Title: Train Man
Author: Hitori Nakano, Bonnie Elliot (Translator)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Humor, Romance, Japanese Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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.
Let me say this outright: Train Man is definitely not a book for everyone.
It’s one of the geekiest books I’ve ever read, as it deals with a guy who meets a girl and tells people about it on an online forum. The aforementioned guy isn’t the normal drop-dead gorgeous male lead you usually find in books, but rather, he’s a normal otaku (or geek, in English) who is shy and awkward and seems to spend an abnormally large amount of time telling his woes to the internet.
This person is me
Train Man is told in the form of an online forum where people comment, usually a line or two, one after the other. You have no clue who these people are. There aren’t really any names since, well, this forum deals with anonymous people talking to each other. The story revolves around this guy who is fondly called Train Man by the commenters, because he defends a girl from a drunken idiot on a train and receives a pricey gift as a thank you. Because he’s awkward and clueless, he proceeds to run to the internet for help on how to deal with this.
Every time our hero posts an update, people comment and give advice or sympathy. With each update comes a barrage of comments. Some are trolls, some warn him to be cautious, but a lot of people offer advice and encouragement and sympathize with our hero.
I can see why most people dislike this book. If you’re not familiar with forums, it can be very confusing to read. If you’re not a person who spends a lot of time on the internet (aside from Facebook), you might find it strange that people communicate this way. Why would people even talk to complete strangers, let alone trust their advice, about their problems? They don’t even know each other. There are barely any names (if any). If you want to respond to a comment, you refer to the comment’s number (Comment #525, for example). It probably seems really silly to most people. 😄
But that, I guess, is the beauty of the internet. It gives us the bravery to say and do things we wouldn’t dare in real life. It gives us the power to be something more than we could ever dare or hope to be in real life. Sure, there are terrible people on the internet (people far worse than trolls, definitely), but Train Man gives us an excellent view of how people communicate and help each other out despite knowing virtually nothing about each other.
I find Train Man quite humorous and entertaining because I’ve been on several online forums myself. I’ve met many people online and retained friendships with them, some for years now. It’s amazing how a common interest or cause can unite people and cause a bond between them, no matter how far apart they are. It probably sounds silly to say that some of the best or most interesting people I’ve ever met are people I’ve never seen or met. I only know them by their usernames and avatars and the way they express themselves on the internet.
Sure, I could be talking to some creepy old fat white guy who lives in a basement (or, maybe I am one of those creepy men and you have no clue about it! OOO: ) but no one would ever know. Unless I started stalking people, I guess. (Don’t worry, I never would
I’m too lazy anyway lol) I do think it’s interesting that how you look doesn’t matter at all when you’re on the internet discussing games or books or whatever. It’s the way you think and how you share stories and interact with other people, and I find that a very wonderful thing.
Train Man is the story of the internet. Of geeks, of awkward introverted people
like myself who like the anonymity and can openly share things without the fear of being judged your whole life. Train Man is also a love story, but what speaks the loudest to me is the kindness and compassion of people in the story. In a world where I am constantly annoyed and frustrated by how horrible people are to each other, this book serves as a reminder that not everyone is horrible/apathetic. That there are people out there who care, or will care if you share your story with them. These are the same people who will defend you against trolls and bullies and other idiots. It really is amazing.