Chitose Is In the Ramune Bottle Vol. 1 (2022) By Hiromu and raemz

A well written Harem novel that trips up in delivery

“It’s hard to beat Saku Chitose. The most popular kid in his high school? Check. An ironclad reputation that can weather even vicious online attacks? Check. A group of friends as attractive on the outside as they are inside? Check. But when a teacher asks for his help bringing back a student who has been shut away in his room for months, Saku’s perfect world will never be the same. What is this, some kind of normie harem story…?” (Yen Press)

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Chitose in the Ramune Bottle

The ‘harem’ genre in Japanese media is one with a dedicated fan following through anime, manga, and light novels. However, it is not without its detractors, especially given the cultural divide when it comes to focusing a notable majority of titles on the lives of high school students. This is something that can often be rationalized or distorted by skirting around the actual idea of intercourse or introducing some elements (like Iseaki) to push it into the realm of the fantastical. “Chitose Is In the Ramune Bottle” certainly contains some of the elements that make for an exemplary harem comedy but it trends territory through the written word that is bound to dissuade many.

The cardinal sin here to a Western palette is focusing on sex between teenagers, not in depicting the act but in introducing internal monologue that is heavily focused on sexual thoughts. Furthermore, jokes around Chitose having slept with all the girls and the way the girls, in turn, lean into this with a giggle is really off-putting when considering the age range Hiromu is exploring. The book really seems to prove the pitfalls of the written word in dealing with harem content as when pushing aside any elements of fantasy and indulging in perverted teenage meanderings the end product borders on cringe. No amount of character development or the introduction of a nerdy shut-in forced to come out of his shell through Chitose’s mentorship can permeate the layer of sleaze that is apparent throughout.

Chitose in the Ramune Bottle

Since the elements that are uncomfortable stem mostly from the internal monologue, it is possible that this property could work better as a manga or anime (Yen Press is also adapting the manga). Additionally, the writing quality and the comedic wit of Hiromu are undeniable and those able to get over the cultural differences are likely to find this to be one of the better-constructed Harem light novels. Though, if like me, you prefer some degree of the fantastical that makes the story focused less on age (such as the phenomenal, recently released, Magical Explorer) the work will likely rest in the realm of the uncomfortable.

For those more interested in how the characters develop, the harem itself is a spritely mix of different personas that all play well off of the overly confident Chitose. Readers who like to put emphasis on certain characters and pick favorites will be pleased with how the book is structured. Even the late twist in the volume of introducing an outsider to the group does not radically change the harem formula, just adds some intrigue and room for deeper character development.

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With the right fanbase, the title could certainly prove successful, but for many, it will be hard to look past the sexual jabs and innuendo made by children as a form of entertainment when there are already a lot of other titles to explore in the Harem genre. It will be interesting to see how the manga adapts the work and if it is able to bring some levity and highlight the credible writing skills of Hiromu. “Chitose Is In the Ramune” bottle may still see broader success, but certainly not in the light novel format.