Citrus

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

“There are things inside me that would please and terrify you. Both are there. Do you still want to look inside?”

Very pretty and very heartfelt, Citrus makes a good case for being definitive of the yuri genre. Though the story is somewhat contrived, it makes up for it with fun characters and some of the most beautiful artwork you’ll ever see. For those that enjoy yuri, this is a must-see. For those that cringe at it, if you ever wanted a good example of yuri, this is a good place to start.

Characters

Rating: 7

Individually, most of the characters aren’t really super interesting. Mostly they just enable the story. You have the two student council members, only one of whom gets featured at all, and that as an annoying imposter on the lives of the two main characters. She looks really annoying too. Matsuri, Yuzu’s childhood friend, plays a similarly annoying role. Mom and dad and grandpa only appear as needed. The Tachibana sisters have potential, but end up being just really convenient enablers to wrap up the story. Harumi is kind of fun, but doesn’t really do much other than tag along and be there as a kindred spirit for Yuzu. But I like the limited number of characters. I think there’s a lot more in the manga (correct me if I’m wrong), and that can get confusing, or even very frustrating. There’s already enough intrusions upon Yuzu and Mei’s life!

For this is all about Yuzu and Mei and their difficult relationship. I’m not going into all the yuri side of things. Whatever you feel about yuri love, the feelings these two have and the experiences they go through are quite heartfelt, and this show and these characters can stand on their own in the romance genre because of that. They’re both beautiful characters.

Yuzu is the main main character, I’ll say. She is very, very pretty, lots of bleached blonde hair going every which way and really large jade green eyes. She’s personable and kind. She hardly says a mean word to anyone, and there are a few people along the way she could have smacked down. “Too nice,” as Harumi once describes her. Some people say that Yuzu is designed as a gyaru, the infamous “gal” type we see at times in anime. While I’m familiar with the fact that gyaru is a broad term, she doesn’t completely fit the stereotype we’re accustomed to seeing. She definitely doesn’t do all the tanning! If larger eyes and excessive makeup speak to this definition, she does have that. But if nothing else, she is most certainly rebellious against the general idea we have of Japanese schoolgirls. Certainly this is the case when compared to Mei.

I believe the writers set out to make these two polar opposites, Yuzu as the rebel and Mei as the conformist. Initially this is well set up, as the two come into conflict right away. On top of that they layer Yuzu’s unabashed desire for a boyfriend juxtaposed with Mei’s reticent desires for a girlfriend. Then it gets a little more interesting. For Yuzu to be the rebel, she’s less open with her actions and desires than the cold Mei, who regularly invades Yuzu’s person space, to put it mildly. However, for all this decent setup, a lot of this contrast doesn’t amount to much. The difference between Yuzu and Mei’s personalities causes separation between them from beginning to end, but there never is much to it beyond that. It could have been handled better by the writers.

But Mei gets the most attention in design. If both characters share the fact that they don’t easily convey their true feelings to each other, Mei is much more extreme in this regard. She actually does share her feelings, but does so through unexplained sexual advances, leaving Yuzu in more confusion than before. Mei will attack her, then it will end, Mei will either act like nothing ever happened or that she actually dislikes Yuzu afterwards, and then she and Yuzu work it out slowly over time, only to repeat again. In time she becomes closer with Yuzu through this cyclical process. Mei is deeply troubled, hence these unusual expressions of need. It would take a lot of time to dig deep into this character, exploring where her needs originate and how they germinate into a twisted desire for female love and companionship. Suffice it to say, the sadness in her heart is quite palpable to the viewer, and it makes her extremely memorable. I’m about to start into the section on artwork, and so I’ll get into this sadness a little more there. For the most notable part of her design, the part that expresses the most about this character and makes our hearts skip a beat, has to do not with her actions, but her eyes.

Artwork

Rating: 10

Exceptional, exceptional, exceptional artwork. Beautiful almost beyond description. Anime art can be beautiful in so many different ways. The way in which this anime is beautiful is definitive of one of those ways. The clarity and shine of all the artwork is amazing. But it’s the two main characters that really stand apart. And between those two, as beautiful as Yuzu’s design is, it’s Mei that shocks our senses the most. And this is primarily through her eyes.

