Train Man: The Novel Vol. #01 -

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 13.95
  • Pages: 410
  • ISBN: 978-0-345-49869-4
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right

Train Man: The Novel Vol. #01

By Sakura Eries     May 21, 2007
Release Date: April 30, 2007

Train Man: The Novel Vol.#01
© Del Rey

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hitori Nakano
Translated by:Bonnie Elliott
Adapted by:

What They Say
An instant bestseller when it was first published in Japan, Train Man became a multimedia sensation, generating a smash-hit TV series, a blockbuster film, and multiple manga series. Now here's the novel that started it all.

Boy "bashful and not overly brave "defends girl from obnoxious drunk on a Tokyo train. Girl sends boy a thank-you pair of pricey Hermés teacups. Boy's a geek and doesn't know what to do next. End of story for most nerds "but this one turns to the world's largest online message board and asks for help, so for him it's just the beginning. This matchless love story is told through a series of Internet chat room threads.

As Train Man, our hero charts his progress and unveils each new crisis "from making conversation to deciding what to wear on a date and beyond "in return, he receives advice, encouragement, warnings, and sympathy from the anonymous netizens. And Train Man discovers the secret to what makes the world go round "and proves we really do live in a universe where anything can happen.

The Review
This paperback features a simple white matte cover. The illustration on the front features a backside view of Lady Hermes and Mr. Train. Lady Miss Hermes is drawn with a green tank top dress and heels while Mr. Train is in untidy geek mode, wearing a sloppy blue shirt and beige cargo pants with untied sneakers. The title is placed above them and author's credits below them. The same renditions of Hermes and Train Man are shown on the back cover but separated by the story summary. The synopsis, by the way, is awkwardly worded (unless there's something particular about British punctuation that I'm unfamiliar with). The top and bottom edges of the cover are decorated with purpleish train cars, reminiscent of the border design for the cover of the version of the Train_Man manga released by Del Rey.

Materials are satisfactory, but there are a few pages where the breaklines used to separate thread entries end up in random spots or striking through words. Extras consist of a table of contents and ads for other Del Rey releases. Oddly, the book does not include any cultural notes, "translations" for Japanese emoticons, or any additional information about the Densha Otoko phenomena.

Honorifics are translated into English equivalents. Most of the time I don't have an opinion as to whether a publisher translates the honorifics or not, but in this case, I did wish that they'd stuck with the original Japanese because having Hermes called "Lady Miss Hermes" didn't seem to translate that well. Interestingly, all the terms in the book are translated into English equivalents. For instance, the word "otaku" never appears in the book, which instead uses the terms "techie," "anorak," and "geek." The only time a Japanese word shows up at all is as the name of a person, place, or train line.

As the entire text is derived from a chat room thread, Del Rey translated the forum's "conversations" into English Internet thread-speak, which really does capture the flavor of these interactions. However, American readers should be warned that this translation is in British English. Therefore, words are spelled according to the British standard (i.e. "centre" instead of "center"), money is expressed in English pounds instead of yen or dollars, and, of course, British expressions, which may be foreign to Americans, are used.

In order to make Train Man's words stand out in the sea of entries, his posts are highlighted and printed in bold lettering, and occasional editorial commentary and overviews are shown in boxed text. The posts include Japanese emoticons and some rather impressive ASCII art, which might be a little confusing for English-speaking audiences, especially since many symbols used are not found on a QWERTY keyboard. Any ASCII art incorporating text is modified slightly to show English instead of Japanese words.

"Sorry, I may end up betraying you guys..."

So begins the post that will initiate a two-month whirl of activity on an Internet chat room centered around a 22-year-old inexperienced geek's pursuit of a classy young woman. Boy meets girl on a Tokyo train when the geek, in an uncharacteristic burst of courage, stands up against an obnoxious drunk who is hassling her and other passengers. For his efforts, he earns her thanks, which leaves such an impression on him that he shares the story on an Internet chat room for single men. Sounds like the end of the story, but it's only the beginning because the very next day the geek receives a thank you gift in the form of a pair of pricey Hermes teacups!

This book presents the strings of advice, encouragement, warnings, and sympathy actually posted on the 2-Channel Poison Men chat room that eventually transformed a geek who couldn't even dial a woman's phone number into a man worthy of a woman's heart!

I was quite pleasantly surprised when I learned that Del Rey was releasing the Train Man (Densha Otoko) novel. Having been exposed to three Train Man manga, the movie, the TV series, and the TV series sequel, I was quite curious as to what the original interactions on the 2-Channel thread were like, but reading posts in Japanese is beyond my capability. But now the wait is over! The "novel" that presents the words of Train Man and his online community is here, and we can now delve into the thread that spawned a multimedia sensation in Japan!

While there is a lot of material in this 410 page book, it is an abridged version of the original 2-Channel thread. When you think about it, just about any Internet thread includes redundant comments and meaningless babble so it shouldn't be surprising that the ENTIRE thread is not published. However, the editing does have a bias to it. According to the commentary track of the Train Man DVD released by Viz, Train Man had approximately equal numbers of supporters and flamers on 2-Channel; however, the posts of the anti-Train Man folks have not been included in the book.

For me, it was fun to read the posts that formed the basis for the various characters, events, and side stories depicted in the spinoff manga, movie, and TV series. One of the biggest surprises for me was the "chicken." In the TV series, there is a plot tangent involving the forum members and an animated chicken. I'd thought that the entire thing was the random figment of a TV writer's imagination, but to my surprise, the forum entries do include discussion about an animated chicken.

Truth is stranger than fiction, I guess.

While Elliott's translation is satisfactory, certain lines may lose some of their punch with American readers, especially since the text incorporates a lot of slang and British slang is a bit different from American slang.

This is not a recommendation I usually make, but I would not advise readers to get this book without having been exposed to the TV series, movie, or one of the manga first. The reason is that the book only provides the text of the thread itself without any additional information. It doesn't even mention that the author, Hitori Nakano, isn't actually a real person (the name is actually a play on words, a homonym for a Japanese phrase that means "one among many"). As such, the novel as is lacks the context needed to fully appreciate the Train Man story. For example, nowhere does it explain that Train Man's chat room is specifically for single "poison men." Without this background, it might be a bit perplexing to a Train Man newbie why forum members often equate news of Train Man's progress as a series of "attacks." Seeing the forum members as characterized in the TV series or movie actually helps to make their "battle" mentality make more sense.

Another reason for not jumping into the novel first is the "timing" of the story. Three months' worth of posts are simply presented one after the other. However, the original members of the forum experienced these posts in "real-time." Meaning there were periods of agonizing frustration and anticipation as they prodded Train Man to scrounge up the courage to actually do something and then waited for his results. Unless you're very particular about noting the date and time and entry number of the posts, it's very easy to read and simply be unaware of the amount of time that's elapsed.

As for those who are already Train Man fans, definitely, definitely get this. Because most of the posts were entered anonymously, you don't get the same individualization of characters as you do in the Train Man spinoff stories, but it's still fun to see the original source of inspiration. Plus, there's quite a bit of ASCII art in the novel that doesn't show up in any of the manga.

As a final note, profanity and "men's locker room talk" do run rampant in the thread discussions. This book is not rated, but I personally would not consider it appropriate for anyone who wasn't at least a sophomore high school student.


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