Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Happy Pride Month, everyone! During June’s National Pride Month, we make an additional effort to recognize members of the LGBTQ community in real life and fiction. For our purposes, we’re going to focus specifically on anime. Not everyone knows this, but anime actually has a genre specifically for lesbian relationships. It’s called “yuri” and it dates all the way back to the early 1970s. During this time, writing — and talking in general — about same-sex relationships was pretty bold. But, the world has changed a great deal since the 70s. People are much more progressive, though there’s still room to grow. That’s part of the reason why I loved the CITRUS anime. It’s a recent yuri release that was bold enough to go where many series won’t. In terms of pure representation, there might be better series out there. The yuri genre is so deep that it’s impossible for me to watch all of it. I watched the CITRUS anime because it’s a recent title. Furthermore, there’s plenty of controversy in this series to analyze. Honestly, you’ve probably heard about one or two of these controversies through the internet grapevines. Maybe you’ve heard that protagonists Yuzu and Mei are step-sisters or that there’s some use of coercion in their intimate scenes. These things, out of context, are unequivocally off-putting. However, despite its flaws, the CITRUS anime proves that LGBTQ stories have a place in mainstream anime. So, let’s have an open-minded discussion about LGBTQ representation in the CITRUS anime. MY HERO ACADEMIA Class 1-A: Ranked The Yuri Genre and CITRUS The word yuri is so interesting because its interpretation changes based on location. In Japan, people use it when referring to lesbian romance in anime and manga. However, the word has taken on a different meaning in Western audiences. Typically, Western audiences only use the word to refer to extremely explicit anime content, like “hentai.” In reality, these two genres couldn’t be more different. Yuri, or girl’s love, focuses heavily on both the romantic and sexual aspects of relationships. I can’t speak for the entire genre, but yuri content generally isn’t overtly sexual for the sake of being overtly sexual. There is purpose and logic behind its content, which has guided the genre’s success for over 40 years. Enter CITRUS, among the latest yuri title to receive an anime adaptation. The series actually started out as a manga written and illustrated by Saburouta in November 2012 before animation studio Passione picked it up in January 2018. It follows the story of Yuzu Aihara, who imagined her first day at her new high school differently. Originally, Yuzu hoped to find a boyfriend and get the ball rolling on her own great romance story. However, it’s an all-girls school, which seemingly crushes her quest for romance. Yuzu’s struggles only continue after getting into an argument with the cold-but-beautiful class president, Mei. Yuzu and Mei’s first encounter | Image: Crunchyroll Much to Yuzu’s surprise, Mei turns out to be her new step-sister. This matter is further complicated when Mei kisses Yuzu at their new home later that night. This exchange shocks Yuzu, but she’s soon replaying the moment over and over in her mind. CITRUS proceeds to follow the evolution of their relationship as the two explore their mutual feelings of attraction. A Dynamic LGBTQ Cast Before we get into some of the controversial aspects of the CITRUS anime, I want to highlight something pretty cool. With the exception of a few, almost every single character in CITRUS is a member of the LGBTQ community. Some mainstream anime have included more than one LGBTQ character, but almost an entire cast? That’s unique and honestly just awesome. Furthermore, all of CITRUS’s characters bring something different to the table to keep you engaged throughout the series. To kick things off, we have the protagonists Yuzu and Mei, who are as mismatched as they come. Yuzu is extroverted, obsessed with fashion, and worries greatly about her social status at school. Mei, on the other hand, is much more anti-social. She’s perfectly content with doing her own thing and getting good grades in school. Their personalities are worlds apart, which makes it so fun to watch their relationship evolve. Mei’s and Yuzu’s differences highlighted by scenery | Image: Crunchyroll Don’t sleep on this supporting cast either! Every character feeds off the other’s personalities and impacts the story. For example, the warmhearted and cheery Sara Tachibana introduces herself as pansexual quickly after meeting Yuzu. This catches Yuzu by surprise. It’s the first time she’s ever met a girl so heterodox. After meeting Sara, Yuzu slowly becomes more comfortable with her own feelings and decides to pursue Mei no matter what. In a similar vein, we have the mischievous Matsuri. She’s adept at manipulating others and, through her ruthless emotional games, helps Mei realize how lucky she is to have someone like Yuzu care about her. CITRUS’s cast of characters may have a few flaws, but there’s no denying how perfectly they all fit together. 