Mei arguably has the saddest eyes every drawn on an anime character. Put her up against a Violet Evergarden or an Isla (Plastic Memories) or your sad eyed character of choice, few can stack up against her in this regard. This poor girl is on the verge of tears from the first moment we see her to the last kiss she shares with Yuzu. And it doesn’t matter what emotion she shows. She could be fiercely enforcing her will as the student council president or lusting for Yuzu or confusedly watching whatever situation she finds herself in, her amazing purple eyes moistly glisten without exception. But when she really is sad, then she breaks all our hearts. The strain on her face and the welling tears in her eyes are devastating to the human heart. Yet I don’t think this character breaks down and bawls her eyes out one time. She cries a couple of times I think, wetting Yuzu’s face at least once, but she never has a stereotypical breakdown. She holds all the sadness in all the time. Her countenance is almost always severe. Couple that with her cold demeanor and sad eyes, this is one of the unhappiest looking characters anywhere in anime. We see her smile just once or twice, and it makes our hearts jump. How harshly she guards her soul behind such revealing eyes! She is fantastically beautiful.

I can’t rate this art as anything but perfect. That being said, there are a couple of times during this show where I felt like something was wrong about the scaling on the characters’ faces. Usually it felt like the eyes were just a little too big (Yuzu in particular), or a little too far apart, or the proportion and distance between eyes, nose, and mouth felt momentarily off. This is very unusual in anime. The artists and animators usually do such a great job managing this. I’m going to venture to make an excuse for why this might have happened in this show. It’s possible that the animators attempted to capture so much detail in these characters’ faces and eyes throughout every frame that it could have caused this. Or at least the perception of it. While there isn’t a ton of motion in this anime, there’s more than you might ordinarily expect from a non-action genre. Trying to cram all that detail into all those motion frames can’t be easy. Usually animes with supersize eye designs don’t have a ton of motion, or detail is minimized during motion. Think Clannad again, the poster child for oversized eyes. Lots of still frames where the animation comes solely from the mouths of the characters. And while nobody’s jumping around here, and the characters usually have their eyes shut during intimate scenes (motion!), there’s a lifelike motion to the characters, and particularly their eyes, that is somewhat unique in this show given this genre, in my opinion. This could account for why I felt like proportions and scaling in the character faces are off occasionally.

Regardless, this is some of the most beautiful artwork you’ll see in anime. All these frames must have taken a monumental effort to draw. It is a joy to watch this art scene after scene, episode after episode. It’s enough to fill you with emotion by itself. When I say an anime is artwork-driven, this is a great example of what I mean. If there was no dialogue and no story, you could still watch this artwork, and Mei’s heartbreaking eyes, with immense engagement. That’s how great it is.

Story

Rating: 3

My rating would be even lower if the story didn’t essentially serve its purpose. That purpose is to furnish a basis for the love between Yuzu and Mei. And it does do that. Everything else is a mess.

Dramatic anime will have these ultra dramatic scenarios that add intensity to the story. But there’s effective ways to do that and not so effective ways. Let’s deal with a more effective theme first. These girls are step sisters. Yes, it’s a tired, tired, tired theme. And yes, it’s debatably incestuous, which I won’t get into here. But it’s also useful for adding tension; it adds a certain level of uneasiness in our minds that we can’t shake off. If the yuri love itself doesn’t jab at our minds and sensibilities already, the quasi-incestuous nature of this yuri love will surely make you squirm in your chair, guy or girl. So all else about that aside, it’s an effective theme for adding tension.

The rest of the plotlines are much less effective. The issue with Mei’s dad both goes on too long and not long enough. I mentioned Mei’s sadness, and the unmistakable certainty of it that she wears on her face and eyes. This would be a lot more heartfelt if the writers had handled the issues with her father better. It’s supposedly the entire basis for her sadness, and arguably the entire basis for her desire to be needed (“wanted;” ahaha, an interesting bit of word play here, perhaps unintentional; another story for another day). Yet it ends right in the middle of the first season (no second season as of this writing) and Mei continues to be reticent and sad. Even that she more or less explains later, saying “this is who I am” or some such phrase. Okay so your daddy issues are resolved but nothing really changes, great. Ineffective. So that plotline could have been much more shortened if it was supposed to be so minimally impactful, instead of extending it out into the middle episodes of S1. Or they could have extended it out further, making it a constant theme right up to the end. I would have preferred this personally. Keep reading.

The two other arcs would have been better served if they were intermixed into that original plotline. Imagine how difficult it would have felt if Mei’s daddy issues were still going on while Matsuri was trying to supplant her and the Tachibana twins were causing confusion. Our hearts would have bled for Mei. It makes me sad just thinking about it. But as it is, the Matsuri and Tachibana arcs are tiresome.

