I want to start things off by making it clear that I don’t think Citrus is an awful anime or manga. I really don’t hate it at all. This is not going to be a video where I simply attack the show the entire time. This thing primarily exists because people asked for it and because it would be hard not to cover it given my incredibly strong yuri focus. Reading the first 10 or so chapters as they came out served as an important moment in my development as a yuri fan. Just two months ago, when I caught up on the manga for the sake of being fully educated before making this video, I ended up really liking the direction it went after expecting that I would hate it. My feelings on Citrus are not negative as a whole, not at all. If anything, they’re mixed, leaning positive, particularly when you take the manga into account. However, I do feel that Citrus is massively disappointing, more than any series I can think of in recent memory.
This is not due to the anime being a bad adaptation, not in the slightest. It’s quite faithful and does a good job at transferring itself across mediums. No, my issues with the series are far more fundamental than adaptation problems and would’ve required a complete rewrite to fix. This video is not going to involve me attacking Citrus for its entire run, looking at every tiny flaw in an attempt to prove it’s an awful work. Instead, I’d like to look at why a work with so much potential, capable of becoming one of the best yuri manga and anime ever, ended up being a series where I have to describe my feelings on it as mixed.
In this video, I’ll be breaking down the points where Citrus succeeds, the points where it fails, and some changes that could’ve been made to make it a better series. As I said, my feelings are generally positive at this point, so my criticisms here are out of a genuine desire to see the series be better, not out of any bitterness or hatred.
I’ll begin with what I like about it, just to make it abundantly clear that the show has a lot of good elements to build upon. The first of these is our protagonist, Yuzu herself. Yuzu is absolutely excellent, standing as perhaps one of my favorite main characters in all of yuri despite Citrus being nowhere near that level. She manages to have serious emotional depth while also being a fun character who can carry scenes on her own. She’s great when she’s being goofy and equally great when she’s upset. The protagonist is pretty important to a drama, so Yuzu being so good is key to enjoying the series.
Yuzu is definitely a somewhat naive character. Not only did she literally not know she was going to an upper-class all-girls’ school until she already arrived, she just generally doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. However, she absolutely tries her best and the show never makes her seem stupid in her lack of knowledge. This is pretty important. When you make the protagonist come across as a complete idiot, it can be hard to care about their decisions or problems, as it often makes everything seem like their fault. Yuzu is simply out of her natural environment and not ready for the situations she comes into contact with. As such, it feels less like her failing, because we know she could succeed in a different scenario. That said, it’s also easy to feel bad for her and thus care about her even more. She’s basically the epitome of a disaster lesbian. With her brilliant ability to be both funny and emotionally engaging, she’s the perfect protagonist for a soap opera-style drama.
The series spares no time in getting this across. From the very first scene, Yuzu is a great character. It’s obvious from the start that she really does genuinely enjoy fashion and the gyaru aesthetic but she isn’t just a gyaru stereotype. Her claimed desire to get a boyfriend is the most transparently false statement in anime that I’ve ever seen. She believes it at that point, sure, but it’s blatantly obvious to anyone watching that this girl is not straight. In many ways, she just comes across as any ordinary gay girl who hasn’t realized her sexuality yet. She’s got an independent streak, for sure, but she’s a good kid who just wants to fit in with her friends and assumes that having a boyfriend is the way to do so. Even when she expresses attraction to Amamiya, the framing makes it clear that this is different to her feelings towards Mei. In other words, she likes Amamiya because he fits her standards of what’s normally considered attractive, whereas she’s actually attracted to Mei herself. This is an important step in establishing that Yuzu is not a mostly straight girl who happens to fall in love with Mei but a lesbian who just didn’t realize it until falling in love with Mei.
Additionally, the show does a good job of portraying her first love. As I said, Yuzu is definitely a very naive character and the first scene in the show makes it abundantly clear that she never had any serious romantic feelings for anyone before. It’s understandable that, given those circumstances, she’d be somewhat confused after discovering her feelings, not just because Mei is another girl but because she’s so totally unused to this whole thing. Remember, Yuzu is a girl who goes out and buys incest yuri manga to help teach her what she’s supposed to do once she realizes her feelings for Mei. I can’t say that’s the most healthy way of doing things but it’s a simple fact that media, both pornographic and non-pornographic has a serious effect on young people’s understanding of relationships and sex. Yuzu definitely strikes me as the kind of girl whose ideas on romance were entirely forged by shoujo manga, so it makes sense she’d turn to yuri after realizing she’s gay. I can’t say my own views on love and my sexuality haven’t been influenced by the genre, after all. This really makes Yuzu feel like one of us; most people who watch or read the show are going to be yuri fans so having her come to like the genre as well only makes her more relatable. When you combine this with her previously seen attitude she really comes across as the most realistic lesbian teenager you could possibly write while still having your series be a soap opera.
