This was going to post yesterday but, reasons, and so today is Guest Review Thursday instead. ^_^ It is my very genuine pleasure to welcome long-time reader and Superhero, but first-time Guest Reviewer Day! It’s such a genuine pleasure to have you here above the comments, reviewing. This review is very much in keeping with this week’s unintended theme of “low expectations,” so, take it away, Day! ^_^
I would like to start off by stating that I really hate the cover of this volume of Citrus, Volume 2; on a gut level, I feel repulsed by it. Gazing at it and feeling this, I tried to puzzle my way through exactly why I felt so strongly negative about it. Yeah, sure, you’ve got a pair of underaged girls depicted in a sleazy manner, but covers like that are a dime a dozen in manga. Staring at it some more, it became clear to me that my true problem with it is that it’s centered around a third-party view – neither of the heroines look at one other, they gaze out at the viewer. Maybe it is that they’ve been “caught in the act”, but, whatever the reason, it still privileges the audience above the characters themselves. Sure, this is a piece of entertainment, so of course the audience is fairly important, but there’s something distasteful in making the sexuality of the characters so clearly performative.
After the impulsive kiss in the chairman’s office that closed out last volume, our primary lead Yuzu is twisting herself in knots, something that is cut short, then re-introduced at a higher volume, when student council vice-president, and self-proclaimed best friend of Mei, Momokino, calls her out. It becomes quickly obvious that Momokino, too, has a crush on Mei, and she’s perfectly happy to lie and interfere however she sees fit to preserve her chance of romance with the cold girl. Misunderstandings ensue and are partially cleared up, only to make way for some father-daughter drama that was hinted at in the first volume, as Mei’s prodigal father makes a sudden re-appearance. Yuzu, naïve, eager fool that she is, tries to help the two work things out, but even when partial success is attained, the cliffhanger is always there in the wings to chuck everything into disarray once again – and, yes, it’s another kiss, with an abrupt and disorienting swap-out to a bunch of panels of an unknown girl indicating her own entrance to the story.
I really must make note of Mei’s father before I can touch on anything else since he’s so awful. Dear old dad pops back into Mei’s life unannounced, drops a bombshell that he is well-aware will upset her, and then spends the rest of his time in Japan making no effort whatsoever to patch things up with the girl. He even more or less pushes his own responsibilities as Mei’s father off onto poor Yuzu; this is done right after he’s acknowledged that he hasn’t been a good father, as if someone can get a gold star simply for admitting to one’s own poor behavior.
Not that dad alone is the only character behaving badly. Mei continues to treat the people around her abusively, from being verbally so to Momokino, and physically/sexually so to Yuzu. Mind you, Momokino herself displays issues with consent, with an unwanted attempt at seduction in the student council room fueled by her own jealousy toward Yuzu. It is quite clear that Mei has a lot of issues (and, really, her acting out reads like that of victim of childhood sexual abuse, although I remain firmly convinced that that wasn’t the intent, but was instead meant to indicate that vague catch-all of “issues”), but that doesn’t fly as an excuse in the way she tortures Yuzu with her sudden come-ons alternated with cold shoulders and harsh words.
But my primary complaint is that Citrus doesn’t read as a fully cohesive narrative. In volume one, the wild lurches from one crisis to the next were funny in their absurdity, but here the tendency for the story to leap around is tiresome and stale. Mei clearly has lots of baggage that the story could be working through if it had more patience and wasn’t so slavishly bound to what seems to be a quota for percentage of pages per twenty that must be taken up by sloppy, saliva-drenched scenes of sexuality (often unwanted!). The arc of the story also demands that each time we have these girls kiss and squirm against each other, Mei must behave as if nothing ever happened while Yuzu agonizes endlessly, nothing ever advancing. While I am capable of grudgingly letting this slide in some stories, the complicating factor of the two being stepsisters stretches me past the breaking point, especially given that they share a bed as siblings; I quite literally cannot believe that something wouldn’t’ve given by now with such a set-up.
After spilling so much ink, despite prior statement otherwise, I realize that my true, ultimate issue with Citrus is that it is profoundly unsexy. Our would-be couple is unsexy because Mei is abusive, and the implication that half-sister romance will be the cure for all her ills is discomfiting at best. The moments of “intimacy” are unsexy since they are, with one exception, nonconsensual. And it does not make for a sexy reading experience when one feels the entire time that they wish they could reach into the story, pluck loose one of the characters (Yuzu), and give her a pep talk about healthy relationships and sexuality.
Even as the release by Seven Seas is fairly good (although the lack of an index bugs me a bit) and I truly want Yuri to be a viable genre for manga releases in North America, Citrus Vol. 2 completely wore out my willingness to give this particular story a go. Too bad.
Erica here: Well…yes. I agree completely. Especially in regards to Mei’s behavior. In addition to your notes about the perfomative nature of the cover, they also both look miserable. They clearly do not wish to be doing this thing. In fact, they both look close to tears. And I don’t much want to see anything that miserable-making.
As I keep noting, I do at least attempt to read each new chapter as it comes out in the magazine, but find, more and more that I’m just turning pages. I am not a fan of torturing characters as the plot and this has little else to recommend it.
Clearly we’re going to need to get a third voice to cover Volume 3 – someone who loves this series for itself, unconditionally. Applicants can contact me at any time. ^_^