Matsuri herself is an annoying character. I suppose you could say that makes this plotline a little more effective, as everything about her from voice to dialogue to appearance to how all parties involved treat her is just really annoying. Hence she adds a lot of frustration to the story. But I believe that is ineffective in serving the purposes of this story. You just want her to go away and shut up and leave these two young lovers alone. If she’s supposed to accentuate the aspect of perversion in this show, great, thanks, we really needed that. Sarcasm aside, that whole arc bugs me, and it detracts from the show, and I’ve said enough about it.

Finally you have the Tachibana twins and all the confusion they bring. It’s an interesting attempt. Sara meets Mei, Sara falls in love with Mei, Sara meets Yuzu, Yuzu and Sara both encourage each other’s love not knowing who it’s for, Nina figures out what’s going on and tries to prevent Yuzu from “interfering,” and eventually Sara gives up and Yuzu and Mei work out their issues. First of all, are you confused yet? It’s not that badly confusing, but still. Second, it’s too convenient. This is all some kind of catalyst to get Yuzu to admit her true feelings to herself and to Mei, and to get Mei to realize how much she loves Yuzu, and to stop suppressing it. Yet we involve these two potentially interesting but underdeveloped characters in the Tachibana twins to get at this. Again, think if this was interwoven with the original daddy arc. We wouldn’t have needed nearly the level of convenience that the Tachibana girls supply. It just ends up pointing Yuzu and Mei at the obvious and enabling them to get together. It’s a little boring, something that shouldn’t happen in as stirring a genre as yuri.

I don’t have anything positive to say about Matsuri’s arc. I think there was potential in the little “big sis” and the big “little sis” thing going on with the Tachibana twins. At least it’s kind of funny watching the tiny Sara and the giant Nina interact with our MCs. You have a rather unspoken yuri thing going on between them too, which the writers leave neglected on the vine. Speaking of incestuous yuri. Nevermind, I won’t speak of it! But anyway, it’s a little underwhelming in what otherwise is a very engaging show. The story could have enhanced our emotional experiences in this show much more. Instead it simply serves its purpose and no more.

Overall: 7

I don’t know why it’s named Citrus. I haven’t been able to figure that out through two times watching it and a little research. So I wont theorize now. Anybody know?

People will either really love or really hate this show. If you love it, I can understand why. It’s beautiful in so many ways. No matter what else goes into it, this anime is very beautiful. It will stir your heart. If you hate it, I can also understand why. Questionable morality, to put it lightly, is the hallmark of this show and others like it. However, I’ll leave the moral issues to other commentators. I will not deny the weight of those issues, but I simply don’t want to bring them up in this forum. I want to focus on art for art’s sake, leaving be the more tangible ties to our world. While such issues can outweigh artistic elements, it does not do so terminally in this show’s case. One can admire the art of this anime for what it is outside of those concerns.

I should mention the music. There’s nothing super remarkable about it, and the OP and ED are ordinary. But it is very effective in the intimate scenes. It’ll make the hair stand up on your neck and send chills through your body. Very emotional yet subtle, it adds a great deal of audio tension to these encounters. It adds significantly to the experience.

Does this define the yuri genre? I cannot answer that. For one, I haven’t seen enough yuri anime. I don’t seek it out just because it’s yuri. Second, I would say it’s difficult to define the yuri genre. The only difference between yuri and romance genre in general is the gender of the lovers. Yet yuri places a large set of artistic elements at an author’s disposal in addition to the traditional elements of romance genre. It also strays pretty close to a realm named with a certain h-word that I won’t mention further. But I think one of the most effective things about yuri is that while it strays as close to that realm as ecchi, it’s able to avoid it if it wants to. Sure the romance genre could stray into that realm as well, but that would turn it completely into that thing, making it no longer simply romance. Yuri can tread that line well without graphically getting into that area. It can still inspire a pure emotion even if it’s in a forbidden love kind of way. And Citrus does a great job of treading this line. So I cannot say it defines the genre, but I will say that if yuri and romance are only slightly different, this show does a great job at telling a romantic tale of love between two young people in a beautiful way. That’s what romance genre should be, and I therefore think you could make an argument that it’s what yuri should be as well. How to break that from romance and define “yuri” is something I will leave to those of you more inclined to consider that question. I welcome your thoughts.

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