You can tell a lot about what kind of yuri fan you are by whether or not you were excited about Citrus. If your taste is a little more sophisticated (a.k.a., your favorite yuri isn’t Sakura Trick), you were probably disappointed that this super fetishistic manga was one of the Lucky Few yuri to recieve an anime adaptation. On the other hand, if your appeal to yuri is strictly, “I wanna see some boobies touch,” you were probably pretty hyped for this one.
Or, you were somewhere in the middle, like me. I wanna see some boobies touch, but like, in a more ~sophisticated~ way.
But I’m desperate for content so I’ll take whatever the Gay Anime Gods are willing to throw me. It’s like, I want a full-bodied four-course yuri meal with a diverse range of flavors, but instead I’m getting a Taco Bell party box – still fun and satisfying, but it’ll really make you hate yourself for consuming so much of it.
I don’t actually dislike Citrus. I’m actually really, really enjoying it, despite all of its pesky issues like romanticizing abuse and swerving pretty darn close into sister-fucker anime territory. That stuff is where the “hating yourself for watching” feeling comes in.
Warning!! This post contains spoilers up to episode 6, and a not-very-spoilery screenshot from episode 7. Be careful in there, kids!
If there were more yuri series being given such high-level adaptations, it would be a little easier to fully embrace the show for the ridiculous, pulpy, lesbian soap-opera that it is. But since yuri anime are so rare, and ones with production values of this caliber are even rarer, it is frustrating that something as trashy as Citrus getting all this attention and loving.
So what do we do when the lady lovin’ media we get is less than great?
We do our best to pick all that problematic stuff off our plates and scarf down that media anyways!!! And while we’re scarfing, we must savor those few bits that were actually substantial!
So let’s look at the
good goodish stuff Citrus has had to offer so far.
It has call-backs to the Class S genre
Back in the day, before yuri really became yuri as we know it, there was the Class S genre. These were manga series that focused on “intense feelings” between schoolgirls. The genre dates waaaaay back to the early 1900s. Basically, since all-girls schools were so common, it was encouraged for girls to have romantic relationships with each other. The Class S genre show-cased these romantic, innocent relationships in their stories.
This very practice is referenced in episode two of Citrus. Yuzu, confused after Mei kisses her, asks her if it’s normal for girls to be together at their school. Harumi frankly tells her that yes, it’s common, because it’s “practice” for their future relationships.
Of course, having these throwbacks the Class S genre and old school yuri could be considered a bad thing…after all, the underlying themes of those works were that lesbian relationships were immature and that girls were expected to grow out of them. So, at the end of the day, maybe these throwbacks could actually count as more fodder against Citrus‘s sketchy content, but personally, I like that it’s aware of its genre’s roots. After all, there were plenty of these old-school works that were written by actual women loving women, so maybe it’ll take a page from one of those works and let the girls be In Love For Real? Or, you know, not. I don’t know how the manga ends. But I can hope!
(There’s much more to the Class S genre than just what I wrote up there. For the purpose of this post, I kept it simple. But, if you’re interested in more information, check out this excellent post/video from Floating Into Bliss about the history of yuri/Class S.)
It actually handles Yuzu’s sexual awakening in a (somewhat) realistic way
Yuzu’s panicked thoughts about her feelings for Mei go beyond just the typical “b-b-but she’s a GIRL!!!!!!” monolouges. Sure, she is confused by the whole liking another girl thing (and the “this girl is supposed to be my sister” thing isn’t helping), but she’s also constantly worried about creeping Mei out or having her think she’s gross for being attracted to her. That’s a really, really poignant thing, actually. It’s really common for girls who find out they like girls to worry that their innocent crushes are disgusting or even monsterous. In fact, there’s even a song by Lesbian Queen Hayley Kiyoko about this very concept. Even though Mei has literally initiated kisses with Yuzu, she still can’t shake the feeling that her feelings are creepy and wrong, and that Mei is going to hate her because of them.
The episode where Yuzu’s mom gives them a bed has a lot of this. Yuzu worries that Mei will sense her attraction to her because her heart is beating so fast because she feels so flustered. That whole scene plays out like a young teen gay’s worst nightmare – a friend they crush on somehow noticing their racing heartbeat at a sleepover and then being super rude about it.
Yuzu is just a really good character
Right now I hate Mei – she’s manipulative, her character barely makes sense (she jumps Yuzu multiple times but now Yuzu is the weird one for making moves????), and she’s just not a very good character. (A backstory about an absent father doesn’t automatically give a character depth, Citrus!!!) It’s very heavily implied that Mei was raped and that that is why she’s Like This, but I really don’t appreciate that kind of plot line. The abused don’t always need to become abusers, you know? It’s a cliche, deeply problematic story trope.
But on the other hand…damn, Yuzu is so good. All of the stuff written above shows that her character actually does have some depth to her.
Yuzu stands up for what she believes in. Sure, the thing she believes in might be the right to fuck her step-sister, but…I mean, shit, she stood in front of the whole school and called out a popular teacher for sexual harrassment without a second thought. She’s far from being a feminist hero or anything, but THAT was badass.
And when she slaps Mei in the face for toying with her feelings? That was badass, too. I mean, talk about character development. Finally, despite being fully in love with Mei, Yuzu learns to respect herself and her feelings enough not to let Mei treat her so poorly. The show isn’t so short-sighted that it pretends that Mei isn’t being awful to Yuzu. In a way, the fact that Mei gets called out regularly almost negates the whole “sexy abusive sister sex” undercurrent of the show. Almost.
Yuzu is also just plain charming. If it wasn’t for her positive energy, this show would be drowning in Mei’s melodrama and there wouldn’t be much fun to be had. I really had to smile when she bought a yuri sister manga for “research.” I wouldn’t be suprised if she also sat up at night taking “am i gay?” quizzes on her phone. She’s a surprisingly relatable character, despite being in a Really Unrelatable love affair.
So yeah. Citrus is trashy. But, hey, let’s make the most of it, yeah? It has merits and, whether we like it or not, it’s now a part of the yuri anime canon, so we might as well embrace it until we get a more thoughtful big-budget yuri anime adaption in like, four years or something.