Chitose Is in the Ramune Bottle, Vol. 5

By Hiromu and raemz. Released in Japan as “Chitose-kun wa Ramune Bin no Naka” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Evie Lund.

This has spoilers for the entire volume, sorry. They’ll be after the cover art.

We have been slowly working our way through the main female characters of this series. The second volume focused on Yuzuki, the third one Asuka, and the fourth one Haru. The cover of the first volume was Yuuko, but that volume was more an introduction to the entire cast, and the “heroine” of the volume was actually Kenta, the otaku “saved” by Chitose. So we haven’t really had a volume about Yuuko till now. The group seems to revolve around her and Chitose, and much of the time when she suggests something everyone automatically agrees to it. As we learn here, that’s been the case pretty much her entire life. She’s a spoiled princess, but unlike a lot of these characters remains kind and likeable. That said, she really wants people to treat her normally, and when someone does (Chitose), she falls for him hard. How’s that work out this book? Let me put it this way: she AND Chitose both think “I wish these happy days could last forever”.

It’s summer vacation, and there’s a lot of fun things Chitose could choose to do. He could go on a “we’ve agreed not to date but are still clearly hung up on each other” date with Asuka. He could play catch with Haru some more, who confessed to him last time if you recall. He could go see the fireworks with everyone, and have Yuzuki steal him away for a moment all to herself. He could meet Yuuko’s mom, who’s one of those “gosh, she’s so young-looking she looks like an older sister” types. Heck, he can even stay at home and have delicious food cooked for him by his not-wife Yua. But the back half of the book is dedicated to the cast going on a study camp, a 3-day outing where students and pick teacher’s brains while studying in a beachfront hotel. Studying does get done, I promise. That said, of course there’s beach time as well. In the midst of all this, Yuuko, who is very aware that she has not had a “plot” with Chitose to herself by now, takes drastic measures.

This book is written like a tragedy, with the wait for the other shoe to drop being excruciating. I kept waiting for Yuuko to tell everyone she’s moving to America or that she’s dying. But no, she’s just in love, very aware that all her other best friends are in love, and it’s killing her inside. The most devastating scene in the book has her asking Yuzuki, Haru and Yua if there are any guys they like, because they’re at a study camp getting ready to sleep, and that’s when you talk about boys. But the others girls, knowing Yuuko is in love with Chitose and “has dibs” because she’s the obvious choice – first girl we meet, got the first cover, etc. – all say they’re not in love with anyone. And that kills it. That makes her decide to knock it all over. So she confesses, knowing Chitose, who is absolutely not ready for this, will reject her. Which he does.

The book ends with Yuuko, surrounded by everyone else in the group, sobbing, and Chitose, also sobbing, surrounded by just Yua, who plays the saxophone to try to cover up his incoherent grief at the loss of his static but wonderful high school days. I bet she gets the next book, she’s the only one left. This is a great series, but the romcom aspect is definitely romdram this time.

Chitose Is in the Ramune Bottle, Vol. 4

By Hiromu and raemz. Released in Japan as “Chitose-kun wa Ramune Bin no Naka” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Evie Lund.

It was once said, a couple decades ago, that no one would ever license a sports manga because it wouldn’t sell. Nowadays, given the enormous number of people who obsess over series like Haikyu!, that seems a bit ridiculous, but it was true. I’m not entirely sure if there are a large number of unlicensed light novels that follow baseball or basketball teams the way that manga does, but I’m inclined to say probably not. And we certainly don’t have them licensed over here. You’re allowed to dungeon crawl, or try to break off your engagement so you don’t die, but please don’t mention the K word. And by K I mean Koshien. That said, Chitose Is in the Ramune Bottle is notable for having a LOT of jocks in its cast, by the nature of its premise. And it’s this fourth volume that drills right down to the heart of the jock, showing us what it means to dream big, and also balancing the harem again with its shortest member.

