I have a short but still relevant history with Citrus; years ago when I was in the process of getting into Artificial Academy 2, I was downloading cards en masse from the character database and ended up finding cards of characters from the show. At the time, I knew very little about it and based on the imagery shown I just assumed that it was some kind-of Yuri hentai manga, which to be honest isn’t that far off the mark. Fast-forward several years later and here I am, having watched the anime adaptation released in 2018—some time after I initially heard about the manga—in a single sitting. That isn’t because I have any love for this show, you understand; if anything, I think part of why I decided to suffer through sleep deprivation to get through it all was to get it over with, rip off the band-aid if you will. In all honesty, Citrus has redeeming qualities, art and animation being the foremost among them. The music is also excellent with a consistent style and in general it’s easy to tell that there was a lot of effort put into this show’s presentation. But I’m getting ahead of myself here; what is Citrus in the first place? Basically, the protagonist Yuzu is forced to move to a new school after her mother remarries with another guy, and it just so happens that she gains a step sister as a result. The show sets them up to be partners and the whole show is dedicated to their romance, etc. Immediately there’s a problem; obviously I don’t take issue with the Yuri genre in and of itself (its painful stereotypes aside), but Yuzu doesn’t just fall in love with another girl; she falls in love with her fucking step sister. Obviously I get that they aren’t related by blood which is supposed to be the justification for their relationship, but that’s weak and you know it, especially when the show goes out of its way to emphasize the fact that they are sisters, specifics be damned. If you’d be so kind as to snap back into reality for me real quick, think about your relationship with your family in real life. Do you feel any sort of sexual attraction towards your siblings? No, of course you don’t because you’re a sane and rational human being who has the decency not to go red in the face when hugging your family members. The way this show approaches this topic is nothing short of a poorly disguised glorification of incest. It’s not like this is any surprise; the romanticization of incest is extremely common in doujins and just in general within the anime sphere. In the case of hentai where the plot is secondary, it can usually be ignored given that it’s totally fictional, but in an actual plot-driven romance anime like this one it is nothing short of ridiculous, especially when the show tries its hardest to justify it but fails anyway. Honestly though, that’s only scratching the surface of the problems with the romance between Yuzu and Mei, foremost among them being that Mei is incredibly unlikeable and her actions are completely nonsensical. The whole show is predicated upon the idea that Yuzu falls in love with Mei after being forcibly pushed down and kissed by her, falling completely head over heels for her within a matter of just a couple days, and the show revels in forcing the flawed narrative of “love-at-first-sight” and “true love” down your throat. Speaking of Yuzu being pushed down and sexually assaulted against her will, a total lack of consensual anything in this narrative is simultaneously awful and yet also incredibly fucking funny, especially when paired with Mei’s utterly alien behavior. A big part of this has to do with the already flawed character archetype that Mei is being used to emulate; imagine if you switched the beefy, handsome and ultimately creepy anime guy who pushes the girl against a wall and steals a kiss from her with a girl, then also made her a totally shameless and emotionally stunted kuudere who casually sexually assaults people for no reason whatsoever. She is quite literally the female equivalent of the worst imaginable stereotypical creepy-ass male love interest, except worse because her nonsensical behavior is so ridiculously contrived and the few times where she does display emotion so eye-rolling that she doesn’t even feel human, which by extension makes the core relationship of the entire show feel inhuman and much of its conflict fabricated without logic. Let’s go back to what I said earlier about love-at-first-sight; remember my criticism of Romio from Boarding School Juliet where I criticized his character for being entirely one-note, completely obsessed with his love interest to the point where there were no other defining aspects of his personality? That is pretty much exactly what befalls Yuzu in this show beat-for-fucking-beat, and it sucks doubly so because I think Yuzu is actually a likeable character when divorced from her complete and utter obsession with Mei (something that only continues to get worse as the show continues). Even the complete neglect of her best friend who would serve as a far better love interest carries over from Romio to Yuzu; Harumi is easily the show’s most likeable character and it is painful to see her pushed further and further to the side throughout its runtime as Yuzu’s thoughts become increasingly dominated by her unhealthy obsession with Mei, so much so that the theoretical good ending to the show would be if Yuzu decided Mei wasn’t fucking worth it, learned some self-respect and went out with Harumi instead. Honestly, Yuzu telling Mei to fuck right off would be nice even if she didn’t end up together with Harumi; but that’s obviously not what the show’s intention was. In fact, if there’s anything I can say to the show’s credit, it’s that it’s incredibly self-aware both of what it is and what it wants to be; this show isn’t about telling a legitimately interesting story, it’s about pandering to a very specific audience. And I’m not trying to diss the Yuri crowd, not at all; rather, I’m specifically referring to the sort of immature children who eat up exactly what this show’s narrative tries to shove down your throat throughout its entire runtime because of the way in which it’s presented to them, fanservice abound. Somehow so many romance novelists are still incapable of learning the lessons failings of terrible works like Twilight should have taught them, giving birth to a vicious cycle in which those very same mistakes are doomed to be repeated. And for the love of god, can we please stop with these constant self-referential declarations of “lOvE isN’t lIkE wHat yOU rEad in mAnGA”; it is to the point where this specific trope is an easy way to spot a bad show because only those lacking the self-awareness to realize they are a part of the problem employ it. No fucking shit fantasy is not reality, yet to acknowledge this fact in your own fictional material to try and imply that your story is realistic—even if by comparison—is just bad writing. Funnier still is that this plot device is used by a side-character to try and teach Yuzu the 200 IQ lesson that, GASP, your romantic interest is a person with feelings of their own?! Very shocking, I know… *sigh*. Let’s talk about the plot itself; it can be very accurately described as an extremely melodramatic soap-opera hyper focused on Mei’s tragic past in which we learn that all of her pain is self-inflicted. And actually, I think that might not be that bad if Mei’s