Comic Book Spotlight of the Day: Train_Man: Densha Otoko vol. 1 – October 2006 (Viz Media)

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TITLE: Train_Man: Densha Otoko vol. 1

YEAR: October 2006 (USA release)

COMPANY: Viz Media

Story and Art by Hidenori Hara

Based on “Densha Otoko” manga by Hitori Nakano

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”.

The version I am reviewing is Nakano’s version which will be the first manga series of “Densha Otoko” to be officially released in the U.S. courtesy of Viz Media titled as “Train_Man: Densha Otoko”.

Without spoiling the first volume, as previously mentioned, 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.

But what happens when Hermes asks the Train Man to have dinner with her and her friend?

“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!

The artwork by Hidenori Hara is good and like a very good Japanese drama series, it manages to capture the emotions of the characters remarkably well. So far, I am really enjoying this manga series and I can’t wait to read vol. 2.

For now, “Train_Man: Densha Otoko” vol. 1 is highly recommended!


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