Copied from my MAL account: link https://myanimelist.net/reviews.php?id=274803 Citrus is a series that is tragically misunderstood a story with far more substance and depth than word of mouth would lead you to believe. Not long after this show started airing its become easy for people to write off any element in the story as a means to arbitrarily wring out some voyeuristic lesbian action rather than stopping to think of the purpose it actually holds for the narrative. When a sexual assault occurs viewers assume that its romanticizing such an action and therefore condones it. When an emotional barrier props up its assumed to be nothing more than a way of piling on more drama. These premature assessments are commonly made when shows like this are perceived as simple fetish material framed as horribly misplaced criticisms that leave Citrus in an undeservedly contemptuous light as a guilty pleasure unworthy of further analysis or appraisal. Citrus is not mere fetish material does not promote or romanticize sexual assault and provides layered and welldeveloped characters whose actions are realistically influenced by both internal and external conflicts. A bittersweet feeling perpetuates as we follow naive teenagers consistently characterized as those who are lost and confused behaving in ways that are less than ideal but are hurdles along the way of a gripping and emotionally compelling tale that is certainly rough around the edges but well worth the ride. Theres a common conjecture about Citrus saying that it treats sexual assault as a form of love and the blossoming romance is in the form of Stockholm syndrome and both these things are wholly untrue. Firstly while the actions of Mei Aihara undeniably walk on the borderline of sexual assault none of these instances are framed as romantic or mutual in any way. The first of these depicts Yuzu struggling while Mei lashes out her aggression. Following this is a low shot with Mei spitefully uttering thats what it felt like in response to Yuzus innocent curiosity about Meis romantic affair. Nothing about this is painted in a positive approving light. Subsequent events like this are blatantly shown to be a byproduct of Meis misconception of how relationships work or a means to vent her frustration. The sheer discomfort is emphasized through both the cinematography and the expressions of the characters involved. This does not mean nefarious actions like these are excused as the story never does. Yuzu always retaliates to these actions once she regains control over herself during these events. Depiction and endorsement are not the same thing a fact that should always be considered with regards to a story like this. Another thing to address is this: the assaults are by no means the foundation of the leads romance and that is a myth that should have passed long after this show had aired. Yuzu develops feelings for Mei long before the first assault occurs which is most evident during the scene where she is lost in thought about witnessing Mei being kissed by Amamiya. Her focus is squarely on Meis behavior and what kissing must feel like for her with Yuzus own attraction to Mei not even apparent to her. Overall when proper attention is brought to the characters actions as well as the framing it becomes clear that the criticism of Citrus romanticizing assault holds no truth whatsoever. Id like to make a point here that not all opinions are equal and opinions on Citrus based on the conception that it romanticizes or normalizes assault and abuse are invalid and therefore wrong. A valid opinion doesnt require high intelligence or sophisticated taste or anything like that. It requires a correct interpretation of the content one that is often not taken through first impressions or face value. Citrus and its content is highly reliant on context and characterization. Just as these confused adolescents struggle to understand each other and themselves wondering who and what to believe viewers are left on their own to base judgement on characters behavior and what they say save for some frequent monologuing by Yuzu. And even then her own thoughts arent always reliable. Content that comes off as questionable or discomforting to certain viewers is perfectly explainable through indirect characterization a method of storytelling that challenges the brain beyond just relying on narration and monologues to provide answers without viewer effort. Viewers share frustration and confusion with the characters themselves and the payoff is all the more rewarding because of this. The character Mei Aihara exemplifies this most of all as she is a person whose subtle mannerisms bring light to a personality misshapen by the worst of circumstances and very applicable to reality. Mei is a character with practically no conception of right and wrong let alone the idea of consent and has never been shown or had any experience of what a true romantic relationship is like. The only proper relationship she has ever had in life was with her father. After he left Mei felt as if she was being abandoned by the only one she was ever truly close to. Its clear that prior to where the main story begins Mei has had no emotional support ever since her fathers absence. She is used and neglected by her grandfather is constantly taken advantage of by her fiance and is under perpetual social pressure to follow her duties accordingly for days on end. As a result Meis attitude towards romantic and sexual relationships is completely distorted. Her one and only understanding of love relationships is through physical contact of which she uses to control people just as she has been controlled herself. This is symptomatic of being