Bus Man

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From Yuki, who got it from WTBW: The Japanese title (houdai) of American film Napoleon Dynamite will be Bus Otoko (“Bus Man.”) As Yuki points out, this new title has almost nothing to do with the film itself and 100% to do with the fact that there is a popular Japanese film/television show/internet hoax called Densha Otoko (“Train Man”). (Even the tagline is based on 2-ch typography!) In last month’s Cyzo, an article about the current “Virgin Boom” referenced ND as being “Bus Man” in Japan, but I was convinced at the time that the writer was making a bad joke.

I’ve meant to blog on Napoleon before, because I found it to be the most depressing movie I’ve seen in years. Everyone else I know thought it was “UNBELIEVABLY HILARIOUS!” but as someone who grew up in relatively crappy small towns, the characters’ pathetic lives hit a little close to people I’ve actually known. My sister snapped back at me, “Napoleon seems lame now but he’ll be the next Bill Gates!” There is absolutely no evidence for this. There are plenty of movies about misunderstood, smart nerds with potential — Lucas, for example — but Napoleon is the worst type of that totally worthless, unpromising nerd with very few redeeming qualities. His creativity seems to be mostly cribbed from RPGs — a fact that probably went over the head of anyone who’s never owned a 20-sided die.

I saw the film last December through an illegal Bit Torrent download, and I was very surprised to come home to Florida and find the “cool” shopping mall stores — i.e., the places with Doc Martens — selling Napoleon Dynamite T-shirts. Kids were most likely buying them for the irony factor alone, slipping them over their Korn T-shirts before beating the shit out of the “unpromising nerds” of their own high-schools.

I’m not sure what Japanese viewers would get out of this film, seeing that Americans just deep down love to laugh at the lives of rural lower middle-class orphans. But, film appreciation is not universal. Everyone I know who is Japanese or French loved A Life Aquatic, whereas all the American critical community seemed to walk away disappointed. I don’t get the sense that anyone in Japan went gaga over Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind the way all my American friends did, so I’m not willing to put money on the Bus Man’s chances. If it becomes a huge phenomenon, however, we’ll perhaps know that this otaku boom is the real deal.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
August 24, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

26 Responses

  1. trevor Says:

    life aquatic is seriously brilliant.
    but you can’t pick it up in one watch. its best on dvd. it’s all the small things.

  2. Carl Says:

    My friend walked out the movie, because he said the movie was encouraging him to revel in his superiority to the many nerd characters. In essence, he found himself siding with the bullies, and as a former (?) nerd, he was uncomfortable with that.

    I personally fell asleep half-way through. To me, it seemed mostly like an excuse to remember the ’90s. Weren’t Lisa Frank Trapperkeepers and Glamor Shots the coolest???

  3. Carl Says:

    On Life Aquatic:

    I was a little disappointed when I first walked out of the theater, until I realized that as the movie’s subject was failure, it was appropriate for the movie itself to fail. Then, I was really, really pleased with it. Besides, how can you not love a Pieta that takes place 1000m below the surface of the ocean?

  4. r. Says:

    why are japanese otaku superior to non-japanese otaku?
    because they don’t have to hit the “SHIFT” key in order to type the “@” mark.

  5. Brad Says:

    Big fan of Life Aquatic, though Andersen can do no wrong in my eyes after his debut film, Bottle Rocket. Life Aquatic is the weakest of his films because it’s the one that he did not collaborate with Owen Wilson on.

    Also liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Mostly for the cinematography but the story was sweet too.

    Napoloen Dynamite was meh. Certainly not worth all of the hype though it had it’s moments, I guess.

  6. marxy Says:

    why are japanese otaku superior to non-japanese otaku?
    because they can pay to have sex with women WITHOUT being socially discriminated for their patronage of such businesses.

    (And they won’t feel bad about supporting a business that preys on lower class females’ need for pecuniary imitation of an upper class lifestyle – because there are no social classes in Japan!)

  7. r. Says:

    david say: why are japanese otaku superior to non-japanese otaku? because they can pay to have sex with women WITHOUT being socially discriminated for their patronage of such businesses.

    and i say: but here they have cheap brothels for poor people (some even have student discounts) and elite places for rich people, right?

  8. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    *Ba-dum chik!*

  9. Julien Crix Says:

    >

    OUCH!! and you even used “pecunairy”… sweeeeeet!

  10. r. Says:

    triple word score!

  11. Patrick Says:

    Another stupid title…

    French title:
    “Atomik Circus – Le retour de James Bataille”
    Japanese title:
    “Alien vs. Vanessa Paradis”

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0660854/
    http://www.avvp.jp/

  12. Chris_B Says:

    r: dont be knockin the JP106 layout or you gonna have a fight on your hands! Pretty much every unix sysadmin I know dont wanna go back to the US102 layout once they clock time on the JP106. If you spend time in a terminal you will understand.

    Marxy: you dont like whores?

