Review

by Theron Martin,

Citrus

BD+DVD - The Complete Series

Synopsis:
Citrus BD+DVD
Fashion-minded Yuzu Aihara, who has had to move because of her mother recently remarrying, is raring to climb to the top of her new school's social ladder and find romance, though she laments that attending an all-girls school could be a barrier to the latter goal. But she never could have imagined where her search for romance would take her. Though she quickly makes a like-minded friend in Harumin, she also runs afoul of Mei, the icy Student Council President who gets unsettlingly physical with her, even giving Yuzu her first kiss out of the blue. Yuzu soon discovers that Mei is also the new stepsister that she didn't know that she was getting, and having to share both a bedroom and bed with Mei shakes Yuzu to her core. Can Yuzu's first romance actually be with not just another girl, but her own stepsister?
Review:

Before Domestic Girlfriend came along to stir the pot of stepsibling love, there was this Winter 2018 series based on a yuri manga. The two are alike in some basic ways; they both feature the noxious “surprise stepsibling” gimmick, where the new housemates show some degree of romantic interest in one another, and an early plot where the two forcefully help get a friend out of another bad romantic entanglement. Additional characters also enter the scene as the story progresses to complicate the potential romances further, with both Yuzu and Mei having other people interested in them. In other words, if you like one of these melodramas, then there's a good chance you will like the other.

Of course, the key difference between them is that Citrus is pure yuri. The show largely plays around with the fantasy and ambiguity associated with its genre; none of the girls identify as lesbian, and one character who gets involved in the last quarter admits to being bi, but that's it. The rest either act without much attention to labels (Yuzu's childhood “little sister” Matsuri), remain confused about their sexual identity (Yuzu), or show no signs of same-gender romantic interest (Harumin). The only hetero relationship in the series is portrayed in a negative light (Mei and her initial betrothed), while the numerous yuri pairings are shown more favorably.

One allusion is made early on to Class S, but three of the four romantic pairings in the series involve a significant degree of sensuality. There's an almost startling level of aggressiveness to the way the girls get physical with each other, especially when it comes to planting unexpected kisses; characters are regularly pushed down or pinned in the heat of passion, tongue action is forceful, and there's a fair amount of groping and stripping on the side. At least four different girls are aggressors through the various intersecting relationships, and the girls' interactions routinely play around the lines of consent, where the sensationalistic appeal of teasing one another's boundaries is intended to be a selling point.

That would be fine for a show about girls making out in rampant sessions of teen angst, but the biggest problem getting in the way is Mei. The two leads are presumably intended to be polar opposites: Yuzu is an outwardly emotional extrovert, while Mei bottles up everything to the point of rarely showing any emotion. The problem is that the story doesn't reinforce Mei's characterization enough. Yuzu is the primary viewpoint character, with occasional jumps to certain secondary characters, but we never see things from Mei's point of view. Because of that, the audience gets precious few clues about what she thinks about anything. She's allowed to expressively respond to sexual contact, but that's it. For most of the story, she's more a rebounding force for the emotions of other characters than a character in her own right. Fortunately the rest of the main cast is vastly more lively and expressive, from the free-spirited Harumin to the precocious Matsuri to the possessive Himeko, the passionate Sara, or her effusive twin Nina.

The technical merits of the series are surprisingly strong for its genre standard. Each of the girls has their own distinctly attractive look and credible range of wardrobe, all of which look appropriately stylish. The backgrounds are where the visuals really stand out, with sharp exterior and interior building designs and a wealth of detail from real Japanese locations. The animation effort, though not flawless, is generally strong too. While the series does have a fair amount of fanservice overall, it's still relatively tame compared to fanservice-focused series, with shots more commonly used to emphasize the atmosphere of a sexual situation instead of purely titillating shots.

The musical score for the series is adequate to the task of supporting the heavier content but never does much to stand out. Opener “Azalea” is a good song, but its visuals are awkward in the way that they try to mix both the distance between Yuzu and Mei and the attraction between them; it's better at selling the series' yuri appeal than appropriately representing the content of the series. Meanwhile, closer “Dear Teardrop” is a more ordinary song set mostly to still images.

Funimation's release of the series comes in a standard Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack with digital copy access and a slipcover. On-disc extras are sparse, consisting of only clean versions of the opener and closer. The English dub is competent, with the standout performance of Margaret McDonald as Yuzu's friend Harumi, but Amber Lee Connors being seriously constrained by her role as Mei, leaving her unable to do much with the character. Most other roles are fine, although actresses who have to voice the little kid version of their characters in flashbacks commonly struggle to sound age-appropriate. The dub script takes some liberties but sounds sharp and fitting, especially with Harumi's looser speech patterns.

Overall, Citrus generally manages to be sensational without verging on too lurid; it's definitely nowhere near the level of a show like Scum's Wish, for example. Its writing definitely has its flaws and lacks much depth, to the degree that viewers less invested in the angst and melodrama for its own sake may find the story to drag at points. However, if you're looking to scratch a slightly edgier yuri itch, then this title should fit the bill nicely.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B

+ Sharp character and background designs, plenty of yuri content, good balance of fan service
Mei is often just dead weight, story can get overly melodramatic at times

Director: Takeo Takahashi
Series Composition: Naoki Hayashi
Script: Naoki Hayashi
Storyboard:
Naotaka Hayashi
Yutaka Hirata
Masayuki Kojima
Masayuki Sakoi
Hijiri Sanpei
Naruyo Takahashi
Takeo Takahashi
Episode Director:
Kazuya Aiura
Yuuichirou Aoki
Fujiaki Asari
Hitomi Ezoe
Takahiro Majima
Masashi Nakamura
Hiroaki Nishimura
Saori Tachibana
Takahiro Tamano
Naoyuki Tatsuwa
Unit Director: Hijiri Sanpei
Original creator: Saburouta
Character Design: Izuro Ijuuin
Chief Animation Director:
Hideki Furukawa
Yutsuko Hanai
Izuro Ijuuin
Masaru Kawashima
Genichiro Kondo
Takayo Mitsuwaka
Manabu Nakatake
Animation Director:
Kanako Abe
Mariko Aoki
Tetsuro Aoki
Shinya Fujita
Tatsuya Fukushima
Hideki Furukawa
Seiji Hagiwara
Yūji Hamada
Koji Hirauma
Izuro Ijuuin
Natsumi Inoue
Tomoaki Kado
Hiroyuki Kaidou
Hitoshi Kamata
Hiroto Kato
Masaru Kawashima
Shiori Kobayashi
Genichiro Kondo
Kayoko Kumatani
Shao Lei Li
Yun Liu Liu
Takayo Mitsuwaka
Taiichi Nakaguma
Manabu Nakatake
Hatsue Nakayama
Yoshito Narimatsu
Haruka Oikawa
Takayuki Onoda
Yuugo Oohashi
Mai Sakamoto
Miyuki Sasagawa
Hiroya Sasaki
Yuji Shibata
Konomi Shiono
Asami Sodeyama
Yūki Tamori
Seiki Tanaka
Shota Tsukiyama
Min Wang
Toshiya Washida
Masahide Yanagisawa
Jouji Yanase
Jun Yoshida
Ryūichirō Yoshida
Ding Zhang

Full encyclopedia details about
Citrus (TV)

Release information about
Citrus - The Complete Series (BD+DVD)

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