in a sexually abusive relationship like she had with her first fiance she doesnt value her own body and is incapable of interacting with people normally. In many situations whether its a love relationship or otherwise Mei passively accepts everything that is piled on her with no concern for her own well being a trait that is consistently apparent over the course of the story. On the other end her way of taking control of situations is her sexual advances towards Yuzu who understandably objects to these actions. The main point is that Mei only acts in the way she knows how. This conflict of hers isnt a singular matter but numerous elements about her past and how she was raised which come together creating the version of Mei we see throughout the story. Mei is depraved misguided and some could even say mentally ill. And again none of these elements are used to justify Meis behavior. Its merely a case of cause and effect one which leaves morality out of the question entirely. Being so used to her strict upbringing Mei frames every scenario as a bargain or exchange rather than a desire even if she doesnt necessarily intend it. Her feeling obligated to follow in the footsteps of her father to gain his affection encapsulates this quite well. Having received no unconditional love since her fathers disappearance this is the way of thinking which governs almost all of the decisions she makes. For this reason shes perplexed as to why Yuzu bothers to do all these unconditional favors. The answer to this is simple: Yuzu cares about Mei. Unconditional love is a foreign concept to Mei and this trait continues to subconsciously affect her even long after she has experienced the true virtues of a love relationship. cue the beginning of episode 10 The psychology of Mei is one of the main things which the story lives through and is one of Citrus most fascinating aspects. As frustrating as her actions can be at times the consistency of her character and the relatability of her plight makes her highly sympathetic and as such Yuzus efforts to make things right for her however reckless and brash are very admirable. When you consider everything Ive previously stated it turns out that Mei has every reason to act and behave the way she does. Her attitude and behavior are both realistic and morbidly consistent when acknowledging this perpetual turmoil she lives through. Meis problematic manipulative behavior is not only addressed as such but is also a conflict in itself. Discomforting scenes that people insist to be mere sleaze and titillation always leaves a negative effect on characters involved. Meis first assault turned Yuzus pending lust for and curiosity of Mei into a maelstrom of confusion and hysteria. Repetition of these acts behind the scenes gave us Mei Aihara as we know her. A certain character who does this to another results in the victim avoiding that character extensively. The way Mei gradually becomes more open to Yuzu about her feelings and personal issues is a cathartic and satisfying affair in and of itself and its kept at natural pace throughout. Not only this her behavior changes for the better the longer she spends time with Yuzu. Little by little she displays improvement and development as she makes decisions of her own acting beyond her mental protocol. Its rather easy to see why Yuzu is in love with Mei besides her beauty and status. Hiding behind this cold exterior is a frightened and lonely young girl that Yuzu wishes to nurture and protect. Whats truly commendable however is how many instances of her development are deliberately presented for us to infer on our own rather than being told directly and explicitly. Heres one particular example of this: SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 7 AND 8 BEGIN HERE . . The moment Mei truly develops romantic feelings for Yuzu is at the end of episode 6 and the exact moment she realizes these feelings is episode 7 when Matsuri forcibly kisses Yuzu out in the open. This is all indicated through her sudden change in behavior compared to before. She is now less grim in her expressions around Yuzu and looks slightly more sentimental. Her actions convey this even further such as the way she compliments Yuzu for the meal that was made. The day after that Matsuri is shown to be envious of Mei continually deriving attention from Yuzu at the expense of Matsuris causing her to shove off. This causes Mei to feel guilty having created distance between Yuzu and one of her closest friends. This is where she first experiences the baggage that comes from being in love. . . SPOILERS END HERE The reason this works in service to the narrative is so viewers are put into the perspective of Yuzu herself. She struggles to understand Mei using signs in her behavior to understand what she feels. Mei is deliberately presented just as enigmatically as she is to everyone else. With so much about Mei already covered its only fair that the other heroine Yuzu is given the same treatment. Yuzu at the start has an idealistic view of the life that lies before her. She acts with unrelenting confidence in almost all occasions expecting everything to go smoothly and perfectly in line with what she envisions. I think I speak for most people when I say that when we were young teenagers our ways of thinking were hardly any different. Weve had strong ambitions of our own believing we could achieve them all without entirely knowing the reality of certain situations. Of course like most teenagers the decisions that Yuzu makes are not always wise. Quite rarely so in fact. She often does things with or without good intentions unperturbed by any potential consequences they could raise. Her