Of course, Yuzu has many other positive attributes as well. One thing that’s really enjoyable about her is how empathetic she is. Not only does she deeply care about what others are going through, her naivety makes her quite trusting and eager to see others do well. She’s even quick to warm up to and become friends with those she fights with, like Himeko, once she understands their perspectives. This is a girl who immediately went in front of the entire school to report Amamiya’s assault as soon as she knew that Mei wasn’t happy with the situation. It’s easy to see why she would’ve had friends before attending the school and it makes sense that Harumin would come to like her so quickly. If the school weren’t so strict and the girls so cloistered, I imagine she would’ve made a lot more friends. Yuzu is just a generally likable person who I’d enjoy spending time with. She’s not very judgemental, she cares deeply about others, and she does her best to help out whenever the situation calls for it. Moments like her taking the time to understand Mei’s dad while also being upset at him for abandoning her are great. She’s truly capable of understanding people, something I love to see.
That said, she’s not just constantly kind in every scenario. She can be snarky, jealous, and at times overly aggressive. Her bubbly attitude occasionally seems like too much. But that might be a good thing. She’s striving to be the best she can without always getting there, which in some ways makes her more likable than if she were just a perfect angel. I wouldn’t say that you can’t successfully make a series where the protagonist is a bad person or annoying. There are all sorts of works which prove that idea wrong. But it’s true that for a romantic drama, having a likable protagonist is key. Having Yuzu be so great is perhaps the biggest reason I like the series as a whole and one of the only reasons I was able to read the early parts in the first place.
Not to imply that Yuzu is the only important character who’s enjoyable to watch from the very start. No, there is one other great character who nearly everyone appreciates, even those who truly hate the series. That character is, of course, Harumin.
The obvious reason that Harumin is popular is that she’s just a great, fun, and supportive friend to Yuzu. In this, she shares many of Yuzu’s good points, though with less immediately apparent flaws and an even more engaging personality. I really have to give Citrus credit for having so many empathetic and caring characters in its main cast despite being a somewhat trashy soap opera. When literally everyone is awful, such as in a certain yuri series that aired last year, it’s just impossible to care about anyone in the series at all. I know some people like that kind of thing, but the idea that all humans are awful people is edgy bullshit that I can’t stand, so Citrus’s avoidance of that is one of its many positive points.
It’s common for those who hate Mei to ship Yuzu with Harumin(a fact the series itself recognizes) and it’s easy to see why. Not only are they incredibly great friends whose chemistry is amazing, but it’s easy to believe Harumin would enter a relationship with Yuzu if she were interested. This is a character who began to act out the positions shown in Yuzu’s yuri manga after glancing at it. There’s even a manga side-chapter that subtly implies Harumin might have feelings for Yuzu, though at this point Matsuri is definitely the one Saburouta is pairing her with.
Like Yuzu, Harumin’s personality is deeper than just being a kind person. Most notably, this is connected to her being a “secret gyaru”. While it’s the unadapted volume 5 that really gets into the weeds with this part of her characterization, some of it still shines through in the anime. Harumin is such deep friends with Yuzu because of Yuzu’s bravery and willingness to put herself out there. While she does begin to obey certain school regulations, she refuses to dye her hair back and continues to make it clear that she’s not an upper-class girl. Harumin feels the same way but is hesitant in expressing herself, for a number of reasons that the anime never gets to, unfortunately. This hesitance to embrace her true desires paired with Yuzu’s willingness to do so makes them a great combo. It’s easy to see why they became such close friends so quickly. Like I said earlier, it’s really important to make the characters multifaceted in a series where the characters are the driving force behind most of the plot movement.
