Yuri Anime: Citrus (English) Guest Review by Yurimother

January 31st, 2018

Hello and welcome to Guest Review Wednesday on Okazu! It is my very sincere pleasure to offer both a brand new Okazu Guest Reviewer and a counterpoint review to my review yesterday. ^_^ I hope you’ll all give a warm Okazu welcome to our newest Guest Reviewer, Yurimother! 

Passione’s anime adaptation of Saburouta’s Citrus is finally out with three episodes having aired time of writing. Fans of the popular manga rejoice while outsiders are somewhat more skeptical. The first thing that a potential viewer needs to know about this Yuri anime is that the main characters, Yuzu and Mei, are stepsisters. Citrus is an incest story which is not for everyone.

The story’s lead, Yuzu Aihara, a fashionable and brash teen, transfers to a prestigious school when her mother remarries. There she quickly begins to clash with the stern student council president and granddaughter of the school’s chairman, Mei. Yuzu’s situation becomes more complicated with the revelation that Mei is her new stepsister. This development thrusts them into two different relationships with each other, an unwanted sisterly one, and a confused sexual one.

Saburouta set the bar extremely high in the manga’s art, and Passione delivered. The characters look amazing, backgrounds are gorgeous, and everything from the sky to bathwater has a fantastic polish that takes the art to the next level. I found myself skipping backward more than once to watch a sequence again and marvel at the animation. This artwork is all accompanied by an above-average musical score that adds an extra layer of emotion to many parts of the anime.

The high school setting is overused and rather dull at this point, however, Citrus manages to present an interesting plot. However, this accomplishment is despite the setting rather than because of it. The school environment is at least convenient for introducing characters, problems, and even some levity. An example of this is when the school’s rule against cell phones allowed the anime to execute one of the few breast jokes that I have ever truly found hilarious.

Citrus wastes no time getting straight to a dramatic story, in which the characters’ development is rapid and interesting. Just a few episodes in Yuzu already landed her school career, family, and relationship with Mei in hot water. The plot has kept me both engaged and excited. Without outside knowledge of the manga, I would have no idea what development would happen next, even if the results of the situations are somewhat predictable.

Early episodes of Citrus do not have many interesting or diverse characters. Everyone introduced so far can be categorized as either happy and outgoing (Yuzu, her friend Harumi, and her mother) or uptight and strict (Mei, the other student council members, and the school chairman). That is not to say that these characters cannot be enjoyable to watch, but I eagerly await their growth. While individual characters have seen little early development, their relationships have, specifically Yuzu and Mei’s. These two become more sisterly even as Yuzu’s affections for Mei blossom.

The most outspoken critics of Citrus point out that the sexual moments between Yuzu and Mei are not consensual. During their first kiss, Mei pins her stepsister to the ground and kisses her for an uncomfortably long time among groans of protests. While this is certainly off-putting to many viewers, it is not meant to be cute or sexy service. I propose that the scene is intended to be disconcerting. As readers of the manga will know, there is more to Mei than meets the eye. There are complexities to her character and her relationship with Yuzu that will likely unfold, explaining, although not excusing her actions. These hidden layers are hinted at in emotional fanservice scenes that usually end with one of the characters (and at least once me) in tears (although I tear up whenever I see animated homosexuality). Assuming Citrus plays its proverbial cards right, it will win over some of its skeptics. 

While it is by no means perfect if you stick with Citrus and overlook some of its faults you will find a dramatic and salacious Yuri.

Subtitled episodes of Citrus are simulcast on Crunchyroll.

Ratings: 

Art: 10
Story: 7
Characters: 4 (Although more time with the series will likely increase this)
Music – 7
Service – 8 (it may be uncomfortable at times but there is plenty of it)
Yuri – 9 (no Yuri Goggles needed here)

Overall: 8

Erica here;:Thank you so much for this review!  It was great to see this from a wholly different pair of eyes than my own.