greeting with the chairman is a particularly good example of this. Having become a new addition to his family she approaches him expecting to be welcomed with open arms. Instead shes scolded for her meddlesome behavior and unruly fashion choices. On the flipside while she makes unwise decisions Yuzu is not completely unintelligent. She shows a degree of rational thinking alongside her impulsive behavior which is an important distinction from a character who is near hopeless in their stupidity. Yuzu eventually does mature past her idealism yet retains an optimistic outlook which drives her to do better in her more realistic pursuits. Yuzu is shown throughout the story to be a very capable individual thrusted into situations shes unprepared for often falling back to impulses or superficial goals. Despite this shes quick to bounce back and make things right through the best of her abilities learning from past mistakes and focusing on what matters most in the long run. One of Yuzus strongest and most prominent traits is how empathetic she is. While shes often selfabsorbed in her appearance and overall image shes quick to understand others and wants to be on good terms with those around her. Shes the type of friend who would listen to your problems forgive you for whatever quarrel you had with her and be willing to keep any reasonable promise you ask of her. Amidst a locale of peoples misdeeds and the oppressive dominion that is her school Yuzu is someone who is incredibly easy to root for and would be an overall great person to be with. Its easy to see why Harumin became friends with her so quickly and also why Mei eventually fell for her. While Yuzu is a highly goodhearted individual to say shes only ever kind and generous sells her personality woefully short. She can be irritable snarky jealous and is overall more insecure than she lets on using Harumin as an emotional crutch when she finds herself in a quandary. She often lets these emotions get the better of her as teens typically do. The bubbly boisterous personality of Yuzu while oftentimes funny and endearing can also come off as irksome and frustrating. Rather than being portrayed as an allloving angel Yuzu is a lovably flawed individual with a good heart and poor selfcontrol. Compiling all these traits together results in one of the most compelling lovable sympathetic and relatable main leads Ive come across in all media. As for her relationship with Mei Yuzu is on a constant struggle to comprehend her feelings. She knows that something is amiss about Mei invoking a feeling of concern. At other times she wonders if what she does hurts Mei more than it helps. This confusion is a result of their inability to communicate with each other effectively and coherently mimicking typical romance between teenagers more than people seem to realize. Yuzu doesnt understand Mei and by extension doesnt know how to act around her. The two of them had been raised in completely different conditions and thus operate and communicate differently from one another. Its obvious that Yuzu has an unfaltering love for Mei but one obstacle she must overcome is resisting the urge to give in to her superficial desires and pursuing what is realistically best for Mei in the long run. At one point her only choice is to put her love for Mei aside and to treat her as a sister. Although she does all these things selflessly she still has a degree of selfpreservation in stark contrast to Mei. What Citrus does well is distinguishing the superficial aspects of love from the emotional aspects. Crushes arent developed through logic and our own real life experiences prove as much. What this series explores is the multitude of consequences that come with loving someone. In this case its dealing with the complications of being in a love relationship with your stepsister. Differentiating perceptions of love are what pervade a majority of the cast in Citrus. The students at Aihara Academy all knowingly grew up in an environment where sexual experimentation is a normality. Of course I cant speak from experience but to my knowledge this mimics reality in Japan. Referred to as Class S its common for girls in school to have crushes on other female classmates forming bonds with them. These bonds could be described as romantic but the sexual aspect of the attraction is out of the equation entirely assuming theyre straight. Its telling that a Japanese audience would have a far better understanding of this kind of story and the positive reception of Citrus in Japan compared to the west is evidence of this. Harumin really emulates this concept more than the others. She is essentially a direct foil to Yuzu in how sexual relationships are perceived. For Harumin particular actions between couples are a source of curiosity. By contrast Yuzu thinks about what these actions mean for the relationship. The most obvious example is arguably when the two eavesdrop on Amamiyas phone call. However one other particular moment drives this home more than any other. Harumin discovers the yuri incest manga Yuzu was reading. Fascinated she puts herself in a scissoring position with Yuzu. Shes so confident in her heterosexuality that doing this means nothing to her. Yuzu on the other hand recognizes this as an expression of love and thus is highly discomforted by this scenario. This is largely presented as a comedy moment but it does a lot to signify the differences in their characterization. It also benefits in a way from being depicted in such an overthetop manner. Harumin acts as a companion to Yuzu all the way through to the end but in reality she isnt able to truly understand what Yuzu is going through regardless of how