Yuri Manga: Citrus, Volume 2 (English) Guest Review by Day

May 14th, 2015

cirtrus2This 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.

Art – 7
Story – 4
Characters – 5 (I like Yuzu and her friend Harumin, but everyone else should be hit by a bus)
Service – 5
Yuri – 7
Overall – 4

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. ^_^


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23 Responses

  1. Eric P. says:

    I’ve given this manga a chance for two volumes, and yeah, it’s just not doing much for me either, especially not when all it has going for it is its sister-love sleaziness. Also, I’ve just read a few too many “romances” where one person is a consistent asshole and other obsessively tries digging out the good of the first person–that is just way too common a formula and somehow it still hasn’t gotten old at all.

  2. Jin says:

    This was such a good review. Everything I did not like about this manga is contained within it. The comment by Eric P. as well. I gave away my copy of volume one and I cannot bring myself to buy another volume. The only thing I would add is that overall I found Citrus to be simply, non-hentai yuri for male entertainment. “The moments of “intimacy” are unsexy since they are, with one exception, nonconsensual.” Very Japanese male, very otaku male. “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”. Again, very male otaku. Female suffering, as well as female tears, is after all a necessary ingredient and very popular fetish among these males. At first glance I would assume this was indeed a typical yuri hentai manga, made by males for males, possibly including the typical corrective rape, male domination, male supremacy ending. I would like to hope sales of Gakuen Polizi are higher than Citrus, but I do not think so with the unfortunate popularity of Citrus among western fans.

    • And yet, I cannot find anyone who actually admits to liking it. Weird, huh?

      • Cryssoberyl says:

        I admit to liking it, and have before on this very blog:

        Cryssoberyl says:
        January 29, 2015 at 4:58 am

        I really am at a loss to explain my own fascination with, and fierce love for, Citrus. I think Jye makes a very good point. Amid the laughable amounts of angst and generic drama devices – I really did actually guffaw just now while skimming back through it at the ridiculousness of some of the “twists” – there are moments where the manga manages to convey, in a deeply compelling, empathetic way, the awkward struggling of an intense yet continually frustrated desire between two very different young women.

        I won’t give spoilers, but the end of chapter 8, for example…that scene struck me as one of the most electrifying scenes of that kind I have seen in manga in recent memory. The sudden spark, the mutual welling up of each responding to the other…there have been other moments like that in the manga too, but for now that one continues to stand out for me as the best example of why I am hopelessly hooked.

        (Full disclosure, I was completely addicted to a soap opera back during high school. I guess I’m just that type.) Actually I also continue to adore Strawberry Panic despite its similar trashy nature, so there you go.

        In short, while I would never, ever demand anyone like Citrus, my own investment is, for better or worse, unambiguous. :P

        I will say my patience the endless stalling and new crises is begining to wear, but at the same time I also think in a twisted way it increases my investment in wanting them to get together – always keeping in mind that while this relationship could only ever come out positive in Yuri Manga Land, in that fantasy realm, it really can. Now hurry up and give it to me.

        • Thanks for affirming that. ^_^ Can I ask you to do a series overview or a V4 Review, what do you say?

          • Cryssoberyl says:

            Ah, no…I’m very flattered by the offer, but for various reasons, I don’t think anything I would write about it would be a good fit for your blog. It would probably wind up too fannish, glossing over a lot of things that legitimately deserve criticism, and also I was never a fan of assigning numerical grades to stuff. I really am grateful for the offer, though.

          • Okay. No worries.

  3. Day says:

    Maybe we’re all just hate-reading? Or we bought out of hope springing eternally? I know I somewhat fall into the latter category.

  4. Day says:

    Looking at the cover again, I do believe Yuzu appears to be on the verge of vomiting, the poor girl.

  5. redfish says:

    I put off reading Citrus because of the cover, but at a few cons last year a number of (younger, mostly female) fans have mentioned this and usually Strawberry Panic as their favorites, so I got the first three volumes a while ago (Japanese edition).

    I can agree with the reviewer that its problems are many and severe. But at the same time it has a kind of continuous tension and things (even if unpleasant) keep happening at a rather fast pace compared to many yuri manga. I think Cryssoberyl’s comment describes the situation well.

    It’s not high on the list, but I’ll probably read volume 4 when it appears. For some reason, Citrus makes me think of Kanocame’s over-the-top passive-aggressive characters. As a counterpoint, the unassumingly aggressive-aggressive forward flow is kind of refreshing.

    (repost, I got an error the first time)

    • I’ll agree with the continuous tension, and see what you’re saying. Kanocame had characters with depth and I gave it credit for knowing where it was going, even if we didn’t know. Citrus is heading towards an inevitable conslusion with Yuzu and Mei together and all the rest is merely torture for the sake of that tension, so I have to give it less credit, personally.

      The most recent chapters have fallen into a pattern of “add another horrible character” to increase the tension, which gives me no faith in the story at all.

  6. MelB says:

    I came for the art… I stayed… for the art.. the art is so good the story line is so bad I pretty much just look at the pictures at this point xD

  7. Anon says:

    What!? Citrus is one of the most popular yuri manga out there. And you rate it a four?! I actually enjoy reading Citrus, thank you very much.

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