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11 Responses

  1. I mentioned on Twitter, but I love that there’s a counterpoint review for this. I’m still conflicted about why I enjoy both the manga and the show, but I completely agree about the art: the expansiveness of that main stairway takes me in every time.

    Thank you for writing this :)

    • Yurimother says:

      That stairway is amazing. ON a certain level I would say just don’t worry about why you enjoy them and just… well, enjoy them. Counterpoints are often very interesting. It is good to know what others are thinking and what they like, even if it is different.

  2. Cryssoberyl says:

    In 2015, I wrote this about Citrus on this blog:

    Amid the laughable amounts of angst and generic drama devices … 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.

    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.

    To be honest my feelings have not changed. In fact, the more recently in time one regards the manga, the better and more authentic a romance it has become. That cannot and does not excuse its objectionable elements, but I maintain that a, perhaps not “wortwhile”, but at least “sufficiently entertaining” story is being told…if one is willing to do the mental parsing necessary.

    With regard to the assault elements, I make no attempt to justify them. I do however choose, as Yurimother rightly indicates is necessary, to overlook them, fully aware that it must be done for Citrus to gain any semblance of cohesion or believability. In order to enjoy the romance of Citrus – which I continue to believe that, if divested of its molestation elements, is quite compelling – I simply discard those moments. That is all one can do with them to avoid cognitive dissonance. No one could disagree that their use and depictions make no sense, and the story does not and cannot work without jettisoning them mentally.

    In short, I believe that Saburouta has created an engaging yuri work – if it is trimmed of these elements. Certainly, though popularity is in no way an indicator of quality, Citrus as a story has captured the interest of many people of many kinds around the world. The question is whether one is willing and able to do the mental gymnastics needed to endure its bad side. Many are not, and that is perfectly understandable.

    How wonderful it would be if establishing the characters’ attraction to each other and Mei’s issues were done differently. I wish that myself, and certainly I recognize that the psychological dance I’m doing is self-serving. Humans are very adept at finding ways to rationalize continuing to like things they like, and I admit that’s what I’m doing here, but let me be clear: in Yuri Manga (and now Anime) Land, perhaps. In reality, never.

    • Yurimother says:

      Very well put, and that is an excellent point at the end. When the things that happen in the anime happen in real life they should never be overlooked. I also agree that when considering the recent chapters of the manga have a more believable and authentic romance.

      As for a work being popular not meaning that it is “good,” it is a very complex issue. There are items of pop culture like *shudder* fifty shades which are extremely popular and often of poor quality, but it can be interesting to look at why so many people find them so enticing. For citrus I am honestly not sure; from what I have seen on Tumblr, a lot of people genuinely love yuri and are willing to give something of a free pass to a lot of yuri works (myself included sometimes), even if the yuri has traits that they would normally oppose. Of course, many people are still against these works and they should not have to like them, their opposition is perfectly reasonable.

      I personally really enjoyed reading your insights in this comment and they gave me the opportunity to think a bit more about certain aspects of Citrus and of the culture around it. Thank you Cryssoberyl.

  3. Cryssoberyl says:

    This is what happens when I try to be fancy with HTML tags. Sorry, italics should’ve ended at “Now hurry up and give it to me”. Missed a slash.

  4. Dolores says:

    As a follower of the manga I’m instead incredibly disappointed in the anime adaptation. To the point that it’s becoming irritating to me people repeatedly saying things like the manga explains or, how the sexual assaults are portrayed is in a way that belies more depth to the actions or characters. I have seen the dramatic story develop and some of that framing from the manga. Nevertheless, if the same was the case for the anime I don’t see why certain scenes are expanded on in length and detail in the anime from how they were presented in the manga unless they are supposed to be exciting for the viewer. There is a great deal of more voyeurism present than in the manga too with some designs increasing cup sizes and the way shots of characters’ bodies are handled. I was in tears too after watching, something that happens to me rarely. Tuning into the show has been one of the most emotionally unhealthy decisions I’ve made so far this year. To describe this show with what it has on offer so far as animated homosexuality is offensive to me. Enjoy the anime of Citrus if you are by all means. But, please stop trying to belittle or tell others of us, some of who do have familiarity with the manga, who disagree about the adaptation that we’re just misunderstanding.