much she thinks she does. This is also the reason Yuzu decides to take on these tasks by herself because shes the only one who truly understands. We can also assume that she keeps it to herself in fear that Harumin wouldnt accept her for being in such a taboo relationship. After all this is why she keeps it a secret to Matsuri and anyone else outside the school campus. Moving on from the characters I bear no hesitation saying that the plot of Citrus is undoubtedly its weakest aspect. Although the events it strings together can catch viewers offguard maintaining a dash of unpredictability in the whole adventure it all too often relies on contrivances. Coincidences in fictional stories arent inherently a bad thing. The reason I can accept the reveal of Mei as Yuzus new sister is because its so early in the story. In fact its arguably made better for the fact that its coincidental as it comes as a shock to both the audience and Yuzu herself. However the numerous contrivances beyond this point become harder and harder to swallow as they come by. The way that some situations are arbitrarily resolved through circumstance rather than on behalf of a character doesnt do the plot much favors either. A widelyused yet reasonable complaint about Citrus is its continuous introduction of characters to move the plot along. The way I see it this is at least as much a problem with the pacing than the actual inclusion of these characters. When these subplots are coupled with Yuzu and Meis progressing relationship then focus becomes a problem here. Tone shifts are frequent and occasionally jarring as a result of having to constantly switch priorities. The interpersonal affairs between Yuzu and Mei are heartfelt and down to earth whereas dramatic confrontations with outsiders are tense frantic and somewhat theatrical. When meaningful interaction between Yuzu and Mei is abruptly followed by these sideplots that can challenge ones ability to stay invested in either plot. However while pacing and tone is certainly an issue here to say that these subplots serve no purpose is untrue. Each story arc in Citrus presents a barrier in Meis psyche which is resolved with every passing conclusion. Every resolve is satisfying in its own right as it brings Mei further out of her shell whilst bringing her and Yuzu closer together. Its apparent that new characters are introduced to fill a certain role in these affairs but the focus on Yuzu and Mei is unrelenting and the characters serve their purpose quite well. To start with Himeko Twindrills Momokino at first appears to be quite the villain but she actually shares traits with both Yuzu and Mei and even has strikingly similar motivations. Like Yuzu she has an unfaltering love for Mei arguably in a romantic friendship sort of way as opposed to sexual attraction and goes to great lengths to claim her affection. Like Mei she is both dedicated to her job and remarkably strict with school regulations. Her intentions are what make her a rival to Yuzu and then later bring them to a resolve. They wish the best for Mei but are oblivious to her true feelings. Matsuri is a character acting as a parallel to Mei. Only instead of closing herself off she seeks attention. In the worst ways. Her rebellious nature and sinister antics make her a worthy addition to the cast. Its not done just for the sake of it though. Its a situation where Mei sees her own self and is willing to make amends for someone Yuzu is close to. The arc with the Tachibana sisters is considered by many to be the weakest arc in the series and I am no exception. While it serves its purpose well and the payoff is rewarding it isnt put together nearly as well as the others. I think what it sets out to do doesnt warrant new characters to be introduced into the middle of the whole dilemma where their intrusion can be seen as more frustrating than serviceable especially when those characters lack depth. The situation between Mei and Yuzu at this point is already complicated as it is so piling more characters on top of these complications is more of an annoyance than anything else. I think other less irritating methods would have served the function of this arc quite well without having to bring the sisters into the mix. It also doesnt help that in this arc conveniences pile up even more than in any other even attempting to sidestep this with fate and destiny. As I said before though the payoff is largely worth it in the end. Its not necessarily a case where the abundant problems in this arc can be forgotten but rather forgiven. This arc is an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise great story overall. The dialogue of Citrus is also worth commenting on. Its no Shakespearean writing but it feels natural and works in service to whatever is going on. The characters lines are filled with personality and subtext which makes conversations feel alive. Characters are also quick to point out irony in anothers lines making the exchanges even more human. Certain moments in dialogue are quite significant and memorable for how expressive they are and how it piles emotion into the situation. The scene where Mei and Yuzu are on a bench on a cold winter day is a good example. With all that said I think its finally time to traverse into how Citrus fares in the audio/visual department. Regarding the visual front of the Citrus anime adaptation its unfortunately a mixed bag. Obviously it would be unreasonable to expect the level of quality in the mangas art to be fully translated into a costly animated product especially with a studio like Passione. To compensate for this the adaptation uses character models that are simplified versions of the