Citrus also brings some relatively well-done thematic stuff to the table. For instance, the question of tradition versus freedom is actually brought up here and treated as a real question which is hard for those involved to make, rather than an obvious decision which only takes the insistence of a loved one to choose the plainly correct idea of freedom. Mei legitimately believes that she should honor her family and take over the school after her grandfather retires, expressing real desire to do so even beyond the importance of the family legacy. Her dad taught her this right before he abandoned her. Mindlessly following tradition is obviously painted as a bad thing, and it’s clear that the eventual resolution of the story will have Mei leave it behind in some way. But it’s presented as an actual choice and Mei has serious reasons for wanting to follow in her family’s footsteps. She does care about Yuzu but she also legitimately wants to run the school. A worse series would absolutely not make this a real choice.
The show also does a decent job of tackling the old Class S ideas. It’s practically a cliche for schoolgirl yuri to criticize the Class S version of the genre at this point. Works like Girl Friends, Kase-san, Aoi Hana, Hanjuku Joshi, Yuri Kuma Arashi, Flip Flappers, and many, many more all attack the tropes associated with the Class S movement. We’re thoroughly past that point in yuri’s history now and I’m confident in saying that Class S is dead insofar as almost all of its negative concepts are no longer the norm. Still, as one of the most popular works in the genre, it’s good that it tackles it. I’m not totally sold on the way they do so, as it heavily implies that the feelings of the random mob girls are illegitimate just because they’re going to marry later. I think it’s far more likely that many of said girls’ feelings are legitimate and simply fade naturally as feelings tend to do when you’re not given the option of continuing them. A huge problem with Class S is blaming the girls who participate in those relationships for the societal standards in which they’re raised and to some degree, Citrus feels like a part of that. Still, it makes it clear that the main cast’s feelings are valid and come from their sexual orientation and not simply the fact that they attend a one-gender school, so it’s certainly better than it theoretically could’ve been without that clarification.
Another great element of Citrus is the art. Now, the art obviously varies between the two mediums. I won’t lie and pretend that the anime looks just as good as the manga because it doesn’t. Sauborouta’s linework is amazing, but it’s not reasonable to animate in any sense, especially not on a TV anime schedule. Given the constraints, I think the anime looks pretty great and manages to have a sense of visual flow to it that really works. It’s hardly full of sakuga or anything but I never think it’s ugly.
And one thing that both works do right is the outfits. Unlike in many shows, the characters here wear different clothes when outside of school. That’s nice to see in any series but it matters even more here. If Yuzu was wearing the same outfit every single day, it would be impossible to buy the idea that she’s a gyaru. Fortunately, the show has her wear any number of clothes, most of which are really great outfits. They’re nice to look at but also make it clear that her interest in gyaru fashion is real and not just a narrative excuse for her to disobey the school’s rules. The others get varied outfits as well, though it’s not nearly as important to their characters.
All in all, Citrus is just a very solid production. It’s not the best looking anime of all time but to compare it to other yuri series once again, it’s at least functional. The directing is pretty good and the show’s use of musical cues tends to work quite well, making scenes land just as they did in the manga. The funny scenes are generally just as funny as they’re supposed to be. The series has a pretty great knack for humor and understands that melodrama can cause both comedy and emotional reactions when executed correctly. On an individual level, the scenes tend to work quite well at what they’re meant to do. The voice work is great and even annoying voices like Matsuri’s work well for their characters. It’s not a literal dream adaptation but it’s a perfectly serviceable one that understands its material and does a good job at moving it to the screen.
And now, after more than 2000 words of praise, it’s time to look at what the show does wrong and why it’s not one of my favorite yuri anime or manga. After all that, it should be clear that there’s a lot I like, so anything I say from here onwards is with the hope of clearly explaining how the series fails in a number of ways despite having so much potential.
To begin with, we have to talk about that glaring problem, the element which probably turned off the most viewers who would otherwise be interested in watching the show. That element is the absolute abundance of sexual assault.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that no story can ever use sexual assault in an effective way. But for very, very obvious reasons it’s an incredibly touchy subject that must be used quite carefully, something Citrus absolutely fails to do. In this show, there’s at least one sexual assault in every episode for the first 6 episodes, and there’s often more than one. Even if the assault was absolutely necessary to the narrative here — which it isn’t — that would still be going way overboard.
To be a bit fair, these actions make sense coming from Mei in context. But they go way too far and are way too frequent, not to mention the almost total lack of warning that it’s going to happen. I have friends who’ve had to stop watching the show because the sexual assault makes them deeply uncomfortable, and who can blame them for that? The fact that it makes sense for Mei’s character to do this doesn’t mean much. She had to be written such that it would make sense in the first place. It would’ve been just as easy to write her as mostly the same person but not conducting acts of sexual assault every other chapter.
