Review/discussion about: Citrus
Citrus embodies its namesake; the ever-present sweet-and-sour fruitiness captures the title well.
But, like a theater troupe booed off stage, it must dodge the oranges and the limes hurled in its direction for the poor showing it offers.
Anime is no real stranger to step-sibling plots and yuri elements, for they are ripe with dramatic possibilities and unorthodox angles. Citrus elects to blend these parts together in one story that features two now legally related ladies named Yuzu and Mei, hoping beyond hope that it will produce a worthwhile mix fit for consumption.
Yet the brewed concoction hardly turns out palatable.
Those dramatic possibilities spoil the further along the show progresses. The early happenings of forceful kisses and emotional struggles deliver a juicy pulp, causing the shlocky writing to come off as crazy and overly done but not lost between its serious tone. However, future segments go awry. Rogue childhood friends, almost-prostitution, a second coincidental lesbian pair, Pikachu-surprised-meme outcomes. The show squashes this pulp into a mush whose once can’t-look-away flavor rots away as incredulity of eye-rolling proportions.
Such necrosis often shoves Citrus down a corridor lined with doors that beckon to the tune of false promises. For instance, its intermittent comedy plays well off the campy feel of its events, such as when Yuzu bemoans her problems while cleaning the school bathrooms as punishment. But opening that next door leads to a howling of thematic inadequacies which drown out the laughter from before since the drama itself skirts onward without much in the way of reflection or introspection. I.e., drama for the sake of drama, rather than gradual improvements resulting from this drama, obstruct that metaphoric corridor and harm its narrative chances.
Similarly, the show dances around those unorthodox angles as it tries to toe the line without committing one way or the other. A green wise man once said, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Citrus fails to follow this advice. It neither explores the complications which arise from Yuzu and Mei’s taboo relationship nor ignores it outright to focus on the obvious romance. Instead, “She’s my ‘sister’, but…” becomes a common shield that deflects both forces from gaining the high ground. A high ground it requires to be taken at least marginally seriously given the deadly “weapons” it handles.
The handling itself, though, also demands scrutiny. These delicate topics prefer a deft hand, not a bludgeoning fist which the general lunacy of the plot curls forth. Tact and mindfulness are an afterthought as that nonchalance somewhat fills the underlying structure. Not that it portrays love and homosexuality as whatever; the anime simply lacks the decorum and the class to have them as proponents of its narrative rather than agents for disposal.
Outside of these pitfalls, Citrus manages to avoid issues with pacing as it addresses each of its subplots in a normalized manner, spending an appropriate number of episodes on them. Plus, it retains focus throughout the season by reaching a conclusion that is slightly open-ended yet satisfactory in its stopping point.
But these uneventful positives aren’t enough. Indeed, the anime still has those problems with its core aspects, problems which blunt it with mass negativity. So, while it may offer an intriguing drink, it refuses to stay down with ease.
ART & ANIMATION
For the most part, Citrus includes a passable set of visuals.
The anime takes place in a bustling city, aerial views of the apartment complex which Yuzu calls home and various areas like malls and transportation hubs confirming it so. Unfortunately, the setting does not provide many opportunities for flashiness, and the show chooses not to go out of its way to obtain any glitter either. A nice establishing shot of a local shrine may sneak in, but they’re the exception and not the rule. So, the presentation tends to be rather straightforward and without allure.
Moreover, a middling approach to its artistic front and its actual animation continue with the same passing grade. The friskier moments tend to heighten the amount of detail and up the flow of their actions, but these segments are again the exception. Generally, then, Citrus opts for standard cinematography and composition, creating scenes that showcase the pivotal moments but not much else.
To its credit, the anime is prone to using a different, looser style for its comedic parts that work in some extra laughs without clashing too hard with the realistic style it normally uses. Yuzu making funny reaction faces proves as much. And, although Citrus contains a few errors, such as missing coloration for her mouth as she breathes hard after running in the final episode, nothing glaring or egregious sticks out. Instead, slaps to the face and pushing others down have their impact thanks to the movements and to the byproducts not missing a step as emotions between characters spring outward.
