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Train Man: A Shojo Manga by Machiko Ocha (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

November 6, 2006 by  



trainman-shojo

A delightful one-shot manga series based on Hitori Nakano’s “Densha Otoko”, this shojo version is highly recommended!

© 2005 Hidenori Hara, Hitori Nakano/Shogakukan Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: Train Man: A Shojo Manga

STORY AND ART BY: Machiko Ocha

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: Shinchosa

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: Del Rey/Kodansha

RATED: T Ages 16+

RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2006

LONELY HEARTS UNITE!

Geeky fanboy Ikumi Saiki has a dream that someday, somehow, he’ll finally get a girlfriend. Then one day, on the train home, he rescues a beautiful girl from a troublesome drunk. Now the girl sees the hero inside the otaku–and it appears that Ikumi will finally find romance! But though Ikumi found the courage to save her, how will he ever be brave enough to win her heart?

Desperate, Ikumi posts an urgent plea on an Internet message board: “Help me win the girl of my dreams!” Ikumi’s story ignites the whole online world. Everyone is ready to help Ikumi prove that even an otaku can find true love!

Back in 2004, an anonymous user posted on the Japanese text forum known as 2channel (“2chan” for short).

The anonymous user posted about his experience of sitting next to a beautiful woman on a train and when a drunken man started bothering the female passengers, the otaku who just came from shopping in Akihabara, protected the women and became a hero. But for the otaku, he became smitten with the beautiful woman he was sitting with, a woman who thanked him by sending two Hermes teacups to him as a thank you.

Wanting to ask the woman on a date, he goes on 2chan for answers since he is not good with girls, nor is he experienced with dating. On 2chan, he would be known as “Densha Otoko” (Train Man), while the woman would be known as “Hermes”.

Despite no one really knowing the truth if the story about the Train Man was authentic, the conversation on 2Chan did last 47 days with 29,862 posts among the community. And the storyline of this anonymous person, would lead to a book collecting a few of the posts but also would lead to various manga versions, a drama series, a movie and a theatrical play as it would become popular.

The first manga adaptation of “Train Man” would be “Densha Otoko: Ganbare Dokuo!” by Hitori Nakano and illustrator Daisuke Doke and was serialized in Akita shoten’s “Weekly Shonen Champion” in Dec. 2004 and later released as three tankobon volumes between 2005-2006.

A second manga adaptation based on Nakano’s “Densha Otoko: Ganbare Dokuo!” by Hidenori Hara titled “Densha otoko: Net-hatsu, Kakueki-teisha no Love Story” would be serialized in Shogakukan’s “Young Sunday”.

And a third manga adaptation based on Nakano’s “Densha Otoko” titled “Densha Otoko: Ganbare Dokuo!?” written by Hitori Nakano and illustrated by Daisuke Doke was serialized in Akita Shoten’s Weekly Shonen Champion.

And last, a fourth one-shot manga adaptation by Machiko Ocha titled “Densha Otoko: Bijo to Junjō Otaku Seinen no Net-hatsu Love Story?”, released in America by Del Rey Books/Kodansha as “Train Man: A Shojo Manga”.

The version I am reviewing is Ocha’s version which is the one-shot version of Hitori Nakano’s “Densha Otoko” and it’s more Shojo driven in terms of character design and also features a similar but yet different storyline when compared to Hidenori Hara’s “Train_Man: Densha Otoko”.  Most noticeably is the look of the characters and in this one-shot, Mai Kohinata (Hermes) has a boyfriend during the time she meets Ikumi Saiki (Train Man).

The series is about an otaku who looks to 2Chan for help on how to ask the young woman on the date. Various members get into the posts by sharing their own opinion of what he should do. From cutting his hair to changing his wardrobe but to give him support as he is quite inexperienced with women.

But as Train Man follows the advice of the posters in the thread and see how their advice is benefiting him and producing results, the others begin to get into Train Man’s story and feel happy or inspired by it.

What begins with dinner, ends up with several meetings by both Ikumi and Mai but will it lead to love?

“Densha Otoko” is a manga that is quite original for the fact that it utilizes Japan’s 2Chan posts, Shift JIS art (Japanese ASCII art) incorporated to the storyline. But what is more fascinating is how a storyline is inspired by a thread, which no one really knows if its real or fake.

But why people find it so captivating is that an otaku is asking people on 2Chan how he should approach a woman he likes. Without much experience, everyone chimes in on the message board, giving him their own two cents about how he should plan and prepare to ask this woman out for dinner. But of course, with the different people contributing to the thread, everyone has their own interpretation and feelings about Train Man.

If anything, most people like to see an underdog succeed and in the case of “Train_Man: Densha Otoko”, it’s the thrill of seeing how this man transforms himself from your Akihabara otaku to a well-dressed, well-groomed guy willing to take the advice of people he doesn’t know and go for it!

With Ikumi being a person with no experience with women, Train Man must meet Hermes’ friend, but we eventually get to see him mature and also show some guts when he asks Hermes to walk her home but also to visit her at her place for tea. It may not seem much to everyone else, but for Train Man and the netizens of 2CH, Train Man has become an inspiration because he has changed his life to become a better person in order to attract the opposite sex or at least feel comfortable in talking with them.

So, this is the next step for Train Man but will he brave to tell Hermes, how he really feels?

As mentioned, “Train Man: A Shojo Manga” differs from the Hidenori Hara “Train_Man: Densha Otoko” released by Viz Media by look (as Machiko Oka’s version is shojo-based) but also differences in story.  Mai (Hermes) has a boyfriend which is never mentioned in Hara’s manga version and as important plot to Machiko Oka’s storyline.

Also, in Ocha’s version, there is a storyline of Mai being frightened after being groped inside a train (a common problem in Japan) but in Hara’s version, she just wants to ride the train and be closer to Ikumi.

And most importantly, this is a one-shot, where as Hara’s is a three-volume manga series.  But both have their positives and negatives and while a similar storyline, I enjoy them differently because of the differences in art, storyline and how the supporting anonymous members of 2CH are featured.

Overall, if you enjoyed Hidenori Hara’s “Train_Man: Densha Otoko” and are a shojo manga fan, I do recommend giving Machiko Ocha’s version a try as well!

A delightful one-shot manga series based on Hitori Nakano’s “Densha Otoko”, this shojo version is highly recommended!

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