Beyond making a lot of people uncomfortable, the sexual assault has a meaningfully negative impact on the relationship. A relationship founded on a lack of consent is not healthy and can’t become healthy because it’s fundamentally based on abuse. Of course, this is fiction, so the series can easily write it so that their relationship does eventually become healthy but it stretches suspension of disbelief and makes it harder to be invested in their dynamic. This is true for Mei of course, as it makes it seem like she doesn’t care at all about Yuzu, but this is even more damaging to Yuzu herself. She too engages in non-consensual actions which hurts my ability to like her. And that really sucks since, as I made clear earlier, I absolutely love her. Her actions are portrayed as generally being bad on this front and her naivitie makes it a bit easier to forgive her than it is to forgive Mei but it’s still unacceptable behavior which makes it harder to appreciate her. This relationship is mutually unhealthy and while that may be more realistic in certain ways, it just brings the whole thing down. Again, the simple fact is that relationships should never be founded on abuse. I do believe that fiction should have more freedom to explore various topics but that doesn’t mean abusive relationships should just be accepted and it simply breaks my suspension of disbelief to see their relationship become healthy as time goes on. The knowledge that these events happened makes it harder to enjoy moments like Yuzu and Mei seriously coming to a point of understanding in the final episode.
Basically, Citrus uses sexual assault like a trashy 90s shoujo or BL romance. And that’s kind of what it is. But as one of yuri’s biggest flagships, and as a series which has pretty great writing at certain points, I’m going to hold it to a higher standard. If it were just totally trashy all the way through, with little to no redeeming elements, I wouldn’t care as much. I could just write it off like I did NTR. But because there’s stuff that’s worth being invested in and because it’s one of the most well-known works in the genre, I have to treat it like a series which is actually trying to be good, so the rampant sexual assault causes serious problems. The way Citrus uses sexual assault reminds me of mid-2000s yuri like Strawberry Panic and Kannazuki no Miko, and that’s not a compliment in the slightest. I’m constantly out here trying to promote the yuri genre, so I’m forced to engage with series like Citrus and I want them to be the best they possibly can. Not glorifying relationships based on assault is a part of that.
A common defense of this part and other instances of sexualization in the series is the fact that Citrus is written by a woman and published in a yuri magazine. I’ve made it quite clear on my channel in the past that yuri isn’t a male-dominated genre and that while men certainly make up a large percentage of the readership, it’s hardly as if most yuri series are targeted specifically at men. All this is true. Saburouta is a woman and while I don’t know if she’s gay or not, I don’t find her works to be particularly male-gazey. This is a bit different for the anime, as the director is a man, but seeing as it’s a pretty straight adaptation I think the effect of that on the sexualization of the characters and assault is fairly minor. Certainly, the assault here is not drawn solely to allow straight men to get off to it. But that doesn’t actually make it justifiable. The fact that it doesn’t exist for the male gaze doesn’t mean it isn’t off-putting in other ways. There are more ways to be creepy with a lesbian work than aiming it straight at men, and Citrus executes on many of those. Someone may claim that I’m singling out Citrus for this criticism because it’s gay, but the simple fact is I don’t watch or read all that much non-yuri romance. I simply wouldn’t watch a straight shoujo anime that does this stuff.
Of course, that’s hardly the only problem with the series. Its got plenty of other issues, flaws which would be harmful to any work but which hurt the series to an even greater because the sexual assault makes me more attuned to other problems. As I said, the writing is great at certain points, but the “certain points” part is key because it fails in a lot of fundamental ways as well.
The first to cover, and perhaps the biggest as the writing goes, is that Mei is just not an interesting character in the material that the anime adapts. The real problem with her is that she’s totally passive, with the only exceptions being the scenes where she assaults Yuzu. Ignoring that, she’s purely a reactive character who never generates her own situations, except through some misunderstanding based drama. Frankly, this is incredibly boring. It makes sense in context but as I said earlier, that’s not actually a justification, because Saburouta chose to write her this way. While it’s certainly not a problem to have one of the characters in a relationship be the more active of the couple, it is a problem when this translates to a character who does basically nothing of her own for four volumes straight. A general rule of romance is that both partners need to stand on their own and Mei really doesn’t because her actions are purely reactive and based on a lack of communication even under the most generous of readings.