  13. joey Says:

    So much Napoleon Dynamite hating. I think it holds up very well to repeated viewings and has a Lynch-like feel to it. It also has a timeless quality and avoids judging people for their idiosyncrasies, overall. I believe you have mentioned twin peaks marathons in the past somewhere in here. Maybe you should give Napoleon another shot.
    I have no idea why it got so outrageously popular in America, though.

  14. Brian Says:

    Having grown up in semi-rural Indiana (my high school was in the middle of a corn field), I quite enjoyed “Napoleon Dynamite” because I felt a sense of recognition with a number of the characters. At no time did I think that the director was trying to make fun of the people in the film nor was it trying to get the viewer to feel a sense of “superiority to the many nerd characters.” I liked the film because I felt that it was a truly sympathetic portrayal of the nerds.

    With that said, I have no idea why “Napoleon Dynamite” caught on so big here in the US and that its merch is everywhere. I mean, it was a good film, but not *that* good.

    (And as an expression of my nerdiness, I must pose the following question: Why can so few people spell “Napoleon” correctly?…)

  15. channing Says:

    As someone who greatly enjoyed all three of those movies, I find it hard to believe that anyone who had a hand in programming Radio MXUT could have found Napoleon Dynamite THAT unenjoyable. What clinched it for me was seeing the jock at the high school dance, wearing his half-collar buttonup, cargo khakis, and Doc Martenalikes, and acting like he was All That, which he was, as were the jocks at my rural highschool who wore the exact thing to our dances. I had never seen that level of outfit accuracy before in a movie.

    What would really be funny would be if we were all commenting on the subject of the post instead of our opinion on Napoleon Dynamite. What has the internet done to us.

  16. maf Says:

    Morning Marxy

    Just ‘bought’ your Lp from Beekeeper after sampling the teaser.
    Enjoyed the fractured narrative and interesting tangentiles.

    viva you

    maf

    Our Souls, Our Souls , Our Souls

  17. nate Says:

    if it seemed to you like ND wasn’t laughing at the pathetic characters, you’d probably take the portrayal of the japanese in 1940’s bugs bunny cartoons as sympathetic one.

    Rushmore (the citizen kane to ND’s harold and kumar) came here sans fanfare, and with a stupid title too. I don’t think it was even really mass-released. I would think the same treatment is in store for bus otoko.

  18. marxy Says:

    MAF: thanks for buying the CD.

    Everyone else: My attitudes towards ND should be essentially ignored. I think the director was doing a very accurate job describing that lifestyle, and I do not think he meant any harm. The very realistic details just hit me in a weird way, but I don’t think my problems should interfere with anyone else’s enjoyment.

    I very much enjoyed Rushmore, which was more of a fantasy at some level.

  19. Julien Crix Says:

    after I viewed Napoleon D, I thought of it as a dumbed down, MTV friendly Rushmore.
    I chuckled at a few parts, but overall thought it was too obvious.

  20. nick Says:

    Napoleon Dynamite was painful for me to watch as well, but I liked it the second time through. I think the first time through, it was that social reflex to wince and supress the “uncool” things I used to do, the second time I saw it as more of a celebration of growing up a nerd.

    Not that I grew out of it, as I simultaneously listen to Devo, debug a perl script and write on my electronics design blog…

  21. nate Says:

    election was the dumbed down mtv productions rushmore… and it was pretty damned good.

    nd spends the entire movie encouraging us to laugh at not with the poor, uncool, unintelligent, to all apearances autistic kids, but because it also encourages to root for them, all is forgiven.

  22. marxy Says:

    Listen people – chatting on the Internet with your “girlfriend” for hours every single day is not a pathetic activity, because she really exists, will marry you and carry you off into the real world on her shoulders!

    And learning to dance from a dated, bargain-bin hip hop video tape is not pathetic, because you will impress everybody at the end of the movie!

  23. porandojin Says:

    it’s so exotic for me cause in my country we don’t have such worlds like in american highschools … so ‘rushmore’ was also about a ‘nerd’? i thought he was just an eccentric or smth

  24. jean Says:

    No one mentioned the simple beauty of the movie’s framing, the primary colors, and emphasis on horizontals (esp broad landscapes). And don’t forget Napoleon’s style. Like his pals, he’s trapped somewhere in the past, but decades ahead of his peers. I mean, tight jeans tucked into moon boots is pretty hot.

  25. jariten Says:

    I was enjoying ND well enough until, as always, the ending ruined it for me. Why, when ND himself was never after any such thing, was his mass acceptance at the end portrayed as a victory for him, his own little happy ending?

    also (fairly unrelated) I just noticed that the trailer for ‘Bewitched’ has managed to translate the line “I can’t change who I am” to “for the sake of love, I’ll stop being a witch!”, which seems to alter the nuance of the line just a little.

  26. Carl Says:

    I was enjoying ND well enough until, as always, the ending ruined it for me. Why, when ND himself was never after any such thing, was his mass acceptance at the end portrayed as a victory for him, his own little happy ending?

    Because all nerds secretly want to be popular, and just pretend like they don’t to keep from crying themselves to sleep?