Pocky Hero – The Importance of Citrus

Citrus tells a great love story; it is one of the best anime/mangas ever (it was on The New York Times’ bestseller manga list, for several weeks, in 2015). The plot is very deep and groundbreaking, as far as yuri stories are concerned. It is also an emotionally satisfying story, manga or otherwise. Conventions that are just taken for granted, in straight romances, dramas and sitcoms (many suitors, subverting stereotypes) are not yet as common in most yuri (and yaoi) stories.

Citrus is like Reply 1994, if the protagonists were in high school, instead of college. Yuzu is Najung. They are both the fiery, main protagonists. Mei is Trash. Mei is the quiet, studious one and Trash does eventually become a doctor. Both stories have a complicated family story, between the main couple, but it is OK for both pairings to be together. Mei is also like 은재 and Yuzu (유자) is like 예은, from Hello, My Twenties (Age of Youth). Mei and 은재’s backstories even both center around their fathers.

Ways that Citrus bucks the usual yuri and anime trends: 1) Mei and Yuzu are not childhood friends, nor does the story concoct a contorted, tortured backstory for them to have met in childhood. Both Yuzu and Mei have their own childhood friends, and the plot is about how those suitors are overcome, for Yuzu and Mei to fall in love with each other.

2) Even though Matsuri is pretty villainous and is a yandere foil, to Mei tsundere trope, the story is complex enough to not completely devalue her. Matsuri is redeemed after the conflict; she just wanted Yuzu very badly and was made cynical and desensitized by the Craigslist/Tinder world. That makes for better storytelling. Bonus: I like all the “action” scenes where Yuzu is running around trying to find or save Mei or when they ride Harumin’s bike to the train station, to see Mei’s dad off.

What I like about Citrus is that it helped people realize love between women can be rough too, even if it is consensual. Many viewers and readers appreciated the more realistic intensity. Women are just like men; we are just socialized not to fight each other physically – as much.

People misunderstand Mei or are intimidated by Mei, but I understand Mei, and like Sherlock, the tough or cool exterior, hides many emotional hurts underneath. Mei was raised by her dad and then he left Japan, to work and she was pretty much alone for five years, until the present, of Citrus, when she is 15. Emotionally, there are just a ton of things missing from Mei, that she will never be able to grow back, capabilities she will just have to go her whole life without.

When you just look at Mei and Yuzu, Mei looks like the usual dominant one, even though she is the nerd and the 후배. The multi-faceted push-and-pull dynamic, between the two, is what makes Citrus great. Citrus, as I said, was and is so fascinating, because it subverts so many stereotypes and the usual tropes. For example, the nerd and the goody-two-shoes, Mei, is the more physically experienced one and the popular one, Yuzu, is actually the more romantic one, and her first kiss is with Mei. This is almost unheard of in mainstream yuri fiction.

Also, Yuzu, by a few months, is the 언니 here. That is why she vacillated so much on hooking up with Mei and whether Mei should be the dominant one. Mei being the dominant one sounds good too; I can just understand Yuzu’s feelings here, also. The idea that Yuzu hesitated so much on the physical aspect, of their relationship, because Yuzu wanted to be the dominant one, makes sense to me. The fact that Yuzu was the less experienced one, in these matters, and not Mei, did bother Yuzu, at one point.

Mei is like Rei, with a backbone and Yuzu is Asuka, but turned down a few notches. In a way, Rei and Asuka did finally end up together. Another parallel: Asuka grew up in Germany; Yuzu wears the gyaru style, a Japanese fashion trend influenced by the West and Baywatch. It was a look, in Japan, that was really popular in the 2000s, along with other ’80s-type things. An Asuka, in real life, might be too much, even if she means well. I like Yuzu, from Citrus, better. The author, Saburouta, toned the extroverted-ness down, to a level more geared toward playing the protagonist. Normally Mei would be the protagonist of a yuri story, like Citrus.

What is interesting too, is that regardless of kisses, hook-ups or other relationships, neither Yuzu, nor Mei were ever in love before – until they fell in love with each other. Finally, Citrus turns the stereotypes on its head, by making the nerdy one (Mei) be the one everyone wants to be with and making the popular one (Yuzu) fight for her love. It is usually the other way around.

The author does not make you wait, until the last episode, for a kiss, between the main couple. There is a kiss in almost every episode, usually between the main couple. The action is just so awesome that the author does not need to make the plot revolve around will they or won’t they kiss or hook up. There are enough gay or bi female characters for there to be many gay ships and many people vying for the protagonists’ attention.

Gay love is not singled out, in general, in Citrus. It is just love. Sara and Matsuri, despite being a villain, say several important things, throughout the story, about gay visibility, and sex positivity. Also, you get to see a wider variety of gay women, than just the protagonists. The main couple doesn’t feel alone. Other women, in the story, immediately understand they are in love – also, in-part, because they are also competing for Mei or Yuzu’s attention too. That is way more interesting and funnier, as a story or a romance. Citrus treats yuri romance like any other romance. Yuzu and Mei are not treated like gay women but just women – women who also happen to be gay.