A great example of this is her decision to go out with Sara in the fourth arc, simply because she was confessed to. By this point, we know that Mei is already in love with Yuzu and is well aware of Yuzu’s feelings for her. Even though this was an elaborate ploy on Mei’s part to see how genuine Yuzu’s feelings were, there’s no real justification for it, and it just comes across as her being so apathetic that she doesn’t really care about who she goes out with. Sure, the resolution sets up the idea that Sara could tell Mei was really in love with Yuzu but that isn’t much of a solution. I’m plenty capable of believing Mei loves her but if she’s not going to actually do anything in order to demonstrate that, it’s just hard to get invested. The manga does address this later on, but within the anime, it’s never touched on and the fact that it’s later fixed doesn’t erase the large, uninteresting chunks of the show where Mei just doesn’t have anything going on with her. Had Yuzu never shown up, she would’ve just moved exactly as her family told her to, never deciding anything of note. I’m fine with Yuzu helping to make Mei a more confident person and I’m fine with Mei starting out as incapable of making her own decisions. But the extent to which this is the case just makes her boring for most of the anime’s run.
And as Mei becomes less interesting, so too does Yuzu, unfortunately. In a romance, it’s important for both partners to keep being interesting so that the relationship itself stays interesting. As soon as the couple loses chemistry, it becomes harder to like the individuals in it. It doesn’t matter how much it’s justified by the writing, if a relationship starts to lose your interest then it has failed, something which is obviously a large problem for a series founded upon romance.
Another major problem with the series is the structure it uses for plot progression. Characters are obviously going to be the driving force in a drama and that’s fine. The real problem is how it does this. Basically, the series has things move forwards — though still quite slowly — by introducing new characters as roadblocks in Mei and Yuzu’s relationship. It then promptly deals with them in one volume, leaving them to get just that little bit closer until they finally make real progress in volume 4. This can be quite aggravating as it feels very unnatural and makes a lot of the progress feel unearned. It’s not that having a third party intervene is inherently a bad way of moving things along but when it’s how literally all of the progress is made, things start to feel stale and it begins to seem like the main characters aren’t capable of standing on their own two feet, which just isn’t enjoyable to read or watch.
This is all made worse by the fact that most the characters who are used as roadblocks just aren’t that good. They improve as time goes on of course but in their own arcs, I’d say they tend to be pretty one-note and often quite boring. Basically, they work well as side characters, but they’re really bad as antagonists.
Amamiya and Mei’s Grandpa serve as the antagonists of the first arc and have no interesting traits. Amamiya is almost pathetically awful and Mei’s Grandpa, while more reasonable than you’d expect given his archetype, really brings nothing new to the table and lacks the depth that makes certain side characters interesting. I do like the fact that Mei legitimately loves her grandfather rather than just respecting him as part of her family but that only does so much to help the series and it doesn’t really make him more interesting in any way. They work well enough as introductory devices I suppose but they could’ve been made at least a little more engaging as characters. I generally prefer my anime to have people move the events forward, not props.
The other side characters fare a bit better, but only a bit. Himeko can be funny and she works as comic relief but as an actual rival to Yuzu, she’s so clearly out of her depth that she never comes across as a serious threat. She’s just too incompetent, walking around with her dog in her hands wearing a goth loli outfit. This arc is benefited by Mei’s father, who actually is somewhat interesting and brings some worthwhile questions and themes to the table as a likable person who’s an awful dad, but Himeko is still the central antagonist here and she doesn’t really work when it comes to that.
Matsuri is definitely the most annoying of all the characters. Sometimes, this is in a fun way, as seeing her act like the little gremlin she is can be enjoyable when things get over-the-top to the point of comedy. Sometimes, though, it’s not in a fun way. Her actions are so transparently malevolent and vicious that they almost don’t seem like a real threat. This is a melodrama so it’s to be expected that there’ll be characters who are blatantly malicious but Matsuri just takes it too far at times. She adds very little to the show from a thematic standpoint and her arc barely even advances their relationship given that Mei and Yuzu immediately reset things in the next arc. In other words, she’s basically just there to draw the series out. At the very least, she does come across as an actual threat to their relationship but she’s very contrived in that role, so it isn’t much better than the Himeko situation. I like her more than most but I’ve got to admit that she really doesn’t need to be in the story, at least not the way she is during her arc. As soon as the arc ends and she proposes a threesome, she becomes a great side character, but she should’ve been better from the start.
