Creators: Hitori Nakano, Wataru Watanabe
Publisher: DC/CMX
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
RRP: $9.99
Densha Otoko v2
Reviewed by Robert Murray

This is my first encounter with the legend of the Train Man, which has been adapted into movies, television shows and, of course, manga titles. CMX’s version of Densha Otoko is one of three manga adaptations of this popular Japanese urban legend. The first volume in the series totally won me over, as the socially inept ‘Train’ (with some help from his fellow online community) rescues the astonishingly cute Hermess from an obnoxious drunk on a subway train, thereby forging a relationship that probably never would have occurred otherwise. But, with the arrival of Volume Two, I’m starting to see a large amount of redundancy in the story, making this volume a lackluster affair. I remember similar feelings when I first saw Ghostbusters II! The quality of the artwork and the strong characterizations of the main characters are definitely strong selling points for Wataru Watanabe’s adaptation, but the same basic situations occurring over and over again is going to get old very quickly with readers.

Densha Otoko is the perfect love story for the male comic book/manga fan, as it employs many of the fantasies we had before women came into our lives. To Train, women are seen as an alien species he knows nothing about, other than the larger than life women that inhabit his manga and anime shows. One of my favorite scenes in Volume Two occurs when Train and Hermess meet for dinner accompanied by Hermes-San’s friend Maki-Chan. To put it plainly, Maki-Chan is a willful woman who speaks her mind all the time, damn the consequences. The ‘freedom’ which covers her shirt fits with her rampant individuality, and her main goal at dinner is to make sure Train is right for her best friend (or so it seems). Maki-Chan sees right through Train and asks straight-away, “You’re an otaku, aren’t you?” For an otaku out on a date with a girl he really likes, this should be the kiss of death. But, Hermess admits that she watches some anime shows as well. Train is beyond relieved and even thinks, “We haven’t talked about figures yet, though...” Slow down there, big guy! Right before Train can make a fool of himself, though, Maki-Chan butts in by saying, “I almost had him driven into a corner, but no! You had to go and follow his lead!” This admission is followed by a nudge to Hermes-San’s breasts, causing the typical anime jiggle effect. Train goes into meltdown mode! Yes, this scene was the funniest of the volume, and showed that Hermess has a lot in common with Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary. She embraces all areas of life, even things that are very geeky in nature (like collecting business cards from restaurants she’s visited). But, what keeps Train in the picture (and what we know will be the endless savior of this series) is Hermes-San’s appreciation of the good in people rather than superficial elements such as looks and money. It’s an uplifting story that should pull the heart strings of any comic/manga reader. But, what doesn’t endear the reader to Densha Otoko is the endless cycle of Train’s new life: Talk with his online buddies, meet or talk to Hermess, report to the community, repeat. By Mission 8, it’s starting to get old, and I don’t know how much more I can take of this back and forth from Train. I know that Watanabe is trying to display his overall awkwardness in any kind of social situation (the long wait for Hermess at the end is a perfect example). But, instead of wishing Train would just take the leap and kiss her already, I simply started groaning out loud at every wasted opportunity. This is not the reaction I expected after the first volume, but I guess I should have if I paid more attention.

Like I said before, though, the artwork and the characters are the strength of this volume and this series. Watanabe draws a Hermess that is among the cutest female manga characters I have ever seen, making her the perfect object of affection for Train. And the facial expressions that he captures throughout this volume are very appropriate and revealing, giving us a great insight into their heads. Plus, not to be outdone, each character looks unique, which is something that many manga artists have a problem with. If only the story wasn’t so predictable and cyclical, this could very well be as outstanding a manga title as the first volume promised. Unfortunately, what we have in Volume Two is your standard male fantasy, as the standard every-man meets a goddess in earthly form. Hopefully, Volume Three produces some surprises to keep discerning readers coming back for more, or this series might quickly go the way of the O.C.


16 February 2007
O-Parts Hunter v2



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