One last thing, that’s unique about Citrus, is that the mother, Ume, is present and loving. Mei and Yuzu try to understand their fathers: one who passed away and one who is cool, but whose work takes him abroad. In addition, then the action of the story can focus on navigating childhood friends and other potential female suitors and girlfriends, before the goal of Yuzu and Mei ending up together. This makes for a more evolved yuri romance tale. I hope more yuri stories are like this in the future.

Plague Rat: An Outbreak Caused by a Stowaway

It all comes down to genetics – which determine blood proteins, aging and antibodies. It all comes down to the blood. The ongoing mutations of an already virulent virus – those are the real metaphorical 12 Monkeys, of the movie title.

Ebola was originally spread by bat guano, in a cave and monkeys – different environments brought together, different organisms, species and pathogens brought together. Reverse bottleneck effect. Immunology.

There are various immunities, resistances and antibodies, that can create a vaccine or treatment. One strain, two strains. Resistant strain A and resistant strain B. It’s incurable zombies vs. vampires in treatment: infected vampires that haven’t yet “turned” into zombies, vampires or zombies that sleep during the day.

From those that recover, their antibodies can be used to be made to make a vaccine. Virologists can examine the case study and prevent future outbreaks, of this kind.

The main dangers are the virus’s apparent virulence, the virus mutating in new environments and asymptomatic carriers that are infected but aren’t sick. Many people in the hot zone-adjacent areas may have some kind of weak immunity, after living there for years. The virus remains virulent, even far away from its origin and amplification areas.

One reason why a virus could be so bad is that it may stay on counter-tops and surfaces (fomites) for double the amount of time, of other viruses. The virus’s DNA could be encased in a strong protein shell. Such a virus would be very hardy and might mutate.

The vast majority become zombies. A minority become vampire symbiotes. A minuscule minority remain human because they are immune. Who is more human? One who changes or one who stays the same?

The half-zombies or vampires take vaccines to hold their disease at bay. The new immunity is the pathway by which a new species develops, in response to pathogens. What does it mean to be human?

The proteins, in the blood, go through three major changes – when you’re thirty, when you’re sixty and then when you’re eighty. The secret is in the blood, like in Mad Max: Fury Road. Vampires had one thing right.

However, you wouldn’t be able to absorb the properties of young blood, by drinking it and digesting it, in the stomach (HCl, hydrochloric acid). Real life, modern day vampirism, of blood plasma, needs two clean people, blood disease-wise. They would go to a legitimate clinic, where they would do an IV blood bag transfusion. Medical personnel would have centrifuges to separate the blood components out. The doctors would observe the recipient and make sure his or her immune system didn’t reject the donated blood.

Real doctors would be needed for this procedure. The downsides and risks of plasma transfusion are very large, in line with their benefits. Blood proteins are linked to aging. Plasma includes many helpful clotting factors.

But the right plasma and the right amount of plasma must be administered – or lung problems, immune problems, allergy, and cardiovascular problems can ensue – in addition to immune system rejections and infections.

In fiction, vampirism means symbiosis: immune system compatibility or rejection, immune system response to an infection. White blood cell count. That is what it means to be a vampire – a vampire symbiote, with the vampire disease – a vampire human.

When life (on this planet) first developed, it was asexual, and reproduced by cloning. This is the Kingdom of Bacteria. However, by the time the Kingdoms of Fungi and Plants came along, multi-cellular organisms had developed.

Producing clones of one’s self didn’t lead to a very strong or diverse gene pool, able to withstand many different stressors. A modern example was Dolly the Sheep, an actual multi-cellular clone. It succumbed to disease though; its immune system wasn’t very strong.

An isolated species of organism, stranded by a genetic bottleneck, develops resistance to exotic virulent diseases, that become exposed to other populations, that don’t have that immunity – when a community and it’s super bugs are suddenly reconnected with the rest of the world.

Are the symbiotes “freaks” or survivors? Who gets to decide? Who gets to judge? It’s the immune survivors vs. symbiotic or infected survivors. That’s what is at stake in the definition of what it means to (still) be human – or another leap of evolution. Are symbiotes the future of humanity?

For every new immunity, there is a new mutation. I am reminded of the esper Tetsuo’s rapid and uncontrollable mutations, near the end of Akira – or the giant Eldritch psychic monster, in Watchmen, the graphic novel, or the chaotic, old gods of the ancient world, in Hellboy.

The future of humanity is symbiosis and new resistance to strange, new, exotic microorganisms. This is evolution. This is the creation of a new species – through the immune and infected, but otherwise healthy, symbiotic people and asymptomatic carriers. This immunity is passed down through the generations, as the resistant strain – the symbiotic strain that created a new people.

Basic virology is virulent diseases, that mutate easily, developing on the backs of useful vectors. The new pathogens are evolving at the speed of life. This state of affairs creates a ranking system of useful and useless vectors, for the development of a vaccine.

Disclaimer – I am interested in this topic from a scientific, medical, foreign policy and fictional point of view. Alarmism and fatalism solve nothing.