WARNING: HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD, POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR MENTION OF RAPE

Citrus, the long anticipated yuri anime focused around the romance between step sisters, was met with new fans and fans of the original manga. The manga was released in November 2012 and was viewed as your typical yuri minus the smut (let me correct myself: consensual smut): taboo relationships, fluffy/heartwarming scenes, and incest. The anime ran from January to March of this year.

Citrus follows the story of Yuzu Aihara, a young and trendy sophomore who is forced to move in with her stepdad to attend her new all-girls conservative school. On her first day there she meets Mei Aihara, who turns out to be her new stepsister. Yuzu witnesses Mei kissing one of their male teachers, and confesses to Mei about witnessing their “affair” (it turns out that the teacher forced himself on Mei). The confession acts as the framework for the first kiss Mei forces on Yuzu.

Throughout their relationship, Mei and Yuzu borderline rape each other multiple times, which eventually cause each other to fall for one another. After the initial kiss, Yuzu bought an explicit yuri manga about step sisters (mirroring her own future relationship). Reading about the character’s multiple sex-capades, Yuzu feels the need to reciprocate the forced affection for Mei. One would think that Mei would enjoy the advances considering her previous actions, but the main issue is that Yuzu did not ask permission first. By violating her consent Yuzu opened a floodgate of multiple rape attempts by both parties, causing the birth of quite a problematic relationship.

There are two main protagonists within Citrus: Outgoing and bubbly Yuzu, and Shy and reserved Mei. Yuzu is classified as a Gyaru, which is Japanese slang for a style of dress characterized in stereotypically feminine and flirtatious personalities. Yuzu carries all of these traits. At the start of the franchise, Yuzu remains stubborn about her new school’s dress code and is made to change as soon as she arrives. She takes great care in styling her hair and refuses to leave the house without some sort of treatment to her face with makeup. Mei on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Mei strictly follows the rules and is the leader of their school’s student council. She finds no joy at the beginning in Yuzu’s carefree personality, choosing to intersperse her assault episodes with total periods of ignoring Yuzu. These opposing personalities create contrast, which is part of the reason why they felt attracted to each other in the first place.

In the manga, the intense sexualactions by both parties were caused by their lack of skills to express their emotions. As a cause to a buildup of lust inside their hearts, the young girls acted instinctively and let their desires take control. One of the complaints put out by the fans was that the manga did a bad job at portraying their emotions, thus relying on fans to take the evidence and examine it themselves. In my opinion the anime did a better job showing the emotions while keeping some element of mystery to them. For example, many of Mei’s quiet actions were left as a question, and this added suspense to the plot. If they had fully explained both Yuzu and Mei’s feelings, it would have left for a very cut-and-dry plot with no variation.

Citrus was released along with a slew of other 2018 winter anime, and is often associated with Love After The Rain (Koi wa Ameagari no You ni). It follows a young high school girl’s crush on her adult manager. They have been associated with each other because of their taboo relationships: one insestuos, one with a sizeable age gap. Don’t confuse them though: one deals with a normal childhood crush and the other fetishizes an abusive relationship. In Love After The Rain, they are not so much a couple but more like a one sided crush. Have you ever had a teacher you found attractive? A celebrity you idolized as a teen? These are normal occurrences in young adults. Akira’s (the young girl crushing on her older manager) affection towards the manager is not dangerous in any way, she sees him as a caring individual in a hard time in her life. Her crush is portrayed as non-sexual and simply an innocent schoolgirl crush. The older party does not reciprocate, and is in fact unaware of her feelings. This is much unlike Citrus. The incestuos part, that is understandable. They are technically not blood related and likely would have fallen in love if their parents decided not to marry. The stepsister element was likely just coincidence. Their multiple attempts at initiating sex without both parties being okay with that is clearly problematic.

In yuri as a whole, the theme of rape is quite common. It often frames the relationship’s progression as shown in Citrus. In my opinion, this trope is quite toxic towards same sex couples. Media is filled with fetishized lesbian relationships, and this carries on into real life. What the people see is what they become. Thanks to this toxic trope, many fans of the yuri genre will view real-life lesbians as sexual objects.

Technically, Citrus was pretty good. The animation was super smooth up until the last few episodes, which seemed a bit rushed. The color schemes were beautifully chosen, warm oranges and reds contrasting with the occasional bright piece, such as a scarf or the sky. The voice actors are able to put so much emotion into the voices, it adds so much to the realism. Overall, a beautiful animation.

So the big question: was it worth watching? If you understand that this show is NOT a portrayal of a normal relationship, then go ahead! It has a suspenseful plotline and likeable characters, and can entertain you for a long while. Just be sure to not view their relationship as healthy, otherwise there will be some issues.

OVERALL RATING: B

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