The twins are similarly unengaging. Sara is an adorable angel, sure, but she takes that to the point that it’s hard to believe she could be that nice. No one would give up on the person they quickly fell in love with just because their brand new friend is also in love with them, showing literally no sadness at that idea. Yuzu and Harumin are believably empathetic, kind people who make mistakes and aren’t perfect while still trying their best. Sara is perfect and that really just makes her a far worse character. She’s likable for sure but she lacks the depth to stand out and I totally forgot about her after the fourth arc.
Nina is on the other end of the spectrum. She’s almost as actively malicious as Matsuri but there’s no fun element to it since she lacks that girl’s comical absurdity. There’s just nothing enjoyable about watching her. Her sole personality trait is that she’s a massive siscon who will do anything for Sara. If Sara was a more interesting character then this would be less of a problem but unfortunately, these two are equally boring and lead to another arc which feels like it just keeps the wheels spinning. Many of these arcs have great individual scenes and moments which would work in a stronger narrative but the overarching structure frequently falls apart.
To be fair, the end of the fourth arc does cause actual long-term progress. Not as much as one might hope, maybe, but Yuzu and Mei do start seriously going out at that point. But that’s really not a good thing, for two reasons. First, it does so through some really poorly written drama which is possibly the worst in the entire series, even if their final conversation is great. Second, I tend to believe that fairly long-running romance series should absolutely never end as soon as the couple gets together. This is less of a problem in the manga of course since the story continues there, but even then, things just took way too long. It would be a long wait for a relationship with much better characters but for one which has Mei in it, one which fails at getting the audience invested in so many ways, it’s just unreasonable to expect you’ll keep people interested for that length of time. There’s a reason I initially dropped the manga before catching up for this piece, and it’s because things were just too drawn out. The anime simply takes that already present problem and makes it even worse by ending right there.
Lastly, I’m unsure how I feel about the melodrama. Generally, as I said, it does a good job, understanding that there needs to be a healthy mix of humor and emotion. I’d hardly say that the show feels tonally dissonant, at least most of the time. But there are moments where the drama just does not work as anything but comedy. This happens in all the arcs. It’s not a constant issue but it does hurt my enjoyment of the series quite a bit.
So how could these problems have been fixed? Well, you’d have to entirely retool the show, but I think you could leave most of the characters and themes relatively untouched. Not that they don’t need to be altered at all, but there’s a very strong base here. I wouldn’t be disappointed by a series which was just outright bad. It’s how much potential Citrus had to be a real masterpiece of a yuri drama that makes me annoyed by its failures so I think there’s a way to bring that potential out without making it a totally different work in every way.
First of all, it’s worth reiterating that the manga gets kind of great right after the anime ends. The structure doesn’t fundamentally change, at least not for a bit, but things just improve all around. The writing becomes more confident as Saburouta manages to make the new challenges feel less samey and less meant to drag things out. Mei becomes a far more active character while still maintaining the idea that she’s trapped between choices and unconfident in her ability to choose her own path. Yuzu continues to be amazing and the side characters who were previously uninteresting become much better now that they serve as more than simple antagonists. The actual antagonists are more fleshed out than ever and feel like more than mere devices meant to impede the relationship. The manga’s themes are explored much more deeply and the drama begins to feel more organic and based on the decisions of our leads. The series even uses its premise better, asking more and more tough questions about what our main couple should do. I wouldn’t call it a perfect work but it certainly becomes a damn good one.
In addition, the sexual assault totally stops after volume 4, as Yuzu and Mei begin to go out for real. The fact that Mei still feels like the same character afterwards proves pretty definitively that the assaults were not a necessary part of the series in the first place. Mei still comes across as a very broken person and there are ways to show her use of intimacy for coping without having her assault Yuzu every other chapter. If I were to change things, that would’ve been step one. She could come onto Yuzu without actually assaulting her. It still wouldn’t be healthy but it would be a lot easier to buy things when it becomes an at least somewhat solid and stable relationship. Not every relationship has to start as mutually healthy and beneficial to be likable but they do need to start from a place other than sexual assault.
Step two would be to spend more time on the side characters that exist while cutting an arc or two. This is particularly true for the third arc, which really should’ve been deleted or at least totally changed to feel less out-of-place. By spending more time on the characterization, perhaps by bringing the later volumes’ development forward, the challenges that face their relationship would at least feel like they have a point to them. This is done to some extent in the manga, particularly with the character who shows up in volume 6, so it hardly would’ve been impossible to do so earlier on. I don’t think most of the characters need to be cut wholly, as Matsuri, Himeko, and others become pretty great as time goes on, to the point that Matsuri is one of my favorite characters now, but if you’re going to keep their arcs, you need to rework it so that they don’t feel like they’re wasting time.
