‘Citrus’ Mid-Season Review: Emotionally Charged Yuri Romance

Yuri drama/romance series Citrus has greatly impressed over the first half of the season, forming a dramatic and emotionally thrilling romance story between two unique characters. Citrus is based on a manga series written by Saburouta, which began serialization in Comic Yuri Hime from November 17, 2012, and is currently ongoing. The series follows Yuzu Aihara, a girl who refers to herself as a ‘gyaru‘ or ‘gal’, and talks a big game to her friends on the subject of boyfriends. In reality however, she’s never had a boyfriend, or had any romantic experience, and desires an ideal romance akin to the ones she sees in manga. Her mother, Ume, remarries into the Aihara family and Yuzu must move to live at her new step-father’s home and change schools. Yuzu quickly finds herself, on her first day no less, butting heads with the strange and strict school council president in regards to her fashion sense and attitude. This girl turns out to be Yuzu’s new step-sister, Mei Aihara, and Yuzu finds that her initial confused disdain for the girl quickly evolves into love. Citrus is a Yuri romance series surrounding unique personalities clashing, coming together to make a delightfully addicting series. This review contains spoilers, so be wary when reading ahead.

The characters are well developed and well realized, although there are of course clichés (such as the childhood friend who has had feelings for someone for years and the diligent and strict school council president who has another side), but even those are presented in unique ways and the characters grow out from their building blocks. Part of the staff for the show is a ‘gal supervisor,’ a real life former ‘gal’ with great inside knowledge of the trend. Rie Hiraoka helps shape a modern and realistic approach to a ‘gal’ character in Yuzu. Takayuki Nagatani, a member of the production company Infinite who handled the series, stated in an interview that “…for gals I only ever had a stereotypical image in mind, so to give life to a real gal and to feed my interest in them, I thought it would be necessary to have someone who knows things about gals.”

The main two characters in Yuzu and Mei seem worlds apart to begin with, one a rebellious ‘gal’ and the other a black-haired, straight-laced school council president. Yet it doesn’t take long for these two to form an intimate relationship of sorts, being shown to genuinely care for each other, especially from Yuzu to Mei. Instead of a slow build to a hinted romance, the series takes its own direction where a forceful Mei’s physical advance onto Yuzu blooms a confusing but determined love in her. Early on there are some forceful romance scenes which are non consensual, but they don’t come without meaning. Mei is seen behind the school being forced upon by the teacher she has been set up to marry, where Yuzu witnesses what she just perceives as a kiss despite Mei’s apparent shame and unwillingness. After Yuzu questions Mei on this, trying to rile her up to get her to speak, Mei forces herself on Yuzu in the same way as if to prove a point. This is where feelings are truly caught, and leads to Yuzu finding out for sure that the teacher, Amamiya, has no feelings for Mei herself and is just using her to get access to her family’s estate and prestige, making her determined to save her from a man she has no feelings for.

Citrus - Yuzu takes the stage
Yuzu protecting Mei by hijacking an assembly and publicly calling out the teacher who was using her.

On the note of the Yuri genre, there are some links to the prolific lesbian romance manga Girl Friends here and there, intentional or otherwise. From the ‘gal’ style friends of Yuzu talking of mixers (and Yuzu’s lies about being with men) to a few shots in the ending being reminiscent of scenes from the manga. There are also the more minor links one could make such as searching for information on their sexuality online (in Girl Friends on the computer, in Citrus on Yuzu’s phone and through a manga she buys). An interesting element not often seen in these sorts of shows is that Yuzu seems to confide in her new friend, Harumi Tanaguchi, in relation to her same-sex feelings towards Mei. She doesn’t hide her new and confusing feelings from the world completely. Harumi acts as a friend would reasonably act towards this, supporting her and not passing off her attraction to her new step sister as weird. In the 6th episode Harumi even gives Yuzu a ride to find Mei and gives her the bike to get to Mei’s departing father in time.

In an early episode Yuzu asks Harumi about the girls who appear to be romantically together walking to school, to which Harumi explains that often students in an all girls school will explore their sexuality, but says it’s less about romance and more about getting fleeting lust out of their system. Citrus presents that side of things through Harumi’s explanation and some of the other girls around, but Yuzu is quick to realize that her feelings aren’t simply a fleeting experiment. She accepts that this is what love is, a feeling she has so desperately sought after but never expected to come in this form. This is something she doesn’t lose sight of, even through a brief expulsion when the chairman catches Mei in the midst of a teary and emotional sexual advance on Yuzu and assumes Yuzu was the aggressor. However as she finds out more and more about Mei and her father, she considers for a moment that perhaps what she needs for now is a sister, not a lover. So she sets out to fix things, to do whatever she can to make Mei feel better, and in doing so their relationship ends up leaning even more heavily into love.

Citrus - Mei and Yuzu
Perhaps not the simplest situation to explain…

Though a lot of the physical romance scenes between Yuzu and Mei early on consist of one forcing themselves on the other (starting with Mei stealing Yuzu’s first kiss to stop her talking, and perhaps show her how she felt when the teacher forcefully kissed her), as we have gotten into the middle of the season the two share what could be considered their first ‘real’ kiss. A shared effort without one forcing themselves on the other, and the first that leaves them both quietly embarrassed. There’s always the hovering worry that Mei won’t return Yuzu’s feelings, or that what they’re doing isn’t ‘right,’ but the further into the season we get the more we see Mei’s reciprocating emotions.

Even for those with no interest in the Yuri genre, Citrus comes highly recommended. The series is beautifully well realized thus far with well developed characters and plenty of highly emotional moments. That’s not to say there’s not a fair share of comedy as well, from Yuzu’s public outbursts to her referring to the school’s chairman (who is now her step-grandfather) as ‘grandfather’ and being coldly told to leave the school, and particularly a scene where Harumi reads the step-sister romance manga Yuzu picked up to better understand her feelings and comments on the “positions for two girls” inside. The art direction is also handled very well, with both characters and backgrounds possessing great detail and seamless and brief use of 3D animation where applicable. With the final note of the 6th episode being a returning and seemingly mischievous childhood friend of Yuzu’s, the series will be continuing ahead full steam.

So with that said, check back for my final thoughts on Citrus upon its completion in the future.

You can stream Citrus on Crunchyroll as new episodes are released each week, and can find the show’s MyAnimeList page here.

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