantic one such as a man trying to get back with his wife. It could also be another non-romantic focus such as a basketball player who was injured and is trying to get the will power to get back in the game. Sometimes they give inspiration to Train Man to keep trying, sometimes they gain inspiration from his determination and struggle. But no matter what, everyone is there to support each other.
Friendship is a huge thing with me, so to see a series not only focus on this AS WELL as the romantic plot but also make it just as important is pretty awesome. Not only that, but they all happen to be pretty entertaining characters in their own right. It’s pretty amazing actually that you can so quickly care about a character you just met. And of course usually there’s some huge monologue at the end and lots of emotions and tears and warm fuzzy stupid feelings.
Which brings me to the music…dear CRAP, this music. It’s freaking Pavlovian. Seriously, there must only be about four or five main themes: Train Man is sad, Train Man is in love, Train Man gives inspirational speech and Train Man engages in quirky antics.
But by the last episode, every time that music started up, I instantly felt ALL THE FEELS. Seriously. “Train Man is in Love” music came on? I’M IN LOVE TOO! “Train Man gives inspirational speech to the forum”? I’m all “GO TRAIN MAN, GOOOO!” “Train Man is Sad” music? “I SWEAR THESE AREN’T TEARS, THERE’S JUST DUST IN THE AIR! LOTS AND LOTS OF DUST!”
Ugh. And the worst part about all of it? ERROL was sitting next to me while all of this happened. Errol. Who preys on the emotionally vulnerable.
Well, to be fair, he was just as invested as I was. Because the show is just THAT good at pulling you in. It can devote an entire episode to GETTING THE COURAGE TO MAKE A PHONE CALL and seem more tense than the Shining. And guess what…at the end that phone call is used as a CLIFF HANGER, GAAAH!
But most importantly…this show is funny. I mean it’s really darned funny, the sort of ridiculous funny only the Japanese can get away with. Everytime I look up descriptions of this show, it’s described as a “drama” but if all Japanese dramas are like this sign me up.
Actually if there’s one thing the Japanese are good at, it’s making live action cartoons. There is a LOT of insane and ridiculous moments in this, but they all work so well. For goodness sake, they play the Imperial March whenever one particular character enters, how could it not be brilliant?
And for those of you who are somewhat afraid of Japanese entertainment, this is probably one of the more tame Japanese shows I’ve seen (ie you can follow it fairly easily without too many WTF moments).
Honest, if you’re a geek, or even if you’re not a geek, check out this show. It’s stupidly addictive. And I need someone else to talk about it to. Is it wish fulfillment? Yeah, it is, I’m the first to admit that. But it’s entertaining and well written wish fulfillment. So I’m okay with that.