Another change I’d make is speeding up the rate at which they get together and bringing the point at which Mei becomes an active character forward. If you did this, it would be a much more engaging read than it currently is. This would be relatively trivial if you cut or truncated the Matsuri and Sara arcs. Combine this change with the lack of sexual assault and you’d end up with a Yuzu and Mei who have a solid place from which to begin their relationship while losing little to none of their current appeal. Really, that alone would skyrocket this to one of my favorite yuri manga as all the other problems would be a lot less grating if those fundamental issues were addressed.
Lastly, just tighten up the writing in a few places. Melodrama is perfectly valid and shouldn’t be used as a derogatory term. Yuri has a history of using melodrama and classics like Oniisama e… clearly influenced this series in certain ways. But it’s important to be aware of when you’re going overboard and when plot complications are just stupid. Make it a little more clear what’s meant to be emotional and what’s meant to be funny. It’s not a comedy, so you need to be careful that the serious scenes don’t come across as humorous. Cut the incest gimmick entirely because it’s a waste of time and an absolutely lazy way of justifying their cohabitation.
Seriously, they’re not sisters in any sense. This is off-putting to those who dislike incest and not satisfying to those who like it. Just trash it entirely. The easy way out is almost never the most interesting way, and you could make Yuzu’s mom a deeper character if you altered a few things to ensure cohabitation without the pseudo-incest. To be totally fair, it does make brief attempts to actually use this part of the premise, when Yuzu realizes that Mei needs a family and not a lover and when she’s conflicted over what to do, but it quickly becomes clear that they’re totally incapable of being anything other than romantic and sexual partners to one another and it serves as nothing more than annoying drama fuel. Almost nothing changes by removing the idea that they’re sisters, other than getting rid of a roadblock for some and a jarring, out of place conceit for others. The only benefit it seriously lends the series is enticing those who are interested into it for the taboo and I don’t see how they’d be satisfied given that, as I said, it’s not meaningfully incest.
If Citrus had done all that, it would easily be a classic of the genre, one of my absolute favorites. There’d obviously still be some people who dislike it, as melodrama is never going to be universally popular, but I think there’s a large contingent of people who feel similarly to me on this, and I doubt most fans of the manga would be all that upset with those changes. A lot of Citrus’ core elements are really great but the way they’re put together often fails. Just arrange them a bit differently and remove some parts which are only used for marketing and you’d have a great series on your hands.
I really wish I could love Citrus to its full extent. All that potential means something to me and as a massive fan of the genre I want to be able to unreservedly endorse one of its flagship series. But that’s just not how things panned out, sad as it is to say. Citrus is far from the worst yuri I’ve ever read or watched. I’ve read a fair number of manga that I’d call much worse in fact, and it’s nowhere near as bad as many of the yuri shows that came out in the 2000s. But almost none of those had so much squandered potential. I’ve come out of Citrus enjoying it on the whole but I’d love to be able to praise it more than that. It might not be the worst yuri I’ve read, but I can also say that I’ve read well over a 100 manga which are better than it as well and this is especially true for the anime given that it adapted the worst content in the series. Yuri deserves a truly outstanding anime to symbolize its current health and Citrus isn’t that. I can only hope we’ll get a fitting Kase-san or Bloom into You TV adaptation in the next few years. No work is universally beloved but I’d like something without sexual assault which I can use to advertise the genre.
If a season 2 of Citrus ever comes around, I’ll have a lot of positive things to say about it. I’d think this video makes it quite clear that I don’t hate the show. All of my criticism comes from a place of love and disappointment. I’m sad that this anime and manga isn’t as good as it could’ve been. I want the Citrus I layed out to exist because I want a Citrus which I can love even more. This video is not an attack but a plea for something greater.
In this video, I talked a lot about yuri as a genre and negatively compared Citrus to other works. I outright said that I’ve read over 100 manga which are better. I’d understand why this would give people reason to pause. But I want to assure you that this comes from a place of love for yuri as a whole and is hardly a bluff. As such, I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is, and in the next 2 weeks, I’ll be releasing 2 videos, yuri manga for beginners and yuri manga for non-beginners, where I’ll recommend at least 30 yuri series which are worth reading. I hope you’ll join me there as well.