character wasn’t so terribly written, but in execution it’s ridiculous—it’s impossible to sympathize with her or her struggles in particular because her reaction to them seems to be the reason why she has become who she is despite flashbacks showing us that she used to be different, highlighting the total 180 in her character which has worked its way into the present over years and years during which her own stubborn determination to make her own life miserable has kept her a self-flagellatory martyr who spends all of her time wallowing in her own pity. In fact, the parallels between her character and that of Yukino Yukinoshita from Oregairu are staggering; a girl who works herself to death for the sake of meeting her rich family’s high expectations, except in this case her struggle has less to do with that and more to do with her daddy issues. The kicker, though, is that her father is actually a cool guy who she blames for abandoning her because he decided he wanted more out of life and needed a change. Instead of actually listening to him though, Mei cuts off all communication with him and decides she’s going to protect the position of power he left behind, deluding herself into believing he’ll eventually take it back even after he intentionally gave it up for something better. And you know what? When I write it all out, I realize that without the context of the show, that actually sounds interesting; but it’s executed with the skill of an uncreative idiot whose solution to every problem is “true love”. Worse still is that Mei’s behavior and general demeanor still makes no sense when contrasted against her backstory. The show tries to imply that she’s emotionally manipulative and twisted even if unconsciously, but gives no reason for it whatsoever and it still doesn’t explain her flat-out bizarre decisions. In what fucking world do you lash out at someone by pushing them down onto your bed and tearing their clothes off, crying all the fucking while? In fact, that brings me to another point; this show’s animation budget was used in full force to grossly overdramatize it. Honestly it’s hilarious; so much effort has been put into so many of these scenes by animators trying desperately to eke out any little bit of actual drama they can from them, and because of how ridiculous, convenient, and poorly written they are it turns the show into a fucking comedy, if a bitter one; I honestly do feel bad for all of the people who undoubtedly put a serious amount of blood, sweat and tears into making this show look and sound as good as it does. Of course, we both know the actual reason for Mei’s behavior is advancing the plot, and indeed there are other factors at play within the plot used to artificially lengthen it; and if that sounds familiar, it’s because every little detail of this show is unbelievably predictable. You can guess pretty much almost every single twist and turn—trust me, if I can do it then you can too. The whole thing is so straight-forward, ham-fisted and utterly obvious it feels like it was written by some dude who read one romance novel, saw a gap in the market and started checking off fucking boxes. If you couldn’t tell by my initial description of the plot, most of it and by extension most of the conflict in the relationship between our two heroines is centered around Mei’s tragic backstory, with only some slight deviations involving characters introduced to be little more than uninteresting roadblocks used to artificially lengthen the show, as mentioned prior. Somehow the show’s pace is quick, and a bunch of stuff happens, yet by the end it feels like it drags on and on and on until you get sick of it because the amount of melodrama it throws at you is simply too fucking much. Because every last second of the show’s runtime is nothing but dramatic moment after dramatic moment, it all blurs together and you quickly start becoming uninterested. As far as my viewing experience is concerned, I was having a good time laughing at the show at first (for the record, AT it, not alongside it), but by the end I was just groaning at every stupid line of dialogue (among which include such gems as “If I manage to support her as an older sister, maybe she’ll long for me, too?” which is fucking verbatim). I still think that if you take the show a bit more slowly than I did, it can be worth watching for the sake of making fun of it; it’s a great source of unintentional comedy. Speaking of finishing the show, the ending itself is pretty much about what I expected; just like every other romance anime, it all culminates in a confession, the heroines kiss consensually for once and it’s happily ever after, fuckin’ cool; they certainly didn’t feel the need to try and buck anybody’s expectations even with the ending of this show. Actually though, easily the best part of the ending sequence is the very sudden and staggering departure from the rest of the show’s great visuals in which Yuzu and Mei are poorly edited walking into the show’s logo, it’s really fucking funny actually which was appreciated considering how unenthusiastic I had become up until that last bit of unintended comedy gold. The final confession itself is almost funny when you consider how the relationship between Yuzu and Mei has developed up to that point; we’re talking about two characters that were just about ready to fuck eachother on Christmas in their Mom’s living room like two episodes earlier. The whole show makes a sport out of playing around with their constant unresolved sexual tension and it is beyond ridiculous, I feel like I need a PHD in psychology to make sense of it. Several times they all but admit feelings for eachother yet somehow that doesn’t count as them actually being together-together because of course it can’t be that simple, and several times more they engage in what my watch-buddy aptly described as “selective hearing” in which they choose to conveniently ignore certain important things in favor of focusing on others. If anything, part of why their relationship is so hot and cold is because Mei is a fuckin’ slimeball who is obsessed with being “needed” by her partner which is incredibly shitty; indeed, the show tries its best to drive home how opposites attract and its two heroines are supposed to be the halves of a whole. Anyways, I highly doubt I need to explain to you why manipulating your partner into needing you is the tactic of a fucking megalomaniac—the point of all this is that Citrus is a hot mess of a romance, targeted toward a subsection of the sort of audience that finds Twilight intellectually stimulating. I don’t think it’s all bad or it’s absolutely awful, but it’s pretty painfully average; the only real reason to watch it is because it’s very fun and quite easy to laugh at, it’s got a strong so-bad-it’s-good element to it. With how much I’ve been questing into the satisfaction of my own morbid curiousity lately, I’d say this is a good one to watch for those of you interested in satisfying your own morbid curiousity since it’s not a totally painful experience like some other shows similar to it. In terms of actually recommending it for its intended purpose however, I would have to caution you to stay away from this one unless all you care about is the Yuri fanservice of which there is a fuckin’ lot. Justice for Harumin, later losers.

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