This manga is based on a modern legend, the kind of story that creates a buzz — part truth, part urban legend, part internet chatter, and in the end, it’s anyone’s guess what’s truth and what’s embellishment. The story has been told and retold in a movie and a book. On top of that, Densha Otoko, or Train Man’s, story has led to no less than three different manga versions, and this one shows the shojo take on events. Ikumi Saiki is an awkard otaku (what we think of as a fanboy) who has never really bothered to care about his appearance, his job, or his social life. Instead, he spends his time on Channel 2, an anonymous online forum where social misfits and lonelyhearts gather to discuss their fandom and bemoan their cursedly single state. When a young woman is harassed on the train by a drunken lout, Ikumi is inspired to act the hero and, surprising everyone including himself, stands up to the bully. The girl wants to thank him, and soon he’s been asked out — but he has no idea how to act around a girl, let alone a girl he likes. Is it a date? How could she possible be interested in a schlub like him? If she is, what should he do? Channel 2 to the rescue — his online buddies immediately jump in to guide him on his uncertain first moves, and their encouragement, advice, and sense of humor keep his hope alive. But can a cute girl honestly give a goofy otaku a real chance at love? The sweet style is all shojo — cute art and a concentration on stammering, blushing, and romantic antics. The story, in the end, is pure melodrama — and the fact that it may or may not be true doesn’t make the story less cheeseball. The idea that online communities can make a real difference in someone’s life — inspiring confidence, lending support, and encouraging friends — is not really a new one, but it’s a welcome one given the negative associations online networking sites have been garnering lately. So, though fluffy, this manga gives readers a sweet hope that finding romance may be a bit easier that you think.

Densha Otoko (Train Man): A Shojo Manga
by Machiko Ocha
ISBN: 9780345496195
Del Rey Manga, 2006

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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