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REVIEW: Train Man by Nakano Hitori

For a long time, I have been badgering a friend of mine who reads manga to do reviews for us at DearAuthor. Manga is one of the fastest growing genres and is read by a broad audience of young girls and boys to adults. ジェーン(Jān) (Japanese version for Jane) is a great lover of romances, provides me with a ton of fantasy recommendations, and now has agreed to provide some guest reviews of her current favorite genre, Manga.

Dear Readers,

These reviews are typically written as letters to the authors of the books in question. The problem with this story is that the author’s name is Nakano Hitori, meaning “one among many”. In other words, the author is claiming to be an anonymous witness to the events described within. Did it really happen? No one is quite certain, but I would like to think it did, because it’s a very heartwarming and romantic story.

The “Train Man” in question is a hopeless anime geek (think the worst kind of Star Trek nerd). His type is so typical in Japan they have a word for it that’s instantly understood, otaku. He’s never had a date, doesn’t talk to women, communicates through his computer, and spends all his money on anime and merchandise. But one day on a train ride home he finds the courage to confront a drunk who is bothering some women, and is confused to find himself called a hero, especially by one young office lady who later sends him a gift in thanks.

Confused, he turns to the internet, specifically the single guy’s channel on the mega forum 2chan called Poison Men (a real forum btw). He tells them he met a girl, and that he doesn’t have a clue, and asks what to do. Advice slowly starts pouring in from all the anonymous lonely people on the forum: “Call her and thank her.” “Do it today.” “Gather your courage.” Slowly, with the help of these people online who are anxiously watching the events, he begins to believe in himself, and begins to think that maybe he has a chance to win her heart.

This story is so popular in Japan that it spawned movies, a TV series, and four separate manga series. A subtitled movie Train Man just came out, and the novel will be released from Viz in April. But three of the manga versions are already released here:

Train Man cover Del Rey Train Man cover CMX Train Man cover Viz

Train Man: A Shoujo Manga, from Del Rey. Retail*: $10.50. 1 volume. C+

Densha Otoko, from CMX. Retail $9.99 each, 3 volumes, 2 released. B-

Train Man: Densha Otoko, from Viz. Retail: $9.99 each, 3 volumes. B+

*note: retail is what you pay walking into B&N. If you buy online from someplace like animecastle.com, discountanimedvd.com or justmanga.com you’ll pay about $7.50 – $8.00 each. Half.com, ebay.com and Amazon Used offer cheaper possibilities.

All three of these versions are rated T for Teen (a very tame PG, kisses only). And all three read the standard right to left of Japanese manga, something very easy to get used to.

These three versions tell the same basic story, each with their own flavor. Some add or subtract events depending on the length, and on the style of the artist. The first version from Del Rey is subtitled the shoujo manga version, meaning it’s written for young teenage girls. It is a very average shoujo-type story, pretty and bland, and at one volume too rushed.

The second version from CMX is what I’d call the shounen version, meaning written for young teenage boys. It’s not bad, though the characters look all of 15, and it feels a bit more like an adventure than a romance. But the last volume won’t be released until April and who wants to wait when you don’t have to?

The third version from Viz is drawn by a guy who draws coming-of-age romance, Hidenori Hara, which is appropriate for this hero even though he’s 22. His character designs are unusual, but I like his version the best because he really uses the art to communicate things about the characters. Also, the internet forum characters are an important past of this story, and he makes them an incredibly lively bunch. You believe both Train’s reticence, and the fact that they got him to believe in himself. The middle volume does stretch some moments out to the point of becoming irritating, but overall it’s an incredibly sweet story.

A lot of you who don’t read manga may be thinking why the heck should I pay $24 for a series that won’t be as deep as a book by virtue of its medium? If the money bothers you, nothing I say can really help that. I do know that I, a frugal shopper, find it quite easy to drop $7.50 on each new installment of a story I like every three months or so. It only seems like a lot in the long run, but you can get a lot of mileage out of the books. And in a way, buying an Evanovich/Hamilton/Kenyon series isn’t all that different, especially with how little they advance the overall plot arcs these days.

Also, while you *can* use your $7.50 to buy yet another urban fantasy vampire romance, or if you hunt around maybe even an urban fantasy demon romance, you won’t find this story in a romance novel over here. It’s something new for English speaking romance readers, and things like that just don’t come along often enough. And hey, how often do you buy a romance that your teenagers will want to read too?