Speaking of the characters, their designs do well in highlighting their personas. Yuzu shies away from her major gyaru looks early on upon transferring to the new school, but her wild hairdos, many accessories, and lighter colors (e.g., blonde, green) get at her energetic and forward personality quite well. As for Mei, her reserved attire, ice-cold, longing stare, and darker colors (e.g., black, purple) not only equate to her rigid self but also contrast nicely with Yuzu and her design.
Some of the designs can be “loud”, like Yuzu’s childhood friend Matsuri and school-faculty member Mineko, in that they go against the rest of the realism with vibrant pink coloring and ridiculous volcanoes (respectively). As seems to be the case, however, they’re the exception. Quaint designs – like those of Harumi with her plain looks and Nina with her tall height and blue headband – keep those infrequent tangents in check.
Overall, the visuals refrain from committing huge mistakes, and they refuse a higher calling as well. This duality reiterates the fact that Citrus simply passes the visual grade and not much more.
Transitioning from one duality to another, Citrus stars two female leads: Yuzu and Mei.
Yuzu has almost always dreamed of falling in love and finding her knight in shining armor. Bubbly in aura and fierce in determination, she pines for that connection with all her heart, even if she has little in the way of wisdom or knowledge about it. While her conflicted sense of duty clouds her judgements, and she often acts before she thinks, she believes in love as a meaningful gift worth the fight. It’s this caring nature that most defines her.
Mei arrives on the complete opposite end of the love spectrum. Her aloof personality and by-the-books actions are both a resolute fit for the head of student council and a tough obstacle to overcome on a personal level. These traits hint at the darker, the more troubled parts of her soul. An estranged father, a restricted lifestyle, and difficulty in trusting others have shattered her willingness to seek bonds with those even remotely close to her despite having a clearer grasp on love. And so, she buries her feelings, reinforcing her standoffish persona.
Together, Yuzu and Mei form a classic setup: an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Their characteristics differ immensely, and their wavelengths mismatch regularly. Most importantly, their relations to love take on a yin-and-yang shape. Yuzu knows how to express love but does not understand it; Mei understands love but does not know how to express it. As such, when the two of them do collide (and they understandably collide quite a lot), sparks don’t just fly – they explode.
Their explosion pits them against each other. Yuzu desires to get Mei back into a right state of mind, but Mei manipulates her physically and psychologically. In turn, Mei closes herself off, but that only spurs Yuzu on to be there for her however and wherever.
This churn leads to wishy-washy, return-to-status-quo material that impedes the development of their characters and subsequently the blossoming of their relationship. Lots of apologizing goes on, and a forgive-and-forget mentality quells many a flame from spreading further.
Nevertheless, they challenge their ideals, the fireworks dazzling the air as a menagerie of emotions: fear, lust, happiness, resentment, pride. From their quarreling and their yearning, Yuzu and Mei discover love beyond the norm, and, in so doing, Yuzu comes to understand it, and Mei comes to express it.
The side characters of Citrus wait nearby to watch and to participate in the display.
Shou, Mei’s dad, seems evil and (purposefully) distant at first based on the swirling animosity she has held against him for so long. But, after hearing him out, he turns out to be a swell guy who also makes mistakes, commencing the trading of olive branches between parent and child.
Harumin, Yuzu’s best friend, is an especially awesome person, given how much she supports the distraught girl. Hanging out with Yuzu. Listening to her. Encouraging her. Letting her crash at her place. Giving her space when required. Harumin is a star supporting character through and through.
It must be noted that some of the sides sadly lose out on staying power. They’ll show up, cause a ruckus, resolve their issues, and then leave, leaving their impact at a minimum. Matsuri, the Tachibana sisters, and even Shou himself come to mind. They still act as competent catalysts no matter what, so it would be unfair to go so far as to deem them as entirely useless.
Altogether, Yuzu, Mei, and the other cast members are a solid enough bunch.
