Train Man (novel)

June 1, 2007

Title: Train Man

Author: Hitori Nakano

Publisher: Del Rey

Sorry. I may end up betraying you guys. Little did he know that soon after he’d post these words on a famous message board, his life and the lives of fellow geeks would soon change forever. Train Man’s story is deceptively simple, geek meets girl, falls in love, and then back to the internet to ask for “advice.” Train Man’s story is told in it’s online format, similar to how it would look if you pulled out a random message board thread out of a google search.

One day, the man soon to be named Train noticed an old drunk harassing a group of women on you guessed it…a train. Culling up all his energy, the young man confronted said drunk. Soon after, Train and the ladies file police reports and claim Train a hero. Thinking nothing of this event other than wasting the lovely girls time at the station, he went home. Soon after he receives a package in the mail from one of the girls. In it is a set of two tea cups. After reporting the day’s events on the message board he soon finds out these cups, the Hermes brand, are very expensive. Not knowing what to do he asks his netizens what exactly does this mean. Is “Hermes” interested in him? Surely she wouldn’t waste so much money on him if not! After gathering words of wisdom from the board, he finally decides to break his years of silence and call a girl.  Train returns later to inform the board that he has indeed arranged a meeting with “Lady Miss Hermes.”

Originally planning only to thank Hermes for the cups, Train develops feelings for her and consults the board on everything from how to wear his hair and what clothes are fashionable.  Train receives a next date by asking to be her “dinner buddy” to try out new and different restaurants in downtown Tokyo after her other friend moved on.  Soon enough, Hermes and Train email each other constantly and Train is beginning to wonder if she has feelings for him as well.  Amidst all this drama, the geeks on the forum encourage Train on although they know that he may be leaving their ranks soon.  They have seen Train transform from a reluctant recluse who’s afraid to leave his computer to a strong young man with a Hermes by his side.

Train Man is based off a real story that has spawned a movie, several manga, and a TV series.  Outside of the TV series, this novel is the last of the property to hit America.  The message board that Train posts on is called 2 channel, where users can post anonymously. These anonymous posts often drag the story down since we can’t attribute the “advice” to anyone.  This in effect only allows Train and Hermes any spotlight.  This novel is an abridgment of the original threads as can be seen by the headlines of the posts left intact.  This has made the story rather one sided as we only see the ones helping and encouraging Train.  There are some disbelievers but all the posts are positive.  There are mentions of “bombings” but we generally have no idea what these people are referring to other than “When’s Train entering the thread?  I have a feeling he’s going to drop a bomb on us!”  I have a tough time believing that someone can just enter a forum and be loved by everyone.

Del Rey opted to use the British translation for this release which will leave many Americans confused.  The famous word otaku is left as the British word “anorak,” a term used for a _____ geek (Star Wars anorak, anime anorak, etc.).  Another thing that amused me is that although this is based off real events, Del Rey for some reason included the “Train Man is a work of fiction” disclaimer at the beginning of the novel. The content for the most part is readable however there is still some slang I still don’t understand after googling (wtf benwah?)

Although not as exciting as watching these events play out in real time on your computer, Train Man offers a lot to everyone.  It’s the classic story of the geek who is able to get the girl through hard work and dedication.  The format although hard to understand for internet illiterates, is a welcome change for the rest of us.  This is truly a breeze to read.  I also marvel at all the smilies and symbol figures that these people have come up with (most can’t be typed by a QWERTY keyboard) ranging from cat faces to bomb shelters to various other cartoon characters.  Train Man is truly a story for the internet-generation.

Rating: 4/5 


xxxHOLiC volumes 1-3 (Omnibus Edition)

April 9, 2007

xxxHOLiC volumes 1-3

Author: CLAMP

Publisher: Del Rey

A few summers ago on our way back from Wisconsin, back when my family went places, we stopped by a German looking town in Illinois that had apparently just had some type of festival. Having just rained, the air was damp and the streets semi-deserted. It was here that I first discovered xxxHOLiC by manga superstars CLAMP. There in that historic city I walked the streets reading about the occult while my mom took well more than her time shopping in the seemingly different gift stores. It was the perfect atmosphere to be introduced to the “time-space witch Yuko.”

Flash backward to a couple weeks ago where I rediscovered xxxHOLiC in a special omnibus edition. Del Rey has released omnibus editions for three of their most popular titles, Negima!, xxxHOLiC, and Tsubasa (also by CLAMP). These omnibus editions compile the first three graphic novels of each series and are only available to Barnes & Noble stores and With a $12.95 price tag, only $2 more than any single volume of manga Del Rey has released, these omnibus editions are quite a steal, especially if you haven’t been introduced to these series before.

Watanuki is a high school aged orphaned boy who has seen spirits and ghosts for as long as he could remember. On his way back from school one afternoon, he is drawn to the time-witch Yuko’ store. Having no idea how he ended up in the store, Yuko tells him that it was “hitsuzen,” fate. Watanuki would not have been drawn to the store if Yuko did not have something that he desired. Having found out that Yuko could cure him of seeing the spirits that continually haunt him, Watanuki readily agrees to become her after school servant.

xxxHOLiC crosses over with the other CLAMP manga that I mentioned earlier, Tsubasa. Although only appearing at the end of volume 1 and the beginning of volume 2, the cast of Tsubasa is also a customer of Yuko as they travel around the universe gathering the pieces of their friend’s memories. xxxHOLiC however mostly deals with one shots of Yuko’s customers involving some sort of occult item. In the third volume for example, a young woman finds the legendary monkey’s paw in Yuko’s back yard and demands to have it. The monkey’s paw grants the owner five wishes, however is known for ending in disaster. Yuko’s customer believes that her good luck will overcome the ensuing calamity but in the end succumbs to the paw’s power after her boss found out her much talked about seminar was stolen. Another excellent story contained in this omnibus edition is the woman who was addicted to her computer. Knowing from personal experience how hard it is for me to sometimes tear myself away from the computer I could relate. The woman’s obsession with the computer has lead her to dismiss family and friend obligations and has torn herself away from personal interactions.

Artwise, xxxHOLiC is pure black and white with very little shading. The binding in this omnibus edition holds relatively well for a 600+ page novel. The page count at the bottom of the page restarts after each original graphic novel finishes. Although lacking the color pages from the original editions, this edition includes all of the translation notes and even the kanji previews (for volume 2 at least). For $13 this edition is quite a steal. If you’ve never been introduced to CLAMP previously I highly recommend picking up this volume. When not trying to connect certain items and events to previous CLAMP stories, xxxHOLiC really shines.

Rating: 4/5