But if I’ve not convinced you, do keep in mind the novel that’s coming, and the subtitled movie which is probably already available for rent. It’s a story I think all romance lovers would enjoy.

Sincerely,

ジェーン
(Jān)

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

21 Comments

  1. Suisan
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 17:37:55

    Thank you for this review. My daughter and her friends are REALLY into Inuyasha, but I haven’t spent the time to really investigate manga that much further. This looks like a story line which would appeal to me, and I like the idea of the same story being presented in different ways for different audiences. That in and of itself is an interesting approach to story telling.

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  2. Jan
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 17:52:04

    [quote comment="23249"]Thank you for this review. [/quote]

    You’re welcome! I’m going to try to review my favorites in romantic manga here. The reading levels will be from early teens to adults only, and I will explain the reasons behind the ratings so you’ll have an idea if you want to share them with your daughter. This one is a very innocuous romance, concentrating on the nervousness of the boy, a completely inexperienced young man, who is falling in love for the first time. I’d think teenagers would identify. *laughs* And some of the rest of us too, who can remember that far back.

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  3. LinM
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 20:18:06

    Oh yay! I’ve been wanting to venture into the manga world and anything that I can share with my daughter is a bonus. Is there a site where I can find the fantasy recs????

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  4. LinM
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 20:25:01

    Arghh….I deleted the tail-end of my post. Is there a site where I can find the fantasy recs (like DA on the third thursday of months that begin with J).

    ReplyReply

  5. Janine
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 20:32:43

    Hi Jan! Great to see you reviewing here!

    ReplyReply

  6. Keishon
    Feb 13, 2007 @ 21:43:02

    I’m a reader of manga and am always looking for rec’s. Will you be doing this feature on a regular basis here?

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  7. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 00:09:35

    [quote comment="23253"]Oh yay! I’ve been wanting to venture into the manga world and anything that I can share with my daughter is a bonus. Is there a site where I can find the fantasy recs????[/quote]

    Sorry for the late reply. We were buried under ice without power for the last 6 hours.

    Some of my manga recommendations are at the site romanticsf.com. I used to be a part of that group, and my name is among those recommending books. But in general I’ve not published my reviews. If I get bored reviewing manga, ;) I may throw in a fantasy review or two of old favorites.

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  8. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 00:13:19

    [quote comment="23256"]Hi Jan! Great to see you reviewing here![/quote]

    Hi Janine! I hope some people get some use out of these reviews. If anything, they may get a better idea of what their younger relatives are reading.

    I don’t know that I’ve read any that you would enjoy though. Keishon may be a better person to ask for the more serious stuff. But if you’re in the mood for lighter stuff, you could always try some. :)

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  9. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 00:16:49

    [quote comment="23257"]I’m a reader of manga and am always looking for rec’s. Will you be doing this feature on a regular basis here?[/quote]

    Yep! I made a list of romantic series that are being published in the US that I’d like to review. Some are YA level, pure romance. Some are for older teens, historical and fantasy series that are fun and interesting. Some are for adults. Some shoujo and some shounen. And yeah, I’ll throw in some gay stuff with the het stuff. So there will be a nice mix. Maybe some people will try some of it. But like I told Janine, even if they don’t, they’ll at least get a clue about what their kids are reading. :)

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  10. Angelle
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 04:23:19

    Strangely I used to watch a lot of anime and read a lot of manga when I was living in the States. Now that I’m in Japan, I don’t even bother anymore.

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  11. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 06:36:08

    [quote comment="23267"]Strangely I used to watch a lot of anime and read a lot of manga when I was living in the States. Now that I’m in Japan, I don’t even bother anymore.[/quote]

    I’d imagine it does hit some people like that. I’m lucky in that my friends in Japan love manga as much as I do, so they can keep an eye on our favorite series and let me know what’s going on in them as soon as they hit the stands. And they can get all that “Japan only” merchandise for those of us stuck outside the country. :) Though I still spend quite a bit more than I should on EMS shipments from Amazon.jp and the like…

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  12. kardis
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 10:49:21

    Thanks Jan! I’m a huge manga fan but I mostly read the darker series so it’ll be nice to get some info on actual romantic manga. Thanks for the review!