MUSIC & SOUND
The audio work for Citrus starts off with “Azalea”, the opening track of the show. According to Wikipedia, azaleas (the flowers) are “infamous for their toxicity”, but this “poisonous” song acts more like an antibiotic thanks to its robust drumming and reserved guitar playing. The female vocalist from this band – nano.RIPE – once again strikes at the center of it all with her distinct singing, instilling even more emotion. Yet it’s the violin section that carries the OP as the grandiose sounds and the flurry of notes emphasize the heavy drama which awaits the viewer.
Those last instruments are important because Citrus also puts a lot of orchestral stock into the rest of its original soundtrack. Plucked strings and chilling piano keys heighten tension during steamy moments. Trumpets include another layer of triumph after successful conclusions. And weighty cello gets at that melancholic core.
Reverb, chimes, and those persistent violins bring in some extra flair, too, to round out the OST. Better yet, the tracks support the craziness of the plot, for the compositions align with the hyperactive dramatization due to that orchestra feel.
The ending track fares much worse. Titled “Dear Teardrop”, its grating effects, hollow instruments, and less-than-favorable structure drown the ears with a noisy song rather than an interesting one. Harmonized vocals and the snapping at the beginning attempt to spice up the ED, but aimlessness and an almost-upbeat vibe ruin the appeal. Luckily, the apparent source-inspired visuals help to distract from this below-average aural experience.
As for the voice-acting performances, Ayana Taketatsu as Yuzu and Minami Tsuda as Mei fit the bill with their optimistic and calm ways of speaking (respectively). However, neither one delivers anything too special or too memorable during the season. Which, considering the other sound and music deliverables, sums up the audio work well enough.
I am a sucker for this type of anime.
As I outlined above, I find the drama to be tacky and lifeless, but that’s precisely why I like it so much. The cheesy dialogue. The silly exchanges. The fact that a sizeable chunk of it happens out in public and rarely does anybody seem to care or pay attention. It’s a ton of fun for me to see just how far such a project will go with its plot points, its relationships, and its ideas, and this one is no different.
It also targets one of my favorite genres in the medium: yuri. There usually aren’t that many of them in a particular year, let alone within a single season, so I am drawn to it even more. Yes, the actual yuri content between Yuzu and Mei leans towards the unsavory side when considering the unrequited advances, but the unabashed hand holding, kissing, and romance (however minimal) had me smiling and cheering in my seat.
And the characters themselves are entertaining. Yuzu is hysterical in her actions and a kindhearted person in general, so I am a fan of hers. Mei is a tough cookie, but seeing her blush hard after that outer kuudere shell cracks is a satisfying sight no doubt. Himeko’s princess demeanor and affectionate use of the “Mei-mei” nickname. Sara’s talks about destiny and taking her losses in stride. Harumin being a downright amazing friend. These ladies easily made the show that much more joyful.
Having completed the whole anime now, while I cannot declare it as a mega-favorite, I will not lie and say I didn’t find it to be an enjoyable ride from start to finish – even if the project in its totality falls below the watermark.
Citrus almost reaches a middle ground but cannot quite accomplish the task. The production values stick with a standard approach, and the characters do have their individual moments. Yet the story contains an absurdly low amount of execution. While such a wreckage may be its own source of entertainment, in a critical sense, it causes the oranges and the limes to hit their target.
Story: Terrible, the absurd writing in its plot and the ambivalent mishandling of its topics overall prevent the dramatic possibilities and the unorthodox angles from becoming fully realized
Art & Animation: Fine, a standard vision for the direction, the details, and the designs permit the visuals to pass and only pass
Characters: Fine, Yuzu and Mei share a relationship defined by a menagerie of emotions and a status-quo approach, and side cast members like Shou and Harumin have a mixture of helpfulness and weak staying power
Music & Sound: Fine, a nice OP and a dramatic OST face opposition against a noisy ED and average VA performances
Enjoyment: Good, tacky fun, yuri everywhere, and Yuzu, Mei, and the rest of the crew were a likable bunch
Final Score: 4/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review.
If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3