Citrus has turned a few heads with its incestuous twist on lesbian romance. This week in anime, Michelle and Steve suss out whether this makes for a juicy love story or just sour pulp.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. Not Safe For Work warning for content and language.
You can read our weekly coverage of Citrus here!
Micchy, in a season rife with controversial shows, sometimes it's best to clear our heads, take a step back, and relax with something simple. Something nice. So while there are plenty of juicy topics left for TWIA to cover, why don't we take this opportunity to talk about a show everybody can enjoy? I simply must incest.
IT'S CITRUS TIME
And orange you glad it is?
Okay, now that we got those puns out of the way, let's chew on this season's problematic sisterfucking show du jour. The trash gods have blessed us with a bounty in Citrus.
You got that right. When I agreed to do this column, I never thought I'd be the resident sisterfucker expert, but here we are once again with the incest lesbians :'D
To be fair, they're only stepsisters. And this adaptation is thankfully far from the bottom of the barrel that we're used to scraping here in Trash Country.
We get both the questionable "girl moves in with a new jackass sibling/love interest" setup from shoujo manga combined with all the nonsense of trashy yuri. Yet despite the one-two of problematic genres, I think I'm kind of down with this show? It's not great, but it's also not the most reprehensible thing you could be watching.
Citrus comes the closest I've seen to evoking the feeling of a pulp lesbian romance novel. Yes, it's absurd and dirty and over-the-top, but it also embraces that, and aspects of it are more thoughtful than your initial impressions might suggest. Like it's often mentioned in the same breath as NTR (which we covered last year
), but where NTR is a dumpster fire, Citrus is more like a painting of a dumpster fire. It definitely has its issues, it won't be for everyone, but for its niche, it's a cut above the rest. Still, this is a story about an abusive/pseudo-incestuous romantic relationship, with a whole bunch of unhealthy relationships outside of that one, so if you're turned off by any of that, steer clear.
The sequence in the first episode where Mei assaults Yuzu is seriously uncomfortable to watch, far more than anything in NTR. I would definitely stick huge warnings on this show. That said, Citrus also has higher aims than Netsuzou Trap, attempting to tackle the characters' emotions and lives outside the central relationship. I have mixed feelings on how it handles all that.
First of all, why is this show not about Yuzu and her stealth gyaru friend?
In a perfect world, Yuzu would be kissing Harumin and they'd live happily ever after. But alas.
I'm slightly familiar with the manga, and I'd say that the anime is doing the best it can so far while staying true to the source material. There's no getting around its messy core concepts, but the anime tries to elevate the material as much as it can. For example, the first episode includes a bunch of original scenes solely to flesh out Yuzu's character, which turns out to be a great choice! Yuzu is easily the best part of the show, and she's so immediately likable that it smooths over many of the story's rough edges.
If only we could say the same for the rest of the cast :'D For me, the biggest drawback of the show has been its predominantly two-dimensional cast. The student council vice president has two modes: Bitchy and Gay, and sometimes Bitchy Gay.
In her defense, she does have good drills and eyebrows.
She's there to threaten the central couple and not much else. We get her backstory, but it amounts to little more than "Himeko has always been clingy with the girl who was nice to her this one (1) time".
No number of amazing reaction shots can salvage a non-character like that. :(
The newly-introduced fourth point in the love polygon, Yuzu's childhood friend, serves a similar role in the story and it kind of sucks. It feels like the show has so little faith in the leads' chemistry that the only conflict it can come up with is manufacturing outside drama. Meanwhile, the actual relationship between Mei and Yuzu is just kind of there.
Yeah, the overall storytelling is Citrus at its weakest. We're only halfway through and it's basically recycling conflicts, most of which are resolved too quickly or simply to feel satisfying even the first time. The upside is that the show moves too quickly to be boring, but that also makes it more difficult to truly get invested.
Citrus seems to want me to care about Mei's parental abandonment issues, but it just isn't working. She's such a cipher, and I have no idea why Yuzu is supposed to be in love with her. It's falling flat enough for me that I actually wish the show were trashier; it could lean into the erotic elements more like NTR did. If only I could enjoy this as shameless pulp erotica! Unfortunately it's caught in this weird middle ground where it's not trashy enough to be fun but not enough of a legit romance to be engrossing.
The past two episodes have at least started to give Mei some character development, but she's mostly been this impenetrable presence that Yuzu keeps futilely crashing against. It's conflict, sure, but it gets old fast. And here's where I think you could argue that the adaptive approach to this anime is muddled, since it does try to enhance the emotional core of a story that doesn't have the foundation to support that. It succeeds to the extent that all of Yuzu's feelings come across as strong and believable. She's a super sympathetic character! But those feelings don't have room to develop much in the context of this story.
I will admit that I'm a big fan of Citrus' director, Takeo Takahashi. He worked on one of my favorite shows of all time, Spice & Wolf, but he also adapted the legendary visual novel, Yosuga no Sora. So in my estimation, he's already proven that he can give the trashiest source material possible the thoughtful, beautiful, and cheeky adaptation that it might not deserve. I don't know if Citrus will live up to Yosuga no Sora's heights, but I think he's done a commendable job so far.
And here's where I admit that I haven't seen Yosuga no Sora, the absolute king of trashy incest anime.
I will defend it to my grave. (And in Hell, which is where I'm going, because I enjoy Yosuga no Sora.)
So yeah, Citrus is a pretty well-directed adaptation of material that never had much emotional heft to offer in the first place. I like the manga plenty because I am a thirsty nerd who enjoys pulp, but this adaptation makes it too "good" for me, if such a thing is possible.
Haha, I totally understand.
I never thought I'd say this, but I'd rather be watching A Sister's All You Need for my trash fix. At least that show had the decency to be upfront about its gross elements. But if you're really hankerin' for problematic lesbians in the wake of NTR, then I guess Citrus isn't the worst bet.
On the other hand, I'd argue that Citrus embraced its grossness the minute it cast Heybot's voice actor as a main character.
Yeah, the same person (the talented Shiori Izawa) is responsible for both these pieces of shit. And god bless her.
Now Matsuri is obviously gonna prey on Yuzu's feelings and confusion in order to destroy her relationship with Mei, but only time will tell if she can ever become a more detestable character than Heybot.
But yeah, I guess we'll see just how terrible Matsuri can be in the coming weeks. Hopefully it doesn't go the exact same way that the Himeko kerfuffle (didn't) get resolved?
I haven't read that far in the manga, but you know how much I love my shitty trash children, so I'm hoping whatever happens, she still comes down somewhere on the shitty trash spectrum.
Be strong, Yuzu.