    ReplyReply

  13. Keishon
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 13:18:39

    Romantic manga – I’d be interested, too. I still have Fruits Basket to read and Kare Kano. I did pull them out to read tonight. I like more serious, darker stuff. I just finished Museum of Terror. Oy.

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  14. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 13:57:38

    [quote comment="23275"]Romantic manga – I’d be interested, too. I still have Fruits Basket to read and Kare Kano. I did pull them out to read tonight. I like more serious, darker stuff. I just finished Museum of Terror. Oy.[/quote]

    Oy is right. No romance in that one! ;D

    Fruits Basket does get a whole lot darker in the second half of the series (but never MoT level LOL). It almost feels like a different series completely, from about chapter 80 or so to the end. I plan to review it at some point.

    Here’s a list of het romance titles I was thinking of reviewing. Note that this is NOT a list of recommendations. Some of these I’ll review so you know to stay away unless you’re really really bored and desperate.

    Aishiteruze Baby
    Alice 19th
    Audition
    Basara
    Cipher
    DVD
    Emma
    Fruits Basket
    Fushigi Yuugi
    Hana-Kimi
    Hana Yori Dango
    Harlequin Manga
    Imadoki
    Karen Kano
    Kare First Love
    Kitchen Princess with a side of Yakitate
    Marmalade Boy
    NANA
    Nodame Cantible
    One Thousand and One Nights
    Ouran High Host club
    Paradise Kiss
    Penguin Revolution
    Red River
    Seimaden
    Tramps Like Us
    W-Juliet
    Zettai Kareshi

    If there are other titles you’re interested in, let me know. I might be willing to try a few volumes. :)

    ReplyReply

  15. Sher
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 16:57:29

    I love Hana Yori Dango aka Boys Over Flowers and have gotten a couple of folks at work hooked on it, too.

    ReplyReply

  16. Angelle
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 18:30:56

    Jan — mostly because I realized that the manga was too accurate. LOL. A lot of young boys here don’t know how to interact with girls sometimes. Total otaku.

    BTW — I didn’t care for Fushigi Yuugi because the whole mystical book adventure didn’t work for me although my friends really liked it.

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  17. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 18:56:24

    [quote comment="23284"]Jan — mostly because I realized that the manga was too accurate. LOL. A lot of young boys here don’t know how to interact with girls sometimes. Total otaku.

    BTW — I didn’t care for Fushigi Yuugi because the whole mystical book adventure didn’t work for me although my friends really liked it.[/quote]

    LOL! I’ve heard horror stories about the guys in Akihabara. And my friends tell me heroes in shoujo manga are only a pipe dream, or something marketed by Johnny’s. I can’t blame you for not wanting to read about them. For me it’s all still just fantasy.

    (psst- I HATE Fushigi Yuugi because of the heroine, and feel it’s my duty to review it to keep other readers from losing their dollars and sanity. Give me NANA any day. ;D)

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  18. Jan
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 18:57:43

    [quote comment="23281"]I love Hana Yori Dango aka Boys Over Flowers and have gotten a couple of folks at work hooked on it, too.[/quote]

    I think it’s one of the best. The Japanese agree. I saw it on their list of top ten manga series of all time! :)

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  19. Angelle
    Feb 14, 2007 @ 23:14:14

    Jan,

    Oh yeah…that annoying girl. I forgot about her. She totally did NOT deserve all those bishonen.

    ReplyReply

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    Dec 05, 2009 @ 19:57:21

    [...] REVIEW: Train Man by Nakano Hitori | Dear Author: Romance Novel … – For a long time, I have been badgering a friend of mine who reads manga to do reviews for us at DearAuthor. Manga is one of the fastest growing genres and is. [...]

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    Mar 19, 2010 @ 04:01:50

    [...] One of the first manga reviews that Jan did for us was about this story. But since I’m not a manga devote, I’m afraid I didn’t recall it until after I had already decided to try this movie via Netflix. While I’m still not a manga fan, this is probably the nicest film adaptation of manga I’ve tried so far. While riding the train, a desperate geek (Takayuki Yamada) meets the girl of his dreams (Miki Nakatani), prompting the socially deprived but brave young nerd to start a chat room thread asking his faceless Internet compatriots, “How do you talk to girls?” The courtship advice he receives from his online pals — and what he does with their expert counsel — form the basis for this charming romantic comedy, a love story for the 21st century. [Show picture list] [...]

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