OP: 「アザレア」 (Azalea) by nano.RIPE
Yuri for one reason or another has always been anime’s red-headed foster child. Whenever one comes along, it seemingly devolves into cutesy slice-of-life-esque fan service (i.e. Sakura Trick), abominable hatchet jobs (i.e. Netsuzou TRap), or pure love masquerading as conventional romance (i.e. Kuzu no Honkai). Thus when an actual “serious” yuri pops up it’s serious (and I mean serious) business, and citrus is no exception to the rule. Previewing this one—which wound up involving me reading the majority of the manga—convinced me it would prove spectacular in more than one way, and hot damn has citrus’ opener met those beliefs. This one boys and girls will prove hard to beat.
Manga (and preview) readers know exactly what to expect, but citrus’ opener does a fantastic job at succinctly laying out its premise. We have the rambunctious blonde gyaru Yuzu (Taketasu Ayana)—who much like Hajimete no Gal’s Yukana has never known actual love (i.e. high school second base)—wind up stranger in a school where everything she has held dear—makeup, clothes, popularity—is held in the highest contempt as recalcitrant behaviour fit only for fools. She’s signalled out as the black sheep, fearfully avoided except by the most unsuspecting of people, and soon at loggerheads with the student council president Mei (Tsuda Minami) who just so happens to also be her new stepsister. Talk about chaotic. Did we also mention Mei’s questionable experience with romance and domineering treatment of all things pure and wholehearted? Yeah no time is wasted here on getting to the important stuff—citrus knows exactly what we are all here for.
Anyone experienced with romance series knows exactly what citrus will eventually boil down to (*cough* roller coaster hot-cold relationships), but the strength of the series (and what wound up getting me to enjoy it) was how unabashed it is towards genre tropes. Citrus has no qualms about ubiquity or convention, it plays up the melodrama in teacher and family (just wait for the chairman to appear!) for all it’s worth and papers any discrepancies over with a helpful dose of passionate (sometimes) kissing. What we saw this episode is only a taste of what is to come—you can fully expect that budding alpha-beta relationship and hints of pseudo-incest and aggressive, potential rape to feature frequently from here on out. Citrus for better or worse is all about pushing boundaries as far as they’ll go as a means of flavouring its story, and while certainly problematic at face value (sensationalism isn’t always good), I will say it improves over time. Mei’s obvious daddy issues for example slowly dissipate into half-decent development as she learns to open up, while Yuzu comes to terms with not only a (step)sister so inherently different from her own personality, but one she eventually (spoiler) loves as more than simple family. It’s very much a romance going beyond simple ribald appearances, but you have to want to see the complexity to get the most out of it. Yuri and all that fan service only scratches the surface here, citrus is all about that penultimate relationship bubbling under the surface.
While unlikely to break through any romance barriers or wind up masterpiece material, if citrus can continue along the same track in terms of pacing and adaptation faithfulness going forward (which is pretty damn good so far all things considered) it stands a good chance of being a top romance contender for 2018. There’s a lot of drama and some pretty ridiculous developments yet to come as to be expected, but if citrus’ serious side is adapted as well as what we got this episode, it’s well-set (at least for me) to be one of the best shows the season.
ED: 「Dear Teardrop」by Mia REGINA