exquisitely drawn renditions in the manga and does so successfully. These character models wouldve been a satisfactory pagetoscreen translation if not for one major issue: one of the main things which I believe gave the manga so much of its charm and made it so appealing to many was how expressive the characters are. Characters especially Yuzu would regularly emote and make different facial expressions for many situations. This also happens to the anime to some degree but not frequently enough to where it captures the mangas original charm. Its much rarer in the anime for characters to deviate from their default expressions making the experience somewhat more sterile. Perhaps this was to cut down on budget costs or it was a design choice on behalf of the director. Whatever the case its a compromise which I can only feel detracts from the viewing experience. Manga and anime are different mediums so of course compromises should be expected. But various scenes only stood to lose by omitting so much of the vibrance the characters displayed. Even the many chibi moments in the manga wouldnt need to be adapted as simply varying the facial expressions of the characters would be enough. Animeonly viewers probably wont see this as a huge problem as its rarely a sheer detriment to the visuals save for a few lamentable instances. Scenes between characters are delivered well and there is plenty of emotion to be found in the visuals. The problem is that the adaptation by not harnessing the kind of quality seen in the manga wastes its potential as an adaptation and as an animated product. As it stands it could be a hell of a lot worse but it also could have been a lot better. Additionally the animation quality is a department that ranges between average to well above average. There are various moments where I was very impressed by the animation such as certain comedy moments intimate scenes emotional engagements and characters body language. But there are also a select few times where I was dumbfounded by just how low the quality could really get. Overall its a pretty decently animated show with some flukes here and there and thankfully it can only improve with the BDs. One of the fronts I was most impressed by in this adaption was the soundtrack. It genuinely surprised me with how good the music was in this adaptation. Using a mixture of graceful orchestral performances with vivacious electronic beats the music of Citrus is vibrant diverse and wellsuited for the exuberant and bittersweet tones that the story delivers. Whats lacking most of all in the visuals is the background art a case where access to technology seems to have expended a teams creativity. Several shots will display setpieces with little to no detail or texturing. Perfect cuboids and stainless steel populate much of this world. This is most prevalent in Yuzus own house with walls that are solid colors and doors looking less like wood and more like metal. The school grounds also display a disgustingly high amount of textureless objects falling short of selling this environment as something that could exist in the real world. This also extends to background characters which often consist of CG models walking awkwardly and robotically. Once this is noticed its impossible to ignore and immersion struggles to stay in tact. All of this is the mark of a bare minimum effort on the part of Passione and fans of the source material arent nearly as scrutinous of this as they damn well should be. Incompetent decisions like these are one of the main reasons we as anime fans are so desperate for ideal adaptations of the manga and novels we dearly love. Fortunately the shoddy effort in the backgrounds is alleviated through great shot composition and luscious color directing for which we have director Takeo Takahashi to thank. This is a director who excels at visual storytelling and framing emphasizing certain moods when applicable. Climactic scenes are sold effectively through this as well as character animations which as previously stated are welldone when they really need to be. This adaptation of Citrus is overall very welldirected save for the aforementioned faults in production which Takeo should have been more mindful of. In an ideal world the production of Citrus would be on par with Hanasaku Iroha a show that I hold as a high standard for animated melodrama. The end result here is not without its faults but is a satisfactory effort all things considered. So that concludes my review of Citrus. The story at large is quite rough around the edges with its frequent use of coincidences. Its also arguably flawed in how many things are framed as a formulaic routine. With a new girl continually intruding on the situation its admittedly easy to feel some degree of frustration. The core story however with the two main leads remains very strong. Various facets of their character are explored well and brought to a satisfying resolve. That said there are many loose ends in the story yet to be tied up in which case I can only hope a second season will be made eventually to adapt the rest of the source material to complement the animeviewing experience. All things considered however Citrus is a great anime overall. One of the things which motivated me to write this review was to address the criticisms this show had been receiving. If you have already seen this anime and anything Ive said gave you something to think about then perhaps it deserves a second viewing. For a show so widely shunned as being a lesbian fanservice show the story of Citrus is one that anyone gay or straight male or female can relate to on any level.
80 /100
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