We’ve known since the start of the series that Chitose used to play baseball but quit. Now the team is back, begging him to come back as their star is injured, and won’t be ready in time for the first knockout game. Chitose, needless to say, is rather pissed off about this, as he had reasons for leaving the team – which, you’ll be grateful to hear, we finally hear about. He’s also dealing with the girls’ basketball team, which has a new captain, Haru, who’s a taskmaster and is pushing the others past their limits – which they hate. It’s needed in order to make them a better team, but it also makes Haru a very convenient target. Will Chitose manage to help Haru to reconcile things with her basketball team, and can he do that by giving in and playing his last ever baseball game? Even if it means breaking himself to do it.

The series’ best feature remains its ability to convince you, in each new volume, that the girl being focused on is definitely the one who should “win” the Chitose romantic partner sweepstakes. Last volume I said that Asuka was written out in the third book as she was so far ahead of the others. (As it turns out, she’s still around, though Chitose is mooning over her less.) In this volume, it feels like he and Haru also really belong together – they’re birds of a feather, basically, and a reminder that “opposites attract” is not always true. The book is also very good at showing the frustrations of the high school athlete. Haru is a fantastic basketball player. But she’s 4’9″, and there’s simply no way to make up that difference in height in a sport like that. As for Chitose, well, he’s cool. The best scene may have been when he’s wavering back and forth on what to do, and when he tries to do an uncool option Haru chimes in “I don’t like this Chitose.” It was adorable.

So yes, the light novel for normies remains excellent. We’ll see what the next volume brings – Yuuko is on the cover, will she be the lead girl?

Chitose Is in the Ramune Bottle, Vol. 3

By Hiromu and raemz. Released in Japan as “Chitose-kun wa Ramune Bin no Naka” by Gagaga Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Evie Lund.

One problem I have with reading light novels that are “high school romcoms”, is that I tend to regard them as taking place in “generic Tokyo suburb”. That’s actually rarely the case. There are a few exceptions – My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected will not shut up about Chiba long enough for me to put it anywhere else – but most of them fall into “generic place”. So I was a bit surprised with the subplot here, which is that our hero and heroine-of-the-book head off from their “big city”, Fukui, which has about 275,000 people, to Tokyo, which is 14 million people. I was even more surprised with the message that the story was giving us, which is that the big city can be awesome, despite its huge number of people and occasional creep. If your dream requires you to be in the biggest city in Japan, go there. Because chasing dreams is important. Even if it means giving up on a potential series-killing romance.

Our cast of second years are getting guidance from their seniors as to what to expect in regards to future plans, and one of those seniors is Chitose’s friend/crush Asuka. She has a dream of being an editor at a Japanese publishing house, but there’s just no way that you can do something like that in someplace like Fukui. Her parents are also dead set against it, and want her to become a librarian or civil servant. Chitose is determined to help her, even though he knows that her heading to Tokyo likely means that any relationship they might have would be dead in the water. So he comes up with an idea: visit Tokyo, and see what it’s really like, to find out if it’s overwhelming to her. Of course, to do that, he’s going to have to essentially kidnap her.

The back half of this book finally gives us the full backstory, with one exception, of Chitose, and we also see why much of it was elided – it was being saved for the book focusing on Asuka. I can certainly see why the author is writing Asuka out of the series (though she doesn’t quite leave for Tokyo yet, as it’s still months before graduation), as in a series that prides itself on Chitose balancing his “harem” of four girls fairly equally, Asuka is simply too powerful. That said, there are a few flaws here, The book is much longer than it needed to be, for one. And Asuka gaining all of her strength and coolness that we’ve seen in the series to date by essentially imitating the boy she liked may not sit well with some viewers, though Chitose is quick to point out that that sort of imitation is what everyone does, and eventually it becomes second nature.

In any case, Asuka may not be in Tokyo yet, but she and Chitose have “broken up”, which leaves him free to solve someone else’s problems in the next book. And that also seems to answer my question from last time about the plot of this series: Chitose solves problems, at great expense (his own).