A title like that can only bring the days of yore on Fanfiction.net to mind…
The first volume of Citrus in English has been out for a little while now, but the capriciousness of shipping speeds for where I live now was such that I didn’t get my hands on it until a couple of weeks ago. I was simultaneously delighted and skeptical – delighted because I haven’t gotten my paws onto any yuri manga in months, and also since it arrived after taking about five weeks to make it to me, but skeptical because I have no historically had any luck with the faux incest variety of yuri.
Citrus has a pretty basic premise on the whole. Wacky manga logic ensures that teenaged Yuzu finds her world turned upside down at the drop of a hat – specifically, that old hat of manga/anime wherein a parent suddenly remarries a person whom their child has never met. As a result, Yuzu enrolls in a new school where she doesn’t fit in at all, only to be hit almost immediately with the shock of a new stepsister – Mei, who plays the perfect student at school but whom Yuzu spotted having a hot and heavy moment with a teacher on school property. But when Yuzu attempts to use this as ammunition against her new sibling, Mei responds by forcibly kissing her, throwing Yuzu’s life even further into disarray.
As spectacle, Citrus is horrifically enjoyable, and I quite like it. Citrus has read is Riyoko Ikeda, and its Keiko Takemiya, and it is proud to show that it can up the melodrama even further than either of those ladies did in the pages of their manga. Yuzu’s stepdad vanishes before we even meet him, and Yuzu herself manages to: fall for her new stepsibling, get expelled, save her grandfather from death by cardiac arrest, reveal an abusive student-teacher relationship to the entire student body, and get reinstated all within the course of roughly one hundred-seventy pages. Each new ludicrous development had me in stitches.
However, as yuri, Citrus sucks. This is yuri of the “one girl randomly molests the other girl for no reason, other girl develops Stockholm Syndrome after the first time” variety. It isn’t cute. It isn’t romantic. In fact, it is wholly off-putting, especially so if you actually like Yuzu – which I do. Truly, I feel sorry for Yuzu. She’s a fairly exuberant girl who moves faster than she thinks; not quite the genki girl of countless shoujo, but certainly a cousin to them, and I like that she stands up for herself and others, although she could work a bit on how to execute her efforts in ways that are likelier to bring about the desired result. She is also likely gay (I say ‘likely’ since I do think there is a chance she is bisexual), but she has not figured that out yet at all. But Yuzu has been tossed into a veritable shark tank, and she lacks the experience to be able to deal with that effectively.
As regards Mei, I am of two minds. On the one hand, Mei is petulant, bratty, and nasty. On the other hand, she is also in an awkward position given the abrupt reshuffling of her family life. Additionally, her behavior screams that she’s been a victim of sexual abuse, and her “relationship” with her homeroom teacher supports that reading of it, as we learn that he is involved with her a. secretly, and b. for the sake of inheriting the school itself since Mei is the granddaughter of its chairman. But! The tissue-thin quality of the story itself weighs against interpreting her behavior as such – I cannot genuinely believe that the author meant for her to be interpreted as a victim of sexual abuse. As such, I am left with this: Mei is a crappy person, and Yuzu would be so much better off away from her.
After saying all that, then, it may come as a surprise to hear that I liked the first volume of Citrus. The melodrama is fantastically entertaining, and is enough to keep me distracted from the would-be “romance” that is allegedly developing, and I like Yuzu. I am skeptical about Citrus being able to keep me engaged in the long-run based solely on these aspects alone, but I am at least willing to give the second volume a read, and I will do so when it comes out in April.
Seven Seas’ does a perfectly fine job here. There are no typographical errors, the pages are cleanly reproduced, and the translation reads smoothly. I do take umbrage, however, with the assertion on the back cover that this a title good for fans of Girl Friends. Girl Friends is a realistic story about two girls who fall in love; Citrus is about a girl developing Stockholm Syndrome toward the girl who is preying on her. The only thing they share in common is that both feature high school girls kissing, and that both have appeared in Comic Yuri Hime. Related to this, I do honestly resent that Seven Seas more or less issued an ultimatum when they released this by saying that the yuri-buying public had to prove that they actually would spend money on yuri, and that it wasn’t just about Milk Morinaga, by buying this. I don’t want more yuri like this, I want more yuri like Girl Friends or Kisses, Sighs, and Cherryblossom Pink, and I am not crazy about you getting the idea that I want more like this solely because I bought it in trying to demonstrate that, yes, I want more yuri in the North American market.
I realize that I likely sound at odds over how I feel about this one. As I said before, as spectacle, Citrus so far is quite good; as yuri, it isn’t at all. I have mild hopes that the yuri aspect can become less unconvincing in future volumes, although I don’t expect it to. I can only hope that the next “yuri” title that Seven Seas decides to give a go is good as yuri. Is it too late to hope for Nobara no Mori no Otome-tachi? A Day can dream…