Friday, February 28, 2014

Manga Review: Citrus volume 1

Saburouta’s Citrus manga, currently running inYuri Hime, is Seven Seas' latest yuri license. It is incredibly popular for a yuri title- its first print sold out immediately on Amazon JP and it was the most asked for yuri license for Seven Seas after they solicited requests.

If you followed yuri news when Seven Seas first released yuri in the US- their Strawberry line- you’ll know that the Strawberry line flopped partly because Seven Seas didn’t license any authors who had strong followings. Two of those titles, First Love Sisters and Voiceful, were Yuri Hime series. Voiceful is a standalone collection while First Love Sisters is three volumes but only saw one published in English. Yuri Hime’s publisher Ichijinsha was difficult to deal with then, so Seven Seas focused on other publishers when they tried licensing yuri manga again- starting with Morinaga Milk’s wonderful Girl Friends- to great success. I guess Ichijinsha is easier for them to license titles from now, because here we have Citrus

For me, the big positive of Citrus being licensed is that it means there is some possibility of one of the popular Yuri Hime titles I like more- like Minamoto Hisanari's Fu~fu, or Morishima Akiko's work, especially now that her collaboration with Utena's creator Ikuhara Kunihiko is raising her profile- licensed by Seven Seas at some point. But after all this rambling, what is Citrus about?

Aihara Yuzu transfers to a girls' school right after her mom marries a guy she hasn’t met. Apparently mom is in the habit of marrying eccentric dudes, so Yuzu isn’t surprised when her mom is like, “Oh yeah, you won’t meet him for now because he’s traveling around the world!” 

What does surprise Yuzu is learning that she also has a new stepsister, the quiet, rich, and (of course) dark and angsty student council president from her school. When Yuzu and Mei met as schoolmates, Yuzu butted heads with Mei over their school’s uptight rules but couldn’t help being somewhat attracted to her, and now that the plot is forcing them to live together, they keep butting heads while being attracted to each other.

More drama happens in the form of Mei having a dickish, gold-digging arranged fiancé who Yuzu exposes for what he is, Mei being fucked up because of her weird rich family, Mei’s grandfather (the chairman of her and Yuzu’s school) mistakenly getting the impression that Yuzu tried to come on to Mei before conveniently getting a heart attack that Yuzu saves him from, and Momokino, Mei’s childhood friend who is in love with her, catching Yuzu kissing Mei. Yuzu’s wingwoman is Harumin, the other gyaru at their school. 

As an extra that didn't run in Yuri Hime, this volume includes a few light vignettes in which Yuzu fails at using Harumin's method for hiding a cellphone at school, a nameless student council member notes that Harumin and Momokino enjoy school more with Yuzu around, and Yuzu and Mei bond over fixing Yuzu's stuffed bear keychain, which Yuzu gives to Mei.

As I've commented to other people, I find it kind of fascinating that the editorial staff working on this title made Citrus' premise basically bend over backwards to make the we-have-to-live-together-because-our-parents-married aspect as un-icky as possible, while ickily playing it up as incest as much as possible.

Here are some photos from my copy to help illustrate:

The tagline on the cover.
The first inside flap.
Two of the chapter titles. And it is tinier here, but citrus still has the "love affair with sister" tagline under it.
The first title page.
Every title page between chapters.

The premise is somewhat awkward, but it isn't any worse than, say, Marmalade Boy (at least the early volumes I read eons ago) or the Kiss Me/Kiss Myg movie. But then you have, say, the tagline and Yuzu reading a yuri manga about sisters while trying to figure out her feelings about Mei. This series has some decent aspects- like having an incredibly blunt gyaru as its lead, really nice art, and brisk story pacing. I just wonder how much of its popularity is attributable to that and how much is attributable to its sleazy presentation. (Cue people reading this getting defensive because they like it despite how it's played up even though I am not talking about them.)

For me, how well Citrus does published in English, like the Sakura Trick anime's success or failure, brings up this question: If they do well, will it lead to more yuri I like being licensed and adapted at some point, or will it only produce more yuri-centric manga licenses and TV anime that pander to tastes I find icky? Since both Citrus in English book form and the Sakura Trick adaptation are happening, I want to think the former will happen.

And if either one does poorly, would anime producers/manga licensors attribute that to their presentation instead of their genre? I'm not sure about that either (especially when it comes to Sakura Trick, since the Citrus license is riding the coattails of Morinaga Milk's success in English while Sakura Trick is the first yuri-centric TV anime in years), but I obviously would like it to be the former.


A Day Without Me said...

Call me cynical, but I'm thinking it more likely that if these yuri efforts flop the studios/publishers will nod sagely and say, "Of course, stuff that is completely yuri doesn't do well."

Katherine Hanson said...

@A Day Without Me- *covers ears* Sssshh, Day, don't ruin my hopes and dreams. (In seriousness, I agree that that's more likely for Sakura Trick, as much as I would love that not to be the case. Not so much for Citrus, imo, because of how well Seven Seas' recent releases of Morinaga Milk's titles have sold.)