Sunday, September 24, 2006


Japanese As She Is Spoke

Looks like The Scotsman is the first out the gate -- or the only one turning up on a Google News search, at least -- to review the English edition of Train Man, a book that has been a phenomenon in Japan.

It has its roots in 2004, when an anonymous internet user posted a message on a popular Japanese board to describe a fracas on a subway. He had been sitting next to a beautiful woman on the train when a drunk entered the car and began hassling the passengers. When he began to badger the woman, the internet poster told the drunk off and became involved in a brief struggle before the police were called. In the excited chatter on the board, the poster soon received the nickname "Densha Otoko" (Train Man).

Later, Train Man posted to tell his fellow netizens that he was astonished to receive a gift from the young woman to thank him for his bravery; two cups and saucers made by Hermès of Paris. Egged on by his fellow geeks he arranges to meet "Hermès" and the uncertain progress of their romance is aired in front of thousands of eager computer users.
"So far," they note, "Train Man has been translated into five manga comics, a film, a theatre play, a guidebook and a two-hour television special dramatising the story."

Sounds interesting enough. But, the review notes, it might be sunk by what sounds like an overly literal translation: "Idiomatic Japanese phrases are translated into a disjointed quasi-English: "This blow opened up the floodgates connected to the Geek's tearducts which had long been arid as the land on Mars."


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