Densha Otoko and My Sassy Girl are both romantic comedy films released in the early 2000s. Both films are based on internet posts detailing supposedly true events in the lives of their authors.
Train Man was released in Japan in 2005. The film is based on a series of posts on the popular Japanese website 2channel, on which users can post and discuss topics anonymously. Train Man follows the development of a relationship between a young otaku and a girl he meets after saving her from a drunk businessman on the subway. The young man, referred to by the username Train_Man, seeks advice from a group of of people on the internet, who help him to overcome his nerdy image and plan his dates with the girl, referred to as Hermes. Train_Man goes through a transformation over the course of the film, from picking a restaurant and outfit for their first date to meeting her friends and visiting her at her parents’ house, but is at a loss when his plans fall through and he is unable to access the internet. Ultimately, Train_Man is faced with the challenge of how to continue the relationship and whether or not to reveal his true self to Hermes.
My Sassy Girl was released in 2001. The film is based on a series of blog posts written by a man named Kim Ho-Sik which were later made into a novel. The film follows the relationship of Kyun-Woo, a lazy, unmotivated college student and a girl whom he saves from falling on to the train tracks while drunk. After learning that the girl has gone through some difficulties, Kyun-Woo decides that he wants to help her heal emotionally. He soon discovers, however, that the girl is willful, pushy, and at times violent.
In the two movies, both men are struggling to meet the image of a “romantic male” as an ideal that exists within the genre of romantic comedy. Both films use fantasy represent these ideals. Through the films, it becomes clear that obtaining the status of the “ideal romantic male” is less than easy. In Train Man, the main character attempts to fulfill this role in order to win the heart of the girl he meets on the train. These ideals are expressed in the shared fantasies of the people in his online discussion as well as his own. In My Sassy Girl, the main character, Kyun-woo, initially tries to take on a traditional gender role with the girl he meets on the train. The girl, however, adopts a more dominant role in the relationship, opposing the notion of the typical romantic male. Kyun-Woo must reassess his gender role in order to pursue the relationship. In romantic comedies, male leads typically fit the role of the ideal romantic man–romantic, heroic, in control–through careful planning and romantic gestures throughout their relationships. Yet for Train_Man in Train Man and Kyun-woo in My Sassy Girl, reaching this ideal is far from easy; and in the end, impossible.