3 Anime Dads Who Deserve Their #1 Dad Mugs This Father’s Day CITRUS’s Bizarre Story is a Good Thing? Like most, I was lukewarm on the whole “step-sisters dating” aspect of the CITRUS anime. Initially, I thought this was nothing more than an attempt to appeal to a very niche audience. But the more I thought about it, the more I actually liked it. Hear me out for just a moment and I’ll explain. As far as romance goes, Yuzu and Mei couldn’t be more lost. Yuzu just wants to have a relationship like in the manga she reads and Mei just can’t be bothered with romance. Their personalities and attitudes on the subject are so different that it’s like trying to mix fire with ice. They can, however, agree on the importance of family, which they both have some issues with. Yuzu’s father passed away when she was young and Mei doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her father on a lot of things. Instead of letting bygones be bygones, they help each other out with their respective issues. Mei accompanies Yuzu to visit her father’s grave and, in return, Yuzu helps Mei get closer to her father. Yuzu clutching Mei’s hand before reconciling with her father | Image: Crunchyroll Throughout this entire process, Yuzu’s and Mei’s characters develop a great deal. Yuzu develops beyond the stereotypical “dumb blonde.” She’s incredibly caring, pure-hearted, and warm. Mei, on the other hand, goes from being pessimistic and aloof to confident and happy. CITRUS probably could’ve developed their characters in a less controversial way. But honestly, I don’t know if they would have been as effective. Yuzu and Mei develop into characters who genuinely love each other and are strong-willed enough to defend their feelings for each other. That’s why, even though they’re technically related through circumstance, I truly feel that Yuzu and Mei’s relationship can be seen positively here. Fighting Through Growing Pains As a whole, the CITRUS series sold remarkably well. It appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list five times in 2015, joining titles like ATTACK ON TITAN and NARUTO. There’s no denying its popularity, but there are many questionable aspects about the series. The most blatant is the non-consensual elements. There are many scenes where Mei forces Yuzu down to kiss her or vice versa. It’s sexual assault and there’s no way of tiptoeing around that problem. It’s worth noting, however, that these actions don’t persist throughout the entire series. The CITRUS anime only adapts about a third of the story from the manga. If Passione wanted, they could make an additional two seasons of content without any more of those scenes. I think if that ever happened, even more people would fall in love with CITRUS and its sweet romance. Mei eating Yuzu’s terrible cake in a sweet moment | Image: Crunchyroll We may never know if Saburouta intended for deeper symbolism behind those uncomfortable scenes. Perhaps it was meant to represent the frustrations of Mei and Yuzu trying to understand each other’s feelings and their own. This theory picks up merit in the manga where those moments completely cease. Instead, we see Mei and Yuzu grow into a more traditional couple. They go on dates, buy each other gifts, and take a vacation together. That’s why I call those uncomfortable Yuzu and Mei moments “growing pains.” CITRUS is a metaphorical puzzle that you must completely piece together before judging the final picture. The first season of CITRUS only included a few pieces to that puzzle. As time goes on and you add more pieces to the picture, you may see the CITRUS anime in an entirely different light. Get Your Feels on with These 5 Emotional Anime Final Thoughts on the CITRUS Anime Ultimately, CITRUS is an animal you need to dissect for yourself. It isn’t a perfect series, and people will have to sit through the growing pains. However, the CITRUS anime does a lot of things right. It has a dynamic cast, lovable protagonists, and a unique storyline. It might not be critically acclaimed, but more people are loving the series by the day. This is evident in the manga making the New York Times Best Seller’s list and the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Crunchyroll. CITRUS, at the very least, has introduced people to the idea of girls’ love (and boys’ love) stories becoming a regular thing in mainstream anime. That’s a huge success for the series. With any luck, Passione and other studios will pick up on the anime’s success and we’ll not only get a second season of CITRUS but see more stories like CITRUS in the near future too. Featured image via Crunchyroll.