Episode 12

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Citrus ?

One of the most notable elements of this Citrus finale is how different the show feels now from how it began. Communication between all the characters is distinctly more open and earnest, and no romantic rivals are cruelly trying to backstab each other. Instead we mostly get a lot of resigned heartache to drive the drama. On the one hand, for as prickly as this series could be, it almost makes you miss the edge that gave Citrus its distinct identity at the beginning. But this shift into kindness and understanding also feels like a reprieve, like the audience has earned a story about sweet love after all that bitterness.

The resolutions to the intersecting love confessions are handled pretty cleanly in this episode. Nina's the only one acting on something that could be described as an agenda, and you almost have to feel bad that her ideals are too simple for this messy show. The idea that she isn't counting on Sara to break things off with Mei herself poses an interesting dilemma about a person's agency (an element that pops up repeatedly in this series). Overall, the biggest sticking point is the way the characters keep reinforcing how Sara and Yuzu are best friends, despite knowing each other for all of 48 hours. It makes this conflict feel somewhat manufactured, just necessary to facilitate the meager amount of drama in this last arc.

Meanwhile, the other half of this plot, leading Yuzu to finally confess to Mei, starts off with its own issues. She begins with a meandering internal monologue meant to sum up the season, but the point of open communication between the sisters has been harped on several times through the series, so it would be stronger just to jump to that commitment instead. Fortunately, that happens once she finally catches up with Mei. Along the way, we get some on-the-nose visual imagery (Yuzu is literally going against a crowd to be with Mei) and an outrageous tackle that makes this story finally feel like the unsubtle Citrus I've enjoyed before. It's all very crazy and dumb, but sincere in portraying how strongly the girls feel for each other.

Everything that follows is denouement that gives us time to reflect on the show, its characters, and how things have evolved over this season before this pointedly conflict-light final arc. This final episode feels more like a typical yuri show than the series ever has before. I was surprised to see Citrus playing it safe at season's end, with even its big emotional questions toned down into more boilerplate self-doubts. It's all pleasant enough that it can be easily watched without getting shocked, weirded out, or turned off, which I know many viewers will appreciate. But it comes at the cost of a less memorable identity for the show.

Another factor in this different tone is the characterization of Nina and Sara. These sisters at least have enough character that they don't feel like glorified plot devices compared to the show's previous guest-stars, but the lack of strong conflict in their story leaves them feeling too forgettable, like side-characters in what's ostensibly their own focal arc. They're more likable for not fostering intense or ugly conflict, but I'm not sure they're endearing enough to carry the story without much drama at all, now that all the players acting rationally for a change.

I admit it does make me somewhat displeased to not be happy getting what I wished for. After spending so much time yelling at Yuzu and Mei to stop being horrible and try to understand each other, I shouldn't complain when I get that, right? For what it's worth, the ending montage does sell me on the endearing qualities of these characters in a healthy relationship. In that respect, everything about this arc feels less like a new story that presented a new conflict, and more like an opportunity for the characters to figure out their new emotional status quo moving forward. That's a good idea from the standpoint of an ongoing narrative, but it's not incredibly compelling for a season finale. The show still hasn't even addressed the social issues of the ‘step-sisters’ part of Yuzu and Mei's relationship. That point does come up later in the source manga, but some sort of acknowledgement before the finish would have been appreciated.

That's not to say this isn't a good episode or even that this hasn't been a good story arc, but it feels pointedly separate from what we've come to expect from the series, probably in service of giving the season more closure. Fittingly though, the viewer's relationship with Citrus has evolved similarly to the problematic relationship depicted in the show. If you were enjoying Citrus more as a problematic fave, you'll probably be fine leaving off after all these more optimistic developments. But if these characters have endeared themselves to you as more complex characters, you'll likely be hoping for an announcement of season two in the future.

Rating: B

Citrus is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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