Of all the depressing peoples of the world, otaku might be the most depressing. In terms of sheer heartstring-yanking awkwardness, they take the cake—otaku are the obsessive fanboys of Japan, those who watch hours of anime and flip through reams of manga, who shuffle through Tokyo's Akihabara District in a desperate search for figurines of nearly naked Final Fantasy characters.
Considering the obsessive nature of otaku, of course Train Man became a huge hit in Japan—the ostensibly true story has also branched into a novel, a manga, a play, and a television series. Train Man begins with a withdrawn otaku (Takayuki Yamada) awkwardly intervening as a drunk on a train starts heckling a sweet girl, Hermes (Miki Nakatani); somehow, the otaku and Hermes hit it off, going out a few times. As the terrified/elated otaku posts as "Train_Man" on a loner-filled message board, his story inspires other reclusive nerds. And so the once-dorky otaku gets the Eliza Doolittle treatment—cutting his hair, spiffing up his wardrobe, memorizing dinner conversation that doesn't focus on The Matrix.
Train Man is targeted at two audiences. There're the otaku, who no doubt take great delight in the idea that they, too, can hook up with a gorgeous woman. But it also attempts to connect with the romantic-comedy audience, those who're downs with a bit of J-pop and teenybopper drama, a crowd who'll lap up anything that's this syrupy sweet. (It's hardly coincidence that Japanese heartthrob Yamada plays Train Man's otaku.)
Despite the fact that Train Man's pretty boring, and aside from its complete lack of any legit characters (Hermes is astonishingly bland; Train Man just spends his time stammering and/or sniveling), I feel kind of mean talking too much shit about it. Train Man is what it is—a frivolous bit of dweeb-flavored romance—and no doubt fans of the franchise will dig it. For everybody else, though, Train Man just seems like that one sweaty guy in an XXXL "I Grok Spock" T-shirt, the one who won't stop telling you about his Neon Genesis Evangelion DVD collection: vaguely entertaining, sure, but mostly just kind of sad.