    • There are many ways of understnding and enjoying or (not enjoying) this series. I have also been reading the manga and find people saying “it explains more” ridiculous, as it’s never once shown any sign of explaining a thing other than handwaving it into absurdity.
      But aside from that, no need to be irritated. You can disagree with both these reviews without being angry. It’s okay if you just don’t like it. Remember the rules here:

      Just because we like it, doesn’t mean it;s good
      Just because we don’t like it, doesn’t mean it; bad.
      Just because it’s bad, doesn’t mean we can’t like it.
      Just because it’s good, doesn’t mean you have to like it.
      And you never have to agree with a review, but you can disagree without being angrey at it.

  5. a library nymph says:

    As a newcomer to yuri (but definitely not to gayness in general), I have yet to watch Citrus. Your review was interesting, and persuaded me to add the anime to my bucket list ^_^

    Have a lovely day 🌷

  6. AJ says:

    I heavily dislike Citrus, but I actually do agree with one of the points this review made: that the scene where Mei first kisses Yuzu is not portrayed as sexy or humorous fanservice. That scene is clearly framed like an assault. Mei is shown pushing down and suffocating Yuzu while she struggles, even kicking some of her things over as she tries to get away. The music playing in the background is not sensual or upbeat. And when Mei pulls away, you don’t get a fanservicey close-up of her doe eyes or her wet lips or her breasts. Instead she is shown as an intimidating figure, looking down at Yuzu with a shadow cast over her face, as she says, “That’s what kisses are like.” That was sexual assault and it was framed like sexual assault.

    Unfortunately, none of the other scenes where Mei preys on Yuzu are framed in the same way. The “bag check” scene is played for humor and titilation. Mei molesting Yuzu in the bath next episode is played off as alluring and sexy. It’s really frustrating, to know the director has the chops to portray Mei’s behavior for what it is, but is choosing to play it for titilation instead.

    That’s what bugs me the most about Citrus: there are glimpses of a truly good show here and there. Somewhere buried underneath the fanservice and stepsibling incest tropes lies a good, nuanced, and even important story.

    Take the teacher plotline, for example. Rather than being played off as a scandalous teacher/student romance, the wrongness of the homeroom teacher’s actions is actually acknowledged. It was dealt with too quickly and we don’t see him actually suffer any repercussions, but the scene where Yuzu exposes him still made me smile.

    When you consider Mei’s relationship with the homeroom teacher, her behavior makes sense. She thinks that’s what kisses are like because that’s been her experience: somebody pushing them onto her when she didn’t want them. And so Mei pushes her pain onto Yuzu, exhibiting sexually coercive behavior because that’s all she knows. The cycle of abuse continues.

    But Citrus just isn’t a thoughtful enough work to pull off that story. The teacher storyline quickly gets abandoned in favor of the explanation “Mei misses her dad and is just really lonely” for her behavior, which doesn’t suffice. All of Mei’s assaults and harassment of Yuzu is played for titilation or passed off as endearing or romantic. And then the side characters come in, who range from boring and cliched (Himiko) to flat-out repugnant (Matsuri), with the sole exception of Yuzu’s satellite bff Harumin (who she should really just date instead).

    Citrus frustrates me like few other yuri titles too. I almost wish it was worse, so it wouldn’t tantalize me with those glimpses of potential. Even though I dislike Citrus myself, I can’t really blame people who like it though, because I do get the appeal. Yuzu is a fun and likeable heroine. Mei is not likeable, but she and her relationship with Yuzu show traces of complexity. The art is nice and some of the humor works (just not the “jokes” where sexual assault is the punchline). If only it were written with more tact, more sensitivity, and with the understanding that the central relationship is unsustainably unhealthy. Alas.

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