by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
This latest episode of Citrus does its best to simply move on from some of the storytelling and tonal misfires that dragged down the previous one. Momokino and Yuzu's unfortunate behavior toward Mei in the wake of their dueling romantic feelings gets humorously shot down just in the opening minutes. The mixed-up messy tone that was so hard to read in the previous episode is put to simpler and better use here, as we instead see the girls' short-sighted ploys making fools out of them instead. There's a sense of weight being lifted, as Citrus feels like it has breathing room again this episode, and while the content still gets pretty intense a few times, we actually have space to appreciate it now.
There are actually several disparate plots running through this episode, but the central point it keeps coming back to is Yuzu's efforts to forge a more definitive romantic connection with Mei, generally through less-than-sincere means. The mercenary way that Yuzu (as well as Momokino) goes about her dealings with Mei is generally not a good look, and it's not supposed to be. Yuzu's take-charge methodology has always been a strong element of her character, but these past couple episodes have directed it in questionable ways. However, this episode makes it clear what this thread was actually building to, and I think sticking it out has proven to be worthwhile.
Getting there is entertaining in its own way, as Yuzu and Mei's sorta-date proceeds amusingly enough. Sitting through Yuzu's attempts to fool around with Mei on the train are definitely a flavor of awkward that Citrus doesn't wear well, but the character is soundly chastised for it, and Mei's DBZ moment in response is a pretty great visual gag. As much as Yuzu's elements are designed for her own reversal later on, Mei succeeds by continuously refusing to be a bystander. I appreciated that Mei had no time for Yuzu and Momokino's petty feuding. Citrus pointedly doesn't let us inside Mei's head the way it does Yuzu's, so when we actually get a deeper impression of her character from her actions, it's a strong moment for the show.
The character acting is also particularly strong this episode, with Yuzu and Momokino getting some minor vocalizations that add more character to their performances. This is also aided by strong direction, like in the moment when Momokino pulls up next to them in the car. And after her misguided turn toward the predatory in the previous episode, Momokino has settled into being a more effective character at this point. It's interesting to see how the characters start to realize that, melodramatic as their whole situation can be right now, there are still other people involved in their lives, which comes to a head as Yuzu takes Mei to see her father.
The revelation of Yuzu's father being deceased isn't exactly a shock, but that it has less impact on Mei and more on Yuzu's perception of her and their relationship is more the point. Yuzu's subsequent breakdown and acknowledgment of her misplaced attempts at romancing Mei are the key moment that flips her whole character around. It's a moment the show absolutely needed to land, and I think it did. Perhaps the only minor misstep is placing Yuzu's narration of her own realizations too early in the scene, when I think the show's character acting and direction have proven effective enough to do that heavy lifting on their own. But given how important this realization is, perhaps the story didn't want to leave anything to chance.
The rest of the episode continues with that same effectiveness and pacing that doesn't feel overstuffed for once. The slow-burn revelation of Mei's exhaustion is used for good resolution between her and Momokino, giving the sisters a chance to tie things up with more details spelled out. There is a sense of the show stepping on its own toes with Yuzu still expressing interest in transferring her big-sister success into growing Mei's feelings for her, but at this point she seems to know what she actually needs to do and is just ping-ponging between her altruistic and lustful desires. There is also a dramatic cliffhanger after all of this, with Mei's father finally returning, but we'll have to wait until next episode to see how it turns out.
So this is an episode with an effective through-line overall. It definitely seems to know its intent and tone this time, compared to the scattered styles that got in the story's own way last episode. How well this actually lands for you will definitely depend on how tolerant you are of Yuzu's machinations throughout the episode, before we get to the conclusions she reaches and the growth of her relationship with Mei. It works for me though, and I feel this adaptation's talent for tying its elements together has ultimately strengthened this whole storyline. Yuzu is decidedly the hero of this story, but having her acknowledge her flaws was a good sign for how the show might handle more dodgy content in the future.
Citrus is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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