Train*Train by Eiki Eiki is one of the first releases under DMP's Doki Doki imprint -- my understanding is that this imprint is intended to introduce teenage girls to shonen-ai, but with training wheels. I found Train*Train to be a very inoffensive (and often fairly cute) comedy that teenage girls would probably enjoy.
Our protagonist has all the marks of a ditzy, orphaned shojo heroine-cliche...except he just happens to be a guy. Poor Asashi -- at 18 his dream is to become a train conductor like his deceased father, but he is honestly just a failure at pretty much anything that requires even the least bit of competence. Lucky for him there is a train station that appears to be the equivalent of a butler cafe -- the attendants there are chosen for their looks, more than their talents (although unlike Asashi they seem to be able to manage their do their job. Most of the time. You know. When they aren't having "the hijinks.")
Asashi is young, small, sweet, dumb, and very useless. Of course, he somehow fits right in among the other workers -- we have the "mature" station manager who has to suffer the many, many shenanigans of the younger workers he directs (he's my favorite, of course), the idol-in-disguise who has all the personality of a saltine, the guy-who-is-really-a-girl-in-disguise, the sexed-up bisexual (he's an equal opportunity sexual harasser) and the tall-handsome-moody-guy. If there's a shonen-ai character cliche that Eiki Eiki missed I can't think of it. (I'd admit, I prefer the girl-in-disguise-trope a lot more than its complement).
Asashi becomes kind of the train station's mascot (one imagines he can practically fit in the other boys' pockets), and he overcome his utter lack of use value by doing what all shojo manga heroines do: he uses the power of klutzy cuteness to win over his new senpais. The volume starts out almost realistically in that Asashi is not particularly well-liked because he can't seem to do anything right, but the longer he hangs around the station, the greater his power of moe becomes to overwhelm his fellow station workers.
Most of the volume features individual chapters in which a "minor" work problem -- such as a pervert on a female-only train, a "prairie-dog" (mistaken for a hamster) runs amok at the station, the station has lost its cook....and in a "wacky" comedy like this, the guys' solutions to these situations usually blow the problem way out of proportion. For the comedy, of course. Always for the comedy. Solutions can involve boys in drag or just generally sexually harassing everyone in sight. (Side note: I have a soft spot for Prairie dogs, so yes, I probably enjoyed that chapter the most). I certainly found some amusement in all these hijinks, but to enjoy this work you have to embrace the cliches, and not question them too much.
The boys represent a number of distinct pretty boys "types," but Eiki also integrates her figures with both detailed depictions of the train station and corresponding city life, along with the ever-present shojo pattern-backgrounds. Ohhh those shojo patterns. I think what I enjoy most about this book was how its random-patterned background could effectively convey the pictured characters' (usually excited) emotional state -- even if they were just stripes. Seriously, who knew stripes could be so evocative?
In the end, I found the 16+ rating over-kill for this story. The sexual undertones are just that -- the occasional sexual innuendo is usually played for laughs and is never particularly explicit. I think if the language had been toned down even a little, this title would probably appeal to girls 13 and over quite a bit.
Review Copy provided by DMP.