Train Man: A Shoujo Manga (2005)
Story: Nakano Hitori
Art: Machiko Ocha
Chapters: 5 (1 vol.)
Summary: Train Man is the (possible) true story of a man who, in 2004, was a member of a popular online forum known as 2Channel (2han for short) in Japan that discussed with his anonymous friends the possibility of him getting a girlfriend; following the events of him standing up to a drunken man on a train and protecting a young girl who had unwittingly won his heart. She was a pretty gal, he was a self-loathing otaku, the story seemed compelling enough, and the Japanese media picked up on it. Did the two ever get together? Well…
[MAJOR Spoilers from this point on…]
Review: Train Man, whether true or not – personally I like to think it’s true – certainly is a compelling love story, and an inspiring one. One worthy of the Cinderella treatment which it gets in this short manga series that tells its own spin on the tale. In reality, the identities of the true boy and girl in the story are still unknown but the effects they had on a generation seem to be no small thing to chuckle at. This is, by far and large, a very popular story, and when you read the shoujo manga take on it you can definitely see why.
As an otaku, I can certainly relate to the Train Man as he is called throughout the book. He’s self-loathing, he feels rather lonely and indulges himself in those material things he loves, and he honest to God doesn’t know how to act around girls. He has no confidence, and he just lets life pass him by as he sits on the computer all day in his parents house. But, much like Train Man’s own life, mine too turned around when I met a girl. Things felt and seemed better, and now I am none of those things. So the Train Man’s story is as a real as it gets, and can indeed happen to anyone.
Most of the story is told through the chat forum posts with a “real life” look at what seemed to have happened. The Train Man is a good guy, and he finds himself a cheer team for a supporting cast. Sometimes, the nicest people you meet are the ones you meet online and have never met IRL. They’re a great bunch and feel very real. While reading the book, you don’t just end up cheering on Train Man & Hermes (as the girl is called) but also those that are cheering them on. You hope everyone can get their lives together, and likewise the characters’ themselves seem to understand that as well. It’s really nice to witness.
What makes Train Man so engrossing, I think, is that it feels extremely real. Though there a few exaggerations here and there for sure, or at least things that feels kind of out of the ordinary even for real life happenstance, the tale is one that just flies right off the page as if it were/could happen to you. Whether it is true or not, there’s just no denying that.
And because it centers on an otaku, there are certainly plenty of references in here to otaku culture. A lot of them made me snicker. Definitely the ones that had to deal with internet speak were a laugh; there’s a lot of ASCII artwork in this too, which if you’ve been on a forum before those are just some of the coolest/funniest things to see.
The artwork is pretty great, it definitely fits the shoujo style but to me it doesn’t seem like “standard” shoujo. The characters are much more rounded and “real” looking in their styles, instead of the usual twig style I generally see accompanying a shoujo book. It’s really relaxing to look at, and Ocha really captures the stress that comes with getting a girlfriend for the first time and fearing that every little thing you say to her might be the wrong thing; he also captures the joy of being in a relationship as well and the many tears that follow when you’re truly, genuinely happy to be with that someone.
Train Man is the story of everyday people in an everyday situation. Yet it encapsulates the essence of growing up as a young adult and finding yourself transformed by another one day, without warning. If you let them. I suggest this story to anyone looking for a pick-me-up, a confidence booster, or just an everyday good story. At 5 chapters, it’s rather short and really easy and quick to get through.
Final Score: 4.5 Otaku Jokes out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net